The .30-30 Winchester

By Chuck Hawks

.30-30 Win.
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

For many years the standard factory loads for the .30-30 Winchester have included 150 grain and 170 grain flat point bullets of either JHP or JSP design. The ballistic coefficient (BC) for the Speer 150 grain bullet is .268 and the sectional density (SD) is .226. For the 170 grain Speer bullet, BC is .304 and SD is .256.

The standard 150 grain factory loads from the major ammo companies have a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,390 fps (formerly 2,400 fps), and 1,902 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy (ME). The 170 grain factory load has a MV of 2,200 fps, and a ME of 1,827 ft. lbs. In addition, Winchester offers a premium Supreme factory load with a 150 grain Power-Point Plus bullet at a MV of 2480 fps with 2049 ft. lbs. of ME. Factory loaded 125 grain bullets at 2,570 fps and 160 grain bullets at 2,300 fps are sometimes offered. And Remington offers their Accelerator load, a 55 grain .224" PSP saboted bullet at a MV of 3400 fps.

Conventional bullets factory loaded for the .30-30 are of flat point or round nose design (except for the Remington Accelerator varmint load) because cartridges in the tubular magazines of traditional Marlin and Winchester lever action rifles ride in a straight line, with the nose of one bullet touching the primer of the round in front of it. Note, however, that the ballistic coefficient for the 150 grain flat point .30-30 bullet is slightly better than the BC for the "long range" 62 grain .224 spitzer bullet for the .223/5.56 NATO. Of course, cartridges intended for use in single shot and bolt action .30-30 rifles can be reloaded with spitzer (pointed) bullets.

The advent of Hornady's LeverEvolution .30-30 ammunition considerably increases the useful range of the .30-30 for rifles with a tubular magazine. Using a Flex-Tip spitzer bullet with a BC of .330 at a MV of 2400 fps, this load flattens trajectory and extends the useful killing range of the .30-30 to around 250 yards.

Set up a scoped .30-30 so that the Winchester Supreme 150 grain factory load strikes dead on at 200 yards and the trajectory looks like this: +3.3 inches high at 100 yards, +2.8 at 150 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -5.7" at 250 yards, and -14.7" at 300 yards. The point blank range of a .30-30 set up this way is in excess of 225 yards for deer size animals.

With the standard Winchester Silvertip 170 grain factory load it is probably better to zero the rifle to hit 2.9" high at 100 yards. That way the bullet strikes only 1.8 inches low at 200 yards. So sighted the .30-30 has a MPBR (+/- 3") of 211 yards.

The reloader has access to a larger variety of bullet weights than the factories offer. These include 110 grain, 125 grain, 130 grain, 150 grain, and 170 grain bullets. Premium .30-30 bullets such as the 150 grain Barnes X-Bullet and 170 grain Nosler Partition bullet are available to the reloader, and a good choice if a .30-30 rifle is to be used on tough game. Conventional soft point bullets will often give quicker kills of CXP2 class game. Handloads can essentially duplicate the factory loads, but cannot exceed them by a meaningful amount.

Many shooters do not realize that the .30-30 is potentially an exceptionally accurate cartridge. Carefully assembled reloads fired from a tuned and scoped rifle will help to realize the .30-30's accuracy potential.

Because most .30-30 cartridges are fired in lever action rifles that lock as the rear of the bolt and lack the power of a bolt action to extract dirty or oversize cases, it is generally recommended that reloaders full length resize .30-30 brass. I have always followed that advice and I have never had a problem.

It is also recommended to crimp reloads that will be used in rifles with tubular magazines. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't follow that advice. Perhaps because I full length resize my .30-30 cases, the neck tension has always been sufficient to keep 150 grain bullets (the weight I prefer) in place without a crimp in both my Marlin 336 and Winchester 94 rifles. However, crimping does no harm, as long as the bullet has a crimping cannelure.

Here are some basic .30-30 specifications of interest to handloaders: bullet diameter .307-.308", maximum COL 2.455", maximum case length 2.039", MAP 38,000 cup.

Medium burning rate rifle powders work best in the .30-30 with bullets in the popular 150-170 grain weight range. Examples of popular powders include IMR 3031, IMR 4895, H335, H4895, RL-15, and W748. For decades I have used IMR 3031 behind the 150 grain Speer or 150 grain Sierra Flat Point bullets and CCI or Winchester primers with excellent results.

The Hodgdon Data Manual No. 26 shows that 31.0 grains of IMR 3031 powder will drive a 150 grain bullet to a MV of 2184 fps, and 33.0 grains of IMR 3031 will drive a 150 grain bullet to a MV of 2364 fps.

The same source shows that 30.0 grains of H4895 powder will give a 170 grain bullet a MV of 1919 fps, and 32.0 grains of H4895 will give the 170 bullet a MV of 2212 fps.

All of these Hodgdon loads used standard Large Rifle primers and were chronographed in a 24" test barrel.

Note: A full length article about the .30-30 Winchester can be found on the Rifle Cartridges page.

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Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.