Hornady's .30 T/C

By Chuck Hawks

Hornady .30 T/C Ammunition.
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Manufacturing Co., Inc.

The .30 T/C is a short action (.308 length), rimless rifle cartridge that was developed for Thompson/Center by Hornady. It is a true .30 caliber cartridge with a case capacity slightly less than the .308 Winchester, which must make it very similar in size to Hornady's equally new, but rimmed, .308 Marlin Express. In fact, the .30 T/C looks much like a rimless version of Hornady's previously announced .308 Marlin. I would not faint if I were to learn that the .30 T/C is basically a rimless .308 Marlin loaded to about 6,500 cup higher pressure. The promotional advertising for the two cartridges even sounds similar.

Hornady describes the new .30 T/C this way:

"Quite possibly the most technologically advanced cartridge ever developed, the new Hornady .30 T/C was specifically designed for Thompson Center's new Icon bolt-action rifle. Built on the premise of optimal ballistics, Hornady has perfected the balance between case volume, bore volume and burn rates for both the 150 and 165 grain offerings."

They further claim that the new cartridge, using their factory loaded 150 grain bullet, exceeds the muzzle velocity of the .308 Win. by 180 fps and the larger .30-06 by nearly 100 fps. The also claim smooth feeding, full magazine capacity, a short bolt throw, longer barrel life, full ballistic potential in a short action case, and a 15% reduction in perceived recoil. (My emphasis on the word "perceived.")

They don't specify longer barrel life than what--presumably a .30-06 loaded to the same velocity, which of course would burn more powder. The last time I checked, however, no one was complaining about .30-06 barrel life. Nor do they specify what cartridge the .30 T/C delivers that claimed 15% less recoil than, but I'm again betting on the .30-06, since in performance the new .30 T/C is virtually identical to the .308.

Here are the Hornady ballistics for the new .30 T/C.

150 gr. SST InterLock - 3000 fps/2997ft. lbs. @ Muzzle; 2772 fps/2558 ft lbs. @ 100 yards; 2555 fps/2176 ft. lbs. @ 200 yards; 2348 fps/1836 ft. lbs. @ 300 yards

Trajectory = -1.5" @ 100 yards; +1.5" at 100 yards, +/- 0.0 @ 200 yards; -6.9" @ 300 yards

165 gr. SST InterLock - 2850 fps/2975 ft. lbs. @ muzzle; 2644 fps/2560 ft. lbs. @ 100 yards; 2447 fps/2193 ft. lbs. @ 200 yards; 2258 fps/1868 ft. lbs. @ 300 yards

Trajectory = -1.5" @ 100 yards; +1.7" @ 100 yards; +/- 0.0" @ 200 yards; -7.6" @ 300 yards

Despite the advertising hype, these ballistics do not exceed Hornady's own Light Magnum SST factory loads for the .308 Win. and .30-06. In fact, they exactly equal the ballistics of the .308/150 grain Light Magnum load that has been around for several years and uses the same bullet, and fall 100 fps short of the 3100 fps MV of the 150 grain SST Light Magnum load for the .30-06. The 165 grain SST bullet is driven at a catalog MV of 3015 fps in Hornady's .30-06 Light Magnum factory load, 165 fps faster than the new .30 T/C is claimed to drive that bullet.

One might reasonably wonder what is the real purpose of this new cartridge, since the world is already lousy with .30 caliber rifle cartridges of every description and power level that do not require false (or at the very least extremely misleading) advertising to promote their virtues. Certainly the middle range is well covered by the .30-30, .30-40, .307 Winchester, .300 Savage, .308 Marlin, .308 Winchester and .30-06.

Hornady's advertising for the new .30 T/C claims that it offers "smaller size, and increased performance." Not only does it not offer increased performance, as we have seen, those are mutually exclusive claims if pressure and powders are held equal. You cannot have a smaller case that gives greater ballistic performance unless you are either loading to a higher maximum average pressure or using a powder with different (more advanced) burning characteristics. Any powder formulation can be applied to a range of cases, of course, so in the latter event the real advance is in the powder, not the cartridge itself.

Reloaders will not be able to come close to the claimed factory load performance of the .30 T/C unless the powder formulations Hornady is using are released in canister lots. Nor, given the .30 T/C's smaller case, will reloaders be able to equal the performance they can wring from the .308 Winchester, although presumably they will be able to come pretty close. Since practically all serious recreational shooters must be reloaders, due to economic considerations if nothing else, these considerations could be a serious impediment to the long term popularity of the .30 T/C.

Another question regards the use of heavier bullets in the .30 T/C. The .308 Winchester and .30-06 derive their great popularity primarily from their versatility. They can go from being long range deer and CXP2 game cartridges to effective elk and CXP3 game cartridges merely by changing from 150 grain to 180 grain bullets. For really large game, the .308 can handle bullets as heavy as 200 grains with reasonable efficiency, and the .30-06 can handle 220 grain bullets. What about the .30 T/C? Hornady's failure to offer a 180 grain factory load--the most popular bullet weight in .30 caliber and the gold standard for elk hunters--raises warning flags.

Was the .30 T/C was conceived purely as a deer, antelope, sheep, goat and black bear cartridge? It so, it is competing not only with the .308 and .30-06, but also with a host of well established, flat shooting 6.5mm, .270 and 7mm cartridges with which it is not likely to survive comparison.

Frankly, the ballistics of the .30 T/C sound fine. I just wonder why T/C and Hornady found it necessary to introduce yet another new cartridge to do what has already been done just as well or better with existing cartridges. Particularly since all of the benefits ascribed to the .30 T/C apply equally well to the .308 Win. (smooth feeding, full magazine capacity, short bolt throw, less barrel erosion and recoil than the .30-06, etc.).

I suppose that the new .30 T/C was developed because Thompson desired to have something different, cartridge wise, to sell in their new for 2007 Icon bolt action rifle. Whether that is a ploy that will lead to long term success for the cartridge itself remains to be seen.

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Copyright 2007, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.