30-30 Win vs 270 Win: Which is Better?

These are two of the oldest cartridges in active production and development. Winchester first marketed the 30-30 for the Model 1894 level action rifle.

The .270 Winchester was unveiled in 1925 with the Model 54 bolt-action rifle. Both have found their place with North American hunters in distinct roles and situations.

The Ballistics Comparison

Ballistically, the two rounds are not comparable at all.

Velocity (FPS)

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds
.30-30 Win 150 gr23892019168614001178
.270 Win 130 gr30602777251222612025

Energy (FT-LBS)

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds
.30-30 Win 150 gr19011357947653462
.270 Win 130 gr27022226182114751183

Drop (INCH)

Muzzle100 yds200 yds300 yds400 yds
.30-30 Win 150 gr-1.490.006-7.123-26.63-64.03
.270 Win 130 gr-1.490.0004-3.03-11.59-26.99

The .30-30 Win round was developed from the outset to be fired in level action rifles with a tube magazine. This requires loading the cartridges with a round nose bullet that doesn’t risk a recoil-initiated detonation in the magazine.

Bullet manufacturers have developed bullets that offer a better ballistic coefficient in the last few years.

The .270 Win has always been primarily designed for bolt-action rifles.

The style and types of bullets available for the .270 Win bolt-action rifle have evolved, making this popular rifle caliber a great choice for hunters and competitive shooters.

The Comparison and The Decisions You Make

Many shooters rightly ask the question, which is a better caliber choice for hunting, the .270 or the .30-30.

A more detailed look at how the ballistics stack up between these two cartridges can give you better insight when making a caliber choice for hunting.

Under 200 Yards

At short ranges under 200 yards, the .30-30 is noticeably slower and delivers less energy than the .270 Win. At the muzzle, the .30-30 travels 2389 feet per second compared to the .270 Win going 3060 feet per second.

Common sense tells us that the .270 will perform better down range based on the muzzle velocity.

Delivered energy is also a factor. The .30-30, despite shooting a heavier bullet, delivers much less energy along the entire flight path of the bullet.

Velocity is the major contributing factor in the delivered energy comparison. A lighter bullet going much faster will deliver more energy than a heavier bullet going slower.

Now, under 200 yards, the net effect with either caliber is the same. A well-placed shot under 200 yards will kill a North American Whitetailed deer clean and humanely.

The .30-30 Win has probably taken more deer in the US than any other caliber of rifle used for sport hunting. 

Bullet drop for either caliber is about equal. At 200 yards, the .30-30 Win drops 7 inches while the .270 Win drops about 3 inches. This isn’t very important for most hunters and shouldn’t be a factor.

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Beyond 200 Yards

The story changes dramatically at ranges beyond 300 yards. The heavier and slower .30-30 round loses velocity and energy rapidly.

At 300 yards, the .30-30 has slowed to 140 feet per second and delivers 653-foot-pounds of energy. This is still enough to kill a whitetailed deer, but it takes a well-placed shot and doesn’t leave much room for error.

On the other hand, the .270 Win still delivers 1475 foot-pounds of energy at 300 yards. This is well above the recommended 1000-foot pounds of energy needed to kill a whitetailed deer at this range ethically. 

Considering the .30-30 drops more than 26 inches at 300 yards, you begin to see how this could pose a challenge for most hunters.

At 300 yards, the .270 Win has dropped 11.6 inches. This is a distance that most hunters and scopes can easily manage to give a good shot and a clean kill.

Caliber Decisions Between the .30-30 and the .270

As is often the case, the type of hunting you do and the terrain you hunt are as important as the performance of the cartridge you shoot.

If you are primarily hunting whitetailed deer, either of these calibers will get the job done at ranges under 200 yards.

If you face taking longer shoots, the .270 Win gets the edge due to its better ballistics’ performance at ranges between 200 and 400 yards.

In my opinion, for an all-around deer hunting rifle that is effective at the ranges that most hunters shoot, the .270 Win has the edge.

The Advantages of the .30-30 Winchester

30-30 vs 270

There are situations where the .30-30 Win has advantages that can put it ahead of the .270. The physical characteristics of the guns that typically shoot the .30-30 cartridge provide many of these advantages. 

The .30-30 cartridge is often associated with lever-action rifles such as the Winchester 1894 and the Marlin 336. These guns are typically shorter than a bolt-action rifle, making them easier to maneuver in heavy brush.

The short rifle can be quicker to shoulder and fire as well. A shorter, lighter rifle can be a welcome advantage if you normally hunt brushy or hilly terrain.

The .30-30 also delivers a lot less recoil than the .270. This can be a factor for smaller-framed hunters or youth hunters who still need a caliber with enough power to bring down a white-tailed deer.

Many hunters continue to field a .30-30 because shooting is more comfortable.

Choosing the .270 Winchester

If you hunt open country where shots over 200 yards may be common, the .270 Winchester makes a lot more sense. The flatter shooting .270 Winchester is, in many ways, a more versatile caliber than the .30-30 Win.

I have spent many enjoyable afternoons after filling my deer tags and shooting prairie dogs with my .270 Winchester. 

A .270 Winchester can be pressed into service on larger game animals such as elk in a pinch. A proper choice of bullet weight and ballistic performance allows the .270 Win to take these larger animals safely and ethically easily.

On the downside, the .270 can deliver some punishing recoil that can be a problem for smaller hunters. My .270 Win is a Savage 110 with a synthetic stock.

My personal experience tells me that I would not want to spend a day repeatedly shooting this rifle. 

My Thoughts on the .30-30 Win and the .270 Win

To be honest, I don’t see a reason why any hunter shouldn’t have both calibers in their gun safe. I own and regularly shoot both calibers.

My favorite whitetailed deer rifle is a Marlin 336. I usually hunt in West Texas, where the mesquite grows thick and close to the ground. The .30-30 has the punch to get through the brush and maintain accuracy.

The gun is also easy to carry and handle. This is the deer rifle I have used for years to introduce my sons and grandsons to whitetailed deer hunting. 

I also own a Savage Model 110 chambered in .270 Win. I chose this gun over a .30-06 or a .308. The .270 has almost as much range as the .30-06 and significantly better ballistics than the 308.

This little black rifle has taken whitetailed deer out to 285 yards cleanly and efficiently.

In Conclusion

Under 200 yards, either caliber will perform effectively on whitetailed deer. You must decide which caliber is the best for the type of terrain and over in which you are hunting.

Over 200 yards, my advice is to elect to carry a rifle chambered for .270 Win. The ballistics give the .270 Win the edge at greater distances. 

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