Captain Hunter’s Take on .350 Legend vs. .30-30

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Captain’s Key Points

  • The .350 Legend shoots flatter with less wind drift and recoil compared to the .30-30
  • The .30-30 Winchester penetrates about 10% deeper than the .350 Legend
  • The .350 Legend creates larger wound cavities with greater temporary stretch cavities
  • Both calibers have taken untold numbers of deer over the past 125 years
  • Premium .350 Legend ammo runs about 15% less expensive than comparable .30-30 loads

As an experienced hunter and firearms enthusiast with over 20 years in the field, I’ve had the good fortune of using both the .350 Legend and venerable .30-30 Winchester rifle cartridges under a variety of conditions. In this definitive guide, I’ll compare these two excellent deer hunting rounds across several key criteria so you can determine which one aligns best with your needs and preferences.

Cartridge Overview: .350 Legend

The .350 Legend is a relative newcomer on the hunting scene, having been introduced by Winchester Ammunition in 2019. It was designed from the ground up to meet the straight wall case requirements for rifle hunting in many Midwestern states.

This round features a .357” bullet diameter, the same as a .38 Special revolver round, fired from a bottleneck-free, straight wall case. This makes it perfect for lever action rifles as well as America’s favorite platform, the AR-15.

The .350 Legend case holds enough fast-burning powder to push a 180 grain Power-Point bullet to 2,325 feet per second (fps) velocity with nearly 1,800 ft-lbs of energy from an 18” rifle barrel. This is similar ballistics to a .30-30 firing a 170 grain bullet.

Winchester built this new round for deer-sized game hunting at moderate ranges, promoting it as capable of ethical kills out to 250 yards. It has also gained a reputation for minimal meat damage and emphatic stopping power.

Cartridge Overview: .30-30 Winchester

The .30-30 Winchester round dates clear back to 1895 when Winchester introduced it as a black powder cartridge for their iconic Model 1894 lever action rifle. It soon became hugely popular thanks to its versatility bringing home meat for the dinner table at ranges considered long for that era.

Shooters know the .30-30 delivers excellent performance on deer-sized game using 150 to 170 grain round nose and pointed soft point bullets. It strikes a wonderfully effective balance between velocity, energy transfer, and manageable recoil.

This mild shooting round allowed farmers and ranchers to confidently bag an unwelcome deer or coyote without excessive practice. The .30-30 truly helped tame the American wilderness.

While the .30-30 Winchester is limited by today’s standards to about 200 yard ethical shots, it continues riding a wave of popularity thanks to nostalgia and effectiveness. It almost certainly accounts for more whitetails harvested than any other cartridge.

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Ballistics Comparison

The .350 Legend launches bullets about 200 fps faster than typical .30-30 loads. Winchester’s Deer Season Copper Impact .350 Legend ammo pushes a 165 grain bullet at 2,375 fps from a 16” barrel lever action rifle. That’s peppier than Hornady’s classic .30-30 offering; a 170 grain InterLock at 2,200 fps.

However, the .30 caliber .30-30 bullet has a higher ballistic coefficient resulting in less velocity loss down range. The .30-30 also drifts less than the .350 Legend in cross winds when shots stretch toward the 200 yard mark.

Both cartridges bring ample energy for deer out to ’30-30′ distances. The .350 Legend does have a flatter trajectory which helps minimize shooter error. Maximum point blank range is about 175 yards for the .350 Legend versus 150 yards for most .30-30 loads.

Accuracy and Range

Rifles chambered in .350 Legend are quite accurate when fed ammo utilizing quality controlled modern bullets. Given good atmospheric conditions and solid shooting skills, a 1-1/2 to 2 inch 100 yard group is not unusual.

That type of accuracy extends the ethical range on deer substantially. Few hunters hesitate pulling off a shot near the 200 yard mark in open country when shooting a known accurate .350 Legend rifle. This is largely due to the high energy delivery and flat trajectory.

The .30-30 Winchester provides admirable accuracy to match its highly effective terminal performance. As long as the open sights line up or the crosshairs settle properly, it will get the job done ethically out to 200 yards given cooperative conditions.

Recoil and Muzzle Velocity

A lighter weight 150 grain pointed hunting bullet traveling over 2,400 fps from an 18 inch Model X Henry Long Ranger rifle helps explain the .350 Legend’s reputation for moderate recoil. Muzzle rise is noticeably less than a 170 grain .30-30 load fired from a similar weight lever action.

That modest recoil encourages acquiring quick sight alignment on a fleeting target. The ability for fast but accurate follow-up shots on deer is quite valuable.

Terminal Performance

Out of 18 inch rifle barrels, the .350 Legend launches a 180 grain bullet around 2,200 fps while many 170 grain .30-30 factory loads run 2,050 to 2,100 fps.

The .350 Legend’s larger .357” diameter bullet also bucks wind better. This combination results in the .350 Legend delivering notably higher retained energy past 100 yards.

In ballistic testing through about 7 inches of gel, the larger .350 Legend bullet creates roughly 25% more trauma with bigger temporary and permanent wound cavities compared to traditional cup and core .30-30 rounds. Both calibers penetrate adequately on deer out to ethical shooting distances.

Hunting Applications

The .350 Legend was purpose built for deer hunting. It has also demonstrated spectacular performance on tough hogs and black bear, especially when using solid copper or bonded core hunting bullets. The minimal recoil, fast handling, and excellent terminal effects have made it a deer hunter favorite, even rivaling America’s perennially popular .30-30 Winchester.

That said, the .30-30 lever action remains well entrenched thanks to its sheer popularity and a 125 year track record of successful deer hunts across every type of terrain. The .30-30 is a revered as both a meat-getter and symbol of our hunting heritage.

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Availability and Cost

Given major ammunition makers load both the extremely popular .30-30 and the relatively new .350 Legend rounds, availability issues are rarely a concern. Both can be purchased over the counter at any retailer catering to modern sporting arms enthusiasts.

In today’s market, top-shelf hunting ammunition in .350 Legend does have a price advantage over premium .30-30 offerings, running 10-15% less on a per-round basis. This cost savings erodes as you look at budget priced options though, with run of the mill ammo closing the gap considerably.

Platform Compatibility

A unique benefit of the .350 Legend lies in its ability to excel in long gun platforms beyond bolt actions and lever guns. Its case dimensions allow functioning in the semi-automatic rifle action found on America’s perennial favorite – the AR platform. This opens doorways for sportsmen wanting a versatile, easy handling rifle configurable for hunting pursuits ranging from deer to feral hogs.

Of course the .30-30 is almost synonymous with smooth, fast-handling lever action rifles carrying 5 to 8 rounds onboard. While the .30-30 has also been chambered to single shot break open guns as well as some AR platforms, lever guns certainly represent the platform most people envision when they think .30-30 Winchester.

Parting Shots

The iconic .30-30 Winchester and the youthful .350 Legend may be separated by 140 years in age, but they share the DNA of highly effective deer hunting cartridges.

The .350 Legend does gain advantages in velocity, energy on target, trajectory, and recoil over common .30-30 loads. And it’s ideally suited for America’s favorite platform, the AR-15.

Yet the .30-30 Winchester is firmly rooted as one of the all-time great deer calibers with generations of proven performance. It’s hard to beat the fast handling and nostalgia of a fine .30-30 lever action rifle.

As captain of your own ship, either of these battle-tested cartridges will serve you well in the deer woods. Only you can take measure of their characteristics against your needs and passions to see which one is your best fit.

I wish you tight groups and emphatic harvests! Now let’s get back out there because the deer hunting promises to be extra fine this year.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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