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Best .30-30 Ammo: Harvesting Deer Since 1895

One-hundred twenty-three years ago the .30-30 Winchester was launched.  

In August of 1895, the first Model 1894 Winchester rifle appeared in the Winchester catalog.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Winchester Model 94 in .30-30
Winchester Model 94 in .30-30

The .30-30 was the first commercially available small-bore rifle cartridge in the US designed for use with smokeless powder.  By today’s standards, the .30-30 should have faded from the shooting scene long ago.

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Compared to cartridges like the popular 6.5 Creedmoor and the .30-06 and the .300 Winchester Magnum, the 30-30 pales in comparison when we look at the trajectory, velocity, and downrange power.

However, the 30-30 lives on and in recent surveys looking at sales of centerfire rifle cartridges the .30-30 still rank number four in annual sales.

How can that be?  The ‘94 Winchester set the stage long ago for lightweight and handy rifles.  With the then new .30-30 cartridge hunters had a quick-handling rifle with adequate power for any deer or black bear inside of 150 yards.  

With only 10 foot-pounds of felt recoil, the handy little .30-30 is an ideal way to introduce young shooters to the world of centerfire rifles. The perfect combination!

Arguably, the two most popular rifles for the .30-30 are the Winchester Model 94 and the Marlin 336.  

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I love packing my Model ‘94 Trapper in the whitetail woods of northeast Washington.  At only six pounds I can carry it all day and know I am adequately armed for any opportunity at a whitetail, black bear or mountain lion that may occur.

Mountain lion, bad kitty!
Mountain lion, bad kitty!

However, I still need a couple more .30-30’s in my accumulation;  a Marlin 336CS has long been on my list and someday I’ll find the right one.

 I’d also like to delve into the world of specialty handguns and the .30-30 in Thompson Center Contender with a Super 14 barrel seems like just the ticket for sniping at ground squirrels, coyotes, deer and maybe even antelope.

So what kind of ammo is available today to feed a .30-30 for sportsmen?

.30-30 Ammo
.30-30 Ammo

Keep in mind that all ammo that is being fed from a tubular magazine needs to be flat or round-nose to prevent detonation in the magazine tube due to recoil.  The exception is with Hornady’s LeverEvolution Flex Tip ammo and if you single load spitzer bullets.

For the most part, .30-30 ammo is available in 150- and 170-grain round-nose and flat-nose loads.  There are a few exceptions and hand loaders will find there are some options available for single loaded and lightweight plinking bullets.

Best .30-30 Factory Ammunition for Hunting

1. Remington CORE-LOKT

Walk into any rural hardware store or mini-mart and you are likely to spot a green and yellow box of Remington .30-30 ammo on the shelf.  

Gold Standard for "Do-It-All" .30-30
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available in 150- and 170-grain CORE-LOKT Soft Point bullets this ammo will serve you well for any deer or bear hunting trip you take with your trusty .30-30.  These bullets are designed for uniform expansion and weight retention.

2. Winchester Super-X Power Point

Like the Remington ammunition above, the Super-X offering from Winchester is likely to be found just about everywhere you can purchase centerfire rifle ammo.  

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Super-X ammunition is available in 150 and 170-grain loads and has been helping hunters harvest deer, bear, and other big game since 1922.

3. Winchester Power-Max Bonded

This load features a protected hollow point and bonded construction.  With the bonding, the bullet core and jacket stay together to provide deep penetration and controlled expansion.  

These cartridges are available in 150- and 170-grain loads and are specially designed with the deer hunter in mind.

4. Hornady FTX LEVERevolution

This ammunition is loaded with the Hornady 160 grain Flex Tip (FTX) bullet.  The bullet has a patented flexible tip that allows a spitzer-type bullet to be used in tubular magazines.

Best Hunting & Self-Defense .30-30 Ammo
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The FTX bullet allows up to 250 feet per second more velocity than the traditional round or flat-nose bullets we have been discussing.  With increased velocity comes a flatter trajectory and more downrange energy.

Hornady’s website indicates the 160-grain FTX is suitable for up to elk-size game.  As always, correct shot placement is key.

Meat, it's whats for dinner.
Aim for the heart and lungs!

5. Federal Fusion

Federal .30-30 ammo is available in 150 and 170-grain loads.  The Fusion ammo features an electrochemically bonded jacket and core. 

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

In addition, the bullet is a boat-tail design to provide greater accuracy at all ranges.  The fusion offers extreme expansion and great weight retention.

What’s your take on the Fusion?

Readers' Ratings

4.97/5 (455)

Your Rating?

Plinking and Long Range Shooting

All of the ammunition listed above would work just fine for hunting deer, black bear, hogs, and in the right circumstances, game as large as elk and moose.  

Because the .30-30 is such a light recoiling cartridge, you may find yourself just plinking or even doing a little ground squirrel sniping or coyote hunting with your favorite lever gun.  The 150-grain offerings will work just fine and you’ll learn about longer-range trajectory with your hunting rifle.

Gold Standard for "Do-It-All" .30-30
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Things begin to get interesting if you are a handloader.  Pick something like a Nosler Ballistic Tip 125-grain bullet.  Then dive into the reloading manual and load up some rounds found in the handgun section.

You will have to single load these rounds as they are a spitzer design and have a hard polymer tip.  Now you have a much more aerodynamic bullet for reaching out a bit further.

On the site, you can find load info with Hornady 100-grain varmint bullets with muzzle velocities approaching 3,000 feet per second.  With a zero of three inches high at 100 yards, your lever gun is now on at 300 yards and only 20 inches low at 400 yards.  

Who says that long-range shooting isn’t possible with an old-fashioned lever gun?

Chuck Norris Approved

If you push the same 100-grain plinking bullet at around 2,000 feet per second you now have a great round with very little recoil for teaching new shooters.

Parting Shots

The .30-30 can be a very accurate cartridge in rifles that are in good condition.  My little ‘94 Trapper easily put 3 shots in one hole when I was preparing for a mountain lion hunt in 2014.

.30-30 Accuracy
.30-30 Accuracy

My gun prefers 150-grain round-nose bullets.  At 100 yards the rifle is capable of sub-MOA groups, I just don’t know if my eyes are that good anymore.

In my humble opinion, everyone should have a lever action .30-30 in their collection.  The guns are fun, accurate and capable of putting meat in the freezer year after year.  

If you want more lever-action awesomeness, you’ll want to read about the Henry Lever-Action rifles that we’ve reviewed.

Tell us about your favorite loads and experience with your .30-30! Have many deer have you taken with it? Plan on using it on the next season’s hunt? Check out more caliber load suggestions in our Ammo & Reloading section.

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11 Leave a Reply

  • Wally

    I bought my first center fire rifle when I was 15 , a Winchester Buffalo Bill carbine. To this day the most accurate 30-30 I’ve ever owned. I hunted with it exclusively for nearly 20 yrs. Even after buying 30-06 and others. I only quit when my eyes started giving me problems, mostly from floaters I acquired from being a hard headed young man that didn’t mind a few knots on the head when I thought I was right. My father would say someone said shut up and you thought they said stand up. Prolly right about that. I never wanted to scope my Winchester so started carrying my 06 hunting.
    I’ve since put the 06 down. 6mm Remington ruger m77 put it down. 308 rem I still use and like but the last whitetail I put down was a nice 8pnt with a nosler 125 ballistic tip in a savage over under 20ga 30x30 with a 4 power scope at 165 yrds. Through the heart dead right there. I have six 30-30 rifles in my house right now. More than any other caliber. Don’t under estimate what a 30-30 will do for you. I’ll shut up now.

    April 1, 2021 4:53 pm
  • William H.

    Been hunting deer exclusively with a Win 94 30-30 since 1975. There's simply no better round for hunting in Appalachia. The BEST ammo, though, is easily Leverevolution. I sighted my scope in at 150 and its still within 1 inch at 200, within an amazing 2-3 inches at 250 with more than adequate kill power. No other ammo is even close, that I've found.

    October 19, 2020 5:07 am
  • Larry S.

    I shoot a 26" barrel 94 model. It really likes the 170 grain winchester and Remington core locks. Its a heavy hitter in 170. The 150 grain jhp opens your target up like a can opener. Accurate to 200 yds.
    As its been said, the 30-30 winchester has been putting food on the table and has served well as a defensive caliber for over 100 years and the loading on the market have been old standbys for decades at a cheap price and have always been reliable. There was a couple guys got themselves a mulie a couple years ago with the new expensive leveroution rounds which did nothing exceptional, or exceed what the $10 a box ammo ever did.

    February 8, 2020 8:30 pm
  • Allen

    Picked up a 1948 Marlin 336RC in 30-30 at a pawn shop. It had been shot a lot and a little dirty. Cleaned it up and it shoots spot-on. It likes the 150gr Winchester Power-Max Bonded and Remm Core-Lokt. Article after article says 30-30 should be on its way out, but I bought a box of Remington ammo tonight. Academy carries 8 types of 30-30 ammo and 4 of those were sold out. That says it all

    November 1, 2019 6:58 pm
  • mike

    Remington 788 bolt 30/30
    Savage 340 bolt 30/30
    Savage 170 pump 30/30
    Deer /Black Bear /Boar /varmint-predators
    Winchester 150gr Hollow point

    June 8, 2019 12:09 pm
    • Jack

      Yep. Would be nice if they were still available. Gone for many years now.

      October 17, 2019 12:43 pm
  • Trotter

    Is there any other rifles that shoot the 30-30 cal ammo?

    April 21, 2019 10:37 am
    • Rob

      Google it.

      October 17, 2019 12:43 pm
  • Trotter

    Is there any other rifles that shoot the 30-30 caliber??

    April 21, 2019 10:36 am
  • Louis Steyn

    I have a Winchester 94 with which I regularly take medium African game using 170gr Federal ammo at shorter ranges (under 125 yards). All low shoulder shots and never lost an animal - mostly Impala, Blesbuck, Zebra , young Kudu bulls etc. Would not use it on anything bigger nor wold I stretch my shots further. Great little gun to carry all day in the bush though.
    Louis Steyn
    South Africa

    February 24, 2019 4:15 am
  • Skip LeMay

    I have only shot a few rounds out of my Model 94 30-30 so I don't have a hunting story, what I can tell you is my father bought it for $15 when he was 16 yrs old (almost 70 yrs ago!). He passed it on to me in 1983. When he was younger he did some deer hunting with it.
    It only has five digits in the serial number. Several years ago we did some research and determined that it was manufactured in 1896! The blowing is mostly all gone, the finish on the stock is thin, but it is still a straight shooter. I hope to take a deer with it in the near future. And then pass it on to one of my sons (might have to figure out a time sharing plan - lol!).

    October 25, 2018 6:55 pm
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