The .30-30: A Short History

(or skip to the load data at the bottom of the article)

Today what is known as the .30-30 began life as the .30 . In 1891, the Repeating Arms Company first began experimenting with powder to develop a higher velocity cartridge. They decided on .30 calibre after working with the military on the development of the .30 U.S. Army (.30-40) cartridge.

When the 1894 rifle was on the drawing boards, they ultimately decided to use the .38-50 Ballard cartridge case of 1876, and neck it down to hold a 160 gr. .30 Calibre "metal patched" bullet.

The resultant .30 cartridge which carried the .30 W.C.F. ( Centre Fire) designation on the head stamp, first appeared in 's catalogue No. 55, dated August, 1895. Several months prior to this, the first ads announcing the arrival of this cartridge began appearing in the sporting press.

Three months after the first advertisement of their new .30 cartridge, their biggest competitor, the Marlin Firearms Company, announced their version of this cartridge chambered in their model 1893 rifle. Since Marlin did not manufacture ammunition, it worked closely with the Union Metallic Cartridge Company (U.M.C.) located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. U.M.C. replicated the .30 cartridge but gave it a different name. Since 30 grains of powder was initially used in this cartridge, they named it the .30-30. Cartridges were head stamped U.M.C. / .30-30 S. The S was dropped from the head stamp within a few years.

The name .30-30 followed the prevailing practice of that period where the first number designated the calibre in inches and the second number the powder charge in grains, however, in this case, the second number denoted the charge in grains of powder used rather than black powder as with such cartridges as the .32-40, .38-55, .45-70, .45-90, etc.

When it was introduced in 1895, the first ammunition contained a 160gr. "metal patched" bullet at a published 1,970 f.p.s. The 170gr. loading appeared a year later from U.M.C. but it was not until 1903 when also offered the same 170 gr. loading. I guess they felt the 160 gr. bullet worked well enough!

In December of 1896, the first .30 W.C.F. "Short Range" cartridge appeared. The cartridge illustration was shown as the .30-6-100 since the cartridge contained a 100 gr. lead bullet and 6 grains of powder. It was described as "for small game where the more powerful cartridge is not necessary". It effectively gave .32-20 performance.

recognized the benefit and increased versatility that a factory loading for small game would offer, since the average family would have to sacrifice at least a month's pay to buy just one rifle, and that one rifle was just about all that most families could afford. With his or her magazine full of these .30 W.C.F. "Short Range" rounds, hunters could use their big game rifles to harvest turkeys, squirrels and other small game animals with no meat loss. Then, if bigger game was expected to be encountered, a quick change to the standard .30 W.C.F. cartridge would handle that situation.

A few months later, Marlin followed suit with their .30-30 MARLIN "Short Range" cartridge made by U.M.C.

In 1904, increased the lead bullet weight from 100 to 117 grs. and the following year, they also offered a 117 gr. soft point and a 117 gr. full metal patch version.

These "Short Range" cartridges were easily identified as having a cannelure part way down the case neck. Originally, it was used to keep the soft lead bullet from being pushed into the case under spring pressure while in the magazine. It was not needed with the metal patched bullets, but was retained to distinguish them from the full power .30 W.C.F. cartridges which looked similar.

cartridges retained the .30 W.C.F. designation on their head stamps and advertising up until about 1946 after which they changed to .30-30. Interestingly, today it's called the .30-30 but it was Marlin & U.M.C. that gave it that designation.

The 30-30 is said to be the start of the modern cartridge that we know today. Probably responsible for putting more meat on the table than any other cartridge. Developed from the 38-55 and evolving into the 308.

                               30-30              38-55           308

I like the 30-30 very much, it works well with all range of bullet weights, in jacketed, lead, plinking or hunting, it is just a nice round to shoot.

I used a mid weight bullet for the test, Speer 150 gr FNSP. A good bullet for smaller deer, with good velocities to allow for the bullet to expand properly.


Speer 150 gr FNSP 

Three powders were used:  Hodgdon Varget, Alliant Reloader 7 and IMR Trail Boss. In this cold test starting loads were used.

Primer: Magtech Large Rifle.

Winchester 94 (Made 1966)

The Little Weaver side mounted scope worked well, though a little old and weathered, it still function well. It was also nice that with a small reposition of your head you could alternate between the scope and the iron sights.

Well it had to happen, Trail Boss just could not post good results, well not in the starting load recipes. Very light shooting, well you would expect that, and to be fair IMR would probably recommend 4198 or 4895 for deer, Anyway it was terrible, and even as a cowboy load it stank.

6.5 gr TB giving about 1100 fps

Reloader 7 gave good groups at 25m, and was quite crisp.

25 gr RX 7 giving about 1882 fps

Varget just has the edge, again nice and crisp, but not quite so jumpy.

29 gr Varget giving about 1850 fps: 32 gr will give about 2050 fps with not much more recoil.

bullets dug from the sand showed with Varget and RX 7 good expansion, and when shot at 50m maintained good grouping. Expansion was also good a 100m but I would say that the cartridge is coming to the limit of

reasonable and humane deer stalking.

It is a nice range rifle also. It can be loaded down to 100 gr RNSP where 32 gr of RX 7 will see you over 2500 fps, make this also a very effective "Varminter"


25m 5 shots off a bag