Cartridge of the Week 30-30 Winchester

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.

Winchester Model 94
30-30 Winchester
Lever Action Magazine

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.

Spencer Rifle

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.

Aunt Sylvia Two Deer – One Shot

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.

Mossberg Tactical 30-30
.223 Rem (left) vs. 30-30 Winchester(right)

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.


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Comments (12)

  1. All the deer I shoot with the 30-30 taste better. It’s easy on the ears, wallet, and shoulder… and lethal on the deer. Heart shot a cowhorn on Monday at about 50 yards. Plus, the Marlin’s lovely lines & metal are pretty.

  2. Bill, Stack and the rest of you; Remember when hunting in a red and black checkerd shirt and jeans was it? Think back to recurve bows. There were alot of game shot with the 30-30, .06 and even shotgun before the marketing group found the field. Now we all have to buy the hype and be among the camera clan. This year I have decided to hunt with my 30 just for old time sake and I hope some of you wil too. Camo is so other hunters won’t see you, animals already know who’s in their neighbor hood. If I can shoot a deer with my .54 cal black powder then I sure can shoot a deer with my .30-.30.
    I challenge you guys to do the same just for old time sake, do it for the old time remembrance.
    If you want to shoot something at 250 yards looking through a scope, shoot those stinken coyotes that kill so many of our baby deer.

  3. Roger that Roger. Like you said,” mass market stuff” has complicated the concept of hunting as much as simplified it. That’s how it came to be that I had 2 ’94s in the closet that I never hunted with. Even a nice Marlin 336 or two scoped over the years, which I never hunted with. A lever gun looks as strange with a scope as a bolt gun looks without one. I mostly hunted with an ’06 and a 6mm, both scoped bolt guns, and had many oppritunities to shoot at game in the next pasture, but would never shoot at game more than a hundred yards away, usually much less. That probably says more of my lack of confidence in myself than anything else. Still, all the high tech gear and accessories for hunting complicated a sport that didn’t have to be, at least for me, and I bought into it in every way. They used to say that fishing lures have to catch the fisherman before they can catch fish. I guess that goes for hunting also, and you guys make a good point about it. Makes me remember the simplicity of perch fishing all the ponds around the neighborhood and beyond off my bicycle. It also makes me think of simpler times with a 30.30 that I passed up in favor of a scoped bolt gun. Maybe I’ll have a chance to hunt with one yet.

  4. To you Single Stack and others of the 3030 clan. I agree with Single Stack, today everyone likes the camo, scent block and all the other mass market stuff. I like to grab my recurve bow and go for a stalk. I like to go for a walk with my 30-30. I see more deer and wild life when still hunting, that nice slow walk gets me up close to alot of animals. The 30-30 is the rock for me. Shooting a deer at 250 yards with a scope is no challenge, shooting a deer at 100 yards or less with open sights is more of a skill.

  5. You know Roger, things really have changed so much. As a young man, when I decided to go hunting whatever; I just up and went. There were no special preparations at all other than to carry the trusty shotgun or 30-30. No camoflage, no scent eradicators, no special glasses, etc. No special clothing other than a bird vest (tan only). The bullets or shells were in my pockets. Yet, I always mopped up. All of these new bullets are a product of today’s never ending search for perfection. I always found the end of that search in the woods with my gun and the quiet. Do you think David used a .308, a .243, a 30-30, or maybe a 45 LC sized rock in his sling? I would be willing to bet that he used what he felt most comfortable with; for me a 30-30 between the eyes of Goliath is a safe and sure bet and the closer, the better.

  6. Wow, I can smell Hoppe’s and Juniper, for it’s huntin’ season here in Boomhower, Texas. I have two anymore, never hunted with either, but am getting the urge, listening to you guys. The two I have now are both pre ’64 Winchesters, one belonged to a close personal friend of my Dad’s who worked with, and hunted with him for years. Later in life, I got the chance to lease his place in the hill country for 17 years. He told me how his wife bought him that gun, he started hunting with my Dad ( I was. A toddler ), and my Dad helpede him aguire a model 70 in 30.06. Then, in my 30s, he offered me the gun for 50 bucks. It’s original, no accessories, looks great, hardly used. The other, was my wifes grandfather’s, equally as clean and it has the off-set weaver detatchable rings and base, with what looks like a brand new K-4 Weaver, and a really nice hammer spur. Maybe I should find a handfull of shells and a knife, and go sit out-back in November. Ktil then, I’ll keep smellin’ that hoppe’s.

  7. I love the 30-30. Mine was a Marlin, but I decided to “upgrade” to a semi-auto. I went with an Semi Romainian RPK(7.62×39). Oddly enough, the basic ballistics are very similar. I do miss the ol’ 30-30. It was a great rifle and spent many a weekend on my motorcycle hunting deer, mountian lion and bear. You wont find a better “Saddle Gun”.

  8. I agree, the 30-30 is the go to gun for the age it is. I got mine from an old neighbor and it was handed down to him from his father. It has deer inlaid with moon and stars in the stock. His father did it before there was TV to entertain. The gun still works fine and shoots well. When I’m on a salk or drive it’s the one. Thank you, Mr. Winchester. Mine hold 7 in the tube, boy have times changed.

  9. Because I prefer open sights over optics, my Winchester has long been my go-to rifle. Top-out eject is no hindrance whatsoever and the power of the 30-30 cartridge gives me what I need. Knock down is abrupt on target animals. If you like to get close, instead of shooting at 200+ yards, I can’t suggest a better bullet; there are many more powerful, larger, fancier; but none better for me.

  10. Quick look at some manufacturers’ ballistic tables showed no 150 grain 30-30 going 2715 fps. Thought that was a little high. Closest was 2570, I think it was a WW hp. Most are 2200-2400.

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