Any debate about the quintessential American hunting rifle would be incomplete without a mention of a lever-action rifle chambered in .30-30 Winchester.
The .30-30 was originally known as the .30-30 WCF (Winchester Centerfire Cartridge), which indicated that the round had a .30 caliber bullet sitting in front of 30 grains of then-new smokeless powder.
Debuting in Winchester’s 1895 catalogue paired with the iconic Model 1894 lever-action rifle, the round became wildly popular with hunters across North America, remaining a widely used hunting cartridge to this day.
In light of the cartridge’s age and the advent of newer, more advanced cartridges, one might wonder, “Is the .30-30 still any good?”
The answer is a resounding “yes!” While true that newer cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor and 300 PRC have undeniable advantages over the .30-30 in some areas, the old classic still has its place.
In many parts of the country, such as the Southeast, medium game such as Whitetail are encountered inside 200 yards and often in thick brush. A .30-30 lever-action rifle excels in these conditions, being easily maneuverable and able to deliver quick follow-up shots when needed.
The .30-30 delivers projectiles weighing between 110 and 170 grains at velocities ranging from 2200 fps to 2700 fps, providing more than enough energy to take medium game at 200 yards and closer.
The restricted range is partially due to the fact that .30-30 is most commonly a lever-action rifle cartridge, and therefore most ammunition uses a flat nose bullet that doesn’t run the risk of setting off the round in front of it in the rifle’s tubular magazine. An exception to this is Hornady’s Leverevolution line of ammunition, which makes use of a modern, more aerodynamic Spitzer-style bullet that is safe to use in lever action rifles. These rounds greatly reduce drag and deliver greater energy at longer ranges relative to the more traditional, flat nose variety of bullet.
Lever-action rifles chambered in .30-30 continue to be very popular. Both Henry and Marlin have introduced updated versions of their classic rifles that feature threaded barrels, picatinny rails for optics, and other accessory mounting options.
While it might not be taking elk at 600 yards, I suspect that, thanks to modern ammunition and continued manufacturer support, the .30-30 will be filling American freezers for many years to come, just as it has done since 1895.
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