Educational Zone #77 – Interesting Firearms – The Winchester .30-30 Rifle

In 1895, Winchester introduced the 1894 lever action rifle and the .30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) Cartridge.

This round became known as the .30-30 Winchester, the first .30 indicating caliber and the second 30 standing for 30 grains of a smokeless powder used in those days. 

The great John Browning designed this rifle.

Over 7 million of these rifles have been sold. The .30-30 was the first commercial round to use the new smokeless powder.

This was a great step forward in power and clean shooting smokeless loads.

It became very popular and has lasted over 100 years.

Many people shot their first deer with the old Thirty-thirty.

It is quite capable on deer sized game and effective within 200 yards. It is often said, and probably true, that more deer have been harvested with the .30-30 than any other round.

If ever there was a rifle and cartridge combination that was destined to be married, it was the 1894 Winchester and the .30-30.

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It usually fires a 150 or 170 grain Round Nose Soft Point bullet.

The 150 grain does about 2,300 fps and the 170 does about 2,100 fps.

Here it is between a 7.62 X 39 AK-47 round and a .308 Winchester round.

It is sometimes compared to the 7.62 X 39, which moves a 125 grain bullet at around 2,300 fps.

As you can see, the old .30-30 is slightly more powerful than the 7.62 X 39.

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My rifle is an old pre-64 model given to me by my Uncle Jack.

He put a lot of deer in the freezer with this one.

It has a rubber recoil pad, but is otherwise in standard configuration.

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I added a Lyman Receiver Aperture Sight to the rifle to help with target work.

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It has a very nice adjustable aperture (sometimes called a Peep) sight.

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The front sight is a standard bead sight which helps in quick target acquisition when used for running game.

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These old rifles have a tube magazine under the barrel and hold seven rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.

It is loaded through a gate in the side of the action.

The rifle is about 37 inches long and this makes it very handy in the field.

It is probably one of the biggest reasons for its popularity.

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The rifle loads the rounds straight through the top of the action.

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The spent cartridge case ejects from the top of the action on this old model.

This was considered to be a disadvantage for those that like to mount a scope.

But a scope is not really necessary in thick woods and these rifles work great with standard sights.

Modern models have a side ejection that allows scopes to be mounted on top.

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The tubular magazine means that each round rests against the round in back of it and round nose or flat nose bullets must be used to prevent the pointed nose of a spitzer bullet from setting off the round in front of it with its sharp nose during recoil. 

Some modern bullets have been loaded with plastic tips to solve this problem.

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The “weakness” of a lever action of this type is that it depends on a breach block system that raises and lowers a steel bar behind the bolt.

Here is the bottom of these blocks.

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And here is the top of the blocks as they are raised into position.

This system works well with the .30-30 and other lower pressure rounds, but allows too much flex in the bolt, since they are located behind the bolt instead of directly behind the chamber,

For this reason, high pressure rounds do not work well in this type of action.

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I have handloaded for this round for many years. It does well with handloads and can give really good accuracy.

Here I am shooting a group this morning.

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Here’s a group I shot this morning at 50 yards. 

The flier to the left is my fault, not the rifle. But it is definitely “minute-of-deer.”

Recoil is not too bad and the recoil pad on my rifle helps even more.

It is a fun rifle to shoot.

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It “jumps” to the shoulder quickly and is quick to aim.

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If you take the time to learn to work the lever while the rifle is on your shoulder, it is very quick with follow-up shots.

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Jeff Cooper often recommended the .30-30 as a good “Patrol Rifle” before the AR15 became popular.

I actually carried one in a patrol car for a while and did not feel under-gunned.

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Conclusion:
These fine old guns are pieces of American history and are great shooters. If you haven’t shot one, give them a try.