TEXAS GUNS by Steve LaMascus

February 25, 2017
February 25, 2017

Americas Favorite Round: the .30 Caliber

A merica got into the .30 caliber game in 1892, when the U.S. Army adopted the .30 U.S. Army, also known as the .30-40 Krag, to replace the old .45-70 black powder round.

The .30-40 ushered America and the U.S. military into the bolt-action/smokeless powder era. This was two years before the introduction of the Winchester Model 1894, and three years before the introduction of the .30 WCF, or .30-30. 

The .30-40 was our Army cartridge for only nine years. In 1903 it was replaced by the 1903 Springfield and the .30-03 cartridge. This released a large number of military .30-40 Krags to the civilian market. For a number of years the .30-40 was a popular hunting cartridge; and the Krag rifle is one of the slickest operating bolt actions ever made.

The original load for the .30-40 was a 220-grain round-nosed bullet at 2,200 feet per second, much more powerful than the .30-30. This was perfectly capable of handling any game animal in North America if the range was kept short.

Other American .30 calibers of the early smokeless era were the .303 Savage and the .30 Remington. Both of these are practically clones of the .30-30. Since the .30-30 has been written about for well over a hundred years. There is nothing I can add to the issue, so let’s just skip it and go on to the next .30 cal., the .300 Savage.

The .300 Savage came along in 1920. It was, basically, a .250 Savage necked up to .30 caliber and was chambered in the wonderful Savage Model 99.

Actually, it was originally intended to push a 150-grain bullet to the same velocity as the .30-06. Since the .30-06 of that day fired a 150-grain bullet at 2,700 fps, the .300 Savage came very close. Factory loads show a 150-grain bullet at about 2,650 fps and a 180 at 2,350. These velocities can be increased some by careful handloading for a strong, modern bolt-action.

With the 150-grain bullet, the .300 Savage makes a very good deer round. I have shot whitetails with the .300 Savage and find it perfectly capable at ranges up to about 250 yards.

The heaviest whitetail I have ever killed was taken with a .300 Savage. I have always wished I could have weighed that behemoth. I believe it would have come perilously close to 300 pounds live weight. I know it was considerably larger than another buck I shot that weighed 207 pounds.

Loaded with a 180-grain bullet,the .300 Savage is a capable moose round if the range is not more than about 150 yards. It is a very good round for the beginning deer hunter, with its mild recoil, .308 caliber bullet, and good energy. I once had a nice Remington Model 722 in .300 Savage and wish I still had it.

Next we step up to the .30-06. As mentioned above, the .30-06 was originally the .30-03. The 1903 version used a 220-grain round nosed bullet at 2,300 fps.

When the Germans found that a lighter weight spitzer (sharp pointed) bullet had much better ranging qualities, the U.S. made some slight changes to the .30-03 round. Loaded with a 150-grain spitzer at much higher velocity, the great .30-06 was born.

Since that day in 1906, the .30-06 has been one of the most popular hunting rounds in America, and possibly, the world. It has undoubtedly taken every species of game in North America, and again, possibly, the world.

It is still one of the best all-around calibers ever invented for non-dangerous game. Teddy Roosevelt used it in Africa with perfect satisfaction. With 220-grain solid bullets, Eleanor O’Connor killed her elephant with a .30-06. One famous hunter said that with 220-grain soft points it was superior to the .405 Winchester for charging lions. But, I believe, that is taking it far out of its proper place in the hunting world.

When the U.S. military changed from the M1 Garand to the M14, the .308, or 7.62 NATO, was born. It does almost anything the .30-06 will do, but with a shorter cartridge. However, the .30-06 still out-paces the .308 by 100 fps with any bullet weight, and more than that with bullets of 180 grains or more. One thing the .308 has going for it is that it appears to be more inherently accurate than the .30-06. This, however, is measured in fractions of an inch and is inconsequential to the hunter. 

The .308 is a wonderful deer cartridge. With 150-grain bullets at 2,800 fps, or 165-grain bullets at 2,700, it has all the power and range needed for about 99 percent of all deer hunting.

With a 180-grain bullet, it is also an elk cartridge, if the range is kept to less than 200 yards. Another advantage it has over the .30-06 is that it can be built into a shorter, lighter rifle. This is a consideration if you are intending a long backpack hunt into one of the wilderness areas. 

The .30 calibers are, except for a couple of Russian rounds, purebred Americans. In my newest reloading manual, I count 12 current beltless, non-magnum, American .30 calibers. In addition to the above. Among them are .30 Carbine, .30 T/C, .300 Whisper, .300 AAC Blackout, .307 Winchester, .30 Remington AR, and .308 Marlin Express. In Europe, the 6.5, 7, and 8mms are more popular, but in America, the .30 caliber is king, and I see nothing on the horizon that threatens its crown. Next month we will look at the .30 caliber magnums.


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