Can You Use A 30-30 For Elk?


Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter, and Outdoorsman.

Hunting for elk can be a challenge. These are large animals protected by solid bones. You’ll need to use a powerful gun to get a kill shot. So, will the .30-30 be suitable for hunting an elk?

The .30-30 will be able to kill an elk. But it has a few drawbacks. First, it doesn’t have as much power as other calibers so, you will need to hit the vitals. Also, it has a limited range of 100 yards.

If you plan on hunting for elk, you’ll need to make sure that you are using the right tools. The .30-30 is a popular hunting rifle, especially for these larger animals. Read on to learn more about this rifle and how you can get the most out of it.

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Performance of the .30-30

To decide whether or not the .30-30 is a good choice for hunting, we need to look at how we can expect it to perform in the field. Here are some of the most important aspects to consider.


If you are hunting for elk, you’ll need to ensure using an accurate gun. This will ensure you can hit the target area and deliver a swift death. If you miss, the animal will suffer needlessly.

You might not get the same accuracy as other calibers, like the .30-06. However, the .30-30 will still be a relatively solid shot. As we’ll discuss later, you’ll need to be reasonably close to the target. From this distance, you should achieve a relatively tight grouping.

There are a few ways to improve your rifle’s accuracy. These include:

  • Using a scope. One of the biggest criticisms of most .30-30 rifles is their accuracy. While they might have an iron sight, this might not be a huge advantage during a hunt. The good news is that you can change this by adding your scope. You should quickly see an improvement in your accuracy.
  • Practice. Whenever you get a new gun, it’s essential to make sure you practice on the range. This will allow you to get used to how the gun feels, adjusting your style accordingly.


Another benefit of using a .30-30 is how much they weigh. They tend to be some of the lightest guns on the market. This is good for hunters, making it easier to carry.


The good news is that this recoil is relatively mild, especially compared with the other guns typically used for elk hunting. This will make it easier for beginners to handle. It will also make it easier for you to make a follow-up shot if required.

Lever Action Rifle

Many .30-30 rifles will be lever action-style weapons. While this might have a few downsides, like limited range, it also presents some upsides. Most significantly, you’ll be easily able to chamber another round. You won’t need to look up from the scope as you do this. As a result, you’ll be able to fire a follow-up shot quickly.


Finally, the .30-30 is among the most popular calibers in the United States. Most major manufacturers will offer a rifle in this caliber. Ammunition is freely available. As a result, buying a gun and ammo will be pretty inexpensive.

What’s the Range of the .30-30?

The .30-30 has a relatively limited range. If you are hunting for large animals, like elk, you’ll need to shoot from within 100 yards. This ensures the bullet will hit with enough force to take them down.

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One of the best ways to calculate the range of a gun is by looking at how quickly it fires the bullets. Generally, it will need to travel at 1,500 fps when it makes contact with the elk. How fast it travels will depend on both the gun and the bullet you are using.

Usually, the .30-30 won’t be too powerful. It’s common for most of these bullets to be traveling at 2,250 fps when they leave the gun. This is because of the way that they are shaped, often with a rounded tip. This slows their flight, as it takes more effort to push the air out of the way.

This means that you won’t have a long effective range. You’ll usually need to shoot from within 100 yards. If you don’t, you risk the bullet not having enough force to penetrate the elk. There are a few other elements to consider when deciding the best range for your gun. Let’s look at some of them:

  • The force of the gun. We’ll discuss this in more depth later. But, compared with other calibers, the .30-30 isn’t as hard-hitting. As a result, you will need to move closer to the elk to have a chance of generating enough power to take them down.
  • Accuracy of the shooter. Since the rifle caliber has limited power, you will need to ensure that you can hit the right area. If you don’t, you will only injure the animal and need to rely on a blood trail to find it again. Because of this, you might want to move a little closer for better bullet placement.

Even experienced shooters will struggle to kill an elk from more than 100 yards away with a .30-30. As a result, you will often need to get closer. Depending on your skill, you might need to try for 75 or 50 yards. As a general rule, the closer you can get, the better. You’ll have more chance of delivering a kill shot.

What Can You Shoot With the .30-30?

While the .30-30 has a wide range of uses. While it isn’t known for taking on big game, like elk, you can make a kill shot as long as you are close enough. There are a few other species that you can target with this caliber. These include:

  • Deer hunting (Mule deer/Whitetail deer). This is what this caliber was invented to tackle. It has a long history in this area. It’s estimated that millions of deer have met their end because of the .30-30.
  • Feral hogs. If you are close enough, you will be able to use this weapon to cut through the thick skin of a wild hog.
  • Brown bear. Some hunters have managed to take down brown bears with the .30-30.
  • Moose hunting. Again, type of weapon can provide enough force, but you will need to be within 100 yards for accurate shot placement.

Should You Use the .30-30 on Elk?

Whether or not the .30-30 is right for you will depend on a few factors. First, your hunting style. Some people prefer to shoot from a distance. In this case, the .30-30 isn’t the right caliber for you. Secondly, your accuracy. As it is a weaker gun, you’ll need to be able to hit the target area.

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Hopefully, you have a better idea of some of the pros and cons of the .30-30. Whether this caliber is the best choice for you will depend on a few factors.

Hunting Style

One of the most important things to think about is your hunting style. Some people prefer to shoot from a distance, ideally from around 300 yards away. This ensures that they don’t spook the animal by trying to get too close. If this is you, the .30-30 might not be the best option. It just doesn’t have enough power to make shots from a long distance.

In other cases, you might prefer to take a more active role. You might want to stalk your prey, trying to get as close as you can before you take the shot. In this case, the limited range won’t be as much of a hindrance. You’ll also likely appreciate the lightweight nature of this gun. Because of this, the .30-30 might be a good choice.


It’s always important to ensure you can hit the vitals before pulling the trigger. But this is even more important when using the .30-30. These bullets will do a lot of damage, but they might not have the power to break through bone.

Amount to Spend Hunting

Hunting can be an expensive business. If you don’t have a lot to spend, you might want to think about getting the .30-30. These rifles tend to be reasonably inexpensive. Bullets are freely available and will be affordable.

Other Hunting Calibers to Consider

If you are close enough, the .30-30 shouldn’t have any problems taking down big animals, like elk and moose. But, if you plan on hunting big game frequently, there are a few other calibers to consider. This will give you more power and allow you to improve your range. This will let you take a wider variety of shots and give you a better chance of killing your target. Here are some of the other options on the market:

  • .270. This is one of the most popular hunting options for you to choose from. This means that rifles and ammunition will be widely available. Plus, it offers plenty of power. It will leave a huge hole in the side of any bull. This post goes into more detail.
  • .308. This is another hugely popular caliber. It has a tremendously powerful shot with limited recoil. It will offer enough power to take down wildebeest in Africa if you want. You can read more about the .308 here.
  • .30-06. The .30-06 is great if you plan to hunt large animals. It packs a big punch. It also has a longer range. Some reports of hunters taking out elk from over 1,000 yards using this caliber.

Best Bullets for the .30-30

The .30-30 is pretty popular, so you can choose from plenty of bullets. If planning an elk hunt, you will need to use higher-grained bullets. Make sure that they are designed for big game hunting. While these might cost a little more, you can rest assured that they will get the job done. Some of the best options include:

  • 170-grain Core-Lokt. This bullet from Remington is one of the most popular hunting bullets in the world. It’s been used for over 75 years, giving it a powerful reputation. It will be able to retain its bullet weight, expanding when it hits the bull elk.
  • 190 grain Buffalo Bore. This is another bullet that is known for doing a lot of damage. It offers deep penetration and should be enough to take down big game, like elk.
  • 160-grain Hornady LEVERevolution ammo. This bullet has been specifically designed to work with lever-action rifles, like the .30-30. They are also able to fly faster, allowing you to achieve deeper penetration and do more damage.
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Trying to find the right hunting bullet can be a challenge. It’s often best to try a few options before deciding which one you want to use. Thankfully, most of these bullets will be fairly low-cost, making it easier to experiment.

Tips When Using the .30-30 for Hunting Elk

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As we mentioned, the .30-30 might not be the best choice when hunting for big game, like elk. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Here are some tips you can use to plan a successful hunt:

  • Finding the elk. First, you’ll need to be able to locate the elk. Often, this will mean looking for attractive places to feed and locating water sources. You can look at rub marks on the trees and listen for bugling. Or you can use salt licks to get them to come to you.
  • Practice your stalking skills. If you are going to use the .30-30, you’ll need to be able to get close to the elk. To do this, there are a few basic skills that you will need to master. For example, you will need to learn how to mask your scent successfully. You’ll also have to get used to using the terrain to your advantage. You’ll need to find places to take shelter and move without making too much noise.
  • Customize the gun. Make sure that the gun fits you correctly. This will give you more control and help you control the recoil. You might also want to upgrade the scope. This will make it easier for you to hit the vitals.
  • Hunt ethically. Finally, it’s important to remember the principles of ethical hunting. Don’t take the shot if you are too far away or don’t have the right angle. The last thing you want to do is cause needless suffering to the animal by only wounding it. When you are in position, shoot to kill.

Final Thoughts

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The .30-30 has a reputation for being highly effective against deer. This is why it is one of the most popular cartridges in the United States. However, it can also be used against elk. You’ll need to get closer, with an effective range of under 100 yards.

As it doesn’t have enough force to go through the bone, you’ll need to make sure that you can hit the vitals properly. Because of this, many people prefer to switch to more powerful calibers when hunting for big game, like elk.

Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.