Is the famous .30-30 Winchester obsolete?

The original .30 Winchester Center Fire (WCF) was introduced to the public in 1895. At that time, it was viewed as an outstanding deer cartridge. The first loading was a 160-grain bullet advertised at 1,900 feet per second (fps).

The cartridge got its popular nickname, “the .30-.30 Winchester,” because the first loading was a .30 caliber bullet loaded with 30 grains of smokeless powder. Contrary to what some people may believe, this new round was never loaded with 30 grains of black powder, nor was it ever intended to be a black powder round.

When this round was introduced, it was especially made for Winchester’s Model 94 lever-action rifle. In the past 110 years, the .30-30 Winchester has been chambered in all sorts of rifles and a few handguns, like the Thompson Center Contender.

Today, there are plenty of critics who enjoy lambasting this more than 100-year-old cartridge. At the same time, there are those who never stop praising this round. A lot of this talk comes more from emotion than sound reasoning.

Last weekend, I was talking to one of the local sporting goods merchants. He informed me that in his store the .30-06 Springfield is the top-selling ammunition round, with the .30-30 Winchester running a strong second. Just what is the reason for this?

The .30-30 does not even come close to the ballistic performance of the .30-06 Springfield (another cartridge that is more than 100 years old). Today’s .30-30 factory ballistics are not one bit impressive when compared to today’s rifle magnum hotshots that have muzzle velocities of more than 3,000 fps using a 150-grain bullet. Here is where the critics are quick to say “the .30-30 should have slipped out of focus and faded in obscurity just after World War II.”

No one can deny the fact that the .30-30 has killed more deer in West Virginia than any other cartridge. At the same time, the critics will say, “Yes, and crippled more than any other, too.”

Now, before I go any farther with this evaluation of the .30-30 cartridge, I need to emphasize that I have never hunted with a .30-.30 firearm. However, I have fired at least half a dozen guns chambered for the .30-30 on shooting ranges. I don’t feel like anyone should think that they are under-gunned for hunting white-tails using a .30-30 in West Virginia.

It is well-known that 90 percent of the deer taken in this state are at less than 100 yards. At this short distance, the .30-30 will do quite well. It may be just a shade better than one of the hot .300 magnums, because it will destroy less tissue or meat. I have never figured out how to kill a deer or anything else deader than dead. I would also like to add that shot placement is still the most important factor when it comes to hunting deer-sized animals.

When comparing the .30-30 Winchester to other cartridges used today, it is vastly superior to the .30 caliber M-1 carbine. Just about every year, I run into someone deer hunting with a one of these World War II carbines chambered for this round.

In the muzzle-energy department, the .30-30 Winchester puts the very popular .223 Remington to shame. This year, there will be plenty of deer taken with the .223 like there have been in the past 20 years. The .30-30 even packs more muzzle energy than the .357 and .44 magnums revolver cartridges when they are fired in a rifle. The deer I have mounted on the wall at Beanders Due North in downtown Elkins was taken with a .44 magnum rifle.

The lever-action Marlins and Winchester carbines and rifles chambered for this grand old cartridge just don’t seem to wear out when they are properly cared for. Many of them are well over 100 years old. In a rifle that has a tight-fitting chamber like the Savage lever-action Model 99 or in a quality bolt-action rifle like the Remington Model 788, and the Winchester Model 54, the .30-30 is a very accurate round out to more than 150 yards.

If I were ever to hunt with a .30-30 in West Virginia, I think that I would choose to use 150-grain bullets that are now advertised at 2,400 fps for deer and 170-grain bullets advertised at 2,200 for black bear and wild boar. As for the question about the .30-30 Winchester being obsolete, obsolescence or outdated — the answer is an emphatic “no.”

Best of luck to anyone who chooses to hunt with a .30-30 firearm. Just remember to take the time to place the shot in a vital area of the animal you are trying to down.