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7490 Views 26 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  Kragman71
Hi guys,I need some help in finding the best lever action rifle caliber for whitetail.I'll be using the rifle in NY,PA,VA and or WV.I will not be handloading.The shots will be 100 yds.or less.I'm primarily looking for a meat rifle.I've thought about the .35 Remington,30/30 and .44 Magnum.I've also considered the 45/70 but I don't know if the added exspense and recoil are going to do any better on whitetail than the other cartridges listed.Theres a chance of using it on pig(meat) also.Can you make any suggestions?
The web-site is great and coug2wolfs is doing a fine job.Thankyou for your help,BASIC.
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I know this will never be overstated, but any of the above mentioned calibers will do the job, with the bullet being placed in the proper spot. I like the 44mag, especially since I don't reload. Federal, Hornady, Winchester, Corbon, Buffalo Bore, and Garrett produce a variety of loads to meet your desire for the 44mag. Most folks that want to get the full potential for the 45-70 end up rolling their own. I can't really comment on the 35, since I haven't owned one. I've never had any problems using 30-30's or 44mag leverguns on whitetail and feral hogs in South Alabama. I wouldn't gain enough advantage using a 45-70 to justify paying extra for the rounds and higher recoil. I've yet to see a sporting goods store dealing in firearms that didn't have a decent selection of either 30-30 or 44mag. I usually stalk hunt and prefer a lightweight rifle that shoulders and balances well. With the 30-30, I am able to stretch my limit on out to about 175-200yds, as compared to the 125 yds or less of the 44mag. Since most of my shots actually fall within 75yds, I prefer throwing the heavier 240 grain XTP 44mag bullet at Whitetails, and 300grain Hornady XTP on hogs less than 150#. Bigger than that and I would try the Federal 300grain Castcore to rip through the heavy gristle plate and shoulders. I suppose you need to decide how much you want to pay for ammo to shoot; if you stalk, still, or stalk/still hunt; and which rifle you would like. I, personally will not own a ported levergun to hunt with. The ones that I've been around were extremely loud and didn't seem to benefit enough from recoil to justify the excess noise. This may very well be the reason Marlin has gone from making ported to no longer porting their new Guide Guns. That dadblasted Winchester 444 Timber Carbine was a noise maker also. I'd like to keep my hearing for many years to come. I sure ain't got no time to put in earplugs when running up deer.

You may just want to go to several gunstores and get the feel of different types of leverguns before deciding on which route to go. If you're looking for a natural, try shouldering the rifle with your eyes closed. Then, open your eyes and try looking down the sights and see how close they are to lining up. Stock fit and the natural pointing characteristics of a gun will also help comfort you and make shooting very enjoyable.
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Thank You "Basic" for the kind verbiage :lol:

Now to your question. Understand that we (all posters and hunters) are a much opinionated lot. This is due to the fact that we all speak of what we know to be true based on our experience. As a result, NONE of the info you get here will be wrong, since it worked as described by the writer for him/her.

You say you seek the BEST lever for deer hunting, primarily. The ranges you anticipate shooting deer at are "normal" for woods type hunting, but I tend to think you will kill far and away more deer at say 50 yards and under than you will over. From NY on up, deer are seekers of edge or transitional changes in the ecosystem. This can be where conifers meet hardwoods, where hardwoods meet a swamp. Whatever it is, it will be thick. Deer have learned to stay in the thick stuff, they're less apt to get killed there.

Of all you mention for calibers, and I'm sure many will fall out of their rocking chairs and choke on their sour mash when they hear me say this, but I would tell you to go with the 30-30 and a 150 grain bullet, at least for the deer.

By now I'm sure many folks have flipped their wigs and are calling me for just about every name under the sun, and, some under the dirt. 8)

You see, deer are flighty animals. Their nervous system is wired right up, and they respond to fast bullets better than they do slow ones. You've heard me time and again go for the 444 and the 45-70, and yes, they WILL work on deer, but as one gent said, and it is so, they run like **** for a ways. Quick expanding fast bullets just plain kill em faster.

You have to go in the gunshops and fooster with a few different brands to decide what feel right in your hands. Many like the BAR, it just don't feel right to me. I do like the BLR, that one fits me and the action is like lightening!

Whatever you decide, just make sure ya can lay yer lead where ya want it and then.....go huntin :lol:

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Thankyou all for your replys.coug2wolfs,sir I'm shocked and just fell out of my rocking chair!After reading some of your comments here and on your own great web-site,I am a little suprised by your suggestion.But what you said does of course make sense.I've always thought that a 170 gr.bullet was the correct choice in a 30/30 but defer to your expertize.What about meat damage,will there be more with a lighter faster projectile?I would gladly give up some meat for a faster,more humane kill.What about using the 30/30 on pigs?Is there a place in whitetail hunting for a heavier,larger diameter bullet?Marlin is now manufacturing a 336Y rifle in 30/30 with a 16 1/2"barrel,will the shorter length barrel adversley affect performance?In NJ all we can use are shotguns.Thankyou all again for your help,BASIC.

To me the "feel" of the gun is at least as important in hunting success as the cartridge used. If I were you, I'd first select the gun that I'm most comfortable with, and then select a cartridge from those available in that gun that can be a good deer stopper.

However, your question was about cartridges.

I've never hunted with anyone who has used a .44 mag or 45/70 for deer.

The .444 Marlin does a great job. The only .35 Remingtons I've seen used were in Remington Model 8's and 760's. From what I've seen they do a great job as well.

I've spent a great deal of time tracking deer that were wounded with 30/30's, and don't feel comfortable with that cartridge.

You can get old Savage 99's in .243, .250, .284, .300 Sav., .308 and .358 all of which are excellent deer cartridges. Winchester 88's are out there in .243, .284, .308 and .358 as well. BLR (shorts) can be had in these 4 cartridges as well as .257 Roberts and 7mm-08. The long action can be found in .270 and 30-06. All of these are more than adequate deer cartridges.

My number 1 gun is my BLR in .358, but I also own hunting rifles in .35 Remington, .250 Sav., .358 and 30-06 (from among the cartridges listed).
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Basic I own Marlin lever guns in .35 Rem., .44 Mag. and .45-70. I've used all three calibers to kill deer and can't honestly say I see much difference in the effect they have on deer. Put the bullet in the right place and you are eating venison, jist that simple. All leave an exit hole from most any shot angle assuming the use of proper bullets.

Of them I guess the .35 Rem. is really my favorite but I'd used the .44 mag. to take more game, most of it with a handgun. However .35 Rem. ammo is getting more difficult to find and is likely gonna get more so not less so. That might weight into a decision on buying one. I reload, have a good supply of cases and don't really care if they make it or not. I'm set for life regardless.

I'd advise making the selection between the .44 Mag. and .30-30 even tho I've never shot a deer with the .30-30 and haven't owned a lever gun in it since I sold my old pre '64 Win. '94 25-30 years ago. Never even hunted with it. Still several million folks have used it and what it does to deer is well documented. It will shoot a bit flatter than the .44 Mag. Not having used the .30-30 I'd go with 170s unlike Coug but then I think Coug has actually used it. If you go with the .44 Mag. use 240 JHPs and the Hornady XTP is a good as it gets. Mrs. GB killed her first big game animal with that bullet in our Marlin 336 in .44 Mag. The hole where it exited was big enough to put your fist in. Hit ribs and lungs and no meat we'd eat was wasted.

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I can only say what works for me since deer are taken successfully with many different combinations. Around here, I like my 1937 Savage M99 in .300 Savage. A close second is the "lowly" .30 WCF out of a pre-war Winchester 94. Since you don't reload, you can get the Savage round with 180 grn bullets and the .30-30 with 170 grn. The latter is available cheap and plenty everywhere. I have never shot hogs but I'm sure either round would flatten one just fine - especially the Savage. I don't use a scope on either one of these. I also have shot deer with the .45-70 Marlin Cowboy. I find no difference between the .30 WCF and the .45-70 in how fast the animal expires. The Savage actually let's them go a little ways - but not far. I think it zips through 'em before they know they're hit bad. But the slower rounds unload the energy in the animal right away?????

As to the oft heard tales of wounded deer limping around as a result of an encounter with the "obsolete" .30-30, I can only say that this is not a problem with the cartridge, but the guy launching it. The round has all it needs to do the job within it's limits. Sometimes I think that all hunters should first learn on a roundball muzzleloader before being handed a scoped wonder. The basics of hunting close are really important when you are limited in ballistics and only get one chance.

My advice is to go with what's easy to carry and hunt like you mean it. Cartridge selection is really wide open... no matter what you use, you still have to put it in the boiler.
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Using store bought ammo I say 35 Remington first and 30/30 second. Millions of dead deer can't be wrong. There is nothing wrong with numerous other rounds but these two work well. Always shoot enough to place you shots well. Many folks can't afford to shoot that much unless they reload.

I'd go with the 30-30. It has the range to take a deer at 200yds (if you practice). It has all the power needed to do the job cleanly. Doesn't do a lot of meat damage. The amo is very cheap. (sometimes cheaper than you can reload). The amo is available evrywhere.
I must defend the 170 grain load though. 100 lbs is a very small deer up here. It's hard to find the 150 grain load in stores here as a result.
I've never lost a deer to the 30-30.
One other thing. The light fast handling lever guns that use the 30-30 and other calibers have to be practiced with. Users tend to feel they can spray lead. Make that first shot count!
I also use the 45-70, and the 44 Mag of the calibers you mentioned. They do the job too, I just find I carry the 30-30 more.

I'd go wit da turdy turdy. Ammo is everywhere and cheap. THe 30-30 puts out much much more ft lbs of energy than the 44mag and the difference is even greater down range. I see hardly any 35rem ammo on the shelves anymore. There is a cute little 30-30 marlin lever down at the store fer just under 300$ new. But it just don't fill any need between what I got and what I think I need. Or more simply put. I gots enough guns fer now.

I have a theory about the 30-30 and the wounded deer. Basicly winchester has made, what, over 8 million '94's most in 30-30, marlin mabye not quite that many but a LARGE number. Obviously millions of people decided to give hunting a try, it would seem that americas number one choice was a lever 30-30, with the majority nod going to winchester. Most of these people are neither hunters nor shooters, they just go out to the woods with their new out west looking gun and take foolish shots at fleeing game, thus the 30-30 won't kill a deer shot in the butt so it is not addequate for hunting deer. Bull Pucky!!! There is not an animal on this planet the 30-30 will not kill with a proper stalk to within an appropriate range accompanied by a well place shot. I have no intention of indicating that there are not better choices for various game, just that the 30-30 is an effective round in the hands of a competent hunter. It is much more economical to practice with than a 460 Weatherby, and just as lethal when used properly.

Well, anyway, it's just a theory

If your willing to limit it to a two-shooter, you can improve is performance by using a quality spirepoint bullet. The Nosler 165gr Partition has been my long time favorite .30 cal. bullet

Butler Ford
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I think ButlerFord45 scores in the ten ring on his theory. The sheer number of .30-30's out there - many in the hands of careless slobhunters - makes it very probable that what he says is true. I hate to admit it, but I have, over the years run into them. Their camps are filthy, and left that way. They shoot signs and any animal they see, whether deer or bird or whatever. They vandalize private property, forcing the closure of more and more areas. Often, they do it with an inexpensive repeater in order to get that quick follow-up shot(s). Disgusting.
BF45 is also right about the true capabilities of the old .30WCF. In the hands of a responsible person who knows the weapon, it does the job for which it is intended. Although my favorite lever-shucker is an old Savage 99 in .300, I love the .30-30 (Win or Marlin). It's utilitarian, cheap to shoot and carries easily. 2 cents
Best levergun for deer

There are two guns that I think have really been overlooked. They are the 307 and 356 Winchester. In my humble opinion, these are two of the best rounds ever put in a levergun. Granted, both rifle and ammunition are somewhat more scarce than your run of the mill 30-30, but they offer a distinct edge in veloctiy, bullet weight, accuracy and killing power, especially as range gets longer or on imperfect shot placement. My 307 will group near 1" at 100yds with factory loads. The 356 offers excellent power and accuracy, with the ability to put nasty pigs down fast. All the other post are also good, some very smart shooters out there, so I'm sure you'll do fine. Anyway, thats my five cents worth.

I'd like to thank you all for your kind help.It seems none of the calibers would be a bad choice.The most important thing seems to be the person behind the rifle.I'm going to give up on the .44 Mag only because it appears the 30/30 and the .35 Remington offer more versatility.Of the two I'm still not sure which one,though neither one would be bad.Does anyone have an opinion on the performance of 30/30in a 16 1/2" barrel?I hope you and your families have a very Merry Christmas.Thankyou all,BASIC.
Best levergun for deer ?

The 30-30 is most likley your best choice because of ammo availibility of and cost. Also at 100 yards or less a deer shot in the heart or lungs with a 30-30 Winchester, 35 Remington, 45-70, or 44 magnum, isn't going far if at all. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference from one of the above loads to another. Hotter loads like the 7mm mag or the 300 mags don't get the job done any better than the 30-30, if they don't hit the vitals. The shorter barrel length (16.5") will only affect your muzzle velocity by about 75-80 fps in a 30-30. No deer shot with it will know the difference! The main thing is practice so you can hit your target in the heart or lungs and take shots that you are confident with. No low percentage blazing away at deer running through the brush or across a field.

"Does anyone have an opinion on the performance of 30/30in a 16 1/2" barrel?"

My Lyman reloading manual shows that 2077 fps is possible with Win 748 and 150 grain bullets in a 14" Contender bbl. So hopefully you would get slightly higher results with a 16 1/2"

The 35 rem lists at 1757fps with a 200 grain bullet, and 4064, again out of a 14" bbl

Get the marlin in 35 remington. Any factory 200 grain bullets will work fine. In my experience the 30-30 works fine but the 35 works great.
Good shooting, Weagle

I think Butler Ford is right on the money!! I have heard at one time or the other about several other cartidges that guys thought were "cripplers" even the 308 by the 06 fans well it is not the cartridge it is the lousy shot that caused it. I also cannot figure out why the 30/30 is so maligned in a rifle by some ( many of them gun writers) yet put it in a contender and it is the greatest thing since swiss cheese even with the short barrel which would make it less powerful yet? Go Figure! I myself like the 30/30 and just bought a 94 this year that was made in 64 I have not had a lever for years and I forgot how much fun they are to shoot the gun and the cartridge. Jim

jh45gun mentioned one of my pet peeves, gun writers, I admit up front that there are many that are as knowledgable as they are articulate, but it seems to me that there are many more that just rehash other peoples opinions. I have for example an older shooting magazine that in one issue a writer issues his proclamation that a 30-30 in a 20" barrel lever rifle should be limited to 100 yards maybe streached to 125 maximum. Just a few pages later the same author is reviewing a 14" contender in 30-30, good for deer to two hundred yards. I know contenders are great, but this oversteps the bounds to pure BS.

Butler, I am glad you agree with me as far as the Contender VS Rifle nonsense goes as far as rifle cartidges goes. I have a Encore in 308 and have killed 2 deer with it so far and I like it yet I know darn well my 308 Indian Enfield with the longer barrel will shoot with more velocity than my Encore with a 15 inch barrel yet both work so I am not complaining. I guess that is getting off the subject at hand but I am glad that you posted proof that many gun writers sometimes do not make any sense when it comes to common sense!! kinda funny that he would say 125 yards in a 20 inch barrel and 200 yards out of a 14 inch or shorter barrel. Jim
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