Monday, February 05, 2007

The Marlin "Trapper" .30-30 and Law Enforcement

A forum friend provided the information. Nothing has been changed (except, perhaps, spelling).

I have a Marlin .30-30 "Spikehorn" Model 336 with the handy, 16.5-inch barrel. Oddly, off a double-sandbag rest at 100 yards it holds a tighter group than a 1980's-vintage 20-inch barreled Marlin 336, and a 1970's era Winchester 20-inch Model 94 I have. I was interested in your posted comment that the stiffness of the shorter barrel may benefit accuracy. I never thought of that, but then I'm not much of a rifleman, honestly.

I have a Williams 5-D receiver sight on it, as I do all my leverguns, and it's zeroed for the Federal Cartridge 125-grain .30-30 jhp factory load, since that load and the Winchester 150-grain jhp are the only .30-30 loads we're permitted to use for anti-personnel use.

As you'd know, I use the .30-30 mostly for cleanly euthanizing road-injured livestock and, since that normally (for me) involves head and neck shots, the little 125-grain jhp does an excellent job. I nevertheless keep some 170-grain loads with me for the occasional full-grown steer or horse that gets hit by a vehicle. Anybody who thinks they can cleanly euthanize a road-injured horse with a 9mm or .40 cal pistol is asking for some real trouble, especially when the owner of the animal is watching you and expecting you to do it cleanly.

I just wondered about the 170-grain .30-30's out of that little barrel when I'm needing to shoot something deer-sized or a bit larger out to, say, 100 yards. Wasn't sure how the lower velocity that the short trapper barrel would give would effect the 170's impact at a distance. I figured you have experience with using a trapper length levergun on deer at that I thought I'd ask.

FWIW, the factory 125-grain jhp is the most accurate factory load I've tried in all my .30-30's. It's great on feral dogs at a distance since it's flat-shooting enough to be more forgiving of my mistakes in range-judging. This past deer season I shot a little 120-pound whitetail buck at a measured 90 yards with it, as he quartered toward me. The 125-grain jhp smacked him on the near-side shoulder and staggered the little buck backwards almost onto his ass.

He recovered and ran off about 30 yards on three legs before banging into a tree and falling down for good. The bullet wrecked his shoulder-joint, took out the top of both lungs and blew lung-colored blood froth out a quarter-sized exit hole on his off-side ribs. When we skinned him out, there was a 12-inch circle of bloodshot meat surrounding the entrance hole, so it must have really hit him hard even at 90 yards. I guess I always expect light bullets to lose their velocity and energy quickly over any sort of distance.

I grew up using lead cast .30-30's as a farm gun (along with a .22 rimfire), and the only "hunting" bullets I ever saw in .30-30 as a kid were Remington Core-Lokt's. I have no idea now whether they were 150's or 170-grainers. We used to drive to the hardware store and they'd sell us 4 or 5 bullets...we didn't even have to buy the whole 20-round box. I'm sure you remember those days. :-)

The 125-grain Federal jhp's are the one .30-30 factory jhp that have exposed lead at the tip of the bullet, and I noticed that the spring pressure of the tubular magazine would slightly deform the noses on the little jhp's when I left the magazine loaded for long periods. I wondered naturally if the deformation of the noses would effect accuracy and expansion.

A long time friend is an R&D engineer at Federal Cartridge, and he agreed to test their 125-grain jhp's for me in gelatin. He deliberately deformed the noses on some of the test bullets, and compared them to non-deformed ones during the test. Attached are the photos he sent me, Hobie.

It appears that the slight deformation the magazine spring does to those 125-grain jhp's has no practical effect on their mushrooming (or "upset', as he calls it) in the target. The deliberately deformed test bullets expanded into an irregular shape, instead of the perfect toadstool like the non-deformed ones did at 100 yards.

If you scroll from right-to-left at the bottom of the page, you'll see the results of the test-groups for accuracy from a test-barrel at 200 yards. The deformed test bullets, he told me, delivered a 200 yard group that was only .9-inch larger than the non-deformed group. He said also that the 125-grain .30-30 (catalog 3030C) is their most accurate .30-30 bullet.

I know I'll never be enough of a rifleman that a .9-inch decay in accuracy at 200 yards will ever be a problem for me. Anyway, that's all the experience I have with the factory 125 jhp's.

In our testing, the Winchester 150-grain jhp (Catalog X30301) and the Federal Cartridge 125-grain jhp (Catalog 3030C) both penetrated through 4 layers of cotton denim into calibrated ordnance gel about the same penetration distance as the .40 S&W pistol ammo we issue here. (155 grain Federal jhp's.)

The only catch is, these two .30-30 loads are unloading some 1,800 foot-pounds of striking energy into the target over that penetration distance, compared to the 400 or so foot-pounds delivered by the .40 S&W pistol ammo.

The Winchester load penetrated about 14.5-inches on the average and fragmented in the classic "lead snowstorm" described by Dr. Vincent DiMaio in his book "Gunshot Wounds", which is a standard reference text in forensic pathology. The Federal Cartridge 125-grain jhp load penetrated and average of 13.5-inches in the denim-covered gel.

The Federal 125-grain .30-30 jhp zipped right through auto glass during some testing we did at a local auto salvage yard. No sweat on using it at roadblocks. That little 125-grainer is a toughly constructed bullet, which probably accounts for its giving such good penetration on whitetails, in spite of its light weight.

Both of these loads should make an "urban safe" home defense load for an American householder who has the ever-popular .30-30 carbine handy. Abdul and Rasheed will be bringing their terror show to our neighborhoods a lot sooner than any of us would like, and its best that we be ready. Not all of us can afford an AR-15 rifle, and the .30-30 can be made to do.
And this is the response our correspondent got from Federal Cartridge...

Keith - here are some photos of bullet expansion with and without nose deformation. The unfired bullet is an example of how much the noses were deformed for this test.

Scott Schamber / Federal Cartridge

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