Best 30-30 Rifle

This is an article about the best .30-30 rifle. The .30-30 rifle has seen a bit of a revival in the sense that the lever action rifle is hot again. But it’s important to note: that the .30-30 rifle has been a historically important rifle and has had functionality at the highest level as a frontier building gun; a hunting rifle; a law enforcement and military gun and a gun that most homesteaders of the time period were intimately familiar with.

Simply put, America isn’t America as it is today if the .30-30 had never existed. It is as important a firearm in American history as it is a capable rifle for multi-purpose use for the modern shooter. Thanks to a bit of a renaissance for the lever action and the .30-30 rifle, you have some amazing options to choose from.

Whether you are looking for style, functionality or robustness, the following options on the market represent the best .30-30 rifles on the market.

Best 30-30 Rifles

Marlin – Dark 336

Marlin - Dark 336

The tactical .30-30 that never existed until now. Despite the .30-30 making up the entirety of the tactical rifle landscape in its heyday, there has never been a legitimate tactically forward .30-30 rifle like this one until now. And now is the perfect time. Marlin has presented a winner.

Tactically forward is the best way to describe this firearm so let’s stick with that concept. It is a compact and fast swinging rifle with a large lever loop which has a paracord wrap around the outside edge. The wood stocks offer a paint job that expresses the blacked-out theme and the generous sling swivels make it easy to tote around.

The 7.65 lbs. weight and 34.5″ overall length prove this ease of carry and you still get a 6-round capacity in a gun that has legitimate ballistics.

The .30-30 can easily be used as a home defense gun or ranch hand style defensive weapon as it is capable of any defensive need and any depredation on the homestead. It is also shoulder fired to alleviate accuracy or CQB concerns about having a firearm taken from you.

The tubular magazine fits with the overall compact footprint and holds an adequate number of rounds for hunting or large property needs. The barrel length is 16.25″ long and gives enough velocity and stabilization to put this rifle out to 200 yards easily.

There is no reason why this gun cannot be a 250 yard gun given the right load and the right experience.  

This is a parkerized firearm but has a black theme and the metal is appropriately colored to match. The tactical upgrades include a ghost ring peep sight with a full rail for modern optics and the actual metal iron sights, which are a rare treat of late.

The muzzle is threaded for a suppressor or another muzzle attachment.  

Pros

  • Made for the modern shooter with some traditional lever gun characterisitcs
  • Potent capacity and round
  • Appropriately built to not make a tactical lever gun a novelty
  • Top notch fit and finish

Cons

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

This is best for

A home defense or homestead user that wants reliability but doesn’t need a 30-round magazine to get work done. The caliber is sufficient for multiple purposes though, with the hunting capability and the depredation potential, this is a very good 100-150 yard gun and offers the short overall length to thrive in CQB if needed.

Marlin 336XLR Lever-Action Rifle

Marlin 336XLR

The advent of the Hornady LEVERevolution ammunition brought some interest back into the lever action segment of the marketplace, but there wasn’t a gun that was specifically optimized to allow it to harness its highest potential. Enter the Marlin XLR lever action rifle in .30-30.

This is a gun that has been specifically optimized to take advantage of the newest projectile engineering; increased velocities and much more refined powders. The gun line features longer rifle barrels; and better ergonomics to take it out to 300 yards; with realistic big game performance well past 250 yards.

The laminated composite wood stock and fore end pair with a 24-inch barrel, and a receiver, mag tube, trigger guard lever, gate and trigger made from stainless steel. This look is in harmony and offers significant advantages for weatherproofing. The overall aesthetic is long and lean.

There are high quality iron sights including a shroud covering the front sight. There are pre-installed sling swivel mounts and there is a high-quality factory recoil pad. The hammer block safety is a testament to the manual and reliable gun that the lever action represents.

The chambering is specifically made for the LEVERevolution and the action ejects to the side from a fluted bolt. The flat plain top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for an optic.

There is Ballard rifling, which fits well with the idea of a .30-30, and it may have been a surprise that the Hornady LEVERevolution (because they are not all lead – where the Ballard rifling shines), also did exceptionally well with the rifling style. It was this impressive accuracy from the pairing of the Hornady ammo and the Ballard rifling that sparked this optimization project

This is a long-range lever action rifle that can take the .30-30 to it’s limits out past 250 yards. It’s very purposeful in its design and while it can be used for other things, the larger length (42.5 inches OAL) and affinity towards one of the most accurate cartridge designs in .30-30 ever, makes it a niche product that longer range hunters will fall in love with if they already are smitten with the .30-30 cartridge.

Pros

  • Great accuracy for the .30-30 which has historically just been OK for accuracy
  • Solid build quality and good weatherproofing
  • Side ejection and a pinch free load gate
  • Laminate stock has good checkering

Cons

  • Sort of niche

This is best for

Full time in the field stalking larger game and used for hunting. This is a specialty gun that thrives with a specialty round and is meant to squeeze the best accuracy and velocity out of a very accurate and very fast cartridge – the Hornady LEVERevolution. If you need a hunting gun and are smitten by the .30-30 cartridge, this is the next obvious evolution. Pun intended.

Winchester – Model 94 Takedown Rifle

Winchester - Model 94 Takedown Rifle

A traditional, classy lever action – one of the originals that started the whole genre. Along with the 1892 lever action rifle, the 94 was the gun that built the westward movement in America. This is the take down version of the 1894, with a modern technology twist coming out of the Winchester factory.

The 1894 is one of the longest in-production models of all firearms – and Winchester has capitalized on this platform. It is still today as relevant as it was when it was first introduced.

This is a takedown model that when fully assembled (as it should stay most of the time) is 38 inches long. It features a fixed tube style magazine that holds 6 rounds of .30-30.  The model is referred to as the “Trails End takedown Rifle”.

It can be transported easily or stored broken down, but it probably makes the most sense to have it together at all times if it’s going to be put into use. The takedown model does facilitate easier maintenance and more complete cleaning.

This is a bare bones model other than the takedown platform. It does feature a pretty aesthetic that is slim and long and minimalist. The satin finished walnut furniture pairs nicely with the blued semi-gloss and the black butt plate finishes the stock nicely.

As a result of a butt plate rather than a recoil pad, the recoil is not brutal, but it’s also not that tame either. You kind of expect that with a lever gun.

If you want a classic take on the portable task type rifle, this is a nice respite to the “all black guns all the time” mentality that has taken over the gun world over the past 10 years. This is a capable, comfortable rifle to own that can be used while hiking, doing chores around the ranch, or hunting, etc.

Pros

  • The “original” means something
  • It’s light and slim at 6.5 lbs.
  • Simple and straightforward

Cons

  • Pricey considering it’s trading mostly on name relative to the other options on market

This is best for

Someone who likes the takedown concept and can actually utilize it. Shooters yearning after a traditionalist or originalist variant that can speak to the early models. Winchester fanboys.

Marlin – 336 Lever Action Rifle

Marlin - 336

The modern meets the traditional with this well-built Marling rifle that is chambered in .30-30 Winchester and offers a stainless-steel build with a walnut set of furniture. The micro-groove rifling is different than the LEVERevolution gun we talked about earlier and offers just fine performance for a wide range of bullets, despite some myths propagated to the contrary.

Ballard rifling is probably best for certain bullet types and it has found some resurgence with the newest Hornady Ammunition for Lever guns, and also with cast bullets. What’s most important to remember is not the type of rifling, but the fit of the bullet to the rifling.

In the case of the micro-groove rifling on this Marlin 336, it works exceptionally well with jacketed bullets and that is all that matters. The .30-30 is not generally a sub MOA cartridge anyway and trying to squeeze that type of accuracy out of most standard cartridges doesn’t make sense. Good thing you don’t have to shoot 3-shot groups on a deer to harvest it.

The only shot that counts is the first shot (possibly a second – but very rarely). The lever gun is accurate enough and has a history of use in deer hunting. It’s likely to be the gun that has killed more deer than any other in history. That could likely be said for most medium and large game too, as the .30-30 has been in continuous use for game harvesting for more than 150 years.

Millions and millions of large game animals have been taken with this style of rifle and this cartridge.

The Marlin 336 is the epitome of the modern meets traditional style lever gun and this is a great variant of that design with the stainless steel weather resistance and the beautiful walnut stock.

This is a 6 shot 20 inch barrel lever action rifle with a drilled and tapped mounting setup for optics and good quality iron sights with a standard rifle profile. The front sight is a bead type profile.

The overall length of this rifle is 38.7″ and the weight is 7 lbs. As a reliable, consistent field rifle, this is a fantastic option. It’s a no frills, but still elegant looking lever action that anyone would be proud to own, and the price is very nicely aligned with the broader rifle market in the .30 caliber range.

Pros

  • Good all-weather rifle
  • Simple design with fast follow up
  • Traditional lines

Cons

  • May be too simple for a new type of lever gun buyer

This is best for

An entry level buyer that really wants the .30-30 caliber chambering and desires a stainless steel firearm. The looks are classic but simple.

Mossberg – 464 SPX Tactical Lever Action Rifle

Mossberg - 464 SPX Tactical Lever Action Rifle

It looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic zombie survival movie, but this lever action rifle actually helped spark a resurgence of curiosity about the segment. It’s not the catalyst, but it has provided a lot of continuing momentum for this movement.

That said, it’s important to note that while Mossberg WAS a “Johnny Come Lately” type offering in the lever action gun market, after Marlin and Henry and Hornady made some very interesting design and engineering changes, they are an important contributor.

This type of rifle attracts a different buyer to the market and has led to an interesting impetus for third parties to produce lever action rifle add-ons (this one is for a Marlin 1895, but the point should be clear: https://www.brownells.com/rifle-parts/forend-amp-handguard-parts/handguards-amp-rails/marlin-1895-handguard-m-lok-prod117014.aspx?avs%7cManufacturer_1=MIDWEST%2bINDUSTRIESzxczxc%2bINCxzzx).

A capacity of 6+1 and an all-black, tactical look defines this .30-30 lever action. This is the best lever action rifle for the zombie apocalypse prepper-type. The barrel is threaded for a flash hider or a suppressor (it comes with a birdcage on the end from factory). The 6-positon stock offers great adjustability for different uses.

The rails on the fore end offer three mounting angles and the sights are robust. There is a fiber optic insert and a three-dot scheme. The overall weight is 7 lbs. and an overall length of 34 inches.

The barrel is 16.25″ and offers enough velocity and stabilization for the .30-30 to put this gun out to about 150 yards easily.  

Pros

  • Excellent price point
  • Very tactically oriented
  • Great mounting options for optics and accessories

Cons

  • Looks are questionable for some
  • Fit and finish can feel a bit rough for traditionalists

This is best for

Shooters moving outside of the black rifle arena for the first time that have an affinity towards accessorizing. Shooters who want additional capabilities for optics from factory at a reasonable price, other than just an over the receiver top option. The chronic accessorizer.

Rossi – Rio Grande Rifle

Best Lever Action Rifle for the First Time budget shooter

The budget option you won’t be bothered by, the Rossi offers uncommon value for money and is a legitimate option for those who want to see how much they like the lever action platform.

This Rossi offering gives traditional features to a new demographic and the build quality is far batter than you might expect from the price point. You are getting things like a hardwood stock and a recoil pad; blued or stainless steel options, and buckhorn sights.

The capacity is from a tubular magazine with 6 shots and the 20 inch barrel allows for a good swinging rifle with enhanced velocity over shorter barrel lengths. The very traditional lines are reminiscent of the older variants from major manufacturers, but there are some modern changes that the Rossi has incorporated.

The overall length of 38.9 is longer than most on this list, but it doesn’t mean this is an unwieldy gun; it only weighs 7 lbs. and is quite mobile in the field.

The price point is also good for new shooters or those just dabbling in the lever gun space. The fit and finish isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than you’d expect for a rifle at this price point.

Pros

  • Minimalist design
  • Very inexpensive
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • It’s not at the same level as the other guns on this list from a fit and finish perspective

This is best for

Newcomers to the market space. Shooters who have already owned a Rossi gun and know that the value proposition is there. Shooters who are only exploring the niche and don’t want to be too heavily invested in their rifle, yet.

Henry Repeating Arms – 30-30 Lever All Weather

Henry-All-Weather-Lever-Action-Rifle

A clear winner from a weather proofing perspective, this is the obvious choice for those who will be hard charging into the extreme environments with their lever gun. That said, there is still a lot of traditional build style left in this newer variant.

It features a hardwood set of furniture that is coated in a durable, weather resistant coating that is nice looking, especially against the hard chromed surfaces of all the metal on the rifle. Every piece on the gun is hard chromed except for the iron sights and the springs, which allows you to feel pretty good about anything from light drizzles to hard downpours.

You’ll want to make sure you wipe down the gun after you are in wet weather though, as that is still a best practice. Hard chroming can offer a complete solution to waterproofing, but it can also oxidize over time too. Some care is required, though it will not be a lot of maintenance, especially compared to a blued firearm.

Henry is an original player in the lever gun game an in American firearms in general. This rifle hearkens back to that history and plays on the deep roots the company has.

There is a 39″ overall length to this firearm with a 20-inch barrel and it is clearly marketed to field users hunting big game with the 7lbs. weight and the moderate barrel length as well as the 6 shot total capacity (5+1).

The Henry lineup has been an improvement over many other options on the market and despite a premium price it performs better than most competitors, ensuring value for money.

This is a fantastic option when you already know you will be using the gun extensively and want to be able to use it to hand customize or send to the gunsmith – yes, again, despite a heftier price point from factory. This is because of the underlying inherent quality of the build and ability to use the rifle as a blank canvas.

Pros

  • Very good looking
  • Offers top tier fit and finish
  • Good balance despite being a bit bigger than some on this list
  • Exceptional weatherproofing/weather resistance

Cons

  • None really

This is best for

Shooters who know they want the best in class type experience with a lever action rifle. This is a better than average gun, that is competitive for a top spot in the market segment. It is geared towards heavy hunting and in-field use and has the performance and weatherproofing chops to stay competitive.

Conclusion

A traditional gun seeing a revamped culture built around it, the lever gun is a very popular option – it always has been, and in a shooting community larger than ever before, it is taking on new life. The .30-30 is among the most storied and beloved cartridges in American history and the cartridge is going nowhere.

This list is a grouping of the best lever action rifles on the market in the .30-30 chambering and offers something for everyone, even if the items do seem a bit redundant. There is nuance and defining features throughout the list above and you will be able to determine which option makes the most sense for you as you attempt to find the best .30-30 rifle.

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