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The 3030 Rifle FAQ:

    The oldest American smokeless powder cartridge is the venerable 30-30 Winchester. This cartridge was originally scheduled to be a black powder cartridge with a .30 caliber bullet, and 30 grains of black powder, but before production started, the new semi-smokeless powders invented in Europe became available, and Winchester used it as a sales ploy to enhance the new rifle. A gazillion of the Winchester Model 93 & 94 lever action rifles and the Marlin 336 lever action rifles have been sold in this country alone. Many of the older rifles will be marked .30WCF, (.30 Winchester Center Fire)

    There are a number of bolt action and pump action rifles chambered for this cartridge as well, but this FAQ will deal with the care and feeding of the most popular rifles, the lever actions.

    Marlin VS Winchester

    Depending on where you live, who your granddaddy was, and on which side of the mountain you live on, you will probably have an opinion as to which one is the best. I will give you the pluses and minus of each, and let you keep or change your opinion as you will. Save your flames... I'm writing this, not you... and if you have a different opinion, spend the time writing your own.

    Marlin

    The Marlin 336, was also sold under the Monkey Wards (Western Field), Western Auto (Revelation), Sears (Ted Williams), KMart etc. , labels. They came in several versions, from a short barreled "Trapper" model to a octagon barreled commemorative. Plain and fancy. Basic wood to checkered and engraved

    The plus side to the Marlin 336:

    Strong!

    This action is by far, stronger than the Winchester. The massive mono block receiver has been used for other more powerful cartridge conversions, up to and including the 307 and 375 Winchester cartridges. A lengthened version is the base for the Marlin 1895 45-70.

    Low Maintenance:

    The bolt is a rear locking plug of steel with minimum moving parts. The cartridge lifter and magazine cutoff are simple and low tech.

    Ease of Disassembly:

    To clean a 336, be sure the chamber and magazine is empty. Place the hammer on full cock. Remove the single screw that holds the lever to the receiver, and pull the lever straight down and out of the gun. Pull the bolt out of the back of the action. Your done. Assembly is just as easy. Just reverse the order. Period.

    Ease of scope mounting:

    The flat top, side eject is very suitable for mounting a scope. By using "see thru" scope mounts, you can use the iron sights, as well as the scope. If you are short necked, this may cause you to develop a bit of a stiff neck raising your head to use the scope. Many folks mount a 2X or 4X fixed power on a low Weaver type mount. If they get into heavy brush, or the scope gets damages, they simply remove the scope, and use the iron sights. Most Marlins since 1968 come drilled and tapped for scope mounts easily available just about anywhere... KMart etc.

    Ease of peep sight mounting:

    The flat sided receiver is perfect for mounting a peep sight, and since 1968, Marlin drills and taps each of their lever actions for a peep sight. A good Williams FP peep sight is probably the best modification a person can do to any lever rifle. It makes this rifle a snap to snap shoot, accurate and quick to pick up running game.

    Price:

    The Marlin can usually be purchased for $40-$100 cheaper than the Winchester, new.

    The minus side to the Marlin 336:

    Heavy:

    On the average, the Marlin weighs 1-2 pounds more than the Winchester. You have to pay for the extra strength somewhere. However, this does tend to make felt recoil a bit softer than the Winchester.

    Rougher action feel:

    The low end Marlins tend to be a bit rougher than the Winchester. The long solid bolt tends to drag a bit, but can be polished a bit to help. Unless you have handled an old, well broken in Winchester, you will probably not notice the difference.

    Cast bullet shooting is SO-SO:

    ... with the standard modern Micro groove rifling. Cast your bullets hard, and keep velocities below 1600 fps with most bullets. I have shot several that would shoot well at 2,100 fps, and others that would not stay on paper at 1600 fps with the same bullet. I prefer a 120 Lee at 1500 fps for small game, and a 175 FP at 1600+- for larger game. Your mileage may vary.

    Factory sights suck:

    ... for anything over 100 yrds. However depending on your environment, this may not be a factor. Adding a good peep sight gets rid of this problem anyway.

    Sling swivels are not a normal factory accessory:

    ... however a number of after market swivels are available, and easily and quickly added.

    Winchester Mod 94

    The Winchester 94, was also sold under the Monkey Wards (Western Field), Western Auto (Revelation), Sears (Ted Williams), KMart etc. , labels. They came in several versions, from a short barreled "Trapper" model to an octagon barreled commemorative. Plain and fancy. Basic wood to checkered and engraved. Yup, just like the Marlin.

    The plus side of the Mod 94:

    Light:

    A 94 weighs 1-2 pounds less than a Marlin 336, and seems to be a dream to carry in the field. However this is noticeable in increased felt recoil.

    Traditional looks:

    The 94 is the "look" that others have tried to copy (except Marlin)

    Smooth:

    A well broken-in 94 is like glass sliding on glass. Some of the new guns are not finished so nicely, but are still very smooth.

    Cast bullets shoot quite nicely:

    ... up to factory levels in most guns. Your mileage may vary. I've owned several that were tack drivers with cast, and others that had a hard time hitting the ground with cast. Bore condition in older 94s is very important. Lots of early 94s had shallow rifling, old corrosive primers and poor cleaning techniques have left their toll.

    Ease of peep sight mounting:

    The flat sided receiver is perfect for mounting a peep sight, and since the mid 60's, Winchester drills and taps each of their lever actions for a peep sight. A good Williams FP peep sight is probably the best modification a person can do to any lever rifle. It makes this rifle a snap to snap shoot, accurate and quick to pick up running game

    Granddaddy had one:

    This may be important to you. Your mileage may vary.

    The minus side of the Mod 94:

    Fragile and Moderately Weak action:

    The 94 is a bit fragile, and requires more TLC than the Marlin. The receiver will bulge under loads the Marlin sneers at. Granted, these are Way Over factory pressures, but....The action is heavily dependent on grasshopper springs and lots of small fragile parts.

    Fairly sensitive to debris and dirt:

    I've never seen a 94 jammed due to mang in the action, but I've seen a bunch that were loose or worn out due to poor maintenance. Tolerances seem to be tighter on cartridge lifter and magazine cutoff, and when dirt and sand get inside, wear is greatly accelerated.

    Take down is easy, reassembly can be a pain:

    Disassembly is similar to the Marlin, but reassembly can be somewhat frustrating, getting the cartridge lifter and bolt pawls lined up correctly, particularly on an older, more worn rifle.

    A bitch to mount a scope:

    The top eject makes the use of special scope mounts mandatory. Some of these mounts place the scope of to the left side of the receiver, others require special mounting to the barrel, and long eye relief scopes to be used. A major pain in the butt, if you ever decide you need a scope.

    Factory sights suck:

    ... for anything over 100 yrds. However depending on your environment, this may not be a factor. Adding a good peep sight gets rid of this problem anyway.

    Sling swivels are not a normal factory accessory:

    ... however a number of after market swivels are available, and easily and quickly added.

    This is why there are Fords and Chevys:

    You make up your own mind. Me, I own a number of Marlins, and no Winchester 94s, presently. I love the look and feel of a good old 94, but for a down and dirty everyday utility gun, I go with the Marlins.

    This is not to say that if you own a Winchester, you should run out and trade it off. The Winchester is a fine rifle, and a 100 years have proven it to be reliable, accurate enough for most uses, and a nice handy gun to have around.

    The 30-30 Cartridge:

    The 30-30 comes in two normal factory loadings. The 150gr flat nose soft point and the 170gr round or flat nose soft point. Neither loading holds a candle to any of the .30 caliber center fire cartridges, such as the 308, 300 Savage, 30-06 etc.

    Most 150gr factory loads run under 2,200 fps.

    Most 170gr factory loads run under 2,100 fps and closer to 1,800 fps.

    Yes I know what they claim, but I have access to a chronograph....ok?

    Careful hand loads can get the 150FP up to about 2400 fps but it is a low pressure round at best.

    At best, the range of the 30-30 in the average mans hand is about 175 yds,for clean kills on deer sized game. The flat point does a great job of breaking bone and mashing organs even before expansion occurs.

    My own personal favorite handload uses the Sierra 125gr JHP at about 2,600 fps. A great deer load on our western blacktails, and a dandy varmint load as well. Unbelievably accurate in both Marlins and Winchesters. The 30-30 is well suited to cast bullet loads, from the 100gr to the 180gr FP. Jacketed loads are easily duplicated with cast bullet loads.

    Millions of deer are taken every year with this cartridge, and it equally good as a man stopper.

    Many law enforcement agencies in years past have used the 30-30 as a very successful round against criminals. Ballistically somewhat equivalent to the 7.62X39, the 30-30 uses a much heavier bullet that penetrates better and mushrooms quite nicely. No Level II or lower vest is capable of stopping this round, and a level III will cause a tremendous amount of blunt trauma at the impact point, usually causing heart failure on a center of mass shot. Its a good, moderately low recoiling round in a woman's hand, and will do a fine job of keeping the boogers out of your hair.

    Misc:

    Most lever action 30-30 hold 6 rounds in the magazine, and one in the chamber. Reloading is moderately quick, but will never beat a box magazine change. If you expect to be in heavy combat, this is not the rifle for you. However, they are mighty hard to beat for everyday, knock around utility use. Short, light, hard hitting, generally rugged and handy. Factory ammunition is quite inexpensive, and if you check Walmart and KMart etc. after hunting season, you can get great prices on ammo. Nearly every mom and pop store in America carries 3030 ammo, and it will generally be easy to find.

    Hand loading this cartridge is a snap, it takes very little powder, and you can share some of the same powders with your handgun ammo, saving on having to stock lots of different powders. Cast bullets may be cast directly from wheel weights, and will perform quite well, and VERY economically. Adding a Lee Loader and a mold to your BOB allows you to reload this cartridge with minimal equipment.

    NOTE: Only flat point or round nose bullets should be used in a lever action. In the tube magazine, the point of one bullet is up against the primer of the next round. A chain fire is possible, and while it may not kill you, will probably blow off your forend hand, and ruin your day. If you must shoot pointed bullets, only keep one in the mag, and one in the chamber!!! You can reload a single round very quickly, and the chances of you needing multiple shots is pretty small. Don't take the chance. A dear friend of mine did, once, and now has a really nice hook where his left hand used to be.

    Safety

    Most lever actions depend on the operator for safety. The new Marlins use a crossbolt safety to block the hammer (more lawyer stuff), but most lever guns have what is called a half-cock notch. The hammer is pulled back about half way, and the sear drops into this deep notch in the hammer. The trigger will not fire the rifle in this position. Most of the time.

    I have seen some very worn Winchesters that were so worn out that the hammer would fall from this notch when the trigger was pulled. The gun USUALLY would not fire but witnessed a very close call once when it did. Walking through heavy brush has been known to rake the hammer to full cock... real scary when you finally notice it.

    The only truly safe way to carry a loaded lever action, with one up the spout, is to put the hammer on half-cock, and lower the lever a bit. enough to get your finger under it. To fire quickly, simply remove your finger, squeeze the lever, and cock the hammer. Most of the time, keeping the chamber empty is the safest way to go, but... your mileage may vary depending on the hostility of your environment at the moment.

    Conclusions:

    Do not feel under gunned if all you have is a lever action 30-30. The rifle is not a combat piece, but can give good duty if called upon to fight off the boogers. The round is hard hitting, more than accurate, if you do your part, and rate of fire is pretty good. Having 7 rounds on call that will do the job out to 175 yds or more, and do it cheaply and not beat you up, while doing very good double duty as a hunting rifle is really all that is required. Yes a "black gun" with lots of 30 rd mags handy may be more macho, but in reality may not be as practical. The .223 is a lousy deer cartridge, and blows the snot out of small game. You must have an appetite for bone, hair and guts in your food if you expect to use one for small game. The same holds true for the 308. Neither cartridge in a semi auto will function with cast loads.

    A good solid lever action 30-30, equipped with a good peep sight, a decent sling, and maybe a low power scope is really hard to beat for an all around, general duty utility weapon.


    9/20/98

    Mark "Gunner" Wieber

    Taft, Ca.

    gunner@lightspeed.net

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