If something is just great, you can see it if it stands the test of time. Especially in the world of firearms, you can see it very easily. There are new cartridges developed left and right but still, some older ones linger on. Why is that? They are just great.
Looking at the Winchester .30-30, you see exactly one of those cartridges that stand the test of time. It has been around since 1895, and it is still in heavy use today. In fact, it hasn`t even changed that much through the years. Like the saying goes if it ain`t broken, don`t repair it. For our round, this means, as long as it is effective, there is no need for change.
The .30-30 is not just a hunting round. It is the round that has killed more deer and other big game than any other round in North America. While this might not be that easy to prove, judging by the hunting rifles chambered in this caliber out there, there is a decent chance that this claim is straight to the point.
It is a rimmed bottlenecked round developed from the .38-55 Winchester round. Firing a 7.8 mm bullet, it is not just another .308 Winchester. In fact, thanks to its design, the difference in speed between most rounds is massive. Meant to be for lever guns, it is made to be fed from tubular magazines with its safety concern of the tip of one bullet setting of the primer of the round in front of it. This means, the .30-30 comes with a flat nose or a soft point.
This design has a great effect when it comes to longer ranges. Take for example the Federal Premium`s 170 grain Power Shok round. The bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,200 fps (feet per second). However, after 100 yards that number has dropped to 1,900 fps, and after 200 yards it goes down to just 1,619 fps. For hunting, that is not a problem as this round is mostly used for ranges of 100-150 yards.
If you do want to squeeze more effective range out of your rifle, there are some specially made rounds available, the LEVERevolution. With modern powders, they have more speed and more energy. However, what does make most of the difference is a pointed tip that made so that this round is still save in a tubular magazine. The projectile has a muzzle velocity of 2,400 fps. After 100 yards, it is still going strong at 2150 fps. After 200 yards, it still retains enough speed to go 1916 fps. Looking at its energy, at 100 yards it still packs 1643 foot-pounds and at 200 yards it is still 1304 foot-pounds.
While these numbers are nothing to sneeze at, some might wonder why bother with this round. There are rounds out there with much faster bullets and much more punch. While this is true, if you do not want to go for log ranges, then this speeds and power levels are all that you need. Alone the fact that the .30-30 has taken down bears, wild hogs and bull moose as well as whitetails, shows that it is up to the job.
When it comes to terminal ballistics, the bullets of the good old .30-30 really shine. They expand quite well what makes for a quick and humane kill. The rifles chambered for this round are short, easy to maneuver and carry the whole day, and they are ideal to shoot through brush. In short, they are just more useful in most hunting situation that do not require the one-mile shot.
With its power level, there is recoil that is quite manageable making this cartridge both easy and a joy to shoot. The ammo is affordable, and you can find it practically everywhere. Even during the ammo shortage, you can get a few boxes of .30-30.
Our look at the best .30-30 rifles, we did not include a Marlin as for now, the future of these rifles after the acquisition by Ruger is still a little bit in doubt.
While Henry has a long history of manufacturing lever action rifles, they usually come without a side gate. Their magazine is loaded through an opening at the front for which you have to partially or completely remove a tube inside the mag tube. That is, frankly, quite cumbersome and takes away one of the big advantages of lever action rifles which is being topped of after every round or a few rounds fired.
The Henry .30-30 Side Gate offers you that option again by sporting, as the name implies, a side gate. This rifle has been built around the .30-30 cartridge and is available in two variants. You can have it either with a standard or a large loop. They weight is for both versions seven pounds, at it comes with a barrel length of 20 inches. The twist rate stands at 1:12. The furniture is made from American Walnut. The iron sights consist of an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and a brass bead front side.
While the .30-30 is quite old but still going strong, the rifles using it do have evolved to some new levels. It is the Henry Lever Action X that shows that very clearly. Here, the old meets the new. You have the traditional design of a lever action rifle mated with some modern firearm innovations. This includes a synthetic stock and forend. You get a cushy buttstock, and there is even a picatinny rail and some M-Lok accessory slots.
Also updated are the sights with fiber optic allowing you for quick target acquisition in low light conditions. The barrel is threaded, so you can attach a suppressor. Also, there is a side loading gate added. This allows you to top the magazine off whenever you have a chance for that.
The look is just great thanks to the bled steel finish as well as the black furniture. The barrel comes with a 1:12 twist and has a length of 21 inches. This makes for a great gun ready for your next hunting trip.
As the .30-30 is a brush gun cartridge, it made sense for Winchester to design a takedown model. That makes it quite easy to stow and transport this gun while it is broken down into two big components. Those are the barrel assembly and the stock and receiver. This way, you can easily put it into a backpack, a small boat or ATV, or a small brush plane.
The barrel length stands at 20 inches with a 1:12 twist rate. The weight is just 6 pounds and 12 ounces. This makes it even easier to carry on a hike. The good thing is that it does not diminish the look with its brushed polished finish and satin black walnut furniture.
The Winchester 94 Carbine is the gun that started it all. It has a barrel length of 20 inches giving you a good sight radius. The twist rate is 1:12. It comes in a classic look with a brushed polish finish for the barrel and receiver. For the forend and stock, black walnut is used.
The overall length is just 38 inches making this gun quite easy to carry. If you go for hogs, you can swing it easily for some ice running shots. Same goes for hunting deer. The magazine tube has a capacity of seven. You can add to this one round in the chamber, making it for a total capacity of 7 + 1.
The Model 94 does come with a higher price this day and age, but for that, you get a quality gun. By one and it will stay with you and after you with your child and then eve with your grandchild. You cannot ask more from a gun.
Many modern lever action rifles chambered in .30-30 come with a hefty price tag. If you are on a budget, the Mossberg 464 is your way to go. It can be had for sometimes even below $500. This allows you to get one for you next hunt without breaking your bank.
Being meant for less than long ranges by design, this rifle goes the whole way by giving you a barrel with a length of just 16.25 inches. Who needs a longer barrel if you shoot at 150 yards or less anyway? This also means, that you gun is lighter and easier to swing.
While being a budget gun, it still comes with a nice matte blued finish as well as a wooden stock and forend. Alternatively, you can get it with a synthetic stock and modern features that includes fiber optic sights.
The receiver is drilled and tapped so that you can attach a scope mount or a weaver base. There has been some feedback reporting feeding issues, but that is owed to the fact that this gun needs to be thoroughly broken in. However, as you get a gun for a budget price, this should not be a cause for complains. Just spend some time on the range to familiarize yourself with it, and in the end, it will just work smoothly.
There you have it guys, my take on the greatest rifles chambered in Winchester .30-30. If you think I forgot one, please put it into the comments and let us all know why it should have made the list.