HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Except for the .30-06 Springfield, there probably has been more printed matter published about Winchester’s Model 1894 rifle and its .30-30 cartridge than any other North American hunting rifle and cartridge – and for good reason. The Model 94’s combination of potent firepower in a compact, lightweight, comfortable-to-carry and quick-shooting package has made it an extremely popular deer hunting rifle.
The .30-30 Winchester (or .30 WCF) is the cartridge that has become synonymous with the Model 1894. Among big-game cartridges, the .30-30 is not a powerhouse and is viewed by many in the gun media as a powder puff cartridge. However, the .30-30 is adequate for killing deer and small game at open sight ranges.
The Hornady Reloading Manual lists a .30-30 loaded with 35 grains of H335 powder and 150 grain round nose bullet will produce a muzzle velocity of 2,300 feet per second and 1,762 foot pounds of energy, which isn’t exactly a barn burner, but potent enough for taking nearly all medium-size game at ranges of 100 to 150 yards.
When it comes to recoil, the .30-30 will not beat you up. In fact, the recoil is quite moderate. Chuck Hawks, shooting authority and author, said in his article, “The Classic .30-30 Winchester,” that a “7.5-pound .30-30 rifle shooting the standard 150 grain factory load generates about 11.7 pounds of recoil energy. For comparison, a .30-06 rifle of the same weight shooting a 150 grain factory load generates about 21.7 pounds of recoil energy. Most hunters can shoot the .30-30 well, as its recoil is below the 20 foot pounds upper limit for sustained use and the 15 foot pounds maximum most hunters can shoot comfortably.”
The Winchester Model 1894 is not without some drawbacks. In relation to its main competitor, such as the Marlin Model 336, the Winchester ejects cartridges from the top on the receiver and over the user’s shoulder, rather than to the side. A top-ejecting firearm can’t mount a scope on the top of the receiver – the most convenient location for the shooter without destroying the function of the gun. A scope for such a firearm must instead be mounted either far forward on the barrel (where it must be specifically designed for that purpose) or offset to the side of the gun, which creates problems due to parallax. This was not a problem when the rifle was first designed, because telescopic scopes were not readily available, and when they were, they were very expensive. Most pre-World War-era 1894s had a peep sight mounted to the rear of the receiver, which maximized the accuracy potential of the factory installed iron sights.
The Winchester Model 1894 holds the record for the best-selling high-powered rifle in U.S. history and the first sporting rifle to sell over 7 million units. The millionth model was given to President Calvin Coolidge in 1927. The 1.5 millionth was given to President Harry S. Truman on May 8, 1948, and the 2 millionth unit was given to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953.
Although the .30-30 may not be a cartridge for handloaders, it is the cartridge for woodsmen. There are cartridges that shoot farther, flatter and harder with more bounce per ounce, but despite all its criticism, through the years the .30-30 has proven to be an effective meatgetter.
Somehow to me, a gun cabinet that doesn’t have a Winchester Model 1894 in it is like a chorus line of dancers wearing only one shoe.