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Buffalo Bore 30-30 Heavy ammo takes down . . . a buffalo. (courtesy

Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. writes [via]

I am going to admit that for no good reason I have in the past been a bit of a gun snob when it comes to the 30-30 Winchester rifle cartridge. I was new to the firearms business, right out of college, working at a gun shop in the Chicago area. First off, you could not even hunt with a rifle in Illinois so I am not sure what all the concern was about rifle calibers. Perhaps in the back of every customer’s mind they were someday going to be headed out west to take an elk at 1000 yards off-hand. These upscale Chicago hunters could not envision taking a moose in Montana with a lever-action cowboy gun known as a “30-30 deer rifle.” Some how I sort of fell into that thought process and dismissed the venerable 30-30 Winchester cartridge for over 35 years . . .

I picked up a used Marlin 336 in 30-30 and decided to keep it for my daughter. I bought some standard 150 and 170 grain bullet ammo and locked the rifle in the gun safe.

30-30 Winchester is one of the oldest smokeless powder rifle cartridges out there. Most of the 1950s-through-1970s TV and Hollywood westerns had both the good guys and the bad guys carrying a Winchester rifle in 30-30.

In Canada, where handgun ownership and usage is very restricted, a light weight lever action rifle is used in many cases as a substitute where a smaller firearm is needed. With 30-30 currently being chambered in more lever action rifles than any other caliber then naturally the cartridge has been very popular with our cousins to the north.

The 30-30 is considered an entry class round. Dad buys his son that first deer rifle and because everyone on TV carries one, the lever action 30-30 is the gun of choice. In the US and Canada more white tail deer have probably been taken with the 30-30 cartridge than any other center-fire round.

30-30 Ammo Now

There have been many improvements in the manufacturing of 30-30 ammo in the past 5-10 years. Buffalo Bore Ammunition ( and its 30-30 ammo/ 28A with a 190 grain bullet is an excellent high impact, and greatly improved, rifle cartridge. [ED: priced at $64.54 for 20 rounds.]

A long conversation with Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore about his 30-30 ammo has convinced me I have got to get over my misguided opinion of the old, but very much alive rifle cartridge.

Tim had his own proprietary 190 grain bullet developed. It is designed to hold together better with some mushrooming, but allowing for deep penetration. If you are hunting white tail in Altus, Oklahoma perhaps the 190 grain bullet may be a bit much, but if you want to make sure the deer is really dead–go for it. Be mindful that there are not two other deer standing behind the one you are harvesting.

According to Tim the 28A-190 grain 30-30 round has the potential to take out the first deer and then continue through the two other deer that pushed their unlucky friend to the front of the line as the report of the rifle was heard.

If you are looking for black bear killing ammo for your grandfather’s gently used 30-30 lever action rifle, the 28A / 30-30 will get that job done and is safe to use in almost all of the older lever actions. For you technical folks go to the Buffalo Bore website. Tim has done a lot of research on how all of his ammo performs and he has provided you with charted data on each type of ammo and each different bullet used in that caliber. I do not want to face down a brown bear with only a 30-30 rifle in my hands, but with Tim’s 190 grain bullet ammo, I would suggest there is nothing in the lower 48 states that the 28A / 30-30 round could not stop if you keep the shooting under 150 yards.

John Wayne never had ammo this good back in his day.

Interestingly, Tim advised me that he sells more of his 28A / 30-30 ammo in Alaska than any other state. A lot of 30-30 lever action rifles are in use in that state. Many are carried for personal safety and the 190 grain bullet greatly improves your survivability odds in bear country. Export issues are being worked out, but I would suggest that once Buffalo Bore Ammo moves across the southern Canadian border it will find its place in a good percentage of the 30-30 rifles up there. For your hunting adventures to the Great White North, Gordon McGowan at Milarm Gun Shop in Edmonton, Alberta ( is my suggested point of contact. Gordon is extremely knowledgeable about firearms and Canadian hunting.

Truthfully with more of the 28A / 30-30 ammo already in Alaska, perhaps the ammo will be flowing south into western Canada.

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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  1. “…working at a gun shop in the Chicago area.”

    Bzzzzzzzt! Gabba-gabba. Does. Not. Compute.
    Kzzzzzzzachhzzzzzzz……BLAM! Ka-bOOm!!!

  2. Except I don’t see a .30-30 in that picture, much less a Marlin or model 336.. Those rifles appear to be falling blocks. Following the link to the Buffalo Bore site shows that Cape Buff was taken with a .45-70, with substantially heavier bullets.

    • That 190 grain bullet looks nice, but I like the Hornady 160 grain LeverEvolution bullet better. The on-game performance of the Hornady LeverEvolution is the best I’ve seen so far from a .30-30 (vs. Federal Nosler partition 170 grain, Federal 150, and Remington 170 grain soft points) for white tail deer. Plus, you get a decent – for a .30-30 – ballistic coefficient.

      I could see the 190 being better for big game, but I’d just go up to a .45-70 or .45-70 +P. Buffalo Bore loads some heroic .45-70 loads. The .45-70 LeverEvolution knocks deer down with authority, but expands a little too much for heavier game, in my opinion. The Buffalo Bore 350 grain .45-70 JSP has great penetration into milk jugs, but I haven’t tried it on game. It seems to be a great heavy round but would probably whistle right through a white tail deer.

  3. I had a pre safety marlin 336. My son has it now. The .30-30 is a good round and all those light, easy to carry lever guns make great companion rifles for someone that wants a decent tool in their hands in case of trouble. If you routinely work in remote spots or travel isolated areas you can do a lot worse than a .30-30 behind the seat or in the trunk.

    I put a cheap elastic cuff on the butt of mine that held 9 rounds. 6 in the tube gave you 15 rounds just by picking up the rifle.

    • I can’t remember where I found it, but someone also makes a cuff that goes around the rile body itself.

      My Marlin is an 1894c in .38/.357 in a scout setup, so the cuff doesn’t interfere with the scope, YMMV. I’m sure I remember they also made one for 30-30.

      With that setup I have 28 rounds of stout .357 just by grabbing the rifle.

      I also have a rifle that is admittedly a little silly looking, all bristling with bullets, but in a grab and go situation, I’m not going to care a whit about that.

      • I tape AK mags side by side so I can have 60 rounds by just grabbing the rifle.

        If I used 5.56 I would probaby couple together three magazines.

        What always annoys me a bit about those cuffs is that they hold 9 rounds while most bolt actions have 5 round magazines. It doesn’t add up and thusly always annoys me a bit.

        • I always find it annoying that Ak and AR mags hold 30 rounds, but ammo comes in 20, 50, and 100 round packs. It’s a conspiracy to make me buy more ammo and mags just to get the numbers to match. It’s just like buying hot dogs in a 12 pack, only to find the buns come in 8 packs. Who the hell is in charge of this stuff?

  4. When it comes to measuring a round the first place I start with is Muzzle Energy. That usually gives me a good idea of what the round is going to do. The 30-30 comes in at about 1500 ft-lbs. Same as an AK-47 7.62×39. It typically use old car rims as targets for these sort of rounds and they both have the same effect more or less. They both rip through both sides of a rim. When using 7.62×39 with a soft point, the effect is even closer and the rim moves exactly the same way.

    • In my part of the woods people used to call the AK the “poor mans deer rifle”. I remember being in a surplus store and the guy had an SKS with a sign over it that said “po-wite-boy special: 100 rounds and one rifle for $150!” Those days are long gone now.

  5. i did almost all my hunting with a winchester 30-30 until i inherited my grandfathers winchester 1886 in 45-70.
    As a student with out much cash back then i was making my own ammo casting out of old wheel weights a round nose flat point gas check slug that weighed in the 2o4 grain area depending on the make up of the salvage lead and wheel weight alloy i was using at the timein about ten years of shooting it none of the game got away and they included a lot of white tail shot on our own farm… many of them taken for depredations to our crops where no bag limit entered the picture.. a moos and two black bears also fell to it.

    it is not hard to work up a stout load for a30-30 rifle in good condition and i sure can not understand paying that kind of cash for 20 rounds.

    i do admit putting 6 into one of those bears though i had surprised it in the woods about 40 yards away and he turned towards me and started running at mu first shot which may have been deflected by the brush or just a clean miss.i fired 7 times and he dropped about 10 yards from me…. i admit he scarred me…but 4 of my shots were in the heart lung area and one in his brain… i was very glad of the ammo in the tube and lever action winchesters were my hunting guns as long as i could still use iron sights well.

  6. My guess is they are using some powder like Alliant Reloder 17, burn rate similar to 4350 (IMR or H) but super dense so it can fill smaller case capacities with an added burn rate stabilizing chemical that helps it hit peak pressure longer. You get the huff to push heavy bullets without dangerous pressures. A lot of folks are using RE17 for pushing 208 and 210 grain bullets at 30-06 velocities out of 308’s at pressures well under 60k psi.

  7. It took me a minute to realize there were guns, game and other people in the photo. What a trophy! Oh, and nice shot I guess.

  8. At $65 per 20, that ammo had better be something very special. They aren’t just grandpa’s old rifle — my Marlin 336 is the first and only centerfire rifle in my collection (so far).

    Eventually bigger/faster/more powerful rifles will live in my safe, but I don’t foresee anything eclipsing my .30-30. I love, LOVE shooting it (nothing better than running a good levergun), and though it might be on the light side for moose or grizzly, I still wouldn’t feel undergunned using it against anything that’s likely to make me shoot it, up to and including barbarians at the gate.

    It’s good to see the old .30-30 getting some love.

    • I’ve shot a decent amount of Buffalo Bore in the past but my go-to for extra stout ammo switched to Underwood Ammo a couple years ago. Also shot some DoubleTap but overall DT vs BB vs Uw I find that Underwood is more accurate with its velocity stats, priced lower, top quality, and hot, hot ammo. They aren’t as geared towards hunting as BB but still offer heavy for caliber, hard cast lead bullets in many calibers. Including the 10mm bear loads that live in my G20sf when hiking in the mountains around these parts.

      • I couldn’t do better than 1.5 MOA with the Underwood .308 Win 168 grain Amax rated at 2840 FPS from my Rem 700 .308 (Burris XTR 312 on US Optics rings and picatinny rail mount). Everything was tight and clean, I just couldn’t achieve any better accuracy than that.

        I wound up giving up several boxes to my buddy with a 16 ” POF .308 with a Leupold Mark 6 (La Rue LT-111) mount. He got 1.5 – 2 MOA as well.

        Their handgun ammo in .40 – 165 grain is about as accurate as Winchester PDX, but I think the extra velocity causes a bit of accuracy degradation in the rifle calibers. Other than that, everything has been reliable and the prices are great. YMMV.

        • Yeah higher than normal velocity isn’t going to suit all firearms. The stuff I’ve sent over a chronograph proved to be nice and consistent, but most guns favor a specific combo of bullet weight and velocity for best accuracy and some are more sensitive than others when you deviate from that.

          I’d like to see what this stuff does out of a lever gun with 16″ or longer barrel! I’d like to get a rifle in .44 mag to keep my Super Blackhawk company. Reminds me, I should borrow my grandfather’s Ruger 44 Carbine.

      • Mind that shooting lead slugs out of your Glock is not recommended by Glock. There have been plenty of kabooms. Lots of folks on the Internet say that the hard cast gas check slugs are fine, but you know what Internet opinions are worth. I decided it was worth the extra $.50/round and run Corbon 200gr round nose penetrators in my G20 when in bear country. The RNPN slug is basically an FMJ with a mother of a jacket on it and is designed to penetrate rather than expand. That’s what I’d be looking for if a black bear were to charge me so as to give me the best chance of a central nervous system hit, or failing that, to break a critical bone.

        I tried a Lone Wolf 10mm barrel for the hardcast pills but found that reliability went into the dumpster with the full-house loads. I suspect that a beefier recoil spring would fix it but haven’t wanted to mess with it.

  9. My .30-.30 Marlin 336 from 1985? Has brought down many whitetail over the years. I have used the Windows powerpoint 150grain round for the most part. You put that round in the right place and the hear and lungs will be pink foam when you gut the deer.

    Mine used to have a scope for a short time. Now I use these….

    Amazing sights. I have them zeroed at 100 yards. Where I live most deer are taken under 100 yards.

  10. I would argue that the most significant leap forward for 30-30 ammo in a lever action is the Hornady 160gr FTX round, and a box of 20 at Academy is forty bucks per box cheaper than the ridiculously priced Buffalo Bore ammo. Mount a red dot on a Marlin 336, load it up with FTX rounds, and you’ve got a 19th century rifle that is mighty effective in the 21st century for defense and hunting.

    • That’s my dad’s current set up – a Marlin 336 with a red dot and LeverEvolution. My son will use a Winchester Trapper with a 4x scope and the same load.

  11. Aint no sense on this earth for a box of ANY .30-30 to EVER cost that much, My God .45-70 is just like $46 a 20rd. box. That’s just plum silly. If you want to hunt Cape Buffalo or bear and everything else just get one of those Marlin .45-70 (or .450Marlin) Giude guns in the lever. This whole thing just sounds crazy to me, plus the accuracy is nothing to brag about w/the .30-30, gotta hit the thing first. No-doubt the .30-30 has put more Venison on the table than anything and is a round-nose kinda slow mover that doesn’t tear-up a lot of meat….now the mixed feelings are coming out…..Oh hell I just love all guns ! Cant really say anything bad about any of them..but I just don’t think I’d grab a .30-30 if I was going big game hunting that’s all.

  12. Love my 1976ish Model 94- I swear the rifle aims itself. The bluing is worn off and she ain’t pretty but it will shoot a tick off the ass of a whitetail out to 150 yards with 170g CoreLokts using iron sights. In the hands of an old uncle of mine it was a deadly rifle out well past 200 maybe even 300 yards. I haven’t tried this ammo or the leverevolution simply because CORE LOKTs get the job done for well less than $20 a box.

    I love these guys that bad mouth a lever action and shoot 300 win mag overscoped with a 4-24x to kill deer in the Eastern Woods. To each his own but makes no damn sense to me at all. BTW, I wouldn’t grab my 30-30 to go to Africa and kill a Cape Buffalo or whatever that magnificent animal is.

  13. My only problem with this article is most of those lever action rifles in the cowboy shows were Winchester 1892s, which were never chambered for 30-30. I’m guessing most of them shot 44-40, like the one Chuck Connors carried in The Rifleman.

  14. If you are a reloader…the 30-30 is an awesome round.

    They take cast bullets well for plinking. Case life is high and you can generally find a load that makes your gun shoot as well as any $800 deer rifle.

    I love (L-O-V-E) loading up 100 grain 30 carbine bullets. They are almost a 3000fps barrel of fun! So much fire / noise. Much fun.

  15. I’d also like to clarify something he said about carrying lever actions in Canada. Although the 30-30 is a popular deer caliber up here too, the lever actions that Canadians carry instead of pistols (since pistol carry permits, even for the wilderness, are hard to get) are actually pistol caliber shorties (like a mare’s leg).

    Short barreled rifles and shotguns are extremely easy to get in Canada so they are carried as wilderness defense guns since pistols are too controlled. Shotguns with 8.5 or 12.5 inch barrels are common for this with single or double barrels, as are mare’s legs in like 357, 44 or 45lc. The idea being that a long barrel is harder to carry and deploy quickly and/or in close quarters if the animal is nearly on top of you already.

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  17. Ok, so I am adding my two cents, six years later on this thread. Just have to say, in Canada 30 30 has always been the go to bear gun. Mares legs are rare and expensive. Also 30 30 has almost twice the energy than a .44 out of a mares leg. While 44 magnum sounds way more powerful than 30 30, I assure you it is not. Everyone has a 30 30 in their camper for bear protection or when hiking. Don’t under estimate the use of 30 30 for wilderness protection. One of the largest grizzlies ever shot in Alberta was taken by an old native woman with a .22 long(thats LONG not LR). The story is hard to believe. While I would probably have thrown the gun at the bear and run up a tree, she slowly concentrated until she shot it at almost point blank in the side of the skull. So perhaps we get a bit gun snobish these days at what we need and what we want. I am older now and also have gone back to medium calibres over shooting everything with a .300 win magnum, like I did in my early days. The more stories I heard from very experienced hunters, over the years, the more I was impressed with what people used to do with a mere 30 30. Moose, grizzly and elk all hunted and harvested with plain old 170 grain soft point ammo. The biggest Elk my dad ever shot, was with an old 1955 marlin 30 30 and Winchester 170 grain Silvertips, shot at 100 yards and killed with one round. So obviously I have nostalgia for this caliber. Is it the best choice for one gun? Probably not. But a great light weight lever action slung over your shoulder whilst walking through the woods, has kept many Canadians from becoming bear bait or I must add victims of two legged predators in remote places. Lever action 30 30’s have saved more Canadians from harm than the RCMP ever will and that is something no one will ever admit. Now to finish up here. I have acquired buffalo bore 190gr 30 30 ammo and tested them. The penetration is superior to anything I have ever used. I have no idea what people are talking about when they say any of the other 170’s are better for penetration. While plain old federal 170’s were always my round of choice for penetration, I will now be loading these expensive Buffalo Bore 190’s for wilderness protection rounds. They went through my test media a complete pass through, equal to the 45 70 round, but with a smaller hole obviously. So think about that. Your old trapper now has way more street cred for bear protection than ever before. Buy a box of buffalo bore just for wilderness protection and use cheaper rounds to hunt with. Do not use Hornady Leverevolution for bear protection. They have superior energy and distance to normal 30 30 rounds, but only penetrated one foot through the same test media the Buffalo Bore put a hole through like a laser. Take that for what you will, but these are my 30 30 bear defense rounds from now on and are worth every penny. On a side note, the federal 170 grain soft points even out penetrated the Leverevolution rounds in my test media. That being said, the Leverevolution bullets are awesome and superior deer rounds, which I love. They are just too explosive to be good bear defense rounds, dumping their energy fast and with authority. One last thing. Yes 45 70 is a better bear defense round, but if you have a 30 30, like so many others, why not buy these Buffalo Bores and call it a day? I have total confidence in their effectiveness after my tests. Thumbs up for hard cast bullets! That brave old native woman had confidence and patience in her I will always respect and admire(she deserved a medal, God bless her soul…). Thinking of her, I ask myself if perhaps confidence and patience trumps needing the maximum firepower every time. Keeping a cool head has saved more people from harm than anything else, I would imagine. I still can’t believe she killed that bear with a .22 long in a single shot rifle. Gives me chills…Gives new meaning to the phrase, “the best gun is the one you have in your hands” huh? Or perhaps “fear the man that owns one gun”, because that .22 single shot was the only rifle she owned. I have rambled on more than I intended, keep in mind all this is only my opinion based on my personal experience, your mileage may vary! I would like to know if that cape buffalo was shot with a thudy thudy or it was just a picture…I am dying to say what a marvelous rack, but being a gentleman, I won’t do that…

    • Jamie, you said, “I would like to know if that cape buffalo was shot with a thudy thudy or it was just a picture…”
      I clicked on the picture of the cape buffalo, and it links to an article saying it was shot with a 45-70, so the answer, unfortunately, is no.


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