Last week we explored an old Warhorse, the Russian 7.62x54R. This week we look into a staple cartridge of hunters for many years, the 30-30 Winchester. Just slightly older than last week’s cartridge by just four years (1895) it is still in use today and may have harvested more deer than any other smokeless cartridge. Also known as the 30-30 WCF, a name derived from a .30 caliber bullet loaded with 30 grains of powder. Designed in a time when there were numerous amounts of rimfire and centerfire cartridges, the need existed to define it as centerfire cartridge.
The cartridge designed for the lever-action rifle, the Winchester Model 1894, has continued to be a staple round for many other lever-action rifles. While there have been bolt action, single action break open, and even one rolling block rifle that have accepted this cartridge, its home is in the tube fed magazine of a lever-action rifle.
When first looking at the cartridge you notice that the bullet tip is flat. Most modern rifle bullets come to a point known as a Spitzer point. In most magazines, bullets are loaded one on top of the other. When bullets are loaded into a tube magazine, the bullets are loaded inline; the tip of one bullet makes contact with the primer of the bullet loaded in front of it. In a tube magazine a pointed bullet is capable of acting like a firing pin on the primer of the bullet in front of it . A chain reaction could occur with all rounds in the magazine firing if the gun dropped or during heavy recoil.
A rifle that preceded the under-barrel tube-fed magazines was the Spencer rifle. The bullets were loaded inline from the back of the butt stock. At some point, a violent discovery must have happened in which a bullet in the magazine struck the primer of the bullet in front of it causing a chain fire of all rounds in the magazine.
The 30-30 is a base-line standard in hunting cartridges. Comparisons as to whether another round is better or worse than the 30-30 Winchester dominate the hunting nomenclature. For deer, black bear, and anything in that range, it is a foundational round. While it has probably taken larger game, there are cartridges that are better for larger game in North America and across the world. In Mexico, the treinte–treinte is still the number one all time hunting cartridge.
If you ever question the ability of this old flat-nosed bullet, then I have a personal story to alleviate your concerns. My Great Aunt Sylvia in the attached picture took down two deer with one shot from a 30-30 Winchester in Colorado in circa 1947. Notice the awesome hunting vehicle in the photograph.
The 30-30 Winchester chambered for these well known models, the Winchester Model 1894, the Savage Model 99, the Marlin Model 336, and many more. Mossberg has recently thrown its hat into the 30-30 arena including this new, modern, well words are hard to find, lever action rifle.
This week’s cartridge is not as sexy as last week’s venerable warhorse. The 30-30 Winchester is a workhorse and will always be dependable, reliable, and a piece of American history. Plus it’s always cool, in my opinion, to work the lever to load the gun. It is capable of bringing out the Rifleman in all of us.
30-30 Winchester Ballistic Comparison
|Cartridge||Bullet Weight||Muzzle Velocity||Muzzle Energy|
|.223 Rem.||75 Grains||2,790 fps||1,296 ft.-lbs.|
|.243 Win||100 Grains||2,850 fps||1,805 ft.-lbs.|
|30-30 Win||150 Grains||2,715 fps||2,048 ft.-lbs.|
|.308 Win||150 Grains||2,750 fps||2,518 ft.-lbs.|
|30.06 Rem||150 Grains||2,900 fps||2,820 ft.-lbs.|
|.300 Win Mag||150 Grains||3,290 fps||3,570 ft.-lbs.|