Monday, July 13, 2015

Obsolete 30 Caliber Rifles

A Remington 722 in 300 Savage is still a good choice for hunting

 The 30 caliber is the most popular rifle around. It is one of the earlier ones offered and there were and are a lot of them around. These days it seems that a new one is offered every other day. They come in all sizes and shapes. Are they better then the 30’s from yesterday? That could be a matter of opinion. In truth modern rifles are more accurate some capable of ¼ to ½” groups at 100 yards. The rifles covered in this book are generally capable of 1 to 2” groups at the same range but in woods hunting that isn’t important. In the 1890’s the 30-30 and 303 Savage did a fine job bringing down deer. These days deer and bear haven’t grown body armor. A properly placed shot and decent bullet will do the job and that is true from the 1890’s to today. Bullets and gunpowders are better then ever today which benefits the oldies as well as the new offerings.                                       

    The 303 Savage
 By the early 1890’s smokeless powder was becoming better known to the public as well as the gun makers. The militaries of the world were all using the stuff for their small arms as well as their machine guns. Of course the public wanted hunting arms chambered for the new stuff as it gave higher velocities and longer ranges. At first higher velocities brought out problems with bullet designs but that’s another story. Anyway in 1895 Winchester brought out the 94 in 30-30 and the race was on. The 30-30 is considered one of the first civilian small bore smokeless cartridges.  As far as I know the 30-40 Krag was brought out in 1893 in the Winchester Hi Wall as the first American sporting cartridge in smokeless powder. Unlike Remington and Winchester, Savage never offered their rifle in 25 or 32 caliber.

The 30-30 with a Silvertip still popular

 When Winchester brought out the model 94 in 30-30 in 1895 Savage among others saw a good thing and wanted to get in on it. The Savage model 99 was introduced in 1895 in a variety of calibers including the 303. When first brought out it was developed as a potential military cartridge but that never came about. An earlier version was placed in the military trials against about 50 other designs but the Krag won out. Also for a while it used .311 diameter bullets but at some point changed to 308 early in production. Some factory loads can be found in the 311 diameter and I have miked them as such. Also the factory offered a 190 grain bullet which was liked by some hunters for its potential penetration. Most manufacturing activity for Savage ammo ceased after WW ll though an occasional lot was produced from time to time. While ballistically similar to the 30-30 they would not interchange. The Savage case was shorter and fatter then the more successful 30-30. Unlike the 30 Remington the Savage round was never necked up or down commercially. Some people have asked me if it’s ok to fire a 30-30 in a 303. In a word NO! The 30-30 base is .020 smaller then the 303 so there would likely be a case rupture which could be disastrous. While the 99 is a fine action capable of handling some high intensity calibers such as the 308 Winchester you still need to make sure you are firing the correct cartridge. Happily the 99 is still around and should be for a long time. I have several model 99 Savage rifles and they function as they should. The magazine feeds in a flawless manner as long as the ammo isn’t too long and the safety locks the lever in place and prevents the gun from firing accidentally. For a hunting gun the trigger is pretty decent breaking around 5 lbs or so depending on which rifle I use. I have a friend who collects model 99 Savages and has an example that has 30 Savage stamped on the barrel. Initially we thought that it was a 303 Savage but it turned out to be a 30-30 Winchester. Back in those days there was some hard feelings between Savage and Winchester and apparently even though Savage chambered for the 30-30 they wouldn’t acknowledge it in writing.

The 30 Remington was popular for some years 

 While the 30-30 still flourishes the 303 and the other competitor the 30 Remington fell by the wayside years back. Ammo for both is hard to find and cases for reloading, especially for the 303 have pretty well dried up. Sometimes factory ammo can be found at a gun show but don’t count on it. Making brass for the 303 is very difficult unless you have special equipment. The 30-40 Krag and 303 British cases can be swaged down and used if you have the tooling to do it. The rim on both has to be cut down also in order to chamber in the 303. Norma recently introduced brass for the 303 and Huntington Die sells it. Graff and Jamison both list 303 Savage brass but as of this writing it’s not available on a general scale. Loading data can be found in some of the older manuals and Cartridges of the World. Also 30-30 loading data can be used if you are careful. The factory at one time offered a 190 grain bullet which was liked by hunters for its penetration.  Another thing is unlike the 30-30 or 30 Remington the Savage round was never offered in 25 ,32 or any other caliber based on the Savage case. While the 303 case could be wildcatted I don’t see the point in such an exercise.
 The model 99 is a strong rifle as evidenced by some of its chamberings in calibers such as the 308 Winchester. Having said that it doesn’t mean that you should try and make a 308 out of the 303 Savage round. There are many factors involved in reloading ammo and using common sense and safety techniques is always a must.

 The Savage rifle that I shot gave good groups at 50 yards with open sights. I was able to keep them in a 2” or less group which is good for me. Since the gun is older and original I won’t drill or tap it for a scope despite the fact that it would be more accurate. Feeding and function was flawless. The Savage has the ability to take pointed bullets because it’s a rotary magazine as opposed to the model 94 Winchester or Marlin 336 tubular magazines. That would give it a slightly flatter trajectory as compared to the flat nose bullets. How much of an advantage that is open to conjecture. As a note Hornady recently introduced pointed bullets that are safe in tubular magazines for the 30-30 as well as other chamberings. I use the same bullets as I use in the 30 Remington and the 30-30. I do make the 180 grain flat nose to try and duplicate the old factory load and it shoots well. It should be adequate for a black bear and wild boar at woods ranges. Some of the older Savage rifles have a cartridge counter which is visible on the receiver.

The 308 L & 300 Savage 

 The 30 Remington
 Remington saw that the Winchester and Savage rounds were selling well so they wanted a piece of the pie. They took a different approach by offering their rimless round in the pump and auto rifles as they thought that was more modern and hoped to cut in on sales of the other two. The model 8 autoloader was brought out in 1906 while the model 14 pump was introduced in 1912. The model 8 was a John Browning design and given to Remington to manufacture. It was the first auto-loading rifle produced in a serious hunting caliber that worked.  It was produced from 1906 to 1936 and then updated to a model 81 and produced until 1950. It was chambered in the 25, 30 32 and 35 Remington. The 300 Savage was added to the model 81. Sales were poor and the main reason seemed to be the poor location and design of the safety. It was noisy and poorly placed for a hunting rifle. The model 14 pump was designed by John Peterson and Crawford Loomis prominent designers at Remington at that time. The pump was brought out in 25, 30 and 32 Remington and later the 35 which still survives to this day in various rifles.  There were about 125,000 rifles produced in the model 14 and the 14 & ½ until 1934 when the model 141 appeared. It was brought out in the model 30 bolt action rifle in 1921. Stevens made some lever and autoloader rifles for the 30 Remington for a few years. No one has made rifles for it since WW ll though it was fairly popular during its production period. The case isn’t based on any existing design and was offered in 25 and 32 calibers as well. Around the same time they introduced the 35 Remington based on a different case and its still being produced today. Remington still makes unprimed cases for the 30 and they can be obtained at Huntington Die. The cases can be necked up or down for the 32 and 25 calibers as needed.

 I have a model 14 pump that was made in the late 1920’s and stayed in the same family until I bought it a few years ago at a gun show. The owner reported that his grandfather used it to harvest deer for quite a few years and it gave good service. At some time in its existence it was reblued. My impression of this gun is if you want a slick light handling woods gun this may be the one for you. It’s light and slender and points well. The safety is located at the rear of the trigger guard and works much like many pump shotguns do. The safety can be released as you are bringing the gun up to your shoulder making it fast to get into action. To unload the gun there is a button located on the bolt that opens it. It also works fine. The only drawback to a pump is the weak camming power to extract an empty. Cases need to be full length sized and maximum loads should be avoided. Accuracy is about the same as a lever action with comparable ammo. With open sights you can count on 2 “ groups at 50 yards give or take. While no longer made they can be found at gun shows for reasonable prices and are generally in decent shape. They were hunters gun rather then a shooters. That means that they were carried a lot more then they were shot.  Like the lever actions it has a tubular magazine confining it to flat or round nose bullets. The magazine tube has an odd twist look which according to some reports made it possible to use pointed bullets though I don’t see how that would help. In the bolt action rifle you can use pointed bullets and extend your range a little.  If someone made a slender light bolt action rifle for it today it may be a fairly decent seller as everyone seems to want lighter hunting rifles. I might buy one myself if it weighed around 5 & ½ to 6 lbs with a 20” barrel.

Remington 300 Savage pump is a handy woods rifle

 With cases and dies available the reloader has it pretty good in so far as ammo goes. Loading data can be found in Cartridges of the World or use 30-30 loads in most cases. Since everyone makes bullets for the 30-30 you are in luck there.  The powders that work best in the 30-30 and the 303 Savage also work well in the Remington round. The 30 Remington case is rimless as opposed to rimmed on the 303 Savage and the 30-30. That is an attempt to make it a more modern case. Here are some loads that I have shot in my test rifle and they worked well. For best results you need to full length size the cases each time you fire them.  There were 7 shots fired through the chronograph and the first screen was 10 feet from the muzzle. These rifles while well made are not real strong. Loads should be kept at 40,000 psi or less for best results. I am confident that over loading these rifles will wear them out in short order.
LOAD                           BULLET                              VELOCITY             COMMENT
12 X Unique                  110 grain round nose            1829                        ok
32 X Data 4197             110 grain round nose            2573                        varmint
32 X AA_2460              150 grain Remington            2215                        ok
35 X 748                        150 grain Remington            2210                        fair
10 X Trail Boss              165 grain cast                       1171                        good load
10 X Unique                   165 grain cast                       1519                        consistent
31 X AA_2520               170 grain Remington           2105                        ok
30 X AA-2460               170 grain Remington            1955                        slow
Winchester Factory       170 grain                               2162                         good load
33 X 748                         180 grain                              1952                        mild
34 X IMR 4895              180 grain                              2163                        excellent   

 As long as there is a woods to hunt in these 30 calibers will do the job. While they aren't as glitzy as some of the newer offerings they will kill a deer just as dead. Deer haven’t grown armor plating in the last 100 years or so.

 In the last couple of years some new products came out that enhances the 30-30, 303 Savage and 30 Remington. Hornady has come out with a 165 grain Flex Tip bullet that is suitable for the inline magazines that the 30=30 and 30 Remington produce. With conventional pointed bullets you run the risk of having a bullet set off a cartridge in the magazine with disastrous consequences. The Flex Tip prevents that while extending the usable range of those rifles at least 100 yards. Hodgdon Powder has come out with a new powder called LEVERevolution. It gives an honest 100-150 feet per second over any other powder I have tried in these three calibers. What that does is gives a hunter extra range for deer. You can now hunt deer out to 250 yards or so provided you have the skill. That can be important if you are on the edge of a bean field and your trophy is 250 yards away instead of a hundred. You can go home with a trophy instead of frustration.  Accuracy is on par or better then the conventional bullets and the tip is pushed back which helps the bullet to expand at lower velocities. The only unfortunate event is apparently Remington is going to discontinue making 30 Remington brass. That will be a problem as there isn’t any brass that is easy to make it out of. Of course that will impact the 25 and 32 Remington as well. 

The 30-40 Krag 

                                              The 300 Savage     
 Another old timer that has mostly fallen by the wayside being replaced by the 308 is the 300 Savage. It was introduced in 1920 by Savage Arms for the model 99 lever action. The original idea was to make it shoot a 150 grain bullet at the same velocity as the 30-06 as it was loaded at the time in a shorter action. If they accomplished that the pressures would be higher as it has a smaller capacity case. The thought was if you could pack 30-06 power in a more compact package the world would beat a path to your door. Back then as now the 30-06 is the standard that all other cartridges are measured by. Some things never change. Both Savage and Remington chambered their bolt action rifles for this cartridge. Remington also made a pump rifle chambered for it. Savage chambered their 99 lever action for it also. The Savage model 20 and 40 bolt action rifles also chambered it as well as the model 08 Remington semi auto rifle. The famous Winchester pre 64 model 70 was also chambered for the 300. At one time the 300 Savage was quite a popular round for hunting.

 Basically it is a 308 Winchester with a short neck. In fact you can make 300 Savage cases by trimming the 308 to the proper length and sizing. Normally that would not be necessary as the brass is still available and inexpensive. I buy Winchester brass and seldom have a problem locating it. Loading dies are still made by all major manufacturers and of course standard 30 caliber bullets abound. Anyone who makes 30 caliber bullets will have something that is suitable for the Savage round.  Factory ammo is still around though you may have to search for it. With all the new calibers coming out the 300 Savage is getting crowded off of the shelves. Plenty of rifles are available though they are used as no one as far as I know regularly chambers rifles for it. You can probably find one at a gun show or a used gun store as they are still fairly common. Careful shopping can produce one in good condition as they were generally hunting rather then shooting rifles. A typical hunter may have shot it just a few times a year and carried it a lot. Many of those old rifles will have carrying rather then shooting wear which is good for the new owner.
  Your medium burning powders are the best suited for it with hunting weight bullets. Standard large rifle primers are entirely suitable for this round.

                Remington 722 rifle used in test
LOAD                               BULLET                             VELOCITY                 COMMENT
10 X Trail Boss                 123 grain soft point             1329                             high es
10 X Unique                      123 grain soft point             1505                             high es
20 X 5744                          123 grain soft point             1859                             ok
40 X 4197                          123 grain soft point              3003                            consistent
39 X AA 2520                   150 grain                              2338                            fair
38 X 4064                           165 grain  Sierra hp            2390                             ok
42 X 4895                           165 grain Remington          2465                            good load
41 X AA 2520                     165 grain Remington         2526                            consistent
42 X 748                             165 grain Remington           2571                           good load
40 X IMR 4895                   180 grain Remington          2379                           mild
37 X 4064                            180 grain Remington          2261                           slow
41 X 748                              180 grain Remington          2415                           ok
42 X 748                              180 grain Remington          2619                          MAX   
Remington 760 Pump
LOAD                                 BULLET                             VELOCITY              COMMENT
39 X AA 2520                    165 grain Sierra BT              2420                           ok
36 X 4064                           165 grain Sierra BT              2405                           slow
37  X 4064                           180 grain Remington rn      2252                           slow
36 X 2520                            180 grain Remington rn      2156                           slow  

 The 30-40 Krag has a unique action
 Accuracy with a good gun is on par with any similar caliber. My gun shoots groups in the 1” area at 100 yards with good handloads. The 722 is the forerunner to the famous model 700 having many of the same features. It is a Plain Jane model with no frills or checkering on the wood. However the 722 was a great value in its day, giving good service at a low price. In 1950 the Remington 722 sold for $74.95 while the model 70 went for $110.  Accuracy and strength were two of its strong suits. Back in the day when the 721 and 722’s were being made dollars were tight so a good quality rifle at a low price made sense. Still does today. Like most of the oldies I don’t spend time looking for factory ammo as it is no longer common. If I stumble across it fine if not that is also fine. Factory ammo might be found at gun shows if you really want it.  If you have one then you have a great deer and black bear rifle. I do have a pump but it lacks camming power if you have a stubborn round in the chamber. It is however a light and handy rifle for the woods hunter. If you like pump rifles this would be a great choice. It comes up well and points nice. The nice thing about the 300 is you would seldom need high priced premium bullets as the velocities aren’t blistering such as the 300 mags are. Of course you can use them for larger game such as elk to good effect. Given the proper skill level and ammo you should be able to tag a deer at 300 yards or so but as always shots need to be properly placed. Keep in mind that most game is harvested within 200 yards.  It seems that everyone today has magnum mania, especially the new short mags. While they perform as billed you hardly need one to shoot a deer at 100 yards. The most hunted game in the US is the whitetail deer and the 300 Savage is up to the task at any reasonable distance.    

 For hunting purposes the 300 Savage will do anything that the 308 will do given good loads. That means that deer and black bear are fair game. Larger game at moderate ranges will also fall to the 300 with proper bullets and shot placement.  Due to its modest case capacity reduced loads are a cinch to work up for small game and pest hunting. Cast bullet loads can be used for small game to good effect without destroying excess meat. Bullets heavier then 180 grains can be used but velocity will drop off rather rapidly due to limited case capacity. There just isn’t much use for real heavy bullets in that chambering as anything up to 180 grains will do just fine.  Recoil is entirely within reason for anyone with any experience shooting hunting rifles. A youngster with some tolerance to recoil will not have any difficulty handling it. Also it can be loaded down to 30-30 levels and still be an effective deer rifle.  All in all if you have a 300 Savage or inherit one it is very worthwhile to get it shooting and take it hunting.        

 Using the new Hodgdon LEVERevolution powder and Hornady FTX bullets you can make your lever action more modern and versatile. Hornady loads factory ammo with these bullets in these and other calibers which is good news for the non reloader.
30-30 Loads   Do not exceed
LOAD                          BULLET                          VELOCITY                       COMMENT
37 X Lever                   150 grain Barnes TSX      2385                                   nice
36.5 X lever                  165 grain Hornady FTX   2335                                   consistent
35 X Lever                   180 grain RN                    2144                                   good load

303 Savage Loads    Do not exceed
38.5  X Lever              165 grain Hornady FTX           2447                  consistent
36 X Lever                   180 grain RN                           2220                  nice

30 Remington  Do not exceed
38 X Lever                  165 grain Hornady FTX          2504                 consistent-max

With the new powder and bullets here is a difference in trajectory between a 150 grain bullet and a 165 grain FTX. Most experienced hunters maintain that you need 1,000 Ft Lbs of energy to cleanly harvest a deer. As you can see the 150 grain peters out at 150 yards while the FTX carries out to 300 yards. This shows you that you might have your grandfather’s rifle but not his ballistics.

150 grain rn           velocity/energy
Muzzle    2390/1902    100 yards  1959/1278        200 yards      1581/832

165 grain FTX
Muzzle    2400/2046   100 yards  2150/1636  200 yards 1916/1309  300 yards 1699/1025

300 H & H and a couple of antique rifles

 Another good 30 caliber that has been obsolete for years is the 30-40 Krag. It originally came out as a military round, replacing the 45-70. Very soon after that sporting rifle makers saw the potential as a hunting round and started introducing hunting rifles for that round. In fact it came out before the 30-30 by some months. The Winchester high wall came out in 1893 for the Krag round. The case is a rimmed bottleneck type which was typical of the day. It also has some taper which was believed to aid in extraction of fired rounds.  The military introduced it in the Krag rifle design that originated in Norway and was modified by the US for the Krag round. The design limited the Krag round in power because it only has one locking lug which keeps pressures down to about 40,000 PSI. Even at that the 30-40 has proven to be a good hunting round. Another unusual feature is the side loading magazine which flips out and you can drop the rounds in it. The original load was a 220 grain round nose at 2,000 FPS which would limit its long range potential. In fact during the Spanish American War the Krag round came up short as opposed to the 7 X 57 used by the Spanish. Their rifle out ranged ours which caused us to look at better options for the future. That eventfully led to the 30-06 being created which is probably the greatest round ever conceived.   As a note the Norwegian version was chambered for the 8 X 58 R which in some loadings can exceed the 30-06. Also their version of the Krag rifle is stronger then the American version due to its locking lugs system.
 The Krag round and rifle were declared obsolete in 1903 with the adoption of the 30-03 round and the 03 Springfield rifle. However the rifle and round make a great hunting combo and there are rifles available if you look around some. An original will fetch a premium price but a modified one will go for less. I have found that these rifles are capable of good accuracy and possess one of the smoothest actions in existence. Many of them prefer a round nose bullet for reliable feeding which is no problem if you are hunting in the woods as ranges seldom exceed 100 yards. A pointed bullet has an advantage at longer ranges but most people who hunt with a Krag are after white tail deer or black bear. Both species are commonly harvested at ranges under 100 yards.

 Here are some of my favorite loads for the Krag. Do not exceed them in a Krag rifle.
Large rifle standard primers were used in all loads. Standard 308 diameter bullets were used which are very common.

LOAD                                BULLET                          VELOCITY           COMMENT
5 X Red Dot                       87 grain lead wc               1171                       pest load
10 X Red Dot                     100 grain plinker              1622                       accurate
20 X Herco                         125 grain Sierra                2062                      varmint
41 X 3031                           150 grain Hornady           2469                       deer
10 X Unique                       165 grain cast                   1405                       consistent
10 X Trail Boss                   165 grain cast                  1224                       ok
38 X 209                             165 grain cast                   1972                       consistent
39 X 3031                           170 grain Sierra                2320                      accurate
12 X Unique                       173 grain cast                   1122                       accurate
42 X 4320                           180 grain Hornady rn       2350                      good load
40 X 748                             180 grain Hornady rn       2184                      ok
42 X IMR 4350                   220 grain Sierra               2003                      consistent
44 X H 4831                       220 grain Sierra                1948                      ok 

 Ammo for the old timer can still be found though it may take a little searching. For the reloader cases and suitable bullets are plentiful. While spitzers can be made to work I generally use a round nose bullet of 180 to 220 grains unless I am testing a specific bullet for some special purpose. Like the other cartridges discussed cast bullets shoot very well in these rifles. They make excellent small game and pest loads. If you load for this rifle caution must be employed as they are over 100 years old and are not as strong as a more modern design. Like any other antique gun it is never a bad idea to have a gunsmith check it out for soundness. In a more modern gun such as a Ruger # 1 the Krag round can be loaded to it’s potential which would approach a 30-06 in power though such loads should never be fired in a Krag. There is no reason to destroy a fine rifle merely to get more velocity then needed.

 Like many things in life newer doesn't necessarily mean better. These old guns still give good service in spite of being obsolete sometimes for many years. If you have a chance to use any of these great guns by all means do it.

 Old rolling block rifle 


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