Wednesday, June 29, 2011

.30-30 Winchester

I was piddling on the bench yesterday and noticed a big plastic pickle jar full of brass. I picked it up and looked inside. .30-30 brass! It's been a while since I played with the .30-30, so I got out my notes and started prepping brass.

The .30-30 Winchester, originally billed as the .30 Winchester Center Fire was introduced in 1895 by Winchester for the Model 1894 rifle, the standard lever action rifle that's been made almost continually since. When the .30 WCF was introduced, it was the first small bore smokeless rifle cartridge and was touted as the latest-and-greatest scientific development in gunmaking history.

No one can doubt the popularity of the cartridge. All of the ammo makers build ammo for it, most of the rifle makers have made rifles chambered in the cartridge at one time or another. the Model 1894 was manufactured between 1894 and 2006 and Winchester produced over 7.5 million of them. They're still being built by FN, the company who took over when Winchester folded in '86, and brand new ones are available today. The other rifle that popularized the cartridge was made by Winchester competitor Marlin Firearms, who started with their Model 36 rifle. The 336 came out later and most estimates place the Marlin addition to the business at something over 6 million rifles.

It's safe to say that there are a lot of .30-30s in the gun safes and closets of the USA.

The cartridge itself is a handloader's dream. That long neck and low pressures combine to make a cartridge that's easy to reload with good brass life. I normally make one of two reloads in that caliber.

On the left is the Speer Hot Cor 130 grain flat point bullet. I load it over Reloder 15 powder to about 2200 fps. Recoil is mild and it carries enough energy for deer-sized game out to about 125 yards. The cartridge on the right is my favorite load for the caliber. It's a Lyman 311041 bullet, a gas-checked design that I lube with Liquid Alox. The bullet weighs just a little over 170 grains from my alloy with the gas check applied and I push it with 4895 powder to 1850 fps. Good accuracy from both of them, to the point where I have one Win 94 sighted for the jacketed Speer load and one Winchester sighted for the Lyman cast bullet load.

It's easy, in this day of long-range rifle shooting, and big scopes and bipods on rifles, to forget that lots of game was taken with anemic old cartridges like the .30-30. I would imagine that the sportsmen 100 years ago were quite pleased to have the new cartridge and took everything in North America with it.

I wish I could say that I own a fine, pre-64 version of the Winchester 94, but I don't. My cast bullet rifle is a later rifle known as the Antique Carbine. It was the first of the non-commemorative commemoratives and is described by one wag as "Winchester's attempt to put lipstick on a pig". Still, it is a good working rifle and the inside is very tight.

It's a light, handy carbine that weighs in at 5.6 lbs and I've cut the stock down to a total length of 36". I added a Williams FP sight and it's my idea of a nearly perfect truck gun or woods-wandering gun. I think I'll grab some ammo and take it to the range.

No comments: