Ask Foghorn: Henry .30-30?

Patrick asks:

Do you have opinion on the gun? I like the idea of the companies history and the fact that is made here. I’m 67 yrs old and have always used a 30-06, (Tika), but I live in the north woods of Minnesota now and never have a shot longer than 50 yards.

In case you were wondering what’s up with the sudden deluge of Ask Foghorn posts, I’m on vacation and figured I would knock as many of these out as I could while I had the time. So, starting with the oldest AF question in the bag . . .

If you’re going to buy a lever action rifle, Henry is the company to go with. Marlin used to be the “standard” lever action producer, but since their acquisition by Freedom Group, their lever action rifles took a turn for the worse in terms of quality. Now factory fresh Marlins are rarer than a fake Colt Dragoon that wasn’t pinched from a museum. Good riddance to bad rubbish, if you ask me.

Henry’s firearms are a thing of beauty. Without fail, every one of their lever action guns I have ever seen is a work of art, something that would be equally at home on the range, on a wall or in a display case. But despite their good looks, they’re still accurate shooters that get the job done.

As for the .30-30 in particular, the ballistics are nearly identical to the newer 300 AAC Blackout round I’m so fond of. The cartridge was one of the first to take advantage of smokeless powder and thanks to the crappy burn rate of those early powders, the cartridge is spec’ed to a much lower chamber pressure than modern ammunition. It’s roughly the same size as the 7.62 NATO round, but thanks to the lower pressure ceiling, it doesn’t travel nearly as fast.

For hunting at 50 yards or less, this doesn’t matter. The round will still murder a deer just as well as anything else, as proven by the nearly half century when this gun and cartridge were the most popular hunting implements in the United States. The low velocity also has the added benefit of producing less recoil than most other rounds of a similar size. That becomes a handicap past 200 yards, but until that point I don’t really see any issues in using it as a hunting round.

Personally, I’d go with the 300 AAC Blackout. Then again, that’s only because my requests to Henry to make a version of their .30-30 rifle with a threaded muzzle have (so far) fallen on deaf ears. There’s just something special about using a lever action rifle to hunt deer and if you agree, there’s no finer firearm than Henry’s offering.

[Email your firearms-related questions to “Ask Foghorn” via guntruth@me.com. Click here to browse previous posts]

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

42 Responses to Ask Foghorn: Henry .30-30?

  1. avatarMichael B. says:

    There any difference between round or octagon barrels besides the look? Which is more corrosion resistant: brass or blued?

    • avatarAharon says:

      The octagon barrels will generally be heavier.

      • It’s just for style I think. Henry rifles have a classic look to them, and back in the day it cost more time and money to round out the exterior of a barrel. Newer manufacturing processes (not by hand) make this easier today.

      • avatarChris Dumm says:

        Much heavier! But they look so cool you won’t care.

    • avatarGreg Camp says:

      I’d go with the steel model, since I’ve heard that brass shoots loose over time.

      • avatarbontai Joe says:

        That is true, but if it is going to be shot the typical 20 to 30 shots a year that most deer hunting rifles are, then pick the one you like, because you won’t shoot the brass one loose in that case. If you plan on shooting “Lucas McCain” style every weekend at cowboy action events, then I’d definitely get the steel frame one.

    • avatarAharon says:

      FYI, I have never owned a bull barrel and no zero about them. The heavier octagon barrel might act as sort of bull barrel.

  2. I picked up a Henry Golden Boy .22 recently, which is really fun. It’s way more interactive than just popping the trigger on a 10/22. Does anyone have an recommendations on a new front sight? It’s a small brass dot and very difficult to see, especially in dimmer light at my indoor range. I’m okay with the V-notch in the back. I like the fiber optic sight I put on my GP100, but I feel that would be inappropriate for the Golden Boy’s style.

    • avatarAharon says:

      Skinner is the sight manufacturer recommended by Henry to keep to the traditional look. They have front sights that are brass, dark blued, and even a Marbles fiber optic option. They don’t “make front sights in Stainless Steel because the color is not suitable for accurate target acquisition”. The skinner rear sights are something to check out.

      front sights:
      http://www.skinnersights.com/front_sights_5.html

      rear sights:
      http://www.skinnersights.com/henry_rifles_18.html

      • avatarSwarf says:

        I have a Skinner rear sight on my Marlin .357 and recommend them highly. I would have gotten the “tactical” (meaning its got wings to protect the aperture post) style had he been making them when I bought, but the standard sight is still pretty great.

      • avatarIng says:

        Another thumbs-up for Skinner Sights. I have the Skinner Express setup on my Marlin 336w 30-30 (produced right in the middle of Marlin’s quality nadir, but I guess I got lucky, cause it’s a smashing good rifle), and it’s pretty sweet.

        I’m planning to get my Henry .22′s — a basic model and a Golden Boy — set up with Skinner sights, too.

        These sights are awesome. They’re far easier to use than regular open sights, especially in low light and with my astigmatism. There are other peep/ghost-ring setups that’ll do the same job, but none of them look as good as Skinner sights while they’re doing it, and some of them cost a lot more. Those Henry rifles are pretty guns, and Skinner sights will make a good looking rifle look (and shoot) even better.

  3. avatarAharon says:

    Nick, thanks for this review. I was actually thinking about the Henry lever-action blued version 30-30 this morning. This past weekend, I held and examined the Marlin 30-30, and the Marlin 357 carbine which is apparently being manufactured and shipped to stores again. It was really sad. The Marlins’ actions were clunky and the opposite of Henry’s butter-smooth action. Something did not feel right about the metal work on the Marlin. The wood and overall finish on the Marlin were second rate. I suppose spending @$300+ with a qualified gunsmith would bring a new Marlin up to the quality level I’d find acceptable. I wish that Henry would make a 357 lever action in a blued finish with the round barrel.

    • avatarNathan says:

      It would appear sir, your dream has been answered:

      http://www.henryrepeating.com/rifle-big-boy.cfm

      Sh it I should read better. It is both octagon barrelled and a brass one.

      • avatarAharon says:

        That’s ok Nathan, it was a nice thoughtful comment. Maybe I’ll just have to wait until I can make one with the new 3D printers after they can also start making steel guns since I don’t want a plastic lever-action.

        • avatarColin says:

          Direct response to my email from Anthony Imperato… “Thank you very much for your interest in Henry Repeating Arms. We would like to add steel Big Boys to our line up sometime late 2014.”

  4. avatarMotoJB says:

    I love 30-30′s! First rifle I ever shot…kicked like a mule when I was a kid. I have my grandpa’s old Winchester and would love to pick up a Henry for deer hunting. I’ve never shot a deer past 200 yards, so I think I’d be GTG.

  5. avatarRoll says:

    My opinion on these rifles? They’re lever actions and have always been COOL. Was just talking about lever actions with co-workers at lunch the other day. I’ve been thinking of adding a Henry or maybe a Rossi to my collection.

    Thanks for the warning on Marlin BTW.

  6. avatarOddux says:

    I don’t like that Henry still hasn’t figured out how to put loading gates in their recievers.

    If Henry made a .357 magnum lever action carbine with a loading gate I would be all over it, but they do not. So I’m still on the look out for a Marlin 1894c made before their acquisition by Freedom Group which no one seems to be selling. Or a Winchester Ranger Carbine which was discontinued in 2002. Or I may just have to get a .30-.30.

    Dangit people, sell your rare and fun to shoot .357 carbines!

    • avatarMike S says:

      Sorry, bro. My pre-freedom group 1894c is my favorite of my long guns. It was love at first pull. You’d have about as much luck talking me out of it as getting me to let you take the wife on a romantic weekend in Paris.
      I do wish you luck though- and maybe, someday, Marlin will make great guns again. (We hope!)

    • avatarSwarf says:

      Not gonna happen. My Marlin .357 is hands down my favorite. I somehow lucked out and got one from the early 80′s even though I bought it new in the store about two years ago.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      From my cold, dead fingers.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      The old Winchester Trapper .357 was truly a honey of a rifle. Out of all the guns I’ve sold that is the one I constantly kick myself for not keeping.

  7. avatarRokurota says:

    “The round will still murder a deer just as well as anything else…” Ach. A 30-30 round can’t commit murder. Murder requires malice aforethought, something a 30 cal projectile lacks. And “murder” is so the wrong term here anyhow, unless this particular deer shamed your family or pinched your coke or got all up in your face yo. Hunting is not murder, unless you’re Morissey.

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      Deer eat my hostas in the front yard. I have no problem planning out, stalking, and murdering a deer for both a violation of my space and the violation of my hosta plants. Don’t even care about saving the meat. Shoot it in the heart, dig a hole, and throw the useless carcass in the ground.

      Evil spawn of the devil they are

      :-)
      Same thing on Chipmunks and squirrels.

      • avatarrosignol says:

        One of my great-grandpas had a similar problem back in the old days- deer would sneak into his orchard in the winter and eat the bark off his apple trees. He said shooting them wasn’t hunting, it was pest control.

  8. avatarAccur81 says:

    The .30-30, particularly in LeverEvoultion guise, has quite a bit more energy than the .300 Blackout. The .30-30 can push a 160 grain bullet at nearly 2400 FPS (Hornady LeverEvolution) where the Blackout would push a 130 grain bullet at less than 2200 (SOST). I’m purposely comparing hot loads in each caliber. Realistic energy levels are around 2000 FT LBS for the .30-30 and 1400 for the 300, again with hot loads.

    I like the 300, but the .30-30 is more towards what this buyer is interested in. Another option would be to get a used Marlin .30-30 (or maybe .45-70). The are awesome guns, and are much easier to through a scope on. I got my first 8 PT buck with a Marlin .30-30 336 and 170 grain Nosler Partitions at a paced distance of 75 yards. He dropped with a single heart / lung shot, and wouldn’t have been any more dead than with a .30-06.

    Love what you shoot, know your equipment, know your own limits, and pursue happiness in the woods!

  9. avatarjwm says:

    i gave my son my pre safety marlin 336. all the rifle you’ll need for 95% of deer hunting. i like the looks of the henry, but having to take it out of battery to reload makes it hard to see as a general purpose hunting and self defense rifle.

  10. avatarbontai Joe says:

    I remember back when I was a young lad (circa 1975 +/-) when Marlin and Winchester lever actions in 30-30 went on sale every fall for around $100. That was when I got my Mariln model 336. Having seen what a current Marlin production rifle looks like, and what it costs, I’d be looking at the Henry also.

  11. avatarJim March says:

    OK…as much as I respect Henry, there’s an issue with their centerfire guns you need to know about. The loading system is retarded. You stand it upright on the butt, unscrew a cap at the end of the magazine tube and drop rounds in from the muzzle. You don’t cram new rounds in from the rear as on a proper levergun.

    This makes reloading a pain and worse, you can’t select a new type of round in the field and slap that in for a different class of problem. The ability to top off the mag in the field with some new type of round is one of the coolest things about a levergun.

    Henry’s system eliminates any possible use of the thing as a “redneck assault rifle”, AND eliminates ready selection of a different ammo type for a given shot. As much as I want to like the Henry centerfire series, that’s a deal-breaker for me.

    Now. The smart thing to do is go used – get a nice classic Marlin or Winchester from before either puked and died.

    If you want to go new and American-made, consider Mossberg’s 30-30…probably not the “AR-15 replica” bizarro version :).

  12. avatarMark N. says:

    And here I thought that Henry only made .22s–and I look at their site and they even have the big old .44-70! Personally, I’d go find a Winchester first.

    • avatarDaniel Kelley says:

      Not me, Winchester is now a foreigner. I’m positive about it being foreign owned and I believe their lever actions are built in Japan. I bought a Henry because of the company’s motto and also the price @Cabela’s made it a sweet deal. And for the gripes about the weight of the gun and the way it is loaded, just abunch of baby crying. I really enjoy this rifle more than I did my Marlin years ago.

  13. avatarJack_Samuelson says:

    For several reasons, I’d find an old model Marlin is you are going to use it for hunting. First, the Henry is very heavy compared to the Marlin. Second, while the newer Henry rifles are capable of mounting a scope, most of the used ones I have seen do not come out of the process unscathed sue to the brass receiver. Third, the loading process on the Henry is slow and ungainly in my opinion. Finally, again primarily for hunting but also for your average trek through the brush, the Marlin has standard sling mounts, the Henry does not. I like the look of the Henry, but after shooting both of them, I find the function and options of the Marlin much better. A lower price tag on the Marlin doesn’t hurt either.

  14. avatarbegemot says:

    I don’t have a Marlin but do have a lever action Henry and am very satisfied with it. Henry’s customer service deserves special mention. They’ve been terrific and have gone to unusual lengths to accommodate me when I had concerns. The thick Joisey accent shouldn’t be held against them. :)

  15. avatarSanchanim says:

    I have always admired a lever action rifle. Never owned one, but I guess I should change that! Henry are beautiful rifles.

  16. avatarChris Dumm says:

    My only beef about the Henry Repeating Arms Co. is purely selfish: I haven’t been able to test their .45-70 yet! (Anthony Imperato, I promise I will treat it with respect and return it with only a few hundred rounds through it…?)

    • avatarAharon says:

      Chris,

      Have you sent him an email letting him know you write (not just comment) at TTAG frequently and would like to review his guns?

  17. avatarHammy Hamster says:

    Henry makes very nice guns but a large warning for international customers; Henry does not care for markets outside America and it is extremely hard to get service or parts for your Henry firearms if you live in Canada or other countries.

  18. avatarPat Warner says:

    Thanks for answering my query regarding the Henry 30-30 and I enjoyed reading all of the comments as well. The biggest problem I’m now having is getting someone to order a Henry for me. I live 250 miles north of the Twin Cities and there are no authorized dealers up here. I don’t like the idea of buying a gun on-line so I guess I will need to make the trek to the big city.

  19. avatarMichael says:

    I am looking to purchase my first 30-30. I was looking at a new Marlin but I’ve been shown this Henry in Brass and I’m a bit smitten. I am just on the fence because it’s my first hunting rifle and I’m not sure where I should be going.

    Would you suggest this as a first hunting rifle, or should I go with something cheaper and then trade up down the line?

  20. avatarChris Watson says:

    I have 3 marlin’s . All in 30.30.. The one with the smoothest action are the cheapies made in the 70′s and early 80′s . The 30A is my favorite. But the newer 336w is clunky in the action but still a rugged and tough truck gun. But my friend bought a 22mag Holden Boy last week and I fell in love with it.. So my next gun will be a Henry Golden Boy in 30.30 .. It will look beautiful over my fireplace hearth and will be great for killing deer as well..

  21. avatarThe Last Marine out says:

    nice gun for 22

  22. avatarRook says:

    Ok, not a major criticism, but holding a .30-30 next to a .308 win there is significant difference in case diameter. Same length but vastly more space in a .308 case. While they are both short action .30 rounds, the ancient pressure standards vs potential of .30-30 have far more to do with case volume than a 100 yr old pressure standard. No matter how you load it, saami or not, .30-30 could never match the potential of .308. That said the .30-30 is a great round for killing deer.

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