It was Christmas and somehow I just knew my wife was going to buy me a new handgun. Over the years we have been married she has, on her own, purchased and presented me with such fine sixguns as a Smith & Wesson 1950 Target and a pre-War Colt Single Action, both in .44 Special chambering, and Flat-top Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum. She certainly knew what I liked when it came to sixguns.

As Christmas morning dawned and I was presented with my package, I realized that this thing was awfully big to be a sixgun. Unwrapping the paper from the awaited `sixgun' I did not find a single action sixgun, or even a double action sixgun, or even a 1911 semi-automatic. It wasn't even a handgun. It was something called a Contender and I could not believe she had picked this out as a handgun.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you felt like you either had to tell the truth and hurt someone's feelings or lie and go against everything you had ever been taught and believed in? Of course you have or you would not be human. Should I lie or tell the truth? I took the third alternative, and said let's go shoot it.

Up to this point I did not consider Contenders to be handguns, but a few shots with the .30-30 Super Fourteen that my wife had presented me with changed my mind quickly and emphatically and forever. With iron sights I found I could shoot groups, not at 100 yards, but at 200 meters, that I could cover with the palm of my hand. That .30-30 was the first of many Contenders that have been used for the last fifteen years for both long-range silhouetting and hunting in every caliber from .22 LR up through the .45-70. But the .30-30 was first and it is a gun I would never consider selling. I finally retired it from silhouetting and set it up for hunting with a Burris pistol scope.

A lot of silhouette matches were won with the .30-30 Super Fourteen using my favorite long range load of Hornady's 150 grain spire point over 26.0 grains of IMR4198 for 1,900+ feet per second muzzle velocity. This is not a hunting load! A friend wanted some silhouette loads, so I recommended this one and he came back complaining because they shot right through the neck of a mule deer buck with little effect. Wrong bullet, wrong target.

The .30-30 has always been thought of as a close range woods hunting cartridge. Chambering it in a T/C Contender changed all that. When using the .30-30 for silhouetting, I found it to shoot flat enough to allow me to go through all big bore targets at ranges of 50, 100, 150, and 200 meters without ever changing the sights. I simply sighted in to hold at the feet of the chicken, and this then allowed me to hold at the feet of the pig, where the feet meet the belly of the turkey, and dead center on the ram. This was my first and all-time favorite Unlimited gun.

The .30-30 cartridge was the first rifle sporting cartridge designed to be used with smokeless powder and its platform, the legendary Model 1894 Winchester is still being manufactured and has sold more units than any other centerfire sporting rifle. Until the advent of the .30-30, the second double digit denoted the powder charge in black powder, such as the .45-70 and .50-70. The .30-30, or .30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) carried a powder charge of 30 grains of smokeless powder. Things really went weird after this as neither the .30-06 nor the .250-3000 denoted powder charges in black or smokeless but year of introduction and muzzle velocity respectively.

The lever action Winchester and Marlin .30-30's with their tubular magazines require the use of flat-nosed bullets to avoid the tip of a bullet setting off the primer of the round ahead of it while .30-30 Contender shooters are not bound by such restrictions. Levergun lovers often carry a spire pointed round in the chamber with the magazine full of flat-point rounds. The Contender shooter can use the bullets with the better ballistic coefficient for the first shot and the second and on and on with no worries.

Loading for the .30-30 is simplicity in itself. Since it is a rimmed cartridge, I set the RCBS sizing die to bump up against the shellholder and full length size all brass both fired and brand new unfired. In fact this is a ritual I perform with all new brass be it for rifle, sixgun, semi-auto, or single shot pistol. All new brass is first full length resized.

The .30-30 has the beautiful long neck that handloaders love and I normally load to have the base of the bullets meet the base of the cartridge neck. For some cast bullets this may mean leaving some lube grooves exposed, but under no circumstances would I allow a gas checked base to protrude into the interior of the brass case. If the gas check should come off of the bullet and be in this condition when the gun is fired, the barrel could easily be ruined. Or worse. If the copper base somehow stays in the barrel and the next bullet is fired.... Keep the gas checked bases in the necks of bottle-necked cartridges.

I mentioned that I have now turned my .30-30 into a hunting handgun, and have had the opportunity to shoot one whitetail deer with the Super Fourteen. The shot was at eighty yards using the Hornady 130 Single Shot Pistol bullet at just under 2300 feet per second. The bullet penetrated completely going through the heart in the process and left such a blood trail that even I could follow it with no problem. Somehow that whitetail made it up a small hill and was dead 100 yards away. My load for this bullet as well as the Nosler 125 grain Ballistic Tip and the Speer 130 Flat Point is 36.0 grains of Hodgdon's H335 ignited by CCI #200 Large Rifle primers in Remington brass. The later two go 2269 and 2230 feet per second respectively over the Oehler Model 35P skyscreens.

Any of these bullet/load combinations should work fine for whitetail and similar sized game. However, if the .30-30 is to be used for mule deer or black bear, I do believe I would go with the Winchester 150 grain SilverTip or Hornady's 170 grain Jacketed Flat Point as my bullets of choice. The SilverTip will do 1900+ feet per second with either 29.0 grains of Accurate Arms 2015, 36.0 grains of Winchester's 748, or IMR's 4198.

Switching to the heavier Hornady 170 flat point, 32.0 to 33.0 grains of H335 will give 1800 to 1900 feet per second. To use the Super Fourteen .30-30 for varminting, Speer's 110 grain Spire Point is good for 2400 to 2500 feet per second over 32.0 to 34.0 grains of Reloader 7.

It never ceases to amaze me that rifle hunters that are transformed into handgun hunters can easily lose all perspective. They would not think of going after elk with a .30-30 rifle, but they will basically cut off the butt stock, shorten the barrel by six-inches, transform it into a single-shot and then ask "What load should I use for elk?" The answer is, of course, none. The .30-30 chambered in a Contender is the perfect deer hunting handgun. If we load it properly, keep shots under 150 yards, 100 would be better, it will serve us well.

The Thompson/Center Contender has been produced in myriads of calibers over the past three decades. As a hunter it would be difficult for me not to choose the .30-30 if faced with the awful prospect of only having one factory chambered barrel, especially if I wanted a caliber that would serve for long range silhouetting as well as hunting. If silhouetting was the only use for the Contender I would still pick the .30-30 over all present factory chamberings. As a pure hunting handgun, it ranks with the .35 Remington and .375 Winchester as the best available this side of a custom chambered barrel.






Bullet Load MV
Speer 110 SP 30.0 GR. H4198 2067
31.0 GR. H4198 2151
32.0 GR. H4198 2203
33.0 GR. H4198 2323
34.0 GR. H322  2071
35.0 GR. H322 2147
36.0 GR. H322 2326
37.0 GR. H322 2372
34.0 GR. H4895 2061
35.0 GR. H4895 2120
36.0 GR. H4895 2193
31.0 GR. RE-7 2329
32.0 GR. RE-7 2400
33.0 GR. RE-7 2468
34.0 GR. RE-7 2503
Speer 130 JFP 27.0 GR. H4198  1800
28.0 GR. H4198  1886
29.0 GR. H4198  1988
29.0 GR. H322 1729
30.0 GR. H322 1768
31.0 GR. H322 1828
31.0 GR. H4895 1854
32.0 GR. H4895 1872
33.0 GR. H4895 1885
27.0 GR. RE-7 2033
27.0 GR. RE-7 2067
27.0 GR. RE-7 2197
36.0 GR. H335* 2230
Hornady 130 SSP 36.0 GR. H335* 2286
Nosler 125 Ballistic Tip 36.0 GR. H335* 2269
Speer 150 JFP  26.0 GR. H4198  1726
27.0 GR. H4198  1820
28.0 GR. H4198  1892
28.0 GR. H322 1733
29.0 GR. H322 1749
31.0 GR. H4895 1866
321.0 GR. H4895 1897
33.0 GR. H4895 1956
26.0 GR. RE-7  1933
27.0 GR. RE-7  2006
28.0 GR. RE-7  2062
Winchester 150 Silvertip 29.3 GR. AA2015 1953
36.0 GR. WW748  1963
26.0 GR. IMR4198 1979
Hornady 170 JFP 31.0 GR. WW748 1626
32.0 GR. WW748 1685
33.0 GR. WW748 1722
31.0 GR. H335 1734
32.0 GR. H335 1807
33.0 GR. H335 1901
24.0 GR. H4198 1600
25.0 GR. H4198 1718
* favorite hunting loads



Bullet Load MV
Lyman 150 GR. GC 20.0 GR. H4198 1538
  21.0 GR. H4198  1666
22.0 GR. H4198 1788
Lyman 180 GR. GC  21.0 GR. H4198 1512
  22.0 GR. H4198  1636