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30-30 carbine- Still King of the deer woods?

Jack O'Conner

New member
Jan 11, 2003
Black Hawk, SD
I started out with a borrowed 30-30 carbine for deer. But I've also taken elk, antelope, and boar with this old "has been" cartridge. I'll quickly add that my elk hunts with the 30-30 took place in the 1960's on remote Wyoming stockman's Forest Service leased land. The pressure on elk was nothing like it is now. We could get fairly close by walking behind our horses. Those days are gone and the modern elk hunter will likely be better served with a more powerful rifle that has more "reach".

Over the years, I've hunted with many other rifles and cartridges. I won't bore you with the list because this focus is upon the 30-30. But I feel that for the hunter who is willing to stalk or set up a planned ambush, this cartridge is still a very good choice.

I've tried just about every brand and type of ammo available. FEDERAL 170 gr Classic load is a favorite. Remington's 150 gr Core-lockt is also tough to beat. Winchester's 150 gr. Silvertip is equally lethal.

There was a time when Winchester 94 was asociated with a rattley and poorly finished product. But that's all changed and they're better than ever. Marlin has always built quality into their line-up and the new ones with non-glossy stocks and cut checkering are true beauty to my eyeballs at least.

A guy with limited time to hunt may be better off with a more powerful cartridge. It's tough to pass up long shots. But for the guy who knows the lay of the land and is willing to keep his shots under 200 yards, the 30-30 is entirely lethal. This is not something I read about. I speak from experiance that no buck that ever walked can stand up to a well placed 30-30 bullet.

I'd like to hear from other 30-30 fans and their experiances with this famous deer cartridge.
I shot my first deer with a 30-30. He went less than 20 yards before he fell and could not get back up. The reason he could not get up is because I shot him in the ass (woops). I will not disagree that the 30-30 has killed many a big game, but for me, an open-sighted '94 was not the best choice for my first big game hunt.
30-30 just fits with backcountry hunting. We always carry one as a spare rifle and as a camp rifle. Damn Grizzlies lol.
My wife is talking about getting into hunting, I figured I'd start her out with my 30-30, would you recomend the 150, or 170 grain bullet for mule deer? I've had the gun for a while, bought it off a buddy who needed some cash, never really shot it. Whats the drop gonna be with that 170grn bullet at 200yds? Thanks!
I started my wife with a Marlin. The stock fit her perfectly. So I measured the thickness of a Pachmeyer pad. Then I cut that amount off the stock with my miter saw and installed the pad. I used my power sander to fit the edges but protected the stock with double thickness of masking tape.

We started with handloads featuring the 125 gr Sierra spitzer bullet loaded to approx. 2500 fps. These sharp pointed cartridges were loaded and fired singley for safety. Don't load up a tube magazine with sharply pointed bullets - could be a lethal error.

My wife quickly learned how to shoot this carbine accurately. A woman can take recoil as long as she does not feel pain at all. The push of recoil does not bother women as it does some men.

For hunting foothills muleys, my wife used the same 170 gr ammo as me. FEDERAL Classic ammo which retails for $10.95 per box around here. Sight in 2 inches high at 100 yards and your bullet should strike about 4 inches low at 200 yards.

Go for bone with long shots. Or if dusk is approaching. Place your 30-30 bullet into the shoulder bones from a broadside angle. Watch the animal topple over! Energy transfers through the skeleton with startling results.

It never ceases to amaze me how well the old 30-30 knocks over animals. I've observed double lung shot deer hit behind the shoulder with my brother's 30-06 dash off up to 70 yards or so before toppling over.

But our 30-30 will drop 'em in their tracks when the shot is placed through both shoulders. Meat damage is less than you'd expect; the 30-30 is a moderate velocity cartridge.
I'd have to disagree that the new 94s are better than ever. A pre-64 is far better quality. Perhaps the new ones are better than those made in the 70's, but my brother is a gunsmith and works at an authorized repair center (Bolsa Gunsmithing) for most major brands, and he sees more new model 94s come in for warranty work than any other rifle. (Generally failure to feed or jamming problems.)

I have not shot anything with either of my .30-30's yet. I have a 1949 Model 94 and a model 340 Savage bolt-action. I load the 125 gr Sierra or Remington spitzers or the 130 gr Hornady Interlock over H-335 for the Savage's box magazine. For the Winchester, I load 150 gr Corelokts over IMR-4064. I plan on using the Savage on California blacktail one of these days.
I had a 1920-ish 94 for several years. But my middle-aged eyesight declined to the point I could not focus the irons anymore.

So I traded for a new 94 Legacy in the mid 1990s and have had very good luck with it. I've never experianced a feeding nor ejection problem. The scope mounts are by Conotrol. Spendy but very attractive to me at least.

I hunted coastal blacktails in Napa, Sonoma, Mendicino, and Trinity Counties. Might have even been hunting in Colousa County once or twice. They're a fun animal to hunt. But August hunts require planning for drinking water. I used to carry two jugs of frozen water to leave at the half way point to my hunting area. Nice to have a way to refill canteens on the h-h-hot hike out.

I shot a 4 X 4 near Pt. Arena that measures 14.5 inches at the widest area. Each point is exactly 5.25 inches long. Most blacktails bucks I shot were forkies.

There are some very large racked mulies in Alpine County about a day's hike from any given trailhead. You'll also find some nice trophies in Lassen County.

Good hunting to you.
I shot my first deer with an 1898 savage 30-30. Dont qoute me on the age but i believe it was 1898 or 1894. It was an octagon barrel, brass shell counter on the side,no hammer exposed and the rear site adjustment ramp was made of carved ivory. My first deer was believe it or not a 200 yrd shot on a powerline clearing. I aimed just a little above the deer and hit it in the heart somehow!. it was opening weekend, snow on the ground, and a massive blood trail. it ran into thick pines and i ran after the blood trail once i found it. I looked for blood and didnt see any at first then got back in my blind depressed and started thinking that the deer was a lot farther that i looked for blood and went back to look some more. it was a 6x6 buck and the biggest my family ever took at that time.
I got a lot of looks when i went to site it in at the range with my dad. Dad was not too smart, the gun should have been put away for display only, but he took an engraver and put his SS# on the side of the reciever pretty much killing some of the value. I remember it kicked like a mule(when your 12 it did) and hurt my shoulder because its buttstock was so curved and fit me terrible.
There was an old weaver scope rigged up to it somehow. I havent seen the gun for many years, i think my brother may have it.
My first gun i will give my son for deer will be a bolt action.
I just dug up a picture of the deer and me,unfotunatly the gun isnt in it

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ 02-19-2003 19:06: Message edited by: schmalts ]</font>

The 30-30 cartridge was the first to use modern smokeless powder. Fourty-five years ago, my grandfather told me when he and his friends first started using the 30-30 cartridge they thought it defied gravity because of its' long range and flat trajectory.

I took my first deer in 1961 with my grandfather's Winchester model '94. One of my cousins now has that rifle.

I do all of my big game hunting with a 30-06 and the huge majority of my shots have been at ranges less than 200 yards, so a 30-30 would have done the job just fine.

I also own a Marlin model 336. I have never used it for hunting. I just bought it because they are neat and for sentimental reasons. I chose the Marlin because it ejects sideways and therefore is a better fit for a scope. As you are aware the Winchester '94 ejects through the top and you have to rotate the scope 90 degrees to keep ejected shells from hiting the scope knobs.

My son-in-law has a '94 that he inherited from his father. It was manufactured in after WWII and before 1950. Pretty neat rifle and a nice rememberence of his father.

Actually the 94 has ejected empties out the right side for over 20 years now. Its called angle-eject and Winchester should've figured out this change back in the 1950's when scope use became wide-spread in North America. The angle-eject feature is simple yet effective.

Here is how to figure out if a 94 is angle-eject or not:
1) Look at the top of the receiver. If you see four screws - its the angle eject. Those screws simply fill the tapped holes for scope bases.
2) Some early models actually had the letters AE stamped next to Model 94 on the barrel.

Good hunting to you. I know lots of guys who love their 30-06 rifles. It's a cartridge that has been used on every continent by successful hunters.
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