It is time to take a look at a gun that is a symbol of the Wild West and one of the best deer hunting rifles out there especially when it comes in .30-30 Winchester. Yes, it is the good old lever action that we all know and love from the good old cowboy movies.

The lever action rifles in .30-30 have been around for quite some time, actually more than a century. In their lifespan, this round shot from this kind of gun has scored more whitetail deer than any one of the other cartridges out there. Given this record, it is no surprise that it is very popular and will stay around for quite a while longer.

The .30-30 Winchester made its debut in 1895, just one year after the 1894 Winchester lever gun. Right from the beginning, it stood out of the crowd for a very important reason. At that time, black powder reigned and smokeless powder was quite new. With its much better pressure curve, the newcomer held all the cards in his hand. The .30-30 was the very first sporting cartridge that came out loaded only with smokeless powder. This allowed it to propel a 160 grain bullet with a round nose to a muzzle velocity of 1970 feet per second. This was more than 500 feet per second faster than the next competitor.

The capacity of the lever action rifle as well as the speed and the sheer power of the round made for a winning combination. It wasn’t long until deer hunters found their love for it. Ammunition manufacturers followed the market and more and more .30-30 cartridges were produced and ever more developed for lever action guns. The most common ones used bullets with a weight of 150 or 170 grain.

Of course, the noses of these bullets were round, and that for a very important reason. In a lever action rifle, the cartridges sit in a tube magazine with the primer of the round in front resting against the nose of the round behind. The recoil of a shot could lead to the bullet behind to set off the primer of the round in front leading to a discharge and a chain reaction in which all rounds in the magazine would go off with the exception of the last one.

This necessity for a round nose would also lead to the lever action rifle being supplanted on the throne by other guns. Why? A round nosed bullet is not terribly efficient when it comes to ballistics. That results in quite a substantial loss of speed and power over distance. Other guns that could hold rounds with pointed tips could outdo them at range with ease and would take over soon after they hit the market. However, that did not spell the end for the .30-30 cartridge or the lever action rifles as a whole.

The evolution of the ammo stepped in. At the beginning, loads in this caliber with their 150 and 170 grain bullets were rather slow compared to the rounds of today. Today, they did not only gain speed, but also a better form. Alone their speed and raw power is already enough to drop a deer stone cold, however, to do so at range, they got a pointy tip. How? Hornady made it possible with its LEVERevolution ammo. It comes with a flex tip. This gives it a form that is ballistically just much better while at the same time posing no hazard inside a tubular magazine.

With this new ammunition, .30-30 gained new traction as it not only delivered a devastating blow, but does so now also at longer ranges. This transformed a rifle that was good for around 100 yards into one that can not go out to 250 yards and beyond.

Today, you can get this great new ammo with a 160 grain bullet that exits the muzzle with a velocity of 2,400 feet per second. That gives it more than 2,000 energy foot pounds. After 300 yards, the same bullet will still have a velocity of more than 1600 feet per second and more than 1,000 foot pounds. That is more than enough to drop a deer.

What also changed considerably was the drop of the bullet. When zeroed at 150 yards, a 170 grain bullet would drop 5 inches when it reaches 200 yards and 24 inches when it arrives at 300 yards. With the new ammo, you can zero it at 200 yards and have a drop of just 12 inches at 300 yards. This brings this round and the guns that shoot it right into the medium range playing field.

Other manufacturers followed the example so that you now have quite some variety when it comes to flex tip ammunition. Winchester offers for example the Deer Season XP line with a polymer tip and a 150 grain bullet.

Besides the round, the rifle that shoots it developed too over time. Being so popular thanks to our childhood memories of our heroes in western movies, they had enough market share to make it worthwhile to invest into them. Besides that, there are a lot of reasons why the lever action is far from outdated. Its action allows for quick follow up shots while there is no need to take the eye and sights of the target. With a little training, you can dump your whole magazine in a matter of seconds.

Another factor is weight. Hunters who do walk some distances are grateful for each pound they do not have to carry. Lever action rifles in .30-30 are quite light when compared to other deer rifles. Also, their recoil is rather tame so that beginners have it much easier.

Then there is the price. The ammo as well as the lever action rifles shooting it are on the rather less expensive side of the range especially when compared to bold action hunting rifles.

A rather perceived than real disadvantage is the accuracy. It was once true that these rifles were not the best in this regard. This was owed to slower bullets with round noses and guns with only iron sights. With our new rounds and good scope, this has long changed. Shooting at 200-300 yards with good quality ammo and a good low powered scope, you can just not miss anymore.

Let’s take a look at some guns that can do the trick for you:

1. Winchester Model 1894

The Winchester Model 1894 in .30-30 is still in production today. From many shooters it is considered to be the true .30-30 lever action rifles. Without ammo and scope, it just weighs 6.5 pounds, so it can be carried around with ease.

Winchester Model 1894

2. Henry All Weather

Looking less traditional, the Henry All Weather comes with wooden stock and forearm. Both sport a weather resistant coating. A hard chromed finish on the exterior with the exception of the barrel and sights make it very durable.

Henry All Weather

3. Marlin 336

Introduced in 1948, it has been in production ever since and developed quite a strong following. The newest models have a length of 38.7 inches with a barrel length of 20 inches. Weighing in at 7 pounds, it is not too much to be carried around.

Marlin 336

4. Mossberg 464SPX

This is a very modern model and it comes in a modular design. The furniture is made from plastic and has a capacity of 5+1 rounds.

Mossberg 464SPX

5. Marlin XLR

The Marlin XLR is not the traditional lever gun. While it still has a lever, it also has a laminate stock and stainless steel components. The barrel has a length of 24 inches what gives the round a really high performance.

There are many other options out there but often it pays to just follow what has proven itself time and again. In the case of deer hunting, that is a lever action rifle in .30-30. With a history of over 125 years, there is nothing left to doubt. And now, the round and the rifles are better than they have ever been before. Especially when you are a beginner or you plan to not just sit and wait but to actually wander around on your hunt, you might want to consider these rather light rifles. Apart from that, you have plenty of range, speed, and power in a package that does not break your bank.

Marlin XLR

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