Federal Low Recoil Cartridges

By Chuck Hawks

Federal LR ammo box.
Illustration courtesy of Federal Cartridge.

Federal Power-Shok Low Recoil ammunition is, at present, offered in calibers .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. The .270 Low Recoil load drives a 145 grain Flat-Soft Point bullet at a MV of 2200 fps. The .308 Low Recoil load drives a 170 grain Flat-SP bullet at a MV of 2000 fps, and the .30-06 load drives the same bullet at the same velocity. All of these velocity figures were taken in 24" test barrels.

These Federal Low Recoil loads claim a 50% recoil reduction and consistent bullet performance out to 200 yards. They also claim that the Low Recoil loads will impact the target at about the same place as Federal standard velocity loads at 100 yards.

Here are the Federal load numbers for the Low Recoil cartridges:

  • 270LR1 (.270 Win. 145 grain Flat-SP)
  • 308LR1 (.308 Win. 170 grain Flat-SP)
  • 3006LR1 (.30-06 Spfd. 170 Flat-SP)

Flat point bullets were selected because they expand better at relatively low velocity than spitzer bullets. After all, the Flat-SP has more lead exposed at the nose. And we know from decades of experience with the .30-30 cartridge that this type of bullet kills deer size game well at these velocities.

The .308 and .30-06 loads are roughly similar in performance to the traditional 170 grain .30-30 load (170 grain flat-SP bullet at a MV of 2200 fps). The .270 load is not too far behind the traditional 150 grain .30-30 load (150 grain Flat-SP bullet at a MV of 2400 fps). In each case the .30-30 has about a 200 fps advantage in velocity with bullets of similar weight.

Of course, most .30-30 rifles come with 20" barrels and most .270, .308, and .30-06 rifles come with 22" barrels, rather than the 24" test barrels in which all of these loads are tested. Never the less, the Low Recoil loads should remain effective on CXP2 class game out to at least 200 yards when fired from the 22" barrels of hunting rifles.

Here are the published Federal velocity figures (in feet per second) for the Low Recoil loads:

  • 270LR1 - MV 2200, 2008 at 100 yards, 1825 at 200 yards, 1656 at 300 yards.
  • 308LR1 - MV 2000, 1742 at 100 yards, 1510 at 200 yards, 1312 at 300 yards.
  • 3006LR1 - MV 2000, 1742 at 100 yards, 1510 at 200 yards, 1312 at 300 yards.

And here are the Federal kinetic energy figures (in foot pounds):

  • 270LR1 - ME 1558, 1297 at 100 yards, 1072 at 200 yards, 883 at 300 yards.
  • 308LR1 - ME 1510, 1145 at 100 yards, 861 at 200 yards, 650 at 300 yards.
  • 3006LR1 - ME 1510, 1145 at 100 yards, 861 at 200 yards, 650 at 300 yards.

The trajectory of those loads should look like this (Federal figures):

  • 270LR1 = +2.0" at 50 yards, +3.5" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -14.3" at 300 yards.
  • 308LR1 = +3.0" at 50 yards, +5.0" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -20.5" at 300 yards.
  • 3006LR1 = +3.0" at 50 yards, +5.0" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -20.5" at 300 yards.

A 200 yards zero is really too far for these loads, as it allows an unacceptable mid-range rise. On the other hand, 100 yards is too close, as in that case the .30 caliber bullets will drop 10" at 200 yards, and the .270 bullet will drop about 7". Best to zero all three loads to hit 3" high at 100 yards from a scoped rifle with a line of sight 1.5" over bore. That should extend the maximum point blank range (+/- 3") to around 200 yards without causing the bullet to fly so high at intermediate distances that it might miss the vital area of a CXP2 class game animal.

200 yards is a very practical maximum range. Most hunters cannot guarantee correct bullet placement on deer size game in the field at greater range, anyway. And the reduced recoil of these loads will allow more accurate shooting and better shot placement. Virtually everyone shoots better with loads that kick less, a fact that has been demonstrated again and again.

A 50% reduction in recoil is really worthwhile. It will make shooting an 8 pound .270, .308, or .30-06 rifle feel like a .243. In other words, a rifle that ordinarily delivers 16-20 ft. lbs. of recoil energy will be reduced to the 8-10 ft. lb. level.

What's the point, you ask? Why not just buy a .30-30? (A 7.5 pound .30-30 shooting the 150 grain factory load delivers about 10.6 ft. lbs. of recoil energy.) Well, many shooters already own a hard kicking .270, .308, or .30-06 rifle that they would like to tame. Federal Low Recoil ammunition will let them use their present rifle for deer hunting with greatly reduced recoil. They will flinch less, shoot better and probably kill more game, more humanely, as a result. And if they get a chance to hunt heavy game like elk or moose, they can always switch back to full power loads.

The Low Recoil loads are also a natural for teaching beginning hunters to shoot with existing rifles. You don't have to buy your son, daughter or spouse a new rifle; just a few boxes of Low Recoil ammunition, to get them started.

The nice folks at Federal were kind enough to send me, upon request, a box of their Low Recoil .308 Winchester cartridges. These were test fired at the range by G&S Online Technical Assistants Jim Fleck, Bob Fleck, and myself. Accuracy was comparable to the comparison full-power factory load (Remington Express with 150 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet, MV 2820 fps) in the Ruger M77RSI International test rifle.

All of us agreed that the recoil and muzzle blast of the Low Recoil load was attenuated by a worthwhile amount. Accuracy was comparable to the full power factory load. I would have no qualms about going deer hunting with this ammunition.

My only quibble is with the assertion that the Low Recoil loads will shoot to the same point of aim at 100 yards as full power ammunition. This may be true in some cases, but all rifles are individuals and may respond differently to different loads. In the test rifle, the Low Recoil ammunition hit some 8" lower than the full power 150 grain Core-Lokt ammunition.

This is consistent with my personal experience with a large number of hunting rifles over the last 40 years, which has taught me that it is always a pious idea to carefully check the point of impact of any new load at the range. Sadly, in most cases it is necessary to re-zero the rifle when changing loads.

But so what? We all need the practice and ordinarily it is a simple matter to re-zero a scoped rifle. You can't get too proficient with your deer rifle, and practice is necessary just to maintain your present skill level. Any excuse to get to the range and do a little shooting should be leaped at!

I think that the new Federal Low Recoil loads are a great idea. I hope that they sell as well as they deserve. I suppose that is largely a matter of price. If Federal can keep the price identical to that of standard Power-Shok ammunition in the same caliber, I think that the Low Recoil idea will be a commercial success.

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Copyright 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.