Hornady’s American Whitetail Ammo for the .30-30 Winchester

This post describes Hornady’s American Whitetail ammo for the .30-30 Winchester and compares it to other cartridge lines.

We know that the deer population in America has never been higher.  We also know that there are more than ten million deer hunters in the country.  Predictable result:  Selling ammo to deer hunters is a money-making proposition.

Hornady’s American Whitetail (AW) line of ammo is aimed (oops! pun) at this market.  The line includes nine cartridges that include the usual suspects from .243 Winchester to .300 Winchester Magnum.  These loads use the Hornady Interlock bullets in weights appropriate for whitetail deer hunting.  That, in Hornady’s view, means 150 grains for all four of the thirty-caliber entries in the line.  They enthusiastically announce that the AW ammo “….combines generations of ballistic know-how with modern components and the technology you need to take the buck of a lifetime!” (from Hornady’s website)

Just looking at the box this ammo line comes in might cause a deer to give up and fall over dead.  With a clever AW logo nestled in a rack of antlers and bold white lettering on an American flag background, it is just about the spiffiest factory ammo box I have ever seen.

Packaging beauty

Packaging beauty

Interesting to me is the fact that the AW line includes a 150-gr loading for the .30-30 Winchester.  Well, you could hardly have such a line without including the grandpa of all deer cartridges, now, could you?  Nope.  The ballistic performance, which you can actually find printed on the beautiful box, is identical to “standard” specs, namely, a muzzle velocity of 2390 fps for the blunt, 150-grain bullet.  Same as such loads have given for years, regardless of make.

Four deer cartridges loads, L to R: Federal 150, Remington 150, American Whitetail 150, and LEVERevolution 160

Four deer cartridges, L to R: Federal 150, Remington 150, American Whitetail 150, and LEVERevolution 160

Pulling a bullet from an AW round reveals 36.0 grains of a dark gray, ball powder with flattened grains.  Of course, we can’t hazard a guess as to the identity of this powder. The bullet has a round nose and a flat base.

American Whitetail Load Disassembled

American Whitetail Load Disassembled

We will want to compare this load with the .30-30 LEVERevolution 160-gr load introduced by Hornady a few years ago and touted to be the last word in a safe and effective cartridge for lever action rifles.  The LE gives 2400 fps at the snout with its slightly heavier bullet.  That is not hugely greater, but the big news is what happens down range, as has been now reported many times in many places.  The LE bullet, with a ballistic coefficient of 0.330, arrives at 200 yards still making 1916 fps and 1304 fp of kinetic energy.  The pokey AW, like other standard loads, will arrive at that distance making only 1581 fps and 832 fp of kinetic energy because of its lower ballistic coefficient of 0.186. .  It is certain, therefore, that LEVERevolution powder is not being used in the AW shells. They are totally conventional, and that is not a bad thing.

Déjà vu

Famous before the appearance of the latest cartridge lines, Hornady’s Custom ammo series was the former home of the standard 150- and 170-grain loads for .30-30.  The Custom line still exists and is quite extensive, including nearly 50 loads in various calibers.  It uses Interlock and SST bullets and still seems to be the “standard” centerfire line but it will probably be superseded by the Superformance line that is using more modern powder tech and offers improved ballistics, albeit for a bit more money.

The Custom line still includes a 170-grain load for the .30-30 at the standard velocity of 2200 fps.  The 150-grain load, however, is no longer in the Custom list.  It seems to be in the American Whitetail list, only.  Could we assume that this 150-gr load is the former Custom load in a purty box?  Well, yes, durn it.  Or real close, anyway. That is exactly what I would do if I were making whitetail medicine.

The LEVERevolution ammo is undeniably superior in ballistics but the standard .30-30 loads have successfully taken deer for years at reasonable ranges.  We do not need to plow that ground again.  Hornady is keeping all bases covered with its .30-30 American Whitetail load.  The quality has always been there, regardless of the name of the line.

Will It Perform?

Now that is a silly question, really.  It is too cold and snowy to go to the range right now, but, over the years, I have tested a lot of Hornady Custom ammo at the bench.  In a test of .30-30 factory ammo conducted some time ago, the Hornady Custom  150-gr load averaged a muzzle velocity of 2346 fps in five different rifles.  My 22-inch Remington Model 788 gave 2326 fps and a 24-inch Win Model 94 gave 2369 fps.

For accuracy the Hornady Custom 150-gr load averaged 2.02 Minutes-of-Angle for the five rifles.  This was the best performance of six different 150-gr loads from various makers.  In the Remington Model 788, the average was an outstanding 1.19 MOA, in the Model 94, 2.85 MOA.

If I were to take some American Whitetail .30-30 to the range today, this is exactly the performance I would expect to find.

Two four-shot groups, Hornady Custom 150-gr load, Remington M788

Two four-shot groups, Hornady Custom 150-gr load, Remington M788

Anything Else?

I will say that I have no connection with the Hornady Co. except as a customer who always pays retail for their products.  It has been fun to keep an eye on what they are doing and to test as many of their products as I have resources to acquire and guns to use them in.  I really have no other expensive vices.  Really.

As a group, the factory cartridges offered for the .30-30 are uniformly excellent.  If you want to use a standard load, I would especially recommend the Federal Fusion line.  Its 150-gr .30-30 load gave 2364 fps and 2450 fps in my Remington Model 788 and Win Model 94, respectively.  Accuracy was outstanding, averaging 1.10 MOA in the 788.

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