Friday, November 18, 2016

Guest Post: Never Pass Up a Decent .30-30

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

My father still has his father’s 30-30. It is a great rifle, a Winchester built back when that name still stood for something. It isn’t the only rifle being passed down through the family, but it is the one I’m going to share some thoughts on today.

I have plenty of .308s, and have materials to assemble several more, but a heavy-barreled range toy isn’t the same as a utilitarian survival tool. This is where the .30-30 comes in: it’s like the .308's older country cousin. Both cartridges are the same length, but the .30-30 has a slimmer case body, longer neck, and slower velocities. They both take game cleanly, but the .30-30 has the unsophisticated plainness that says "I'm a hunting cartridge", where the .308 has been pressed into service as a sniper round, machine gun round, hunting round, and battle rifle round.

The .30-30 doesn't really do any of that other stuff particularly well, nor was it ever designed to, but it still excels at doing what it was designed to do, which was to give sportsmen a cartridge that could be loaded with smokeless powder and cleanly take big game at moderate ranges.

The .30-30 is a good round because it doesn’t damage much meat, and you are more than likely going to be killing small game or domesticated animals for protein than you are going to live off venison. There are many more pigeons in the world than deer; squirrels, too, for that matter. The .30-30 handles hunting all the game you have any business hunting inside 100 yards, even elk (although I’d limit the max range to about 90 yards and use 170gr commercial jacketed bullets at max velocity on elk). That isn’t to say the .30-30 is only a short range cartridge -- it truly can reach out and touch things in the hands of a skilled rifleman. However, most people are not skilled rifleman able to routinely hit the target beyond the point blank range of a rifle.

I have a lot invested into the .308 Winchester, but I wouldn’t want to carry any of my current .308 rifles with me all day. They are big and heavy, with significant recoil compared to a .30-30. I have plenty of .223 options, and while a few are of the “light and handy” variety, they aren’t cast bullet friendly (yes, you can get an AR to shoot cast bullets, however it’s not for the faint of heart). And while I wouldn’t recommend the .30-30 for competitors (unless you are shooting in the Schuetzen game or some silhouette game -- fine and worthy traditions in their own right), I would rank it tops for preppers.

Now this isn’t to say that the .30-30 is the perfect caliber for every job. If you plan on having a Mad Max style end of the world as we know it (the Somali civil war being a relatively recent example), then an AR or AK is probably a better choice, although having a .30-30 you can shoot well is probably a lot better than having an AK that you can’t. But if your end of the world is more The Postman (Patagonia during the Argentinian collapse being a recent example), then a .30-30 has the social value of “I’m armed, but not looking for a fight” that an AR or AK doesn’t necessarily have. Whether or not such social niceties have any bearing on your situation is beyond my speculation, but in the world where people associate lever action rifles with hunting and semi-auto carbines with fighting, it might be useful to be seen as something other than a fighter.

The .30-30 was a handloader's friend from the beginning, because the twist of the rifle barrels is usually 1:12, which is good for cast bullets (they don’t like to be spun too fast) and since most .30-30s are lever action, flat-nosed wide meplat bullets that have good terminal effects on big game are extremely appropriate. The smaller case capacity also uses less powder than a .308, In addition, .30-30 brass is plentiful and cheap and there are many inexpensive .30 caliber cast bullet molds, so everything here points to good cost savings.

Now here is the downside to reloading a 30-30 is that you are going to have to do the workup to get a load that shoots well in your rifle. With cast bullets this can sometimes be a challenge, especially since the recipe that works on your buddy's Winchester .30-30 with ballard rifling may not work on your Marlin 336 with micro-groove rifling. Every barrel is different, so every load workup has to be done for every rifle, and your loads which shoot great in your rifle might have terrible accuracy and in your buddy’s rifle.

Also, getting free or cheap lead is becoming more scarce, so if you don’t have a ready supply of it, then maybe casting your own hunting bullets isn’t for you. But if you can find a decent source of lead for a price you can live with, 100 pounds should yield around 4,100 bullets (170 gr weight).

,30-30 lever rifles are light, handy, won’t wear you down after a days worth of carry, and are a very utilitarian tool. Even normal carbon steel lever action rifles have been going strong for a century plus now with a simple routine of cleaning and oiling. For a “carry a lot, shoot a little” rifle, there is a lot going for the humble .30-30.

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