The .30-30 Winchester rifle cartridge has been around since 1895. Today, 118 years later, it remains a popular choice for ammunition. The cartridge shoots a .30 caliber bullet from a case about the length of the .308/7.62 case. But the .30-30 case has a narrower diameter, less powder capacity, and lower pressures than the .308. Consequently, velocities are lower, but recoil is milder.
The .30-30 Winchester is at its best with bullet weights from about 140 to 170 grains. Since the .30-30 is most often chambered in a lever-action rifle, most spitzer bullets are not an option — except for the clever Hornady LeverEvolution bullet that use a flexible plastic tip. The tip is designed to improve the ballistic coefficient, but with a flexible plastic so as not to set off the primer of the adjacent round in the tubular magazine. The .30-30 will propel a 160 grain LeverEvolution bullet to about 2250 fps (20-inch barrel). Somewhat higher velocities are obtain with the lighter 140 grain LeverEvolution.
Could you use a .30-30 Win for hunting? Absolutely. From its earliest years to the present day, the .30-30 has been used to take more game than any other caliber, and perhaps more game than all other calibers combined. It’s an excellent deer cartridge, accurate and effective out to 200 yards or so. The recoil is mild, the cartridge has a good reputation for accuracy, and the bullet weights are more than sufficient for medium game. And while a .30-30 lever action rifle is under-powered for taking the larger game animals in North America (elk, moose), subsistence hunters have long used the .30-30 even on elk and moose, at close range.
For prepping and survival purposes, the .30-30 Win also makes a good self-defense gun. As a long gun, it is far more accurate than any handgun. The bullet weights are in the same range as the .357 magnum, but the velocities are higher. And the range of the .30-30 is over 200 yards with most bullets and over 300 yards with a LeverEvolution bullet. At the same time, the recoil is relatively mild. It kicks harder than a .223 rifle, but much less than a .308. It is intermediate in power and terminal effectiveness between those two cartridge as well. Lever-action rifles are affordable, reliable, and legal in places where other gun types suffer from undue restrictions.
The Henry .30-30 lever-action is available in brass or steel. If you decide to go with the Henry rifle, get steel. The brass rifle looks pretty, but its heavier and more expensive. Capacity is 5+1, which is plenty for hunting and usually enough for self-defense.
The Marlin .30-30 has a few advantages over the Henry rifle. The Marlin holds one more round in the magazine than the Henry. And reloading the magazine is much easier with the Marlin. Cartridges are simply pushed into the magazine through a side loading gate on the receiver. You can top-off the magazine at any time in the same way. With the Henry lever-action, there is no side loading gate. You must unscrew the far end of the tubular magazine, pull out a brass inner tube, and then load rounds individually through a cut-out in the tube. Then you reinsert the tube and screw the end cap back on. Not convenient. The Marlin comes in more models than the Henry, including one with a large loop, a stainless steel version, and a deluxe model.
Winchester makes a model 94 lever action rifle in .30-30 Win., but it’s several hundred dollars more than either the steel Henry or the various Marlin models. The Winchester 94 is well-made, but I think the best bang for the buck is found in the Marlin lever action. – Prep-Blog