Skip to main content

7 High-Performance .30-30 Loads

Using Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder, here are seven loads to boosts .30-30 lever-gun performance for handloaders.

7 High Performance Loads for the .30-30

There was a time when groups measuring three to four inches at 100 yards from a lever-action rifle of tube-feed, exposed-hammer design were quite acceptable. Those days are long gone. Today's ammunition is much more accurate, mainly because today's bullets are more accurate.

Lever-action rifles are also more accurate, and this especially holds true for those made by Marlin. Nowadays it comes as no surprise to see a Model 336 in .30-30, .444 Marlin, .45-70, .308 Marlin Express or .338 Marlin Express consistently shoot three bullets inside two inches at 100 yards. Some rifles will crowd an inch rather closely. Marlin has proven that today's lever-action rifle can be as accurate as most bolt actions.

The brightest star among lever-action cartridges has always been the .30-30 Winchester, and while it celebrated its 115th birthday in 2010, it has not been ignored by the wheels of progress.

Originally loaded with a 160-grain bullet at 1,970 fps, claimed factory load velocities gradually increased through the decades to today's respective speeds of 2,390 and 2,200 fps for 150- and 170-grain bullets. But we all know that real-world bullet speeds in 20-inch barrels are usually 100 to 150 fps shy of that.


Not long back, Hornady upped the ante a bit more by introducing its LeverEvolution load with a 160-grain, tube magazine-friendly, pointed bullet at 2,400 fps, and while it falls shy of that in some rifles, at its worst it is still 75 to 100 fps faster than 150-grain factory loads and close to 200 fps faster than 170-grain loads.


Now comes the availability of LeverEvolution powder from Hodgdon, and .30-30 velocities unapproachable in the past are within easy reach of those of us who take great joy in stuffing primers, powders and bullets into second-hand cases.

A spherical-grained propellant, it is manufactured by the St. Marks Powder Company in St. Marks, Florida, and it is the powder loaded by Hornady in LeverEvolution factory ammunition.

Handloads using LeverEvolution powder are capable of boosting .30-30 velocities upward of 200 fps beyond factory loads available from Remington, Winchester and Federal and close to 100 fps faster than can be reached by the handloader with any other available powder.

As you can see in the accompanying chart, a homebrewed .30-30 load with the Sierra 150-grain bullet was 190 fps faster than the Remington 150-grain factory load, and my hand­load with the Sierra 170-grain bullet was 178 fps faster than Winchester's 170-grain load. Accuracy of factory loads and handloads with those two bullets were basically the same--and quite good, to say the least.


Maximum Loads

Hodgdon's recommended maximum load with LeverEvolution powder and the Hornady 160-grain FTX bullet was 111 fps faster than Hornady's LeverEvolution factory load, but in order to duplicate its accuracy in the Marlin, I had to decrease the maximum powder charge by 1.5 grains, which pretty much duplicates its velocity as well.

Since the heavier 35.5-grain charge of LeverEvolution averaged 1.5 inches in my Winchester Model 54, I am thinking a maximum charge exceeds the velocity range at which the Micro-Groove barrel of the Marlin rifle is capable of delivering its best accuracy with the pointed Hornady bullet and its relatively small bearing-surface area.

The velocity race does become a bit closer when handloads using LeverEvolution and the old traditional powders such as IMR-4895 and H335 are compared. Maximum (but safe) charges of LeverEvolution can easily push 150- and 170-grain bullets from a 20-inch barrel at respective velocities of 2,425 and 2,300 fps while around 2,300 and 2,100 fps are about the highest speeds I can usually squeeze from IMR-4895 with those bullet weights.


Another great thing about LeverEvolution is that accuracy is as good as with it as any powder I have tried in the .30-30. Take special note of the accuracy of the Sierra 170-grain bullet in my rifle.

When buying a supply of Hornady's 160-grain FTX bullets for loading in the .30-30, keep in mind that even though the same type of bullet loaded by Hornady in the .308 Marlin Express weighs the same, its cannelure is located farther back; if that bullet is seated with its cannelure at the mouth of the .30-30 case, overall cartridge length will be too great for lever-action rifles.

rs_7-loads-for-.30-30_b
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. Shooting reloads may void any warranty on your firearm. NOTES: (*This load averaged 1.5 inches in a Winchester Model 54 with conventional rifling. **Reducing the powder charge 1.5 grains below Hodgdon's maximum more closely duplicated the accuracy and velocity of Hornady's LeverEvolution factory load in the Marlin Micro-Groove barrel.) All powder charges are maximum as recommended by Hodgdon and should be reduced by 10 percent for starting loads. Hornady cases and Winchester WLR primers were used. Accuracy shown represents an average of five, three-shot groups fired at 100 yards from a Marlin 336 with 20-inch barrel. Velocities are averages of 15 rounds.

In addition, due to a longer ogive taper on the Express version of the bullet, the mouth of the .30-30 case would rest beyond its full-diameter shank when it is loaded to the recommended overall cartridge length of 2.535 inches. Hornady's catalog numbers are 30395 for the .30-30 bullet and 30396 for the .308 Express bullet.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC Rifle Review

Mossberg Patriot Predator 6.5 PRC Rifle Review

RifleShooter Magazine editor Scott Rupp breaks down all the features of the Mossberg Patriot Predator rifle chambered in 6.5 PRC.

RS Sako Finnlight II

RS Sako Finnlight II

The new Sako Finnlight II sports an innovative stock and Cerakote metal paired with the terrific 85 action.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new Tromix .375 SOCOM offers great performance with less recoil than its .458 brother.Review: Tromix .375 SOCOM MSR

Review: Tromix .375 SOCOM

David Fortier - March 15, 2019

The new Tromix .375 SOCOM offers great performance with less recoil than its .458 brother.

The handloading question: With large availability factory ammo on the market, why bother with reloading? Craig Boddington offers a few answers.Reloading Ammo – Why? Reloading

Reloading Ammo – Why?

Craig Boddington - March 26, 2019

The handloading question: With large availability factory ammo on the market, why bother with...

The .30-30 Win. cartridge celebrates 125 years of service to big game hunters, and it's still getting the job done..30-30 Win. Cartridge Celebrates 125 Years Ammo

.30-30 Win. Cartridge Celebrates 125 Years

Craig Boddington - August 06, 2020

The .30-30 Win. cartridge celebrates 125 years of service to big game hunters, and it's still...

The new Hammerli TAC R1 22 C, an AR-15 style .22 rimfire rifle, is the first product in the company's new Defense line.Hammerli TAC R1 22 C Review Reviews

Hammerli TAC R1 22 C Review

James Tarr - August 12, 2020

The new Hammerli TAC R1 22 C, an AR-15 style .22 rimfire rifle, is the first product in the...

See More Trending Articles

More Reloading

A deep dive into what turning necks on brass rifle cartridges can (and can't) do for improving accuracy of handloads.How Brass Neck Turning Affects Handload Accuracy Reloading

How Brass Neck Turning Affects Handload Accuracy

Jospeh von Benedikt - October 31, 2019

A deep dive into what turning necks on brass rifle cartridges can (and can't) do for improving...

Using Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder, here are seven loads to boosts .30-30 lever-gun performance for handloaders.7 High Performance Loads for the .30-30 Reloading

7 High Performance Loads for the .30-30

Layne Simpson - March 08, 2011

Using Hodgdon LeverEvolution powder, here are seven loads to boosts .30-30 lever-gun...

A close look at using small rifle primers rather than large rifle primers in reloading cartridge cases where both are offered; testing shows size matters little, with a few exceptionsSmall Rifle Primers vs. Large Rifle Primers Reloading

Small Rifle Primers vs. Large Rifle Primers

Joseph von Benedikt - December 22, 2018

A close look at using small rifle primers rather than large rifle primers in reloading...

Handloaders looking for accuracy, here's some great 6.5 PRC load data and information to get you started.6.5 PRC Load Data Reloading

6.5 PRC Load Data

John Barsness - July 23, 2019

Handloaders looking for accuracy, here's some great 6.5 PRC load data and information to get...

See More Reloading

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the RifleShooter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All RifleShooter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now