.30-30 is the grandfather of hunting rifles

1:37 pm August 28th, 2012


By Bob Brown

Except for the .30-06 Springfield, there probably has been more printed matter published about Winchester’s Model 1894 rifle and its .30-30 cartridge than any other North American hunting rifle and cartridge – and for good reason. The Model 94’s combination of potent firepower in a compact, lightweight, comfortable-to-carry and quick-shooting package has made it an extremely popular deer hunting rifle.

The .30-30 Winchester (or .30 WCF) is the cartridge that has become synonymous with the Model 1894. Among big-game cartridges, the .30-30 is not a powerhouse and is viewed by many in the gun media as a powder puff cartridge. However, the .30-30 is adequate for killing deer and small game at open sight ranges.

The Hornady Reloading Manual lists a .30-30 loaded with 35 grains of H335 powder and 150 grain round nose bullet will produce a muzzle velocity of 2,300 feet per second and 1,762 foot pounds of energy, which isn’t exactly a barn burner, but potent enough for taking nearly all medium-size game at ranges of 100 to 150 yards.

When it comes to recoil, the .30-30 will not beat you up. In fact, the recoil is quite moderate. Chuck Hawks, shooting authority and author, said in his article, “The Classic .30-30 Winchester,” that a “7.5-pound .30-30 rifle shooting the standard 150 grain factory load generates about 11.7 pounds of recoil energy. For comparison, a .30-06 rifle of the same weight shooting a 150 grain factory load generates about 21.7 pounds of recoil energy. Most hunters can shoot the .30-30 well, as its recoil is below the 20 foot pounds upper limit for sustained use and the 15 foot pounds maximum most hunters can shoot comfortably.”

The Winchester Model 1894 is not without some drawbacks. In relation to its main competitor, such as the Marlin Model 336, the Winchester ejects cartridges from the top on the receiver and over the user’s shoulder, rather than to the side. A top-ejecting firearm can’t mount a scope on the top of the receiver – the most convenient location for the shooter without destroying the function of the gun. A scope for such a firearm must instead be mounted either far forward on the barrel (where it must be specifically designed for that purpose) or offset to the side of the gun, which creates problems due to parallax. This was not a problem when the rifle was first designed, because telescopic scopes were not readily available, and when they were, they were very expensive. Most pre-World War-era 1894s had a peep sight mounted to the rear of the receiver, which maximized the accuracy potential of the factory installed iron sights.

The Winchester Model 1894 holds the record for the best-selling high-powered rifle in U.S. history and the first sporting rifle to sell over 7 million units. The millionth model was given to President Calvin Coolidge in 1927. The 1.5 millionth was given to President Harry S. Truman on May 8, 1948, and the 2 millionth unit was given to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.

Although the .30-30 may not be a cartridge for handloaders, it is the cartridge for woodsmen. There are cartridges that shoot farther, flatter and harder with more bounce per ounce, but despite all its criticism, through the years the .30-30 has proven to be an effective meatgetter.

Somehow to me, a gun cabinet that doesn’t have a Winchester Model 1894 in it is like a chorus line of dancers wearing only one shoe.

7 Responses to .30-30 is the grandfather of hunting rifles

  1. George Yocum Reply

    September 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I have a model 94 built in 1898. It is a long rifle. Any special value to grandpa’s old gun?

  2. Randy Reply

    October 5, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Good article; I bought my first deer rifle when I was 14 back in the 60s with paper route money and it was a Winchester 94 30/30. I liked the peep sights on the m-14 so when I got out of the army in 1971 I put a Williams peep sight on my 94 and have hunted with it ever since. Since then I have bought other rifles, but I keep going back to that 94. I learned very quickly that where I hunt (southeastern mountains) nothing could beat that Winchester 94. It’s best qualities are how it carries and how it comes to my shoulder almost magically on target without having to search and adjust.
    I have a fiend in the Northwest that cooks the best steaks I ever tasted. They are from elk that he usually gets every year and he only has one rifle, a Winchester 30/30.

    • Damian Reply

      May 6, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      Amen I love my 30/30 Winchester. Growing up and hunting with my Dad who had a 30/06 with a scope. My cousin who was an Army Korean War Vet and POW who taught me to shoot,”Great!” with open sights. At our hunt camps my Dads friends with their fancy big bore little lever amusing. My Dad would tell them “Dont laugh if my Son can see it he can hit it!” I was first to tag out lol. They never laughed at my baby again.

  3. M Peterson Reply

    July 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Does the Winchester model 94 have a rifeled barrel?

  4. Harold a Hoyt Reply

    December 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Can I stil purchase a rear peep sight for my model 94

  5. Braydon Reply

    October 7, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Fantastic gun and round. I think a lot of youngsters were brought up learning how to shoot/hunt with a 30-30

  6. Andrew Miller Reply

    June 14, 2016 at 2:35 am

    I agree the 30-30 is the grandfather of all hunting rifles. I also have a 94 model

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