Top .30-30 Hunting Loads
Visit any hunting camp, shooting range, or gun shop and you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody who hasn’t cut their teeth on a 30-30 lever action rifle. Though we live in the days of faster, flatter calibers, the venerable little round will not be pushed into obscurity. What helps keep the chambering viable in the modern era is a contingent of ever-improving factory ammunition offerings aimed at improving accuracy, range, and lethality for hunters. After extensive range and field time, here are the best we’ve found:
Hornady has been setting the standard in lever-gun specific ammunition since their advent of LeveRevolution years ago. The 30-30 was one fading lever gun that has seen its market jump considerably because of such improvements in ammo. The key to the LeveRevolution mint is Hornady’s patented elastomer Flex-Tip technology of either FTX or MonoFlex bullets. That flexiblity serves multiple purposes, not the least being safety in tubular magazines, but also eliminating bullet distortion, and ultimately, improving both range and accuracy. The 160-grain FTX is moving at 2400 fps at the muzzle while the 140-grain MonoFlex zooms at 2465. Both maintain nearly 1700 fps at 300 yards, as well as greater than 1000 ft pounds of energy. Price is very fair given performance at $22-26 online.
Nosler BT Ballistic Tip
Nosler is one of the pricier, albeit more serious rounds out there– and especially in hunting ammo–probably the closest factory to handloading. Every single round is visually inspected before it leaves the factory. Accuracy of the 150-grain BT’s out of Henry’s Brass Wildlife was exceptional at 100 and 200 yards, and if the shooter was comfortable with the ballistics, still holding a minute-of-deer-heart at 300 yards, though energy dissipates more quickly here than it does in LeveRevolution. The BT is coming out at 2100 FPS at the muzzle and maintains 1500 fps and 750 foot-pounds of energy at 200 yards. While whitetails may be the main quarry, Nosler also advertises exceptional performance on hogs and antelope. It’s the highest price on our list at $31-34 online and in stores. Nosler also debuted a lead-free ballistic tip 30-30 as part of its E-Tip line for similar prices.
Federal Premium Big Game Copper
Federal dominated the 30-30 market for years with both Power Shok and Vital Shok hollow points and soft points. But as times and demands change, so does Federal with their new Big Game 30-30 rounds. This lead-free alternative may be the newest to market of the bunch, but the company’s Big Game Trophy copper bullets have been proven on big game from deer on up. The 30-30 should be no different, with attention to detail and topped with 150-grain Trophy polymer-capped bullets. With 2300fps muzzle velocity and 1625fps at 200 yards while maintaining 880 foot pounds of energy, the Big Game round is no slouch. It’s no secret that Federal utilizes Nosler bullets on many of their premium loads, and in this case, the lead-free ballistic tip looks an awful lot like Noslers E-Tip, and is priced similarly as well. Even so, it’s a win, because the Big Game 30-30 shoots very well out to 250 yards.
Hornady American Whitetail
If budget ammunition and simple performance is your game, then Hornady American Whitetail has you covered. With a 150-grain Interlock bullet and load tailored specifically to, you guessed it, deer—this round does its job. While it may not extend your ranges or wring additional accuracy from the 30-30, it is a capable sub-200-yard performer that creates solid wound channels. American Whitetail is coming out over 2300 fps at the muzzle, but both velocity and energy drop off quickly after 100-yards. Price and packaging are appealing at $17-18 on store shelves.
The new-for-late-2017 Non-Typical ammunition fills Federal’s niche for affordable, yet quality rounds created specifically for deer hunters, in direct competition with American Whitetail and Winchester’s Deer Season. In a nice move, Non-Typical offers two soft point bullet weights, both 150 and 170 grain, with advertised muzzle velocity of 2390 and 2200 FPS respectively. The 150-grain holds slightly better groups at and past 100-yards, but also like Hornady’s American Whitetail, killing power decreases quickly at extended ranges. Priced under $18 online and in stores, Non-Typical is the best value of the bunch.
If buying factory ammunition doesn’t trip your trigger, reloading for the 30-30 is both accessible and affordable. Given potential issues with bullet distortion in the tubular magazines of lever actions, serious consideration should be given to using bullets like the Hornady Monoflex, FTX, and Nosler BT. If you prefer to go lead-free, both the Barnes TSX and Nosler E-Tip are solid options, while Hornady even markets its LeveRevolution powder.
Knowing which powder and bullet combination will work best in your individual rifle can take some trial and error, and plenty of range time—but none of that is a bad thing if you love shooting, hunting, and reloading. When time is of the essence though, look no further than any of the factory rounds mentioned above, as each will be more than capable on deer and other game. Whether you favor your Henry 30-30—or heavens forbid, another brand–let us know about your favorite load and lets see those success stories from the field.