.30-30 Winchester Cartridge

DunnBy Robert Dunn
AGI and GunTech Video Producer,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

They say that timing is everything and, in the case of the .30-30 Winchester cartridge, the timing could not have been better to ensure its popularity and longevity. This Winchester cartridge has been an iconic round in the hearts of deer hunters and lever action enthusiasts since its debut in 1895. The .30-30 has remained a very popular cartridge in the United States for well over a century and is still going strong.

The .30-30 cartridge was the first small-bore (for the time) cartridge in America to utilize smokeless powder and it was introduced with Winchester’s 1894 lever action rifle, which became as popular as the cartridge. The Model 94 was a light, nimble, and effective rifle in the field, and the felt recoil of the .30-30 cartridge was quite manageable. This made the cartridge and rifle combination an instant winner. There are certainly better choices for hunting large game, but for deer, black bear, and dispatching predators inside 200 yards, the .30-30 is a sound choice.

You may see other designations for the .30-30 Winchester, like .30 WCF (Winchester Centerfire) or .30-30 WIN. Firearms companies other than Winchester prefer to simply refer to the cartridge as a .30-30. There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you are reloading the .30 WCF for a firearm with a tubular magazine. You should use flat point bullets to avoid touching off the remaining rounds in the magazine due to recoil or if you drop the rifle. Pointy Spitzer bullets can act like a firing pin and discharge the primers! While this can provide some real excitement, we suggest you find other avenues for stimulation.

A modern alternative to the flat nose bullet is Hornady’s Flex Tip bullet technology found in their FTX and MonoFlex bullets, used in their LEVERevolution ammo. These flex tip bullets can deliver 40% more energy to the target and offer a flatter trajectory than a flat nose bullet, all without the exciting situation referred to above.

The other thing to be aware of with regard to reloading, is the bullet should be seated so the case mouth is securely crimped in the bullet’s cannelure. This is because the pounding the cartridges take from recoil inside a tubular magazine tends to push the bullets deeper into the cartridge cases. This can dramatically increase chamber pressures, not generally considered “a good thing.” The .30-30 cartridge utilizes a rimmed case and a large rifle primer. You can safely achieve a velocity of around 2700 fps with certain propellant and bullet combinations.

The Hornady LEVERevolution ammunition deliver increased ballistic coefficients to revive your old lever action!

My brother Larry introduced me to the .30-30 Winchester cartridge. He had a good track record hunting deer in Virginia with it in a Marlin 336 lever action. There are many other popular rifles that were chambered in .30-30, like the Savage 340, the Remington 788, the Mossberg 472 and the Savage Model 99, to name a few. The Model 99 lever action rifle was designed with a rotary magazine so the .30-30 cartridge could be safely loaded and fired with pointed bullets. The .30 WCF round also gets a lot of use from Thompson Center Arms Contender handgun shooters. A short barreled Contender pistol chambered in .30 WIN is really a lot of fun to fire in low light conditions!

The freakiest use of the .30-30 cartridge I know of is in Magnum Research’s 5-shot single action BFR revolver (Big Frame Revolver in case you were wondering). I do a fair amount of exploring the neighboring mountains around where I live. In recent years, I have encountered bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes and two legged predators on my journeys up the mountain. I feel confident the .30-30 cartridge is a sound choice to dispatch any of these creatures if need be.

The recoil is manageable and, though I don’t find myself on a horse, if you were a homesteader, rancher or cattleman, the .30-30 round and a lever action carbine would be a good choice if you were riding horseback. My experience with the .30 WCF cartridge leads me to believe it is an extremely accurate round and it is the chambering for a few of my favorite rifles.

It is a flexible cartridge to reload for, so you can teach someone to shoot with the .30-30 cartridge without hurting their shoulder and developing bad habits. Later, you can load hotter rounds for specific purposes and conditions.

Pictured above from left to right are the .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester and the .30-06 Springfield cartridges.

The .30-30 Winchester cartridge will continue to be a popular round in America. It is a fine choice for taking white tail deer and that alone will insure its usage among hunters throughout the country. A lever action rifle chambered in .30- 30 would be a good round for protecting your camp or home as well. There’s nothing wrong with an 1894 Winchester rifle chambered in .30 WCF to take care of all types of business.

Confidence would be high using the above Federal cartridges to dispatch deer and black bear where I live in the Pacific Northwest

The .30 Winchester round will continue to be one of my cartridge choices for future endeavors! As a matter of fact, in my more recent encounters with black bears, I have felt “naked” with a .223 rifle and have since switched to using a .30-30 lever action for my adventures!

9 Responses to .30-30 Winchester Cartridge

  1. Finally someone giving the old dog it’s due. Thanks Robert! Truth be told, of all my wiz bang high speed low drag rifles I carried my old reliable Springfield 30-30 bolt action more this past deer season than any other rifle. There’s something about going afield with the old double 30. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so!

      • I picked up some TSX 150 grainers to play with. The old winchester 150gr hollow point had been my go to in my old Springfield 840 (cousin of everyone’s 340s). No disrespect but I think the 840 was a little prettier. My first rifle and still one of my favorites. Maybe I’ll do some homework on the TSX bullets and post something.

  2. I too am an avid fan of the 30-30. I have killed many deer in Pennsylvania Mountains ( Hills ) with this 150 grain cartridge in my 340 Savage .

  3. I killed a small black bear with my .270 at 30 yards with a head shot, but felt he was not really dead until he quit moving. Since then I have reverted to carrying my Winchester 30-30 to be sure I’m covered, as there are some big bears (500+ lbs) where I deer hunt. Besides, the 30-30 has been one of my favorite and better handling rifles in my inventory.

    • Truth be told, I rustled up a cub and Mama bear early one morning with my .30-30 and she began to follow me home. I’m sure she looked 100 pounds more than she actually was, but after that, I carry a Browning BAR in .30-06 in certain areas during certain times of the season. When I am just out and about, I have a Ruger Alaskan Revolver in .454 Casull. Not the best thing for putting a big bear down but when you are using two hands for stuff, it will have to do…