Is there room for the .30/30 Winchester cartridge in this modern day?
A close up look at the cartridge itself will answer that.
Let’s examine the classic .30/30 Winchester cartridge and see why it still is alive and well today.
Back in 1895 the rifle (and yes sometimes handgun now) cartridge affectionately now called “the thirty-thirty” was born. It was called the .30 Winchester Smokeless Cartridge and chambered in the Winchester Model 1894 Rifle. The fast shooting and reloading lever action rifle was a giant leap in repeating firearms. The cartridge was also chambered for the Marlin Model 1893 Rifle and named the .30-30 Smokeless cartridge. It was in fact a .30 caliber bullet powered by 30 grains of smokeless powder.
The original load was a jacketed or “metal patched” .308 diameter lead bullet that was 160 grains in weight. Not long after that the 170 grain bullet was offered along with the 150 grain version. With the massive popularity of the “thirty-thirty” most ammunition manufactures jumped aboard to offer loads. It became a universal round that found love in the old west, down south in the Brazilian jungles and across the pond in Australia and other European countries.
Historically at around 2300 feet per second (FPS) or under the .30/30 cartridge is no speed demon. It cannot hold a candle to many modern rifle cartridges that shoot flatter with faster velocities. No it won’t tag game out at 400 yards or more. It was never made for that. The lack of speed causes less hydrostatic damage than modern magnum cartridges do. Long distance accuracy? Well, not with the .30/30 Winchester cartridge. The round or flat tipped commercially made ammunition of the past was all manufactured with the thought of shooter safety. See a tube magazine of a lever action rifle would place a pointed projectile right into the butt end (and primer) of a live cartridge in front of it. Recoil could set off a chain reaction. Now that would be bad news. Of course there are box magazine fed rifles and single shot rifles and pistols (along with the Magnum Research BFR Revolver) that could safely fire pointed projectiles. In that case you had to reload your own as a specialty cartridge.
So the .30/30 cartridge should be relegated to the obsolete status right? Well not exactly. Today Hornady’s Flex Tip Technology allows pointed projectiles flying along at 2400 FPS. with serious accuracy at reasonable ranges. Technology has not forgotten about the .30/30 cartridge.
What is the .30/30 cartridge good for these days? Well the same thing it was way back when your great grandfather packed it for big game. Given correct accuracy and range it will send a .30 caliber projectile right through the boiler room of a deer sized game animal with enough punch to get the job done. Has it been used for larger game such as moose and big bears? Yes, but that is not where the .30/30 cartridge really shines the brightest. A larger caliber would be more suitable for such adventures. Stick with deer sized game or smaller for the most out of this old deer slayer.
Many will loudly announce that with the modern magnum cartridges they can kill big game way out to almost unimaginable distances. While that may be partially true to an extent if the shooter does their part more bang equals more kick. Many of these thunderous boomers now have “reduced recoil” loads. Essentially they are neutering the magnum to cause it to kick less. Well the .30/30 cartridge has always been a lighter kicker than the more voluminous cartridges. If you want less recoil and are going to hunt at short to medium range, well then why reinvent the wheel?
So what are my thoughts on the .30/30 cartridge? If you are hunting deer, hogs or black bear at average ranges a quick firing easy on the recoil lever action rifle is perfect. If you are firing from mountain to mountain look elsewhere. Maybe a 105mm howitzer might be a better pick…