Category: All About Guns
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.
What do you think about the old .30-30? Share this out to your social media of choice and let us know!
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My favorite lever guns are a Winchester Model 71 in .348 Winchester, a Model 92 in .45 Colt, a Winchester Model 94 in .30-30 Winchester and a Henry Classic in .22 Long Rifle. I’ve hunted with all four for game, ranging from feral hogs to rabbits, and I have trained with the Model 92 and Model 94 at Gunsite.
The .22 also serves as a good sub-caliber trainer for its bigger bothers in addition to being good clean fun.
One reason the lever-gun remains popular for those on horseback is that it’s thinner than any other design. It also has less height and does not require the mounting of scopes, red dots, lasers and microwave ovens to get the job done.
When riding fence a Winchester Model 94 went with me, snuggled into my saddle scabbard. Unlike the movies, when I was actively working cattle the rifle came off as there was too much of a chance my rope may catch on the stock and cause a wreck in the corral—something to be avoided around sharp horn Brahma-cross cows.
Unlike what is portrayed in movies, the lever-action (like bolt-action rifles) should remain on the shoulder while the action is worked. Lowering it and then bringing it back into the shoulder takes more time to reacquire the target.
That extra time may result in not getting a follow-up shot on game or, if used in a defensive role, allow a bad guy to put more holes in you than you were issued at birth. With little practice rounds can be placed on target quite quickly with a lever gun.
The addition of a ghost ring sight from Skinner Sights will decrease the time it takes to get on target while increasing accuracy over the buckhorn type sights usually found on lever-actions.
For economical practice, I handload hard-cast bullets for both the Model 1892 and 1894. For the .30-30, I use 168-grain round nose, and for the .45 Colt I load 230-grain flat nose, round point, and 255-grain semiwadcutters. Even though hard-cast, I load the .30-30 to very moderate velocities to reduce the chance of leading the bore.
For years the standard loading for the .30-30 was a 158-grain round-nose jacketed soft-point bullet. Ballistically, it is on a par with the 7.62x39mm cartridge.
Only round-nose or flat-nose bullets could safely be used in the tubular magazine because, under recoil, a cartridge-loaded with a spire point bullet could ignite the primer of the next round in the magazine with disastrous consequences.
That all changed several years ago, when Hornady introduced the LEVERevolution® for lever-action rifles. The patented elastomer Flex Tip® technology of the FTX® and MonoFlex® bullets makes spire points safe to use in tubular magazines. The bullets feature higher ballistic coefficients and dramatically flatter trajectory for increased downrange performance.
They are available in 140-grain (Mono-Flex) and 160-grain (FTX) weights and are suitable on big game up to and including elk, breathing new life into the over century old cartridge.
When hunting with the Model 71, I normally just place an extra half-dozen rounds in my pocket. The Model 92 and Model 94, however, often ride in my truck for defensive purposes as well as for critter control. With that in mind they both have butt cuffs for quick access to reload.
One word of caution on butt cuffs: make sure it is attached in such a way that it will not slide forward and interfere with the functioning of the rifle. A cuff sliding forward cost me winning a man-against-man shoot-off at Gunsite. In the real world it could have cost me much more…
It’s high time to bring “Grandpa’s rifle” out from the back of the safe and put it to use. Lever-actions rifles remains viable for most any task you choose to use it for.
SIMPLY RUGGED HOLSTERS