Hornady’s LeveRevolution—The .30-30’s New Lease on Life

Hornady .30-30 ammo boxes stacked

Occasionally, I reflect on the humble firearms I began hunting with as a responsible young man of 12. I do not really wish to return to the single-shot .22, but the Mossberg 12 gauge pump I obtained a few years after the .22 would still serve well.

You can grow up and move away from humble beginnings, but you always remember the look of the fields and roads. I think you will forever carry that look with you. The fine house, and stiff collar we wear, cannot replace the worn hunting shirt, and the smell of new ground. That is why I often carry and hunt with the .30-30 lever-action rifle. I have newer, more accurate and more powerful guns, but none handier or more trustworthy. I suppose it is the fast-handling lever-action rifle that sells the package more so than the cartridge. Therefore, I have not been without a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 rifle since I was 16.

The Winchester reminds us of the life we once led. Arranging bits of information brings to life the people to whom duty was a privilege. Feeding the family, harvesting game, tending to the crops and raising children left little time to get into trouble. For the deer hunter, the .30-30 was the rifle. A few carried military surplus rifles that were cut down into ‘sporters,’ but most of those were pretty poor guns.

When reading period reports, written around the time of the introduction of the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire, you can see that it was a sensation in its time. Despite the introduction of improved cartridges and rifles, the .30-30 lever-action rifle continues to sell well. The .30-30 is the longest-lived centerfire rifle cartridge in continuous production that remains so widely used.

Another look at period literature shows the respect to which the cartridge was held. No more drop tables for the .44-40 WCF or .45-70 Springfield, and no more scrubbing the bores clean of black powder residue after firing. Both accuracy and power were phenomenal for the day. Hunters quickly adopted the rifle, and every species of North American game fell to the .30-30 Winchester Centerfire.

Lawmen such as the Texas Rangers were quick to adopt this hard-hitting cartridge as well. It should be noted that several highway patrol agencies and the LAPD kept the Winchester in inventory as late as the early 1980s. I respectfully submit that a lot of problems can be solved neatly with such a rifle with a single shot. Having seen police taking cover from rifle fire and attempting to return fire with handguns, the Winchester .30-30 would have looked mighty good at the time.

While improved ballistics is possible with handloading, the tubular magazine of the lever-action rifle presented a problem. The nose of the bullet behind the leading cartridge butts into the primer of the cartridge ahead. A pointy bullet would punch the primer and ignite the cartridge during recoil. For this reason, relatively stubby, round-nose bullets were loaded in the .30-30. (A French military rifle used a spiral magazine to cure this problem.)

Enthusiastic handloaders could not use pointed spitzer bullets to improve the .30-30’s ballistics. Well, actually, some of us did. We loaded the 125-grain JSP and loaded only the round in the magazine and one in the chamber when hunting. However, Hornady has a better solution.

The LeveRevolution loading features a spitzer-type bullet with a flattened tip. The polymer tip flattens during recoil and cushions the primer in front of the bullet. This eliminates the possibility of a chain fire. I have read period reports of chain fires with the big lever-action rifles and they were ugly. The Flex Tip neatly solves the problem. Be especially careful when handloading the .30-30, .35 Remington or any other cartridge for lever-action rifles. A high primer would be a disaster.

The advantage of the FTX is a higher ballistic coefficient—less drag and more retained velocity, more energy, and more killing power. At short range, they perform well, but at longer range is where the advantage over conventional bullets will show. As a further advantage, the new bullets exhibit excellent accuracy potential.

The Hornady load breaks about 2,400 fps from the average carbine, somewhat faster than the average 150-grain JSP load in the caliber. I have tested the FTX and find it not only effective, per testing in ballistic media, but quite accurate as well. While I find the 150-grain bullet a great choice for hogs and deer at moderate range, the FTX has longer legs. I have also tested the 150-grain Interlock and find it a great loading with much to recommend. Hornady even manufactures a Reduced Recoil loading in the 150-grain .30-30. This wide range of choices would not be offered unless the .30-30 were still popular and in demand. The old Thutty-Thutty is not only in demand in my world, the rifle is indispensable.

Share your experiences with “The Rifleman’s Cartridge” in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. I reload some and some 20 + year ago a friend asked me to reload some 30-30 ammo suitable for his teenagers to use when hunting with him. Having an FFL for ammo reloading, I was able to work up a load for him using Hornady 110 JHP varmiteers. Was a fairly fast round without a lot of kick off a Win 94. He did say he was able to get his limit on Hill country Whitetail without any trouble.

  2. I had to read the date under the title of this article before I posted this.. Couldn’t believe that you were writing it in 2015. Where have you been the last decade, Bob? Hornady’s wonderful LeveRevolution ammo, bullets, and powder have been around that long. My wife’s 1895 Marlin Guide Gun in .450Marlin loves to be fed the FTX bullets, both factory and handloads. No doubt that Hornady’s work in this arena has revitalized a lot of old lever guns, and their Safari ammo has brought a lot of old double rifles out of the gun cabinets. Now if they would just start loading ammo for the .32-40!

  3. “Thirty-Thirties” – thank goodness I still have a case of Winchester .32 Special Silver Tips. Yep, I still use my lever action Winchester (no rubber-baby-buggy-bumpers needed). Yep, I reload – yep I can shoot the new rubber-nose 30-30 if I run out. Yep, I too have post-graduate degrees from three prominent universities. Yep, I too am a retired peace officer and yep in addition, I am a septuagenarian. Ya know, that Ruger Mark II drops mulies at 80 yards – no sweat . . . I don’t know of course but maybe I was told.

    Semper Fi,

    The Rev

    PS I double darn dare you to start making .32 Winchester 185 gr Silver Tips again.

    1. @ The Reverend.

      Why not try the .30-30 (.309/7.848×50.8) Ackley Improved. Which is Virtually the Same Size, and Give’s 125% Improvement to the Range. And a ~199 to ~301.5ft/sec. Boost to the Muzzle Velocity over the .30-30WCF (.308/7.8×51.8), depending on Barrel Size…

  4. The northern part of New England when I was young was populated by old line French /Canadians and peoples of the Nations who tolerated Irish Welsh and Brits; that lived outside the small mostly family and company store mill towns.
    Those familys in rural, hell many places had
    gravel roads no phones or lectricity up into late 60’s, were largely “land rich and dirt poor” and relied a lot of their livelihood upon home grown
    veggies and meat, but no matter how not wealthy they were. You could depend upon their rifles being as good as new even if it was hanging with powder horns of great gramps
    My recollection as a driver, of deer not trucks except now and then, was that the shooters on
    stand, men and women, were just about equally broken into two camps, shotgunners and leverguns.
    The lever guns ranged. In age from Late 1800’s until the Savage models and Winchester 30/30 and 32 specials.
    My early lesson on Gun Safety came from s drunken mant times removed cousin who while
    getting his win 44-40 ready at kitchen table and banging it on floor the hammer fell on live round now that got everyones attention.
    That old lead. Round went through cieling 3 of aunts dresser drawers blowing her bloomers and femal clothes to shreads, ontinue on intio
    attic where we found it under old steamer trunk..
    Now as to safety, as a driver of deer towards
    some hung over kill anything that moved type
    I realy began to wonder when Gramps dug a pellet out of my mackinac coat.
    I just went ground hog until shooting stopped.
    Yet it was those old levers I craved but could not afford, as they cost the bounty of 3 or 4 lynx or bobcats, 20 fox, and with porkys at 30cents for
    two hind legs my crack shot .22 dropped all but
    Damn : today I wish I had taken my aunts offer of a gift of that lever gun, as she stood pissed beyond measure, offering it to me with one hand
    while holding her hole shot undies in other.
    Not all gun and hunting tales are of the size of dead animals, An old friend has an original that
    while in 30/30and to me I still remember the smack of an up close 44-40 against a moose
    deer or bear as being pretty damned solid.
    Get a kick out of those who say why worry about
    Hornadys rounds in 3030; well the main reason they went 30/30 originally was for a gain in accurracy at ranges beyond just 100 and under of old pistol lever rounds Now a days with
    Leverloution rounds we have a brush gun for that normal 100 and under but when we bust out i nto clearcuts after a buck we can at last have a round that I would nott hesitate at a 250 head shot , scoped.
    To each their own and a lever gun is pure americana and if those today never find at least a smidgen of that they will never know what
    they lost.
    The smell of linseed oil on stocks rurned dark brown black without a crack in themThat smell and with it the mink oil or bear grease on boots and saddle soaped rifle slings and leathers on gloves or mittens and butstocks,

  5. Completely agree with Kendall, love my 30-30 Winchester, never jams, easy to find ammo, and can’t miss in 100-150 yard range. Easily the best rifle in its class.

  6. The quality that marlin use to build is gone now that Remington took over Marlin. Remington builds great rifles. However, they still do not build the quality levers that Marlin did.

  7. Nothing against Hornady and their leverevolution ammo, but the 30-30 doesn’t need to be rescued. It excels at what it is, a sub 200 yard game getter. It seems to me that the leverevolution stuff is sold to peeps who want to turn the 30-30 into something it never will be. When I take a lever gun into the field I appreciate its limitations, they make me the better for them. If I want to shoot mule deer at 500 yards, I have rifles for that.

  8. When I got into raising and keeping backyard poultry, it occurred to me that since I do not hunt, I do not have a proper varmint rifle in the event of a predator attack. I only had mil-surp, target, or personal defense arms. I found a gently used 1971 vintage Marlin 336 complete with scope mount at a local gun shop for $265. I put a Bushnell Trophy scope on it, and using Federal150 gr soft point ammo, can put 3 rounds in quarter size group at 100 yards. With the same Federal ammo in 170 grains, I just aim about 2 inches high for the same result.

    I like the Henry rifles except for one MAJOR flaw. If you are going to use one in a gun fight, you can not easily top off the magazine like you can with Marlin, Rossi, Winchester, or Uberti side loaders. You have to stand the rifle on end, pull the magazine follower up, and drop the cartridges down the magazine tube. Not exactly something I would want to do with one in the chamber. I have also seen complaints of Henry Big Boy rifles that have feeding problems if the rifle is not held perfectly vertical, but I don’t believe it to be a wide spread problem. Who knows, it could be caused by certain ammo or user error.

    My next rifle will be the latest (and supposedly much better) Marlin 1894C in .357 Magnum to be paired with a Ruger GP-161. Since I reload .357 Magnum and .38 Special, it should make for lots of fun. It will also became a SHTF arsenal addition.

  9. It is actually a few years newer than 7.62x54r, which is still used all over the world by civilians and military alike unlike 30-30 which is civilian only as far as I know.

    It is a decent round though, especially for being so old. but the x54r is more widely used and older.

  10. The .30 Winchester Center Fire, Marlin designated it 30-30, is a good all-round cartridge. My first serious hunting was with my Dad’s 30-30 lever action Marlin. Most of my summers, when I had time off from work or home chores, was spent in the woods ,from around age 10, until I enlisted at 18, with a .22, or 30-30. Good memories. After Vietnam, sort of had my fill of hunting for a while. But eventually got back into it. My 1st rifle, when I did was 30-30 Winchester top-eject, lever gun.

  11. I hunted in Utah for years with a 30-30, and have an old Marlin in my emergency supplies.

    A 30-30 lever action is actually a great rifle for many reasons. The round is plenty powerful enough to drop a deer or a varmint, two-legged or four. It is easy to reload while you’re taking cover . . just slip enough rounds in to top it off, and it’s easy to shoot quickly with a little practice. With a lever action, you can fire quickly from the shoulder and work the lever without ever losing your sight picture.

  12. Love my lever actions and will try the LeveR. By the way The Rifleman’s Cartridge was a 44-40. He said so twice on the show that i’m aware of.

  13. Sorry but if I buy a lever action rifle. It’s going to be a Henry. Made in America. By Americans. If it’s not a Henry’s rifle. Why chance it.

    1. I hear you on the Henry. I own one and they are great guns.

      But, there never has been anything wrong with a Marlin, and there never will be. My Marlin 30-30 is a sweet rifle, and I have two old Marlin .22s that seem to always work no matter what the conditions or the ammo.

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