The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Hide > The Art of the Rifle: Bolt, Lever, and Pump Action

View Poll Results: Which Levergun Caliber for Home Defense
30/30 25 28.74%
44mag 38 43.68%
a57mag 24 27.59%
Voters: 87. You may not vote on this poll

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old October 10, 2012, 12:06 PM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: February 26, 2008
Posts: 291
HELP: Levergun 30/30 vs 44mag

I desperately want to pick up a lever action for just general fun and primary home defense rifle.

First, I need to decide caliber and cannot choose between these 2. Also was considering the 357mag. I did lots of research and the 30/30 and 44mag seem to both offer great power with an edge to range for the 30/30 and an edge to power for the 44. I still cant decide

I dont own a revolver and dont plan on getting one to match so again this would be primarily Home defense and just range fun. I am interested in either 16 or 18in barrel. Any ideas ow to settle this debate in my head? And im only getting ONE so dont say both!
  • Other concerns I have are capacity differences in equal barrel lengths, I assume 44mag holds more but not sure how many more or even if thats true.
  • Ammo cost, not sure which costs more (I dont reload)
  • Lastly, weight, Again assuming we have 2 identical length barrel rifles one is 44mag and one in 30/30 which weighs more, holds, more, etc.
  • Reliability, do they function the same or is one inherently more reliabel than the other?
  • Laslty, any good reccomendations for brands or models. I dont need top of the line, just looking for a solid reliable performer

Thansk in advance and please vote to help me choose
jwalker497 is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 01:04 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: June 15, 2008
Location: Georgia
Posts: 8,599
My Marlin 44mag is 10+1 The 30-30's are 6+1, both with 20" barrels and full mag tubes which is most common. I have a couple of shorter barreled 30-30's and 1 with a half length tube that are 4+1.

Ammo costs are about the same with a slight advantage to 44.

My 30-30's vary between 6.75-7.25 bs. Depends on the rifle. The Winchester is lighter than the Marlins. Some of the Marlins are lighter than other Marlins. No 2 pieces of wood will weigh the same. The 44 mag is right at 6 lbs.

This won't be popular, but all levers are the least reliable of all repeaters. That does not mean unreliable, just less so than any other. I've had slightly more issues with pistol calibers than rifle calibers.

Marlin or Winchester are the only 2 I'd suggest. There are lots of good used models. No reason to choose one of the imitations when you can get the real thing used for less money than the knock offs are selling for new. If you decide on 44 forget the Winchester. Over the years Marlin has been more consistent in reliability. If you get good Winchester, you have a good rifle. But the odds of getting a good rifle are a bit better on a used Marlin.

A 16-18" barrel will add considerably to costs. They are far less common than 20" and are priced accordingly. I have some rifles with those barrel lengths, but wouldn't really worry too much about it. A 20" barrel is plenty handy and I'd just as soon have that length and save my money.

Nothing wrong with a 357, other than the extra costs. But unless I just wanted a rifle in the same chambering as a handgun I cannot think of a single good reason to pick one over 44 or 30-30.

I think the 30-30 is more versatile and would be my pick if I could only have 1. They are much more common and much more reasonably priced. With 125 gr bullets they are great SD rifles against human attackers and with good 170 gr bullets will work on larger game at much longer ranges than the 44. Having 11 rounds of 44 sounds good, but 7 rounds of 30-30 ain't bad and it is easy to top off the magazine with either.
jmr40 is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 06:01 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: April 6, 2008
Location: West Michigan
Posts: 663
I would go with either the 44, or 30-30. For home defense you might get over penetration issues with the 30-30, but for general hunting it would be the best. If you hand load you could bring the cost down with either caliber. For optimum ballistics, the 44 should be loaded with slower burning powders for rifle use, since this caliber is meant to be used with a 6" barrel revolver.
coyota1 is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 06:25 PM   #4
Single Six
Senior Member
Join Date: January 31, 2010
Location: N.C.
Posts: 1,522
I had a Marlin 1894SS in .44 Magnum. It proved to be horribly unreliable, especially with factory JHP loads. Granted, the lever action rifle was designed long before JHP ammo, and so I probably shouldn't be surprised. Still, no matter how clean I kept it, no matter how smartly I worked that lever, the rifle was a hopeless jammer, even after a return trip to Marlin for repairs. I've heard lots of Marlin owners say that their rifles have never given them problems, but plenty of others say that their experience was similar to mine. Ultimately, I think that buying a lever action is a crap shoot when it comes to reliability. As for my Marlin, I sold it off, went back to my Mini-14, and now have no complaints....the Mini NEVER jams.
Seen on a bumper sticker: "Exercise. Eat right. Take vitamins. Die anyway."
Single Six is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 06:56 PM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: December 13, 2009
Location: central Wisconsin
Posts: 2,324
If you got the 30-30 you'd also have a good deer rifle.
warbirdlover is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 07:29 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: March 11, 2011
Posts: 321
While I have had zero issues with my Marlin 44 the 30/30 is more versatile , cheaper , easier to find and probably easier to resell. You would be happier with the 30/30 from what you said.
Daggitt is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 08:00 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 14,349
30-30. You won't have any issues with cartridge feeding like you might with pistol cartridges.
Hawg is offline  
Old October 10, 2012, 10:20 PM   #8
Cousin Toad
Join Date: December 28, 2008
Location: Eastern NC
Posts: 44
I am guessing the last choice was .357, which is the one I voted for.

I like the idea of having a revolver and rifle being the same. I am currently looking at buying a levergun in .357. I think if you are looking for a plinking or self defense rifle caliber the .357 would be it.

Even though I voted for the .357, I would also highly recommend the .30-30 because it is so common and reasonably cheap to shoot. The .30-30 will also fill the self defense role and it has more power and range than either the .357 or .44.

Try out all those calibers listed if possible and see what works best for YOU.
Cousin Toad is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 03:00 AM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: October 9, 2009
Location: North Alabama
Posts: 6,024

In typical carbine barrel lengths's, the pistol calibers will have hgher capacity. Maybe that's why the longer rifles were popular back in the day for rifle cals? Anyhow........HD is typically short range. For across the room or down the hall, a .357 from a carbine barrel has lots of punch. A 125jhp from a carbine will come very close to 2000 fps. I can tell you from use on car v. auto deer and ferals, that that combo is extremely destructive.

A .357 will also be cheaper to shoot, and more versatile, able to use .38's for mild mannered practice, and double as a close range deer rifle when loaded heavy. All this applies to the .44 as well, but the .357 will do it w/ less fuss.

The .30 is more than you need , and not as simple to feed.
bamaranger is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 03:43 AM   #10
Senior Member
Join Date: March 31, 2011
Location: Southeast, USA
Posts: 350
I have both a 44 and a 30/30 my most go to rifle is the 30/30. I would recommend the 30/30 for your suggested use.
GM2 is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 05:36 AM   #11
Senior Member
Join Date: December 31, 2011
Location: Vermont
Posts: 1,974
For the OP's stated purpose of "general fun and primary home defense rifle", the .357 is the only choice...

.44 Mag and .30-30 are wayyyy overkill inside a building...
Salmoneye is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 06:35 PM   #12
Senior Member
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 14,349
.44 Mag and .30-30 are wayyyy overkill inside a building...
Maybe but if you decide to go hunting its the best choice. Sides dead is dead.
Hawg is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 08:34 PM   #13
Senior Member
Join Date: January 2, 2005
Location: Where the deer and the antelope roam.
Posts: 2,112
Unreliable? I have 2 marlins and have have several others and the only problem I ever had was the one I put thousands of rounds thru cowboy shooting. I replaced the elevator and it was good as new.

I have a 357 and a 44. The 44 has a 16" and the 357 the 18", the 44 is my go to.
My rifle and pistol are tools, I am the weapon.
Nanuk is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 08:47 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: October 11, 2012
Location: Florida
Posts: 134
I would pick the .44mag...Sure bullets are a litte more expensive, but you have more self defense type bullets. Also, you have the capability to carry more rounds in your rifle. The .30-30 i would save for the woods because it has more of a chance for over penetration issues. Which ever you pick, should you decided to take up close range deer or hog hunting, you have a good rifle to do so. Good luck!
Rebel9793 is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 09:13 PM   #15
Senior Member
Join Date: September 8, 2010
Posts: 495
I've owned two .44 magnum lever guns. My current, and best so far, has been a Henry Big Boy (a bit on the heavy side, though).

In any case, it comes down to range. The effective range of the .44 is about 100 yards, max range might be 125 or 150 yards. If you're shooting past those distances, then the .30-30 will have more range.

Otherwise, the .44 magnum has some impressive ballistics from a rifle inside of 100 yards and for a short range rifle it's my choice. Not to mention .44 specials can be fired from the same rifle for reduced recoil with impressive ballistics. Even though you may never own a revolver, it's also nice to know that you could purchase a handgun in the same caliber as your carbine.

For longer ranges I have a .308, which is cheaper to shoot and reload (cheap military brass), has more factory loadings available and is more powerful than the .30-30. In guns that I shoot, I'm also not limited to special polymer tipped rounds, round nose bullets, or loading singularly to prevent detonation unlike a .30-30 lever gun.
testuser is offline  
Old October 11, 2012, 10:55 PM   #16
bailey bud
Senior Member
Join Date: February 7, 2011
Location: 1.5 miles above insanity
Posts: 259
Given my druthers, think I'd go with the 30-30.

You've got around 250 yard range (drop of 3") with modern Hornady leverevolution. The .44 can go about 150 yards.

The 30-30 has 1300 ft lbs (again - with Evo cartridge) at 200 yds. The 44 has about 750.

(note - the LeverEvolution deals with the problems test mentions)

The Ruger Model 96 is a fun lever action. However, when it comes to lever action rifles, I really can't imagine enjoying anything as much as a good ole fashioned Winchester 94 in 30-30.
bailey bud is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 01:22 AM   #17
Junior member
Join Date: February 10, 2009
Posts: 974
leverevolution really isnt he most powerful, in 30-30. just look at what the super x hollowpoints do..

the issue is not oh, "do i get a pistol caliber or an actual rifle caliber" its

'do i get a pistol caliber chambered in a rifle size action, or do i get a pistol caliber chambered in the small size pistol caliber frame action?'
Newton24b is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 04:23 AM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: June 28, 2008
Location: tenn.
Posts: 260

guess this old man is lucky i own all 3 just acquired the marlin 44 this week.
jughead2 is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 04:32 AM   #19
Senior Member
Join Date: June 28, 1999
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 559
I own Marlin's in both calibers. And from what you describe as your wants I would go with the .44 Magnum chambered version. So I can highly recommend the Marlin model 1894 in .44 Mag. These can sometimes be found on the used market for about $350-$400. A Marlin model 336 chambered in 30-30 can be found used for as little as about $250-$300.

Overall .44 Mag ammunition will be slightly less expensive over .30-30, and at home defense ranges - it really does not matter whether you hit someone with a .30-30 or a .44 Magnum. They will go down. I will argue that a .44 Magnum is much better for HD as the concern of over penetration of the target is less than with a .30-30.

I like short barrel guns in general, however you could toss a coin to decide between 16 and 18". Practically, ballistically speaking, it does not make a difference. However of the two I would go with 16" just because you are looking at HD as your primary use.
NRA & NAHC Life Member
Rob62 is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 10:06 AM   #20
Jim Downey
Senior Member
Join Date: March 5, 2009
Posts: 206
For what you've described using it for, I'd say either the .44 or the .357. Both will be more than adequate for home defense, and both gain significantly from the longer barrel over their handgun counterparts.

Arguably, the .357 is the most 'flexible' option, since with low-end .38s it can be used for small game, and with heavy .357 loads is suitable for larger game (whitetails) out to medium range.

If that flexibility isn't as important to you, then the .44 certainly offers more punch and longer ranges.

The .30-30 is a classic choice for a deer rifle, and would offer more power and greater range over the .44.

I've owned and shot all three, and wouldn't gainsay another's choice. There's now a .44 in my safe, though.

Good luck making your selection!

James Downey - BBTI handgun cartridge research - where I'm a features/review writer Communion of Dreams - my current novel.
Jim Downey is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 11:08 AM   #21
Senior Member
Join Date: January 2, 2005
Location: Where the deer and the antelope roam.
Posts: 2,112
The 30-30 has 1300 ft lbs (again - with Evo cartridge) at 200 yds. The 44 has about 750.
You are looking at handgun velocities for the 44. Rifle velocities just about double the ME.

The 44 outshines the 30-30 up to 100 yards.
My rifle and pistol are tools, I am the weapon.
Nanuk is offline  
Old October 12, 2012, 11:22 AM   #22
Senior Member
Join Date: July 5, 2009
Posts: 558
i have both the 30/30 and 44 mag winchester lever rifles. having one or the other would be good. push come to shove tho i would choose the 44 mag. why? the 44 mag is alot shorter making it better for close quarters. it also holds 9 rounds compared to 7 with the 30/30. shorter and holds more ammo makes it a better tacticle choice, at least in my eyes.
ya only got 1 arm and ya carry 3 guns for Christs sake. Well I don't want to get killed for lack of shooting back.
rickyjames is offline  
Old October 20, 2012, 10:53 PM   #23
Senior Member
Join Date: February 28, 1999
Location: White Mountains, AZ & Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Posts: 663
When thinking about home defense, you should consider penetration. A 30-30 will go through a few walls, not good!

The best home defense long gun weapon is a pump action shotgun with #1 buck, or just about any load including #6 or 9 birdshot, devastating at close range. (a famous African hunter decapitated a wounded lion with both barrels at once with his side by side shotgun. He had #9 birdshot in the tube).

If you must have a lever gun, 45Colt in a Winchester '94 trapper, or Marlin is my first choice. Big, fat, slow moving heavy bullet will put intruders down, and less likely to kill your neighbors child in the next apartment or house.
TABING is offline  
Old October 21, 2012, 02:36 AM   #24
Senior Member
Join Date: May 22, 2005
Location: USA The Great State of California
Posts: 2,090
You might let price of ammunition settle the question for you. All three have their pluses and their minuses. I could not decide and now have a .357 magnum and a .44 magnum, both Marlin.

When the number of people in institutions reaches 51%, we change sides.
Hook686 is offline  
Old October 21, 2012, 10:02 AM   #25
Senior Member
Join Date: September 28, 2008
Posts: 10,447
Hard to believe that only Hook had the most obvious answer - One of Each.
Passing up a really good reason to buy more guns?
You guys are slipping today.
Personally, I'd choose pistol caliber for sure.
The 30-30 might make a better hunting choice, under some circumstances.
But the .357 and/or the 44M are lots more fun at the range.
Walt Kelly, alias Pogo, sez:
“Don't take life so serious, son, it ain't nohow permanent.”
g.willikers is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:33 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2017 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.10617 seconds with 10 queries