The 30-30 Winchester cartridge was released in 1895 for use in the Winchester Model 1894 rifle and carbine. Its initial name was 30 Winchester Smokeless or 30 Winchester Center Fire (30 WCF). These names were often dropped when rifles by other manufacturers such as Marlin or Savage offered the same chambering without having to put Winchester’s name on their guns.
30-30 Winchester was derived from the 38-55 Winchester or 38-55 Ballard that was a black powder cartridge dating to 1876 and chambered in single shot and lever-action rifles offered by Ballard, Marlin and Winchester. Winchester essentially loaded a 38-55 case with the neck-size reduced from .375 down to .30 in order to create a faster and flatter shooting rifle cartridge.
Its name, 30-30 refers to the rifle’s caliber (.30) followed by the amount of grains of primitive smokeless powder used to load the case (30 grains). This was one of the first smokeless powder cartridges offered by an American ammunition manufacturer in a bottle necked rifle case.
As it was originally chambered in tube fed lever action rifles and carbines, the bullets were rounded or flat at the tip instead of using a pointed spire in order to prevent detonation of the primers within the tubular magazine. Some firearms such as the Savage Model 99, which uses a rotary style magazine or single shot rifles or handguns produced by Harrington & Richardson and Thompson Center Arms can use a spire pointed bullet. This is also true with the BFR (Biggest Finest Revolver) produced by Magnum Research or limited runs of Derringers produced by American Derringer.
In the nearly 130-years since its invention, the cartridge has been extremely popular with American shooters. It propels a 150-grain bullet at approximately 2500 feet per second (fps) and is effective on deer sized game out to 150 to 200 yards with a 4-inch drop at 200 yards. As a result, recoil is often referred to as mild.
For many years, 30-30 Winchester was the predominant chambering of most lever-action rifles in the United States.
It has been estimated that the 30-30 Winchester has been responsible for taking more white-tailed deer in the US than any other cartridge. In North America, the round has been effectively used on white-tailed deer, mule deer, black bear and even on bigger game such as elk and moose at close range with careful shot placement.
In spite of its age, it is still used by many hunters who value it as a short-range brush gun.
As it was a capable medium to large game round, it was sometimes used in self-defense when the user may not have had access to another type of firearm.
From 1900 through the 1950s, many law enforcement agencies relied on lever-action rifles chambered in 30-30 Winchester as a patrol type rifle, particularly in rural areas where an officer might have had to put down a wounded animal or a dangerous animal.
In its factory loading with iron sights, many shooters felt the accuracy was adequate for hunting. As telescopic sights became more popular and were mounted on rifles such as the Marlin 336 with its flat-top receiver, as opposed to Winchester’s open top receivers; shooters found the 30-30 Winchester more accurate than they had previous. The use of spitzer type bullets allowed for an improved ballistic coefficient, especially in single-shot rifles and pistols from Thompson Center. Wildcat cartridges such as 7-30 Waters, necking the case down to 7mm showed an even greater potential for accuracy.
Still, the 30-30 Winchester proved a great cartridge for Metallic Silhouette Shooting out of the Thompson Center Contender pistol, particularly when loaded with improved projectiles. The shorter (10-inch) barrel imparted more recoil out of a handgun, but it was still very manageable.
At 2.55-inches in overall length with a rimmed case, it fits the short action size of most manufacturers with regard to chamber length.
Its recoil is best described as mild. This has probably made it a favorite of occasional hunters who do not really shoot very often, but also contributes to its use by shooters of all shapes and sizes.
Depending on the load in question, 30-30 Winchester can generate anywhere from 1500–1900-foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.
SBR Ammunition offers 30-30 Winchester with a 150-grain Soft Point bullet manufactured by Hornady, and a 140-grain Controlled Chaos by Lehigh Defense. . These are some of the most accurate and reliable 30-30 Winchester rounds available on the market.