As America’s first smokeless cartridge, introduced in 1895, the old 30-30 cartridge isn’t just outdated—it’s the oldest, as are modern American cartridges. Yet it remains as effective as ever. In fact, with today’s loads, the .30-30 cartridge is the best big game cartridge from coast to coast than at any other time in its history. I even used it in the African plains game. So why not get a gun at 30-30? Its only true limits will be reached, as the cartridge is best used within 200 yards. But if you know how to hunt – and shoot – this is rarely a problem. The 30-30’s combination of lethal force, low recoil and the fact that it is usually chambered for handguns is what made it one of the most popular and reliable big game cartridges of all time.
When most people think of the Winchester 30-30, lever action rifles come to mind. After all, the cartridge began with the Winchester 1894. But the 30-30 was also occasionally offered in bolt-action and single-shot rifles. These days, with Marlin currently rebuilding under Ruger, you have options to buy a brand new .30-30 that comes from Winchester or Henry. Those are two good options, but there are also thousands of great used rifles. It is almost impossible to search on the Internet or visit a gun store and not see many stores for sale. But before you buy, take a closer look at this list of the best 30-30 rifles.
1. Winchester Model 94
There is no rifle on the planet that looks like it handles a 94. It’s skinny and rimmed and looks like it just wants to jump into your shoulder. And if it weren’t for 94, there might not be 30-30. The cartridge first appeared with the rifle, and now it is difficult to think of a more American mixture. The gun was hit instantly. It exhibited rapid, frequent fire in a hand grenade and became so ubiquitous that, now, it bee ubiquitous and carried a curse near everything.
Winchester has offered Winchester Model 94s chambered for .30-30 in countless configurations. some were ordinary, some were luxurious, some had short barrels, others had long barrels; Millions have been sold. But in 2006 American production stopped. Now all 94s are made in Japan. However, it is well made. Five versions are currently offered, 20- to 24-inch barrels and priced from $1,300 to $2,230. If that’s more than you want to pay, your best option is a used 94. Excluding luxury or highly collectible pieces, prices will be between $500 and $1,500. The Winchester 94 comes out on top of the action, which limits the riflescope’s engagement. The newer version with what Winchester called “corner output” is more range-friendly. The 94 is not the best rifle ever made, but it is a rifle that I believe everyone should own at least one of them.
2. Savage 99
Although it lacks the cowboy oomph of a Winchester 94, the hammerless 99 is the greatest lever-action rifle ever produced. Ultimately discontinued in 2003, the rifle’s unique five-shot rotary magazine—which was later converted to a detachable magazine—and its convenience for scope mounting is what really sets these lever-action pistols apart. Also, as with the bolt action and single-shot 30-30, the 99 magazine allowed handloaders to use bullets tapered at 30-30.
Used 99s prices are all over the map. Some models were very simple while others were factory carved in exquisite wood. Removal versions are also shown. You may find one on the yard sale for a fraction of what it’s worth, while at the same time others can fetch thousands of dollars. The 99 has become highly collectible, so you need to be careful when buying; Many of the barrel has been reshaped and refinished and may not be completely original. It may not affect the jobs, but you may end up paying a lot more for 99 than it’s worth. For a good-looking, mechanically sound Savage 99 in a .30-30 Winchester, expect to pay between one to two.
3. Marilyn 336
Another popular American rifle introduced in 1948 is the Marlin 336. An updated version of the Model 36, the primary difference between the Marlin 336 and the Winchester 94 was that the Marlin was fired from the side. This made it natural for scope fitting. A version of the 336 known as the Model 30 Glenfield was also introduced. It was basically the same rifle with rudimentary sights and a solid wood stock. Many of Glenfield’s stores were sold through the department store chain. When Marlin and its parent company, Remington, went bankrupt in 2020, production of the 336 ceased. Marlin was acquired by Ruger, which relaunched the Model 1895 SBL this year, and if we’re all lucky, we’ll soon be reviving the 336, too.
As with Winchester 94s, there are plenty of 336s on the second-hand market, in a variety of styles. Depending on condition, variation, and manufacturer year, the 336 can range in price from $500 to $2,000, marked with “JM,” and pre-charged Remington Marlins. Leverage pistols have also become very popular for customization, with features like scope detection rails, AR-style handguards, and even takedown versions. In places where deer hunting for wooden hills and rough drawings is common, you will find a happy and successful hunter with a 336. That is something that will likely never change.
4. Savage Model 340
Offered in various configurations between 1950 and 1985, the 340 was bolt action .30-30 Winchester. It was a very useful type of rifle, but some great versions came with a peep sight. To my knowledge, all 340s have black walnut stock, and some are drilled and tapped to mount a side receiver scope. For a while, and perhaps starting the Savage tradition in “packed guns,” Savage even offered a stabilizing scope and an inexpensive rifle scope. All 340 chambered for the .30-30 Winchester was fed from a detachable three-shot magazine, and many were sold through department stores such as Sears under a different model name.
These rifles are easy to find on the second-hand market, with prices ranging from $400 to $700. An earlier version known as the Stevens Model 325 had a cool European shaped latch handle. Although, by modern standards, these rifles look a bit old, they were well made and most of them aged well. The 340 offers an advantage for manual levers to use traditional bullet point in .30-30, which can increase external cartridges and even terminal ballistics. These rifles were never thought to be attractive, but they do have a good reputation in the woodworking business. The A 340 would make a great rifle for the new deer hunter.
5. Remington Model 788
The Model 700 is Remington’s flagship bolt-action rifle, but the Remington Model 788, introduced in 1967 and offered through 1983, was a more affordable rifle with a reputation for superior accuracy. Other than its no-frills look, with a less than stunning blue hue and birch stock, the main difference between the 788 and the 700 is the movement. The Model 788 feeds from a detachable three-shot magazine and uses a bolt-action rear locking bolt. This made the latch look a bit sloppy while cycling. A high school friend of mine bought one and although it was a driver, his mother thought the unusual bolt made the rifle cheap. She made him take it back.
The 788 was cheap — but it wasn’t cheap. And it was a 30-30 Winchester chambered from 1967 through 1970. If you want a .30-30 Winchester bolt action, this is it The gun to look for. I’ve seen prices on used 788s in .30-30 as low as $500 and as low as $1,200. With no real collector value, they make a great youthful rifle, since you can cut the stock to fit, and even shorten the barrel if necessary. It can be converted into a wonderfully compact and lightweight rifle. My son shot his first stag using a 788 chambered for the .25-35 Winchester, which was a cartridge based on the .30-30.
6. Roger No. 1
In 1966, Ruger introduced their number one, a hammerless Farquharson block drop rifle. Since its introduction, the No. 1 has been offered in over 50 different chamberings, including the .30-30 Winchester. With the frame case, the .30-30 cartridge was ideally suited for this type of action, which would also allow for the use of tapered bullets, and was powerful enough for manual levers to slightly boost performance.
For a time, I owned a limited edition stainless steel, Ruger No. 1, at 30-30. It was a great rifle, and I manually loaded it with 125-grain Nosler AccuBonds before 33-grain standard powder. From a 22-inch barrel, it would be 2,550 fps. It zeros 1.5 inches at 100 yards, and I can hold a deer up to 200. If I do my part, three-shot groups at 100 yards are less than an inch.
If you want 30-30 stylish and unusual, look no further than the Ruger No. 1. However, if you want one, you will have to look seriously. Not many were made, and it seemed like the ones that weren’t appearing for sale often. If you find one in good condition, expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000. They are great guns.
Henry lever action 30-30 side gate
Henry offers the only 30-30 shotguns currently produced in America, with a single lever. Henry is also America’s largest producer of action rifles. And when it comes to 30-30, they have many to choose from. The steel lever side gate is the most expensive and comes in two configurations. One comes with a standard lever and the other has a large ring arm. Both retail right in the Grand, are drilled for scope mounts, have American walnut stock, and lack the crossover safety on recent Marlin and Winchester lever pistols that traditionalists hate.
Henry lever pistols in .30-30 Winchester are also unique in that while the tube magazine can be loaded the traditional way through the side gate, just as with tube-fed rimfire rifles, it can also be loaded through a port in a magazine. Although this redundancy is unnecessary, it allows for easier and safer emptying because the cartridges do not need to be rotated during the process. Henry offers other .30-30 lever pistols including one with a color case-reinforced receiver, one with a stainless-steel receiver, and one with a brass-reinforced receiver. Although these three versions tend to cost a bit more.
Now Read: 8 Best Lever Action Rifles Ever