Caliber Battle: .30-30 Win.  vs.  .350 Legend

Caliber Battle: .30-30 Win. vs. .350 Legend

One of the oldest and most popular cartridges of all time, the .30-30 Winchester, was released in 1895 and has been bringing down all manner of game ever since.

The .350 Legend has some catching up to do if it wants to rival its 127-year-old predecessor. Released in 2019, the Legend was designed for use in states that restrict deer hunters to straight-wall cartridges and was billed as the fastest such cartridge currently in production.

Military snipers won’t be adopting either cartridge any time soon, but both enjoy a dedicated following of hunters who appreciate a medium-power option that can get the job done out to 250 yards. Which cartridge comes out on top in this battle of old school vs. new? Read on to find out.

Ballistics
These cartridges stack up so closely from a ballistics standpoint that neither can claim to hit harder than the other.

This .350 Legend from Federal, for example, can launch a 160-grain bullet about 2,300 feet-per-second while this .30-30 fires a 150-grain bullet about the same speed. The .350 wins that power matchup, but this 170-grain .30-30 option offers 1,827 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle while this heavier, 180-grain .350 Legend only produces 1,762 ft.-lbs.

In most Caliber Battles, one cartridge clearly offers more power and velocity across a range of loads and bullet weights. With this matchup, the winner depends on the specific loads being compared.

However, as a bottleneck cartridge, the .30-30 has a slight advantage at longer ranges. It’s not a long-range powerhouse by any means, but it can be loaded with more aerodynamic .30-caliber bullets that offer higher ballistic coefficients (BC).

Among Federal’s offerings, the highest BC for a .350 Legend is .259 while the highest BC for a .30-30 is .313. (For context, Federal’s highest-BC 6.5 Creedmoor clocks in at .607.)

That higher BC allows the .30-30 to maintain a flatter trajectory and buck the wind more effectively. This 170-grain .30-30, for instance, drops 7.7 inches at 200 yards and 26.6 inches at 300 yards. With a 10 mph crosswind, the bullet shifts are 7.4 inches and 17.8 inches at those distances, respectively.

The Legend has more trouble fighting wind and gravity. This 180-grain load from Federal drops 9.4 inches at 200 yards and 34.1 inches at 300 yards. A 10 mph crosswind will move the bullet 8.9 inches and 21.6 inches at those distances.

The .30-30 in this example is traveling about 5% faster at the muzzle, but it drops about 20% less than the .350. That suggests the difference, at least in part, is due to the bullet.

All of this might sound like splitting hairs, and it is. These cartridges are remarkably similar from a ballistics standpoint, but the .30-30’s slightly better long-distance performance gives it the edge in this category.

Winner: .30-30 Winchester

Shootability
We determine a cartridge’s “shootability” by considering its cost, availability, and recoil energy.

It’s safe to say that your local sporting goods store is more likely to stock the .30-30 Winchester than the .350 Legend. If you broaden your search to the World Wide Web, most online carriers offer twice as many .30-30 options.

Midway USA, for example, which is among the best at keeping ammo in stock, reports 35 varieties of .30-30 while only 15 offerings of .350 Legend. This suggests that in normal times, the .30-30 is easier to find.

But these aren’t normal times. As of this writing, five of Midway’s .350 Legend options are in stock while the company reports having zero .30-30 cartridges available. It’s a similar story at other online outlets. The .350 Legend is popular enough to justify continued production but not popular enough that the shelves are bare. Bottom line? It’s a good time to own a rifle chambered in the .350.

Here’s how the cartridges compare, pricewise. The .350 Legend goes for $1.15 to $2.30/round and the .30-30 Winchester anywhere from $1.15 to $4.70/round.

For quality hunting ammunition, expect to pay $30-$45 for a box of 20.

Neither cartridge produces stiff recoil. Upon its release, the Legend was marketed as a light-recoiling cartridge, and the .30-30 is also well-known as a good option for the recoil-sensitive. Both clock in around 9 foot-pounds of energy, about half as much as a .308 Winchester.

The competition in this category is just as close as ballistics, but right now, better availability gives the edge to the .350 Legend.

Versatility
“Versatility” refers to the range of animals that could be realistically harvested with a cartridge. Both the Legend and the .30-30 are most comfortable in the medium-to-large-game category, but the .30-30 offers a slightly wider array of bullet weights and applications.

Federal only offers two bullet weights for the Legend (160 grain and 180 grain). For the .30-30, however, the company offers multiple 150- and 170-grain loads as well as a 125-grain jacketed hollow point and a 170-grain Nosler partition that the company bills as ideal for elk.

Federal does not market any of their .350 Legend options as elk cartridges. This makes sense: the Legend was developed specifically for use in Midwestern whitetail states that require straight-wall cases. The Legend could certainly bring down an elk, but “possible” is not the same as “ideal.” If you’re looking for a do-it-all cartridge, the .30-30 will likely serve you better.

You’re also more likely to find a rifle in .30-30, especially in the used market. Many companies now offer bolt, semi-auto, and single-shot rifles chambered in the Legend, but the .30-30 can be found in the same variety. There are also thousands more .30-30 guns floating around the used market, so if you’re looking to save some change, the older cartridge is the way to go.

Winner: .30-30 Winchester

And the Winner Is…
As the winner of two out of three categories, the .30-30 Winchester deserves the overall nod. The .30-30 offers more power with certain loads, better long-range performance, and soft recoil. Cartridges are (usually) widely available and don’t cost more than the .350 Legend.

Still, I hope it’s clear how closely these cartridges stack up. Every competition has a winner, but the truth is, you’re unlikely to notice much difference from the whitetail stand.

Overall Winner: .30-30 Winchester

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