The .30-30 is No Yawner

A lot—perhaps most—modern-day hunters are infatuated with speedy magnum cartridges. Belt or no belt, the cartridge body had better be fat and/or long. To listen to some, a short shot is a quarter of a mile. I’ve heard several guys sniffle that the .30-06 is boring. And the .30-30 Winchester? Wasn’t it one of those old rounds from back in the day when every family had a buggy whip and the bathroom was a small shack several yards from the real house? Yeah, it’s a quaint little cartridge for an antique, but today? Yawn.

I am tempted to wax about the history of this 117-year-old cartridge and how it was the super-fast deer slayer of the day, or perhaps how many deer it is estimated to have taken. But you guys would likely yawn and click to a different page, “Yeah, Campbell is just showing his age and crankiness again.” Nope, I’m going to argue that the .30 WCF is as good a hunting cartridge as it ever was and that it has some pretty darn good diversity.

The plain truth is that most deer are taken inside of 200 yards. Yep, even today and even out here in the wide-open West. Within 200 yards the .30-30 is plenty of gun for any deer or even an elk, provided the proper bullet is chosen and the hunter is a decent field shot. Now I’ll be honest, the .30-30 would not be my first choice as an elk rifle, but I wouldn’t hesitate a second to take it on an elk hunt if nothing better was available.

We can sit around the campfire and snort with each other over muzzle velocities, downrange trajectories, ballistic coefficients, ad nauseum, but meat on the pole is the real measurement of success. The .30-30 is easy to shoot and doesn’t recoil objectionably. It’s accurate, relatively cheap to shoot, and if you handload it’s a pretty darn good small game cartridge as well.

Nine grains of Trail Boss behind a 160-grain cast lead flat point will leave the muzzle at about 1,200 fps, and it will chew out a one-hole group at 25 to 30 yards from any decent rifle or pistol chambered in .30-30. Recoil is nil, the report is mild, and that kind of accuracy is capable of punching out the eye of a bunny with monotonous regularity. If you are using a gun without a tubular magazine, loading spire-point bullets from 130 to 165 grains will produce remarkably flat trajectories and downrange energy.

I’m not saying that the magnums aren’t any good. The 270 WSMs, .300 and .338 Winchesters and my .375 H&H remain safe—I love ‘em. But I also love to hunt and shoot with my 111-year old Model 94 and my G2 Contender in .30-30.

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9 Responses to The .30-30 is No Yawner

Stanley Smith wrote:
January 13, 2013

Good on you Dave! I'm never without my .30 WCF close at hand. It works.

Jim Martin wrote:
January 13, 2013

Hard to beat a. 30-30 lever gun.

Miguel B wrote:
December 14, 2012

I agree totally! People can jabber on and on and most will. But I have 20 deer and 7 elk taken with a marlin 30-30 and most at about 205 and under yards. The proof is in the pudding. My father argued about his 7mm mag being the minimum for elk. But I keep reminding him who holds the biggest elk in the long as I am eating venison i guess the caliber is just fine.

Brett J. wrote:
October 09, 2012

Just on the range yesterday with a bolt action and lever action 30-30 (both of which are more than 20 years old with newer scopes). Shot my 140gr Hornady Monoflex and 160gr Flextip handdloads at 100 yards out of each rifle. I would bet if I showed the targets to any shooter, the 30-30 would be the last caliber guessed to have made the groups I had. 4 holes touching at 100 yds! Thanks to modern bullet technology, it's without a doubt a 200+ yard deer gun! A vast improvement over the 150gr round nose with iron sights that were a stretch at 100/150 yards. Start handloading this caliber now!

Cbt_Engr wrote:
September 24, 2012

One thing about an old, cranky guy; he's just gonna tell it like it is, and he don't care a whole lot whether you agree or not. Love that .30-30. Thanks Dave!

DSMbirddog wrote:
September 18, 2012

Hard to argue with 117 years of experience.

T.L. Schrecongost wrote:
September 18, 2012

With my aim point mounted on a Weaver rail it is dead on at 200yds with GMX 150 grain bullets.

Jim wrote:
September 17, 2012

Good use of Trail Boss. Love the cartridge.

J.D. Kinman wrote:
September 17, 2012

Agree. The 30-30 is probably the most versatile of all the hunting cartridges out there. I cast a 170FN and push it with 10 grains of Unique for a great small-game load. Standard loadings have never failed to bring home the venison. Good article. JD