Best 30-30 Rifle on the market: 2019 Buyer’s Guide

The best .30-30 rifle on the market is one of the rifles in this article – no doubt. In fact, it’s quite simple: the best .30-30 rifle is a lever action, it’s a traditionally designed gun and it has few options. The number of contenders for this title is not very high, and the gun is something of a relic compared to some of the newer offerings on the market, but the .30-30 is one of the most storied and capable medium game rifles in history.

It goes even further than that: the .30-30 likely holds the record for killing more deer, more bad guys and more good guys than just about any other gun on the American continent in the form of a rifle. The capable round has been in production for more than 120 years, and largely, there have been no major innovations made to the firearms that shoot the caliber since the first 2 decades of its existence.

What you are getting with the .30-30 rifle is a tried and true, exceptionally well known and easy to love firearm, that really doesn’t need a whole lot of improvement. It simply does the job well.

The .30-30 Winchester has been a law enforcement rifle; a hunting rifle; a rancher’s helping hand and the gun that essentially won the west – or something to that effect. It has killed more men and more deer than just about any gun platform or any caliber in the United States of America.

There are countless loads available for the rifles that shoot the caliber and they all offer excellent ballistics with only moderate recoil, which makes the .30-30 very appealing to the average shooter.

There are only a handful of rifle makers that utilize the potent centerfire cartridge which, at one time was a black powder cartridge – that’s how old it is. Only 4 makers are considered mass market producers of the .30-30 platform, all of them only generally produce a lever-action variant. It is far-and-away, the most popular cartridge in the lever action design arena.

This is for good reason: the .30-30 is approachable, easy to use and offers a wide range of game capabilities. It is also capable of dispatching a man with ease and was used in many scenarios over the years where a single gun was all a shooter had access to. It is about as versatile a gun as can be imagined. The short overall design, the quick successive shot capabilities and the powerful ballistic performance made this gun iconic and well-loved.

The .30-30 will likely never fade away. Too many Americans are too heavily invested in its legacy, it’s attributes or its historical performance to simply let a legend like the .30-30 fade away.

Who needs a .30-30 rifle?

It’s easy to justify for the hunter. It’s also an easy choice for the traditionalist shooter in general. But many modern shooters will enjoy the sleek, capable presence of the high-quality lever action rifles that are being produced today, with the .30-30 Winchester providing a great middle ground between the inexpensive, all-day shooter .22 variants, and the specialty big bore options like the .45-70’s of the world.

The .30-30 is about as perfect a field gun for game animals from 100-350 lbs. as you can find. Further encouraged by the quick, reliable action of the lever gun, and many hunters and plinkers can easily justify a tryst with a modern .30-30.

For shooters with kids, it’s a great entry level gun to help ease young ones into shooting larger caliber centerfire rifles.

For those who prefer the tactical approach, there is something to be said for rapid deployment of several rounds of large caliber projectiles, without the worry that a malfunction will occur. The .30-30 is about the most proven caliber and the lever action about the most proven action in history when it comes to reliability. It is also more than adequate in the accuracy department.

So, what makes the best .30-30 rifle, from a design perspective?

The only real innovation in the past 100 or so years regarding the .30-30 rifle has been metallurgy and metal finishing; fit and finish production procedures and the ability to machine parts that at one time could only be casted. Casting technology similarly has improved significantly.

What you want to look for while in search of the best .30-30 lever action rifle, is the commitment by the company to solid fundamental production techniques and premium materials.

All the companies that make modern lever actions can claim these attributes, but there are some nuances that separate the different makers. The balance of the value of a modern .30-30 rifle is made up in the nuances of the production methodologies and the finished product that comes out onto the market.

Overwhelmingly though, while you can find stellar examples of custom built .30-30 rifles on the market, it is beyond the scope of this article to address those, and it is outside all but the most diehard fan’s of the .30-30 caliber rifles realm of desire to own one. Not to mention: custom made examples of this rifle will easily cost 3-6 times the cost of the mainstream offerings and don’t offer any marked improvements on the classic platform.

Without further ado, here are the candidates for the title of the best .30-30 rifle in the world.

Best 30-30 Rifle - Comparison Table

Rifle

Weight (lbs)

Capacity

Barrel length

Length

7.5

5+1

24"

42.5"

6.5

6

20"

38"

7

6

20"

38.7"

7

5+1

16.25"

34"

7

6+1

205"

38.9"

7

5+1

20"

39"

7.5

6+1

18.5"

37"

7

1

24"

35"

Marlin XLR Model Lever-Action Rifles

Marlin XLR Model Lever-Action Rifle

This is the easiest choice for most shooters as a best in class .30-30 Rifle. The feature set is extensive, the looks are excellent, and the materials are beyond reproach. The manufacturing techniques are top tier and the history is there. But it is also not as “traditional” a take on the .30-30 lever gun as many other offerings on the market.

What you are getting with the Marlin XLR is a powerhouse option that is field ready, field proven and can take a beating, while maintaining reliability and accuracy as well as fast follow up shots. The fantastic manufacturing techniques combine some casting and some multi-axis computer aided machining to deliver a significantly well thought out, high performance firearm.

The practical applications that include inclement weather will favor the XLR thanks to the laminate stock and the stainless-steel components. The shorter stroke on the lever will aid in fast, malfunction-free follow-up shots; and the short swing of the rifle will make it hard to mess up in life-threatening, or heavily forested conditions.

This is an excellent brush gun from all design aspects. The overall length of 42.5 inches is still big enough for long range potential, but short enough for use in dense brush. The 24-inch barrel is ideal for longer range use with the caliber. This is a legitimately capable 350-yard gun with open sights in the hands of a sufficiently experienced, capable shooter.

Pros:

  • Still relatively light weight
  • Great weather shedding capabilities
  • Classic no-frills design, with a still modern feature set
  • Tight action and very accurate thanks to the manufacturing details and the 24-inch barrel

Cons:

  • May be too modern a take on the classic Old West rifle

This is best for:

People who may need to abuse their guns and must be able to count on their firearm implicitly several times a year in the field. This is a well thought out design that favors those who like the traditional aspects of the .30-30 and the lever action rifle but cannot compromise in the field in dangerous game territory in the United States. This is a great gun for trekking through dense brush or wet areas of the country.

Winchester - Model 94

Winchester - Model 94

While Marlin eventually got credit for part of the naming rights (Winchester originally marketed the .30-30 as the .30 WCF – Winchester Centerfire), perhaps no other rifle model has been more tied to the caliber as the 1894 rifle. This is a modern version of the simple gun that when introduced, represented a rifle that was neither simple, nor proven.

Winchester essentially built its name on the back of this exact rifle, and more than 150 years after their arrival onto the scene, the company seems to have made a good choice to commit to the platform.

The lack of obvious innovation on the face of the 1894 is a testament to the company’s foresight and research and development capabilities. But the innovation, nevertheless, exists. In this model you will see the culmination of myriad changes throughout the years to metallurgy and casting technologies.

The fit and finish is still almost as good as it was in its heyday, which is quite a statement, in a world driven by mass production and machine tooled production.

The rifle’s accuracy and reliability are still on point.

Pros:

  • The original .30-30 Winchester
  • Great improvements to metallurgy and finish technologies makes this the best ever from a material perspective from Winchester
  • Shorter than some other competitors, but still capable out to longer ranges
  • The 6.5 lbs. weight is ideal for longer trips into uneven country relative to 7-9 lbs. average rifles

Cons:

  • Expensive relative to peers

This is best for:

The traditionalist who knows the Winchester Story and wants to be part of that ecosystem. The hunter who needs a little less weight on their sling, or needs a shorter rifle overall, and can handle the 20-inch barrel. The shooter who wants the most beautiful, well thought out 1894 model that Winchester has ever produced.

Marlin - 336

MARLIN - 336

A simplistic design is shored up by the unrivaled accuracy of the Marlin action and micro-groove rifling. This rifle is the classic take from Marlin on their legacy lever action. It is nevertheless presented in a less traditional stainless-steel construction.

A six-shot magazine, a 38.7” inch overall length and a 7 lbs. weight in the field offers a good juxtaposition of features and balance. The swing is good, the balance of the rifle is spot on and the 20-inch barrel will take you out beyond 300 yards on moderately sized game.

Marlin’s 336 is the very epitome of the classic standard lever action rifle, and the inclusion of the rifle in the .30-30 caliber makes this one the quintessential focal point for those looking for the entry level variant in stainless steel.

If you want traditional styling, but need stainless steel, it will be hard to beat the 336’s price point or value for money. 

Pros:

  • Good inherent all-weather handling
  • Great balance and decent overall weight specifications
  • Exceptionally well-priced 

Cons:

  • May be a bit spartan for traditionalists looking for a modern twist

This is best for:

The entry level consumer wanting to get into the .30-30 game who wants good resale value in case they aren’t in love with their purchase choice later. Those who need stainless steel but cannot justify north of $900 USD for such “luxury”. Those who prefer Marlin over the other makers and want their value offering.


Mossberg - 464 SPX

Mossberg 464 SPX

A quirky, super-modern take on the tried and true .30-30 Winchester rifle. This is a new model based on a design that Mossberg had been avoiding for decades to pursue their shotgun lines, that has made a well-deserved comeback. Mossberg is back in the lever action rifle game.

They have taken a controversial, and (to some) surprisingly well-received stance on the modern lever action with the modular fore end and stock design inclusions that allow some additional customization for shooters who cannot easily give up their optics in favor of iron sights or who want the ability to custom tailor their firearms to their needs.

To some, the tactical design highlights are an abomination. Traditionalists are appalled that anyone would want such additions to the clean lines of the historical .30-30 lever gun. Practical shooters have eaten up the design options though, and it does invite some interesting potential for those who might want to use the .30-30 outside of the tight historical hunting lane it has occupied in the last 50 years or so.

The short overall length (34”) and barrel length (16.25”) are interesting selling points, though wholly non-traditional.

Pros:

  • Very well priced
  • Quite practical – albeit less attractive to some
  • Easy to get into and customize

Cons:

  • May not be good looking enough for some users
  • Barrel length limits some of the range capabilities of the cartridge

This is best for:

 The casual shooter who may or may not be interested in the .30-30 or the lever gun realm but sees the interesting upgrade opportunities of this platform. The shooter who recognizes the tactical potential of a short barrel variant of the classic lever gun, and who desires to shoot premium modern ammunition to achieve interesting results from the classic design philosophy.

Rossi - Rio Grande Rifle

Rossi Rio Grande Rifle

An absolute bargain rifle for the market segment, there is generally very little risk for those who have never been in the lever gun market to get into it now. The solid reputation of Rossi speaks to the absolute value of this offering, and while it is not a premium variant of the tried and true .30-30, it is very well made for the money and represents a significant value for money.

Great for a first centerfire rifle for youth or recoil adverse shooters at a price point that is hard to beat.

Rossi has produced a steal of a deal for a fast follow up rifle that can be used at the range, on the field or arguably, as a home defense weapon, despite some concerns for over penetration with the .30-30.

The fit and finish is better than the price dictates and the rifle seems well received. For those who couldn’t justify a $600 entry point to the lower end of the market now has a low-price leader in the segment and can get traditional looks and functionality for a pittance.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally simple design
  • Very inexpensive
  • Good value for money

Cons:

  • The fit and finish has some shortcomings

This is best for:

 Those who have never been in the market because of price point concerns that can now justify trying out a legendary design in the lever action .30-30 rifle. Anyone who has owned a Rossi in the past and understands the exceptional value they can provide in many circumstances.

Henry All Weather .30-30 Win Lever Action Rifle

Henry All Weather .30-30 Win Lever Action Rifle

This is the other obvious contender for the top spot in the field against the Marlin XLR mentioned first in this article. The build quality and materials used, as well as the legacy of the manufacturer make this a premium, weather shedding variant that is easily a best in class contender.

Wood Stocks with high-end weather resistant, moisture protected coating and hard chromed exterior finish on all but the stainless barrel, the sights and the springs means you are getting a low maintenance gun that will look spectacular for decades, even if it isn’t quite the traditional model look.  

Robust build quality and exceptional manufacturing technology implementations make this a truly fantastic rifle in any scenario. You’ll pay for the quality though, and this is up near the top of the market for the mainstream models.

The overall length is good, and the balance of the gun is exceptional thanks to the heavier wooden stocks that look black and resemble ebony wood (they are a more generic and less expensive hardwood). Overall this is easily the best-looking rifle on the lever gun market. Few will argue with that, even if it isn’t a walnut furniture, blued variant with brass features like many classic designs.

Exceptional weight distribution and swing capabilities.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous rifle
  • Weather resistant
  • Top quality build
  • Great balance in looks, fit and finish, but especially in the weight distribution

Cons:

  • None really

This is best for:

Those who want to embrace every bit of the modern features that technology and innovation can bring to the classic .30-30 lever action rifle, but still want something that feels and shoots like the classics. The hunter that needs weather protection for their hunts.


Marlin 336BL Big Loop Carbine

Marlin 336BL Big Loop Carbine

The big loop lever and the 18.5 inch barrel make this a great side saddle lever action for taking out predatory animals around your livestock or along your pack mule expedition. The short overall length and the great handling characteristics are welcomed modern conveniences for the classic model that Marlin has fine tuned so well over the years.

The looks are traditional enough for even the most discerning lever gun enthusiast and the price point is very good relative to the overall market. The quality of construction, while not weather proof is representative of great value in the market segment and the top-quality technological innovations Marlin has developed over the past few decades puts this rifle in a class of its own at the price point.

You can get fantastic reliability out of the gun and the larger loop makes it great for cold weather or gloved work in the field. Accuracy is easily spot on out past 275 yards.

Pros:

  • Gloved hand capabilities with the larger loop on the lever
  • Still quite good looking despite some changes from traditional aesthetics
  • Very well priced for the value of the feature set

Cons:

  • Not the most traditional long lever gun design, though it does resemble some later model cowboy guns

This is best for:

The livestock rancher or heavy brush hunter that needs shorter overall swing and gloved hand use as part of their day to day. This is an ideal gun for those who prefer a more modern look but want traditional wood furniture and blued features. 


Lyman Sharps Carbine 140th Anniversary Rifle

Lyman Sharps Carbine 140th Anniversary Rifle

A stunning collectible that has some practical value for traditionalists and single shot hunters or target shooters, this is a beautiful take on the sharp’s legacy. The Lyman Sharps will be hard pressed to find anything that is mass market that can compete with the fit, finish and looks of the gun, not to mention the general relic-level qualities that come with the design and the feature set. The impeccable sights and metal finishes are indicative of a handmade custom gun, the accuracy is in the tradition of the original sharp’s rifles and the most modern thing about the rifle is the fact that it’s chambered in .30-30, a cartridge 124 years old.

If you prefer the absolute traditionalist approach on a rifle, and don’t need to have repeat follow up shots, this rifle is a looker, with plenty of performance to back up the purchase.

The juxtaposition of the deep figured walnut furniture on the natural metal surfaces, and the rust blued barrel with the falling black action makes this Pedersoli made limited edition rifle a supreme addition to any great collection. Sure, it is more of an honorable mention in this article than a practical consideration, but the fact that it exists proves the point that modern takes on classic rifles can be spectacular.

Pros:

  • You won’t find a better looking collectible in .30-30 that is newly made
  • The fit and finish is top notch
  • Limited to 140 pieces in total production run

Cons:

  • This is a collector’s item and not a practical hunting rifle, generally

This is best for:

The collector that loves the .30-30 Winchester and the old west guns, including the guns that came before the 124 year old 1984 rifle made in 1895 to feature the now classic .30-30 WCF, more lovingly and widely known as the .30-30 Winchester by enthusiasts.

Conclusion

Regardless of what you choose from the modern selection of .30-30 Winchester rifles, you will be getting a lightly recoiling, perfectly ballistically capable rifle that will last for generations if cared for properly. Because of the legacy of the rifle, you won’t find a ton of deviation between manufacturers or models.

This article surely holds the finest examples of the .30-30 rifle on the market and you are sure to find the best .30-30 rifle for your needs by looking through the list of lever action (and other) guns listed above.

What is most certain: no matter which you choose, you’re getting a gun that is both a classic, and a gun that will likely never fade away.

Leave a Comment