There may not be a better pairing than the hard hitting “Thirty-Thirty” and the chaos causing hogs that run a mock across much of Texas and all the way into Florida.
Both of these iconic characters to this day are still massively underestimated by a large majority of hunters despite their impressive reputations and pedigree for withstanding years of hard hunting.
The .30-30 and the Hog
The opening paragraph may come across as nonsensical but there is logic behind it and the article will prove that these two icons of the hunting world may very well of been created for each other.
Like putting pineapple on a pizza, they shouldn’t go together yet they somehow complement each other.
A Similar History
The .30-30 Winchester dates back to 1895 and has been in the mix of hunting calibers ever since.
Given all its flaws and a long list of groaning hunters wondering what’s the point of it still being in production now that there are newer, faster, sleeker, innovative and all-round impressive calibers available, it somehow remains.
Surprisingly though, the .30-30 seems to be making a revival as it climbs the popularity ladder and I suspect the hog has something to do with that.
As a matter of fact, the Thirty-Thirty kind of reminds me of the hog. Some of the earliest signs and records of hunting involved wild hogs, especially the famous wild boars that roamed the thick forests of middle Europe for centuries.
They are certainly not the prettiest, majestic, or tastiest, or elegant, or elusive… you get the idea, plus the hog falls far down the list of dream animals that a hunter would take.
The hog is a tenacious beast and unlike the .30-30 it was not born in the US rather it invaded large parts of the States and over the years has done well to dig its heels in and is not going to get eradicated anytime soon because it is adaptable, tough, and cunning.
One could say the stubbornness of the hog is shared with the .30-30 in that it has managed to remain relevant over the years, despite it consistently being over-shadowed by just about every other rifle hunting caliber.
True it may fall short in terms of ballistics when pitted against similar calibers, but there is just something about the .30-30 that says it is not going anywhere and no matter what else comes along it will not be removed.
Not the Prettiest Pair
Let’s be honest with ourselves, the design, layout, and composition of a .30-30 bullet or the awkward appearance of a lever-action thirty-thirty rifle isn’t exactly pleasing to the eye when compared to the conventional .30 calibers.
Rather let me say this, its beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. In a way the .30-30 when placed alongside, for example, a Kimber Montana .338 Win Mag will have most hunters turning their noses up at it just the same as when a hog is placed alongside a 200” mule deer or a +375” elk.
The hog and the .30-30 are never going to be the first choice amongst hunters.
Both Work Well in the Woods
Now just about every hunter that has targeted these snorting mini tanks, knows they prefer the thick wooded areas that provide them with ample food sources, dense cover from the elements, and a place for them to root up and nest.
Their preferred habitat is not exactly ideal conditions for taking long shots or having to lug around a long barrel.
Like the hog, the majority of .30-30 rifles are well built for such conditions, the shorter, stocky make up of a traditional .30-30 Winchester with its quick lever action and iron sights, makes maneuvering through the woods and pulling off quick shots an absolute pleasure.
Strengths of the .30-30 for Hogs
- Stopping Power at Close Range
The .30-30 packs enough of a punch to put down any hog. With loads ranging from 110-grain up to 170-grain, there is enough energy behind the bullet to effectively penetrate and kill a hog. Conventional loads of 150-grain and 170-grain produce around 1,903 ft-lbs. and 1,870 ft-lbs. respectively.
- Easy Shooting
One of the biggest attractions to the .30-30 is its mild recoil, lightweight frame and shorter barrel, couple that with a smooth lever action and you have the ideal setup for letting rounds fly after a group of hogs that are making a quick run for the thicker brush.
- Simple Design
Minimal moving parts, means minimal problems. The very nature of hog hunting often means getting down and down, dirty just how they like it.
What doesn’t like the dirt and grim is moving metal and springs. A .30-30 rifle for the most part is extremely basic in design, there is very little to almost no moving parts, springs, or tiny screws.
Weakness of the .30-30 for Hogs
There is always going to be a few restrictions or flaws when it comes to a caliber that was developed well over a century ago and has seen very little in terms of technological advancements since then.
- Poor Trajectory at Distance
By far the .30-30’s biggest limitation is its effective range. That may come across as seemingly obvious given the shorter barrel length and preference for open sight shooting on a rifle such as the Winchester Model 94 or the Marlin 336.
The same way we wouldn’t expect a hog’s short legs to glide through valleys, over mountain tops and across long draws like an elk or mule deer would, we need to hold a similar view over the .30-30 when comparing it to other faster, flatter shooting calibers.
Pitting it against the .270 Win, .308 Win, and the .30-06 Springfield, the Thirty-Thirty is always going to lose the speed race and with that lack of speed it will inevitably drop off a lot more than the other calibers, especially when out to distances more than 250-yards.
Even at 100-yards a Federal Premium round weighing 170-grains still holds energy in the region of 1,940 fps.
So, although we may place distance under a weakness, take it with a pinch of salt and understand that we are talking about the chances of shooting a hog standing at 350-yards away and turning it into bacon are slim.
.30-30 Ammo Energy Examples
For those that prefer to see the figures as proof, let’s look at three common brands of .30-30 ammunition and see how they perform at distance.
The Winchester Super-X Silvertip 170-grain bullet when zeroed in at 100-yards will drop -18” at 250-yards and only really hold an energy reading of around 800 ft-lbs.
Remington CORE-LOKT Winchester SP 150-grain does not fare much better dropping by -16.1” at 250-yards and producing 700 ft-lbs. worth of energy.
The Winchester Power-Point Plus PPP 150-grain is the better performing of the three and will fall by -13.8” out to 250-yards, however, it lacks sufficient energy and only produces 697 ft-lbs.
Those steep trajectories may be acceptable on a larger animal but taking on something the size of a hog (with most cases an open sight rifle) is not worth the hassle.
Availability of Ammo
Walk into almost any store looking for ammunition for a more conventional hog rifle like an AR and you are spoilt for choice.
The same can’t really be said for the .30-30, as the variety of ammo available is minimal, that is if the store happens to have any in stock.
This makes it difficult because most hog hunters will agree, that shooting hogs is like eating cookies, you can’t just have one you always want more and the way hogs breed and multiply, having an ample supply of ammunition on hand is a must.
Shot Placement and Distance
Keep it simple and straight forward when it comes to hogs and a .30-30.
Within a 100-yards you are good to go, and the power of the old Thirty-Thirty will drop a hog with a shot placement to the middle of its shoulder or where the head meets the neck.
For the hunters that like to get every ounce of pork from the pig and onto their plate, they will prefer taking a head shot.
In that case, rather keep your distances to within 60-yards. I say this to the traditional .30-30 hog hunter who still prefers to using iron sights over a fitted scope.
As mentioned earlier, in some strange way the .30-30 and the hog are almost made for each other. Ok, you won’t be picking out hogs with clean precise shots at 400-yards but that isn’t what hog hunting is about.
It’s about coming down to their level, getting into the wooded areas and taking your chances as they bolt from the undergrowth.
The adrenaline and thrill of working an old fashioned .30-30 lever action, while its tucked snug into your shoulder as you hold those iron sights on the point of the hogs shoulder as it dashes through the trees, squealing because it knows it is about the feel the thump of a 150-grain round nosed bullet, is highly addictive and just feels right.
People will ask, is a .30-30 ideal for hunting hogs? My answer is this, the .30-30 is made for hunting hogs.