The .30-30 Won’t Go Away

The .30-30 Won’t Go Away

Since the invention of smokeless powder, countless calibers have been invented for the use in military, target and sporting rifles. Out of all the many hundreds of different cartridges, a few always seem to rise to the surface as top performers. Take for example the mighty .30-06.  It was adopted for the US Military in 1906 and was such a successful round that today its popularity has only slightly decreased. But let us turn our attention to perhaps a humbler chambering, but one that has harvested just as much, if not more game than any other modern cartridge.  The .30-30.

The .30-30, by today’s standards, it is neither the fastest round nor the most powerful.  Truth be told, the .30-30 is a slow cartridge and one that does not have the range of most modern sporting cartridges.  

The .30-30 dates back to a time when the new smokeless powder, and smaller diameter and faster bullets were joined in matrimony. In the 1880s, most nation’s militaries across the globe were in the process of switching from black powder breach loading rifles, to bolt action rifles firing rounds propelled by smokeless powder.  By the 1890s, most nations had begun the switch, and the first hunting rifles chambered in military calibers, albeit designed for the hunt, began to appear.

As with black powder projectiles, custom chamberings for hunting began to appear.  It was in 1894 that the first small bore bullet designed specifically for the hunting of game was introduced, known as the .30 WCF, also known as the .30-30. The reason for the name .30-30 came from the bullet being a .30 caliber cartridge, charged with 30 grams of smokeless propellant.  This was standard practice at the time and had to do with the loading of black powder, for example, .45-70, 50-70, etc.

One interesting Fact, in World War 1 the US Army desperately short of rifles, issues Winchester .30-30 lever action rifles to US troops in the Pacific Northwest. These troops were tasked with guarding the very strategic supply of spruce logging used for aircraft manufacturer. Interesting how a civilian hunting rifle, for a time was a military long arm. Surplus US Army issue .30-30s are to this day called “Spruce Guns”.

Today the .30-30 is not going to be a cartridge you encounter on the competition range, it will not be found at the Camp Perry shooting competition.  But you will find the .30-30 in many gun safes and gun racks of many hunters in Canada and the United States.  The .30-30 is still one of the most popular game bullets today. Millions of rounds are still sold annually.

The round has probably accounted for more deer in North America than any chamberings over the past 110 years.  It has killed just as many elk, moose, and caribou as the .30-06, the .303 and the .270.  There are many stories that have come out of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest of hunters and trappers defending themselves against Brown Bears with the .30-30. Not an ideal cartridge by any means for bear. However, the round performs very well with deer, caribou, wild boar, and is capable of harvesting moose and elk. 

Because of its use primarily in lever action rifles, all .30-30 bullets are round nosed. If you were stack spitzer, or pointed, bullets in a tubular magazine it could ruin your day. The reason being if you fell, and a bullet was to impact on the primer of the cartridge above it, your whole magazine could blow up. Because of the employment of a round nosed bullet, the recommended effective range of a .30-30 is only up to 250 yards.


Marlin 336

All this considered, the .30-30 is an affordable, adequate, and accurate round up to 200 yards that is available in prolific amounts across the USA and Canada. The two top rifles chambered in .30-30, the Marlin 336 and the classic Winchester 94 have been produced for decades and there are over 12 million of these rifles across the continent. A used rifle can easily be found in exceptional condition, and with .30-30 cheaper than either the .30-06 or .270, it is a much cheaper caliber to take to the shooting range.


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