Compared: The 7-30 Waters and .30-30 Win.
The 7-30 Waters is a superior cartridge design and compares favorably to the .30-30 Winchester in efficient design, killing power, maximum point blank range and overall versatility. In spite of these attributes, it is not widely considered an alternative to the .30-30. I suspect this goes beyond the actual performance of the cartridge, and has more to with the psychological aura surrounding the .30-30, the lack of versatile, inexpensive factory ammunition and the availability of rifles chambered for the cartridge. Given this unfortunate circumstance, my comparison will be limited to ballistic performance.
In order to compare the ballistic performance of these two cartridges, I thought it would be appropriate to do the velocity testing using two Winchester 94 rifles with 20 inch barrels in similar condition. The Model 94 in .30-30 was manufactured in 1977, is in very good condition, and is equipped with Leupold bases, medium rings and a Bushnell 4x WA scope. The Model 94 in 7-30 Waters was manufactured in 1987, is in very good condition, and is fitted with Leupold bases, medium rings and a 1.5-5X32 Weaver Grand Slam scope. Trigger pull is about 5.5 pounds for both.
In evaluating the energy and maximum point blank range, the table below provides a comparison of data I obtained during a recent range session. For testing the 7-30 I had one box of Federal Premium 120 grain Sierra BTFP, and on hand for reloading I had a box of 120 grain Nosler boat-tail flat point bullets and a box of Hornady 139 FP bullets. I used AA2520 with the 120 grain and Varget for the 139 grain. The .30-30 has plenty of popular ammunition from which to choose, so I selected 150 grain Federal 150 FN, Federal 170 grain FN, and the new Hornady LeverEvolution 160 grain SP, all of which I had on hand.
The above table seems to indicate that in raw numbers, the 7-30 has a slight advantage over the .30-30 both in terms of velocity and downrange energy, with the exception of the new Hornady ammunition, which has more energy at 100 yards because of its superior ballistic coefficient.
Reloading data also suggests the 7-30 is plenty capable of exceeding 2700 fps with a 120 grain bullet and 2500 fps with the 139 grain; both in a 24 inch barrel. This makes the 7-30 an ideal choice for deer sized game up to 250 yards. In addition, Hornady offers a 154 grain round nose that would be an ideal choice for shorter range shots on black bear. In my estimation the 154 grain could reach velocities of 2150-2200 fps, and do so with a better sectional density and higher ballistic coefficient than the comparable 150 grain .30-30 bullet.
The question is, and will continue to be, what does the 7-30 Waters offer that the .30-30 does not? In my view, for hunting small to medium size big game, the 7-30 offers the hunter the ability to shoot flatter and further and with more energy than the .30-30, while still using a traditional lever action rifle.
It is my hope that Marlin will introduce the 7-30 Waters in their lever guns. The new LeverEvolution ammunition developed by Hornady for lever action rifles should reinforce interest in lever guns and if Hornady were to develop an offering for the 7-30 Waters it would be the flattest shooting lever gun cartridge on the planet.
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