Some hunters just don't want to compromise on speed, stopping power, or range. They simply want a big gun that can take down the biggest game North America has to offer. While the 300 PRC (precision rifle cartridge) was designed with military sniper applications in mind, it has quickly become a round of interest for shooters wanting to reach out to extreme long range on big game animals too. We are talking distances of 300 to 1,000 yards or more. It is an extremely aerodynamic round with a high ballistic coefficient that brings an incredible amount of energy to the target. You can bet that when a 300 PRC hits a bear, elk, or moose, it's going to go down quickly, ethically, and it will stay down for the count. It's also a great option for anyone who is planning that dream overseas adventure in a place like Africa.
First developed by Hornady, the ammunition manufacturer had a goal of redefining what a 30-caliber bullet could do and there's no denying they've accomplished that at this point. After all, it didn't take long before many hunting rifle manufacturers saw the potential. Plenty have already jumped on the 300 PRC bandwagon. Today we'll highlight what makes the round itself so special, and we'll also give some recommendations on rifles to consider based on budgetary concerns.
300 PRC vs 300 Winchester Magnum
We need to talk about this since the 300 PRC is most often compared to the mighty 300 Winchester Magnum. It makes sense since they are both 30-caliber magnum cartridges. The 300 Win Mag is based on the 375 H&H Magnum while the 300 PRC was built from the 375 Ruger. The big difference is the 300 PRC has more modern flair, and it makes it a tad bit more efficient than the 300 Win Mag, which was developed all the way back in 1963. The 300 PRC was built to have a non-belted case design. It also chambers a little better than the 300 Win Mag, mostly thanks to a 30-degree shoulder and .532" magnum bolt face.
If you start diving into the ballistics, you'll find the 300 PRC falls a bit short of the 300 Win Mag in terms of speed. However, Hornady designed this round more for long range shooting accuracy with larger bullets. Most factory ammo for 300 Win Mag tops out with 180-grain bullets. The 300 PRC by comparison, is usually offered in 190 to 225-grain bullet weights, giving the new cartridge some serious energy and stopping power. The 300 PRC also has the 300 Win Mag beats in terms of accuracy thanks both to the bullets and cartridge case design. The heavier projectiles cut through the wind much more effectively, and there's significantly less drop.
Ballistics of the 300 PRC
Let's quickly look at the numbers for a series of factory loads. You'll quickly note how even though these are big bullets, there are some seriously impressive muzzle velocities on display here. In fact, some of them rival or exceed that of the speedy 6.5 Creedmoor. We'll start with the smallest offering from Hornady, the 190-grain CX Outfitter. It has a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps and it's still doing 2,674 fps at 200 yards. Hornady says these rounds have zero drop at that distance and they're delivering a little over 3,000-foot pounds of energy to the target. Not bad at all.
It gets more impressive when you step things up a notch to the Hornady 212-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter line. These rounds are doing 2,860 fps at the muzzle, 2,585 at 200 yards with zero drop. You can expect nearly 3,150-foot pounds of energy at 200 yards with these. These rounds retain 2,549-foot pounds of energy at 400 yards and are still doing over 2,300 fps. Then there's Hornady's 225-grain ELD-M Match rounds. They are doing 2,577 fps at 200 yards, delivering 3,318-foot pounds of energy to the target. According to their ballistic charts, you can still expect to get 3,000-foot pounds of energy at 300 yards with these match bullets.
The real downside to 300 PRC is factory ammo is not cheap. A quick scan of the Internet revealed it going for anywhere from $4.50 to $5 a round. That means you could be looking at nearly $100 for a box of 20 of these. Ouch. Then there's the fact factory 300 PRC cartridges can be hard to find on store shelves. For those reasons, 300 PRC isn't exactly something you might consider buying for casual weekend target shooting. Unless of course you're a dedicated handloader. For most of us, this cartridge is likely going to be a specialty hunting tool we shoot sparingly, and only when we need it. Next let's look at available rifles, which can be as expensive as the ammo. So, we set a limit. These are our top picks under the $2,000 mark. There are more expensive options, but these will all do the job. We're going in descending order from most affordable to least here to try and fill as many budgets as possible.
Make no mistake, most 300 PRC rifles are on the expensive side. The Hogue is one of the most affordable bolt action rifles out there at about $620 from most retailers. Howa gave these rifles either a 24 or 26-inch cold hammer forged barrel. They also thread the barrels at the factory for an included muzzle brake or a suppressor. Finish options include a classic blued or Cerakote if you want something that will stand up to the elements a little better. These rifles come in at just a hair under eight pounds, which seems just right. Light enough to lug into the backcountry for big game, yet it has a little extra heft to soak up some of the heavy recoil of the 300 PRC. This is a great option for a hunter on a budget who wants a rifle with the versatility to harvest everything from whitetail bucks to bull moose.
Bergara B-14 Ridge
It's about a $300 jump from the Howa to the Bergara, which has an MSRP of $950. It's a solid option for anyone wanting to transition to higher grade hunting rifles slowly. However, you should be able to find it less than that from major retailers. In any case, the B-14 is an excellent rifle in any caliber. The 300 PRC option has a 24-inch barrel that has a 5/8x24 threaded muzzle straight from the factory. This rifle weighs 7.7 pounds, which again puts it in a sweet spot between ease of carry and recoil reduction. The B-14 features a two-lug system and sliding plate extractor that help the rifle cycle near effortlessly. We also appreciate the fact it comes with a graphite black Cerakote finish standard for helping protect against rain and snow. Now there's no excuse to not stay out there until you get your quarry. Bergara gives these rifles Remington 700 style scope mounts. They also guarantee a group of one MOA or less at 100 yards while using premium factory ammo.
Browning X-Bolt Western Hunter
This rifle has an MSRP of $1249, but it can usually be found for $1,000 from most firearms retailers. The Western Hunter is ideal for just that, hunts in western states where the shooter is expecting shots at 300 or more yards. Browning gave this rifle a 26-inch barrel with a 1:8 twist rate. It is also threaded from the factory and includes a removable muzzle brake to help with the recoil. Speaking of recoil, Browning gave this rifle a nice Inflex recoil pad to help with that. This rifle weighs in at seven pounds, eight ounces and features Browning Ovix camo pattern designed for blending into the high desert sage of places like Colorado or Wyoming. It's made to be toted up mountains and down into canyons where a big bull elk is hiding. This is a good option for anyone concerned about ergonomics. It has a short, 60-degree bolt lift, and Browning's adjustable feather trigger system. They even added an adjustable comb. For the price, there's a lot to love about the X-Bolt.
Christensen Arms Mesa
The price on this one varies depending on the color of the Cerakote finish. Black is cheapest at about $1,250 while the Tungsten and burnt bronze are about $50 more. Either way, Christensen Arms has been making some seriously lightweight hunting rifles the last few years and the Mesa is no exception. You're looking at only about 6.5 pounds, which makes this rifle a breeze for spot and stalks in rugged terrain. It does mean a bit more recoil, but the carbon fiber gunstock and recoil pad are incredibly ergonomic to help compensate. The company gave this rifle a 24-inch, free floating, button rifled, threaded barrel with a 1:8 twist rate and removable radial brake. And they have a sub-MOA group accuracy guarantee while using premium ammunition. Another thing to appreciate here is that Christensen Arms builds dedicated left-handed offerings for this one, so southpaws don't feel like they're missing out on one of the most powerful new cartridges on the market today.
Seekins Precision Havak Pro Hunter PH2
This is the most expensive rifle we're putting on this list at a little over $1,800. The 300 PRC offering of this rifle features a 26-inch stainless steel barrel with a 1:10 twist rate and a threaded muzzle. Thanks to the carbon composite stock, it comes in at about seven pounds. The barreled action is hand-bedded. These rifles feature an M16-style extractor for more reliable cycling when you need it. It does have a slightly longer 90-degree bolt throw, but we also like this one for the crisp, Timney Elite Hunter adjustable trigger. This rifle is built for long range hunting in the elements. For the price, it's the closest you can probably get to a completely custom rifle for under $2,000. These rifles are made here in the United States, so you can feel good about supporting American jobs too.
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