While many rifle cartridges have come and gone over the years, some of them just keep hanging on no matter what. That’s certainly the case for one of the best cartridges developed in the 19th century, the .30-30 Winchester.
Originally released in 1895 for the Winchester 1894 rifle, the .30-30 Winchester was the first small-bore smokeless powder sporting cartridge available in the US. It quickly became popular with hunters, as its speed and flat trajectory (for its time) made it an easy shooter. And with enough power to kill deer and black bear easily, it quickly became a popular hunting cartridge, especially in the forests of the eastern United States.
Most loads for the .30-30 Winchester feature a 150-grain bullet traveling at 2,400 feet per second or a 170-grain bullet traveling at about 2,200 feet per second. Muzzle energy is generally around 1,900 foot-pounds. The .30-30 has become so entrenched as a deer cartridge that all other hunting cartridges are compared to it. To call another cartridge “.30-30 class” is to endorse its ability to be used as a viable hunting cartridge.
The .30-30 Winchester is almost exclusively chambered in lever-action rifles such as the Winchester 1894, Marlin 1893, Marlin 336, etc. In fact, lever-action rifles chambered in .30-30 are almost synonymous with deer hunting rifles in many areas of the country. Many a hunter has started his hunting career with a lever-action .30-30, and many continue to hunt with those rifles today.
Because most lever-action rifles have tubular magazines, bullets for the .30-30 have normally been round-nosed or flat-nosed, to prevent bullet tips from detonating primers of rounds in the magazine under recoil. Those ballistically inefficient bullets have meant that most modern sporting rifle cartridges now boast significantly improved ballistics to the .30-30. With the introduction of Hornady’s LEVERevolution line of flex-tip bullets, the .30-30 was now able to use spitzer bullets, dramatically increasing ballistic performance, lengthening the cartridge’s effective range, and increasing muzzle energy at distance.
The .30-30 also has the advantage of having far less recoil than other .30-caliber cartridges such as .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, and .300 Winchester Magnum. Yet it is just effective at taking game as any rifles chambered in those other cartridges. And because of the inoffensive looks of lever-action rifles, they don’t attract the attention that an AR-15 or AK-style rifle would. They may have been the “assault weapons” of their day and have been outclassed by modern rifles in many respects, but they remain highly effective for both hunting and self defense.
Since you can find .30-30 ammunition in just about any gun shop in the country, it’s an effective cartridge for any prepper’s armory. Just make sure you stock up well in advance of any trouble you might anticipate.