30-30 Ammunition, A Historic Cartridge Continues to Carry On : Load Testing

Reloader, Bob Shell, tests a range of assorted powders loads and bullet weights in 30-30 Ammunition and finds it still is an effective round 120+ years later.
Editors Note: Caution, Reloading is dangerous, read our “Reloading Disclaimer“. The reloading data published by this website is intended for discussion purposes only. As with all data collection, mistakes are possible. You have been warned.**

.30-30 Ammunition Ammo Cartridges Loads
.30-30 Ammunition Ammo Cartridges Loads. often overlooked are reduced and cast bullet loads.

Apache Junction, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- One of the very first smokeless rounds designed for sporting purposes was the 30-30 cartridge introduced in the Winchester model 94 rifle.

It became generally available in 1895. The original factory ammo offering was a 160 grain at 2,000 FPS.

In that day such velocities were almost unheard of. Typical black powder rounds usually produced 12 to 1400FPS. While 2,000 FPS sounds pedestrian by today’s standards, it did the job and hunters quickly realized that this was the wave of the future. For much of the woods hunting the 30-30 has plenty of power. Later on, the 150 and 170-grain bullets were added, and velocity increased.

A few years later other manufacturers realized the potential of the 30-30 ammunition round and brought out their versions as the Winchester model 94 rifle was selling like hotcakes, and they wanted a piece of the pie.

303 Savage Rifle and Ammo
303 Savage Rifle and Ammo

Savage brought out the 303 Savage also in a lever action though it had a box type of magazine and Remington introduced the 30 Remington round in some pump and semi-auto rifles. I have owned and shot all of them, and ballistically they are virtually identical to the 30-30. It would be a personal choice as to the type of gun as they all perform the same. The 30 Remington and 303 Savage were popular for some years, but they are no longer made. Guns can still be found as well as ammo and reloading components with a little shopping.

However, the 30-30 Ammunition Cartridge is as popular as ever.

One of the companies that makes manually operated firearms have been around for a number of years and they advertise that everything is made in America. Another unusual thing is they advertise on TV which few others do. Evidently it works or they would drop it. If you want something different you should definitely check out Henry Arms. They have a large variety of rifles including rimfires. They have the mares leg handgun, a lever action in 410 gauge and the Henry 45-70 rifle among other arms. Single shot shotguns are available as well. For info you can go to www.henryusa.com for info.

Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle

Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle
Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle

One of their products is a lever action rifle chambered for the 30-30 in various models. My model is a Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle, model H009 which is a blued steel model with a round barrel.

It is drilled and tapped for a top mounted scope which will enhance accuracy beyond a hundred yards. A Hawke scope is the planned one for this review. I have used the Hawke on many occasions and they always come through. They are reasonably priced and the rifle selection is good so for info you can go to us.hawkeoptics.com on their products. For a budget conscious hunter who wants a good scope at a reasonable price, you would be missing out if you don’t check the HAWK Scopes out. I have done quite a bit of testing with this scope and everything checks out. It is clear at all ranges and power settings. With this scope, you have the ability to take a long shot if available and using something like the Flex Tip bullet. Based on my experiences with the Hawke brand I recommend it.

Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle with a Hawk Riflescope
Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle with a Hawk Riflescope

The wood of the Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle has a pleasing figure while the bluing is not glossy but even. Another odd feature is it loads by a tube under the barrel as many 22 RF guns do. Most 30-30 lever guns load through the receiver. There is no politically correct safety of any kind which is a plus. Common sense gun handling tends to prevent those types of accidents. The trigger pull is good not too light or heavy.

Caution Loading the Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle, your hand may be in front of the barrel.
Caution Loading the Henry Lever Action .30-30 Rifle, your hand may be in front of the barrel.

We did find that the lever screw and a tang screw were loose. Not a big deal but perhaps they might want to look at during production.One other thing we noticed is the way it loads. Most people will put a round in the chamber in order to get the seven rounds. However, when loading the tube your hand may be in front of the muzzle at various times. So, if the chamber has a round in it and is cocked a small misstep may cause it to fire. Such an incident may cause a serious hand injury so be careful see pix.

One thing that was noticeable is the figure on the stock. It has some of the most attractive wood I have seen for a while. Yes, composite stocks are more durable but if looks are important to you then this rifle will definitely have a place in your cabinet.

There are other chamberings and styles available plus some shotguns. So why a 30-30 rifle? It has been around for over 120 years, and one would think that it would be obsolete and no longer made. Nothing is further from the truth. There are several other rifle makers, and the Henry 30-30 is one of the top sellers. Most are lever guns, but some single shot and bolt action rifles are available. The 30-30 round has been used by many hunters, and when used as designed it produces good results often ending with a deer in the pot. It is usually considered a woods gun meant for moderate ranges. However, with the new and improved powders and flex tips the range can be extended. Some people feel that as long as a bullet produces 1,000 FT-LBS of energy at the target, it is considered adequate for deer sized game. With Hornady Flex Tip bullets that number can be obtained at 300 yards with safe loads and regular lever action.

30-30 Cartidge Loadings

Here are some examples when the powder charged is increased by one grain. Some brands of bullets were more consistent than others which is normal. That is why if you are working up a load for serious purposes it is important to try different powder and bullet combos. Each gun has its preferences.

LOADBULLETVELOCITYMY COMMENTS
32gr RL #7110gr FMJ-RN2521.6Very Consistent
18gr 5744150gr Berry1478.9Consistent
Barnes150gr Vortex2404.6Good Hunting Load
32gr 8208150gr Speer2212Ok but can increase
33gr 8208150gr Horn2263.36Ok
34gr H-4895150gr Combined2304.4Decent
37gr CFE-223150gr Horn2250.55Very Consistent
37gr Leverrevolution150gr Barns2385
Nice Load
36.5gr Leverrevolution160gr Flex2335Long Range Potential
Hornday160gr Flex Tip2369.80Nice Load
18gr 5744160gr Cast1573.89Consistent
10gr Unique Mossberg165gr cast1347.60Very Consistent
10gr Unique Henry165gr cast1336.44Very Consistent
31gr 8208170gr Speer2060.71Deer Load
32gr 8208170gr Speer2107.4Consistent
35gr Leverrevolution180gr Horn RN2144Consistent
30gr 8208180g Horn RN2008.8
Decent
14gr 5744220 gr cast GC1286.7Ok Load

Just for info, the 10 grains of Unique and the 165 gr cast was fired in a Mossberg and Henry both lever actions and a 20” barrel. The results were very similar, and Unique is one of the very best powders for reduced loads.

For those who are interested in the potential of a 30-30 at different ranges here is some info that may help.

150 grain RN

Muzzle 2390/1902 – 100 yards 1959/1278 – 200 yards 1581/832

160 grain Hornady FTX which is a pointed bullet safe in a tubular magazine.

Muzzle 2400/2046 – 100 yards 2150/1636 – 200 yards 1916/1309 – 300 yards 1699/1025

As you can see the 150 grain drops below 1000 LBS before reaching 200 yards while the FTX extends the range to 300 yards a 35% increase in usable range. The 170-grain flat point launched at 2200 FPS drops below 1000 FP LBS of energy at over 150 yards so the 160 grain FTX would double the useful range. Therefore it would be a mistake to sell the 30-30 short.

30-30 Cast Bullets
30-30 Cast Bullets
Right: 30-30 160 gr flex tip gives the 30-30 more range. / Left : If a bullets lacks a cannelure it can be installed with a small tool.
Right: 30-30 160 gr flex tip gives the 30-30 more range. – Left : If a bullets lacks a cannelure it can be installed with a small tool.
30-30 110 & 150Gr Bullets
30-30 110 & 150Gr Bullets

I wanted to see what 30-30 ammunition could do in a stronger rifle and I have a TC single shot and used it for the test.

I wont be listing the loads here as someone would try them in a lever action which could cause a catastrophic event. It would probably hold them but would cause excess wear and could damage the gun. So why take the chance especially if you don’t understand the ramifications of using such loads.

For this experiment, here is list of the top velocity of the bullets tested. It will become obvious quickly that these velocities are quite a bit above normal and I know that they are that is why the loading data isn’t included. If you have a TC or strong bolt action then these velocities can be safely obtained. This is a little off the subject but it shows that the 30-30 is more than just a short-range woods load. The Henry rifle is well built and has as good an action as any 30-30 but I would not try these loads in it. If you were carrying a 30-30 in grizzly country them one of the heavy bullets may serve but for 99% of us the factory spec loads will do just fine. These are the velocities obtained in a single shot rifle.

Bullet WeightVelocity
110gr RN2897
123gr2730
150gr2637
165gr2392
180gr2304
200gr2232
220gr2053
30 Caliber Cartridges
30 Caliber Cartridges : L to R 303 savage, 30-30, and 30 Remington. They have similar performance but the Savage & Remington are obsolete.

Factory 30-30 ammunition is usually produced with a 150 or 170 grain bullet. That takes care of most hunting situations that a 30-30 should be used for. Recently they added a 160 grain Flex Tip which enhances its range. One thing that puzzles me is they never offered a 180 or 190 grain RN. The 303 Savage offered it in the 190 grains at one time and it had a good reputation.

The 180 would give a little extra penetration if you were hunting large black bear or large boar. They shoot well and have their uses through a 150 or 170 would cover deer and similar game. The Hornady 180 grain feeds ok but care must be taken to seat deep enough in fact with any gun and ammo types you should cycle them before you go hunting. You can’t seat it in the cannelure, doing so will make it too long. Since it has a long neck a cannelure isn’t needed. However, if you have a bullet that needs that procedure that is an easy task. I have a CH cannelure tool which comes in handy on many occasions. In the last decade or so factory ammo has improved a lot.

In fact, it can be a challenge to do better than the factory loads. The only downside is the cost. An indication of how popular round is the variety offered by various ammo companies. Hornady a leading ammo maker offers 5 different loads for this round. For more info, you can go to www.hornady.com/ammunition for a listing on their products. Another fine ammo maker is Barnes. They brought out the copper bullets which have turned out to be great hunting bullets. They offer the 30-30 ammunition in the 150 gr Vor Tex and they shoot well for info you can go to www.barnesbullets.com for more info.

Handloading, the 30-30 ammunition, brings out the potential and with a Henry rifle with the Hawke scope your usable range will increase. Some hunters tend to look down on the 30-30 ammunition as obsolete and no longer effective. Apparently, since 1895 deer have grown tougher and may have some armor at least that so is the thought process for many when buying a rifle these days. They go with the short, medium and long magnums for woods hunting. They feel that a bullet screaming along at over 3000 FPS is needed to kill a deer at moderate ranges.

After some years pass some of those super magnums will be a footnote while 30-30 ammunition will carry on.


Bob Shell
Bob Shell

About Bob Shell

A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com

  • 11 thoughts on “30-30 Ammunition, A Historic Cartridge Continues to Carry On : Load Testing

    1. This obsolete and slow cartridge continues to remain because the the big boy lever rifle makers cannot wake up and finally end its production. Anybody recently buy a bolt-action 30-30? Did anybody make one? Is Ruger, Winchester, Remington or Savage going to chamber their value-price rifles in 30-30 soon?
      How about chambering the modern sporting rifle (MSR aka AR15) in 30-30? Anybody looking for one of those, anybody making ANY aftermarket parts to convert your MSR into 30-30?
      Why not?
      30-30 was dead 30 years ago. Lever guns is the only place they exist. Lever guns are now made in so many better calibers than 30-30!
      Let’s finally blow Taps over this cartridge once and for all.

      1. The 30-30 ballistics are not really suited for a bolt action rifle. It is a great deer round out to about 100 yards which is about as far as you will be able to see in the wooded areas where this round would be used. Putting it in a bolt action would be like putting a small motor in a corvette. It would shoot a little further but the 30-30 shoots an arched shot that just falls out too bad after you get past the 100-150 yard range. Compare the charts on it for 50, 100, 200, 300 yards. It just wasn’t made to be a long range cartridge. I finally put mine out to pasture after many long successful years because of trying to stretch it too far. I shot at a large buck one morning that was across a peanut field. He was about 150 yards away. I shot at him and he ran. When I got to the area where he was standing there wasn’t a bit of blood or hair. I walked on around the field and went back a second time to look. I started following the footprints where he ran. He went about 50 yards and jumped over a fence that had some small line trees and other brush growing among them. I walked to the fence and looked to see if maybe he had started bleeding after he jumped the fence. Still not a bit of blood to be seen. I climbed over the fence and started back tracking him. After walking a few more steps I looked ahead of me and saw a white belly. He had fell about 50 yards in the wooded area. It was a nice buck with a good rack that I had mounted. He had not bled a drop of blood until he fell on the ground. There were just a few drops there. I looked on the opposite side where the exit hole was and it was barely visible. It wasn’t any larger than the entrance hole. The bullet just didn’t have the power to it to expand properly from the distance that I shot him. I almost left that buck in the woods to for because I thought I had missed him. I went a few days later and bought a Remington 7400 in .270 caliber. It was a flat shooting round that doesn’t change the path much all the way through its trajectory. The old 30-30 was a round that just plows through small brush and will not let those types of things alter its path. It is great for the thick woods and swamps of the south. It works great with the lever action guns because they are fast to reload another round into and also hold a lot of rounds. Don’t send the old dependable round to its grave yet. It is still good for what it was made for.

    2. My first deer rifle was a Savage pump in 30-30. I brought home a lot of deer with it. The thing that wasn’t brought out in this article was the fact that this round is a great brush load. It will literally mow through small brush and limbs without a lot of deflection. Try that with the newer speed burner rounds of today. The model that I used had a longer barrel than the lever actions and it was very accurate. Also made one shot kills the majority of the time. Some went down on the spot like they had been hit with a hammer between the eyes. I am saving it to pass along when the time comes to another in the family.

    3. The predecessor of the Savage 99 is a model 1895. The 1895 has a rotary magazine and for most of its’ production the 99 had same rotary magazine. Only the model 99C has a box magazine was made in 1965 & again in the 90’s

    4. The 30/30 can be loaded with 220 grain jacket bullets to duplicate the subsonic 300 Blackout and a suppressor will make a good wilderness survival rifle. Without a suppressor lead bullets can be used . The 30/30 has been chambered in single shot break action H&R, bolt action from inexpensive Savage 340 to Winchester Model 70s. Of course Winchester and Marlin lever actions, but Savage 99s.
      It may not be the ideal, all game rifle, but ammo is available anywhere in the world and every animal in North and South America has fallen to the 30/30. For all I know, maybe even some elephants in S E Asia.

    5. I have a Marlin-Glenfield 30A in .30-30 that will shoot under 1″ from a benchrest at 50 yards with my handloads of 150 Grain Sierra #2000 over 32.5 Grains of AA 2460 in Federal cases with Federal 210M match primers. I’ve taken many deer with this load and all were one shot kills. The farthest one ran was about 50 yards. I used to have a 4Xscope on it, but removed it about 10 years ago to use on another rifle. I’ve never regretted removing the scope as almost all of the shots I have taken at deer have been under 100 yards. I’m looking forward to trying out some of these loads in my rifle, Thanks for the article, Bob!

      Phil in TX

    6. I inherited my dad’s 30-30 model 94 which was made in 1912. It has a 24 inch nickel steel hexagon barrel and is still in perfect condition. It will place shots inside a four inch circle at 100 yards if the shooter does his job. And that with standard sights. I have taken deer at 200 yards without a problem. For Texas white tale it is more than adequate. I will pass it on to my son with instructions to keep it in the family. There are not many like this one still available.

    7. I have a Henry Big Boy in .45 Colt. Downside: slow to reload and (for a lefty) ejects across my field of view. Upside: safer to unload than Winchesters and Marlins. One thing does puzzle me. The .30-30, while beginning to fade, looks like it’ll be around for at least another fifty years. At the same time, the .33 Winchester, which was also a standard chambering in the ’94, went extinct a few decades ago, and the .35 Remington is rapidly fading away. Both are more powerful and versatile than the .30-30.

      1. On the 35 Remington I agree it is a very flexible round since it can use 38 pistol bullets & many cast. I hope it never dies I have worked on & written about the 35. The 33 Win is somewhat more powerful then the 30-30 & 35 Rem however it was chambered in the 86 not the 94 as iy is based on a 45-70 case. I make ammo for it. While a good hunting round it isn’t as flexible as the other smaller rounds though a handloader can fix that to an extent.. So enjoy your 30-30 as you have a winner

        1. Bad info on my part, it was the ’86. That got me to wondering, though, why Winchester never offered their more modern rifle in some of those chamberings. The 94 can handle the pressures (the current catalog offers .450 Marlin). A little research gave me the answer; the 94 receiver is too slim. There isn’t enough metal at the barrel shank and locking lug area to open it up for those cartridges, and experiments resulted in case stretch problems. That’s why Winchester brought out the Big Bore for their .375 and the .444 Marlin. I have absolutely nothing against the .30-30. Besides being a near perfect medium game cartridge for anyone who prefers learning to stalk over shooting across the county, it’s the perfect AK/AR replacement for those of us who are trapped behind enemy lines (blue states). I was really just wondering why one cartridge becomes the darling, while many other good, sometimes better, choices disappear.

    Leave a Comment 11 Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *