December 24, 2019
By Brad Fitzpatrick
The .30-30, or .30 WCF, needs little introduction. Winchester first offered the cartridge in 1895 in the then-new Model 94 lever gun. With mild recoil and moderate energy out to iron sight ranges, the .30-30 took off, and for more than a century, it’s been a game-field standard and go-to saddle rifle cartridge, even in the face of competition from more modern cartridges.
The .300 AAC Blackout shares the same bullet diameter at the .30-30 Win., but little else. The .300 BLK is based on the J.D. Jones-designed .300 Whisper and uses the .221 Rem. Fireball as its parent cartridge. In 2010 the team at Advanced Armament Corporation modified the cartridge slightly, adding .015 inch to the chamber throat length. The .300 BLK functioned in M4/AR-15 rifles and offered the same case capacity as the 5.56 NATO, but the Blackout could fire heavier bullets at subsonic velocities and was a step up from 9mm carbine performance.
The .30-30 and .300 BLK feature disparate case designs. The rimmed .30-30 has a pronounced shoulder and a case length of 2.039 inches. The rimless Blackout case has a small shoulder and measures just 1.368 inches long.
These cartridges are also chambered in very different rifles: the .30-30 is associated with lever-action rifles with tubular magazines, and the .300 BLK is most commonly available in AR-platform rifles.
The .300 BLK is considered a more accurate round, but that is due at least in part to rifle options. Lever guns with their two-piece stock design and barrel-mounted tube magazines are rarely tack-drivers. At practical hunting ranges, both cartridges will still shoot accurately enough to do the job, but on paper the Blackout usually beats the .30-30.
In terms of energy the .30-30 bests the .300 BLK by a wide margin, but there’s a caveat: .30-30 ammo is usually tested in 20- or 24-inch barrels while the .300 Blackout is fired from 16-inch test barrels.
According to Hornady, its .30-30 LeverEvolution load reaches 2,400 fps from a 24-inch barrel and generates 2,046 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. The company’s 135-grain FTX .300 BLK load reaches 2,085 fps at the muzzle and generates 1,303 ft.-lbs. at the muzzle. Though these numbers don’t give the two cartridges an even ballistic shake because of disparities in barrel length, most .30-30 guns have barrels of 20 inches or greater, while most Blackout guns are around 16 inches, which means you’ll get more knockdown power with the average .30-30 rifle than with most .300 BLK guns.
The .300 BLK is the winner in ammo availability, but there’s an asterisk here, too. Brownells lists 54 different .300 BLK loads to the .30-30’s 27 ammo options. However, the .300 BLK ammo is available in a wide variety of super-and subsonic loads ranging from 88 to 260 grains, and that list includes FMJs, OTMs, subsonic loads, and a few big game and varmint loads. The .30-30’s offerings range from 125 to 190 grains, most all of which are designed for big game hunting.
In terms of factory ammo cost, you can expect to pay 70 cents to $2.50 a round for .30-30 with an average price-per-shot cost just above a dollar. You’ll pay an average of 80 cents a round for .300 BLK with some loads costing as little as 57 cents.
If you’re a reloader, price is comparable, and there’s a wide selection of bullets, brass and powders for each cartridge, with lots of load data.
This battle boils down to application and gun preference. The .300 BLK offers more versatility in terms of rifle selection, and it also allows you to shoot subsonic loads. Until this year your only option was a Blackout if you wanted to use a can, but Marlin’s new 336 Dark Series rifle line is propelling the .30-30 into the age of suppressors.