By Jeff Johnston
The Maybe it is a Myth Statement: “More deer have been taken with the .30-30 Winchester cartridge than any other.”
While this quote is often uttered as fact among hunters, what is not revealed is how it was calculated.
Fact is, I own a Marlin 336 rifle chambered in .30-30 Win., but I haven’t shot it in 20 years because it’s ballistically inferior to modern centerfire cartridges like the .308, .30-06 and .270 Win. Of all my hunting friends young and old, I don’t know a single person who routinely hunts with a .30-30. And it’s not like the 30-30 was the only choice for deer hunters of the golden era; While it was conceived in 1895 and offered in the Winchester Model 94 rifle ever since, the .30-06 was introduced in the 1903 Springfield a mere 12 years later (although sporterized versions didn’t become readily available until around 1920). I have read, however, that before about 1960 it was rather unusual to see anything other than lever-action rifles in the field or in gun stores. But these same accounts also report that during the years from 1900 to 1960 it was fairly rare to see a deer. In reality, the golden era of deer hunting began in the 90s when bolt action rifles and modern calibers had taken over the popular rifle throne, and it’s still going. American hunters kill 6-8 million deer per year these days, and I’m betting most are not killed with the .30-30. It is widely believed that the .30-06 is America’s—and the world’s—most popular hunting caliber. In my estimation it would not take many 1-million deer years to top any numbers the 30-30 put up during much leaner times. Nonetheless, all this is speculation:
So I want to know: Is this myth true?
What I Do Know
What the Manufacturers Say
Hornady Ammunition: “The 30-30 Win. 160 gr FTX LEVERevolution was our No. 1 [selling] hunting ammo last year, excluding all varmint ammo.”
Meaning: Perhaps the .30-30 is still more popular than I thought.
Federal Cartridge Co.: “We currently sell about twice as much 30-06 as we do 30-30. I’m sure it’s not all for hunting, but given the total deer kill and total bullets out there, it shouldn’t even be close.”
Meaning: The .30-06 kills many more deer today than the .30-30, and so the statement might well be false.
Winchester Ammunition: “The .30-30 Win continues to be at the first or second position in hunting ammo sales in recent history. I would argue that over history the 30-30 Win. as a single caliber versus any other single caliber, is at the top for deer harvested in the USA.”
Meaning: The .30-30 was and is still very popular, and is likely the top deer slayer of all time.
The Question For You