October 27, 2020
As old-fashioned and ballistically anemic as the .30-30 Winchester might seem, it remains popular. This is partly because the cartridge typically comes chambered in fast-handling, easy-carrying lever-action rifles that are fun to shoot. But the .30-30 retains its status among big-game hunters mostly because it works. If it didn’t, hunters would not continue to buy new .30-30 rifles and ammunition. Every year the .30-30 ranks as one of the top 10 best-selling rifle cartridges in America, and there are a lot of fantastic big-game loads that make the .30-30 better than ever.
Hornady LEVERevolution MonoFlex
By inserting a small and malleable polymer tip in the nose cavity of the bullet, Hornady drastically improved the external ballistics of .30-30 ammunition. The Hornady Flex Tip makes the bullet compatible with the nose-to-primer cartridge arrangement in tubular magazines, while helping increase ballistic efficiency and initiating expansion. The 140-grain MonoFlex, which is constructed of solid gilding metal like Hornady’s GMX bullet, will penetrate nearly 30 inches while expanding to a frontal diameter of nearly a half inch.
Federal Fusion, Trophy Copper and HammerDown
As the first ammunition purpose-built for the deer hunter, Fusion ammo uses bullets with a molecularly fused jacket and pressure-formed core. The 150-grain .30-.30 Fusion bullet will expand to more than twice its original diameter and deliver massive energy transfer. If you want more penetration, the Federal Trophy Copper .30-30 load utilizes an all-copper bullet that retains all its weight and penetrates to nearly 30 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin.
Federal’s newest .30-30 load is in the company’s HammerDown line. It also has a 150-grain bullet, but the entire cartridge is specifically engineered for optimized performance in lever-action rifles. The super slick nickel-plated cases provide smooth loading and feeding. The rim of the case is slightly chamfered to further ease loading. Federal uses a premium Gold Medal primer in the HammerDown load, along with a propellant formulated to produce velocities in lever-action barrel lengths that yield top ballistics. The bonded bullet is tuned to deliver ideal expansion and penetration at ranges typical of deer hunting.
Barnes offers a 150-grain TSX flat-nose bullet in its Vor-Tx .30-30 Winchester load. I used it in Africa last summer. It’s not the flattest shooting load, but it’s just as lethal. The reliable expansion and deep penetration of the all-copper TSX bullet makes it a great choice for critters larger than deer. (Remington loads the same bullet, at the same velocity, in its HTP Copper line.)
Because of their affordability, Remington Core-Lokt loads are often considered bargain ammunition. Nevertheless, the Core-Lokt is effective, and maybe it’s the load by which all other 30-.30 ammunition should be judged. After 80 years Remington has perfected Core-Lokt performance in the 30-.30. With the 150- and 170-grain offerings, you can expect bullet deformation with a frontal diameter of about a half inch, and penetration of nearly 2 feet.
Winchester Power Max Bonded
Winchester loads Power Max Bonded with its Rapid Expansion Protected Hollow Point bullet in 150 and 170 grains. The deep, hollow cavity in the nose initiates upset, and the contoured jacket “programs” the bullet’s dynamic expansion. A lead core that’s bonded to the jacket keeps weight retention high. These loads are not deep penetrators, but they drop a lot of energy and damage lots of tissue, making them ideal for deer.
The .30-30 Winchester has been killing big game for more than a century. If you believe hunting should be done with feet and not feet per second, it might be your spirit cartridge. Despite the allure of faster-stepping, flatter-shooting cartridges, every hunter needs a .30-30—especially today.