The .35-30 (.35-30/30)

By Chuck Hawks

The wildcat cartridge known as the .35-30 dates back to the turn of the Century, and I mean the 20th Century, not the 21st. It is the cartridge that Winchester should have introduced way back then to complete the .25-35, .30-30, and .32 Special line of smokeless powder cartridges that helped to sell so many Winchester and Marlin lever action rifles. But Winchester pinned their hopes on the larger .35 Winchester cartridge, available in the Model 1895 rifle but too long for the Model 94 action. That proved to be a bad decision, as the .35 Winchester has been obsolete since 1936.

In 1906 Remington introduced the .35 Remington for their early pump and autoloading rifles, and Marlin eventually adapted that cartridge to their lever action rifle. The .35 Rem. is a rimless, bottleneck case with about 14% more powder capacity than the .35-30. It is loaded to the relatively modest maxmium average pressure (MAP) of 35,000 cup. Unfortunately, its small shoulder is not ideal for maintaining proper headspace and the cartridge is not particularly well adapted to traditional lever action rifles. However, Marlin has made it work and it has been a mainstay in the 336 line for decades.

The wildcat .35-30 is based on the .30-30 Winchester (or .32 Win. Special) case necked-up to accept .358" diameter bullets, with no other changes. It is the logical medium bore caliber for the popular Marlin and Winchester lever action carbines, millions of which have been sold.

Because the .35-30 is a rimmed cartridge it has no headspace problems, and the big rim gives plenty of area for an extractor to grab onto. Because the .35-30 is based on the .30-30/.32 Special case, which is loaded to a MAP of 38,000 cup, its ballistic performance approximately equals that of the slightly larger .35 Remington.

In 1980, when Winchester began the development of a .35 caliber medium bore cartridge for the Model 94 rifle, they had a second chance to legitimize the .35-30. Instead, in 1983 they introduced the .356 Winchester and the Big Bore Model 94 rifle to shoot it, neither of which were a commercial success. The .356 Winchester simply kicks too much for comfort in the Model 94 and the Big Bore rifle was not as trim as the standard Model 94. The entire episode was basically a repeat of the mistake Winchester made back in 1906 with the Model 95 rifle and .35 Winchester cartridge.

The .35-30, given the advantage of improved powders and modern steels in 1980, could have operated at sufficiently higher pressure than the .35 Remington to equal or outperform that cartridge in the 20" barrel of a lever action carbine, especially if offered with a choice of projectiles such as 180 grain Power Point and 220 grain Silvertip flat point bullets. The 180 should have been primarily intended for CXP2 game with a MV of about 2200 fps and the 220 primarily for CXP3 game or a combination of both with a MV of about 1900 fps, both loaded to a MAP of perhaps 40,000 cup.

The Speer 180 and 220 grain FP bullets would be my first choices for use in a modern Model 94 carbine rechambered for the wildcat .35-30 cartridge. The reloader who prefers a 200 grain RN bullet could probably drive it at a MV of about 2000 fps. Clymer offers chamber reamers, and RCBS can supply .35-30 reloading dies. .30-30 and (even better) .32 Special cases are widely available, and there are lots of recent Model 94's suitable for conversion. All of which makes the .35-30 one of the most practical of all wildcat cartridges.

Back to Wildcat Cartridges

Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.