Cast Bullets And The .30-30

Easy-Shootin’, Plenty Accurate!

John Taffin Handloading

John likes his easy-carrying custom .30-30 Marlin Trapper. With cast bullets it’s a small-game getter. When deer are on the agenda, he moves up to the full-power jacketed stuff.

For full power deer loads in the .30-30 I mostly use 150-gr. jacketed bullets — either Sierra FPs or Winchester Silvertips but for everyday use, my choice is cast bullets for easy-shooting loads. They are also great for giving a young shooter “big rifle feel” without the noise and recoil.

Today the .30-30 is almost synonymous with the Winchester 1894 and vice versa. The Model 94 arrived in its namesake year and was chambered in two black powder cartridges — .32-40 and .38-55 — just about the time smokeless powder was becoming part of the scene.

One year later the .38-55 cartridge case was necked down to .30 caliber and the .30 WCF (now universally known as the .30-30) arrived. It was not only chambered in the Winchester, but also the Marlin Model 93 and Savage Model 99 leverguns. The Marlin evolved into the Model 36 and finally the Model 336. For many decades beginning in the 1890s, America’s “deer rifle” was either a Winchester or Marlin .30-30.

When it comes to rifle cartridges, I’ve always gravitated toward those chambered in leverguns, especially the .30-30 — whether Winchester or Marlin. My Winchesters include a Trapper with a 16-1/2" barrel and a pair of standard Model 94’s with 20" barrels dating back to the WWI era. During the crest of Cowboy Action Shooting, Marlin came out with several special models the best of which (for me anyway) is the 24" octagon barreled Cowboy.

As far as shorter barrels go, I liked the Winchester Trapper so much I made up a Marlin version using a standard pistol-grip Model 336 with the barrel cut short. Although the Marlin’s side ejection makes for easy scope mounting, both of mine are fitted with Lyman receiver sights.

Handloading Winchester

“When It Comes To Rifle Cartridges, I’ve Always Gravitated Toward Those Chambered In Leverguns, Especially The .30-30 …”

Cast bullets

For ease of loading the .30-30 with cast bullets, John uses a full-length sizing die, followed by the Lee Universal Expander. The result? Easier bullet seating. John’s short-barreled Winchester Trapper also sports a receiver sight and does well with cast bullets.

Less Can Be More

I was on a hunt in Texas many years ago and my guide was using a .30-30 with very quiet, low-recoiling loads for use on jackrabbits. I inquired about his loads and he told me he was using 6.5 grains of Red Dot. For cast bullets I’ve been doing the same thing ever since. In my Super 14 Contender with a 5X Burris scope this charge under the 115-gr. .32-20 Lyman #311316 gas-check bullet, muzzle velocity is a very easy-shooting 1,350 fps. This one groups three shots into 3/8" at 75 yards.

The same load clocks 1,460 fps in a 24" barreled Contender rifle with 3-10X scope in place, resulting in 1" groups. (I never could shoot a rifle as well as I can shoot a handgun.)

In the receiver sighted 24" Marlin I especially like the Oregon Trail 170-gr. FN with 6.5 grains of Red Dot for an extremely pleasant 1,165 fps and very close to one-hole groups at 45 yards. This load also shoots exceptionally well in my century-old Winchesters.

Handloading Powder

Two of John’s powder choices for cast bullets in the .30-30 are Alliant’s Red Dot and Green Dot.

Handloading Marlin

The Marlin Cowboy 24" .30-30 does well with receiver sights and John’s cast-bullet loads.

Other Powders

Another favorite powder of mine is Accurate 5744. My standard load is 20.0 grains of 5744 for 1,700 fps in the Marlin Trapper and three shots in 3/4" at 45 yards. I’ve just recently started experimenting with Alliant’s Green Dot and the RCBS #30 180-gr. FNGC gives me the same basic muzzle velocity as 6.5 grains of its sister powder, Red Dot. I also use a lot of Hodgdon’s Trail Boss with 10.0 grains under the Oregon Trail 170-gr. cast bullet, giving me just under 1,300 fps in the 24" Marlin and groups under 1".

Most rifle die sets come with only two dies, one for full-length resizing and de-capping and the other for seating the bullet. Since there is no expander die this can especially be a problem with cast bullets. Lee Precision has a universal expanding die that works perfectly for just about any cartridge, sixgun or levergun, to be loaded with cast bullets. Without expanding the case, cast bullets can be especially hard to seat and you’ll shave lead off the side.

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