THE .30-20 AND THE REPEATER THAT USES IT
By WILLIS O. C. ELLIS
While this is primarily intended to be a little story about the .30-20 cartridge and the repeater that uses it, there are two other cartridges that will be briefly considered first as they precede and lead up to the .32-caliber cartridge.
In the first place, by far the greatest number of rifle users are those who shoot small and medium game, and for this reason the cartridges of moderate power and expense are much sought and highly prized by the great army of shooters.
By all odds, the .22 Long-rifle is by far the most popular of small-bore ammunition. Years ago, a Long-rifle was a Long-rifle. In the several different makes they were very much the same. How different now! There is the Winchester "Precision," the Western "Marksman," the U. S. "N. R. A.," the Peters "Tack-hole," and the Remington "Palma," all the improved ammunition, wonderfully accurate and more powerful than that of a number of years ago. The data for the old black powder Long-rifle was about 1000 feet velocity and 90 foot pounds energy but the new ammunition has increased the velocity, energy, and lowered the trajectory figures. The velocity is up around 1100 and the energy about 100.
The Long-rifle is a fine little cartridge and capable of far more execution than it is usually given credit for. One must remember that it has an extreme range of between 1400 and 1500 yards. Used in any standard single shot arm or repeater, it is wonderfully effective on small game; used in any of the fine, heavy weight target arms such as the Model 52 Winchester and the N. R. A. Savage, it is a marvel of accuracy and will make finer groups than any other cartridge. As a target cartridge for general rifle practice, the .22 Long-rifle is in a class by itself owing to the ease with which it may be procured and its cheapness.
For hunting, the hollow bullets are best and as a cartridge for squirrel and other small game the improved Long-rifle with its greater power and improved accuracy, leaves little to be desired.
For large game like ducks, foxes, cats, and hawks one needs more power and a center fire cartridge that may be easily reloaded and next above the .22 Long-rifle is the .25-20. This cartridge has a large following and is still powerful with many for the larger varieties of small game up to deer and as a hunting cartridge has an advantage over the .22 Long-rifle because of its greater power.
In power the .25-30 shows a substantial increase over the .22 Long-rifle, the muzzle energy being 360 or approximately four times as powerful as the long rifle ammunition loaded with black powder. And its smashing effect is somewhat more than four times as great since the .25-20 has a flat nosed bullet.
Then, too, the .25-20 is loaded with a high velocity load. The muzzle energy of this load is 570 ft. Ibs. which is power enough for deer and black bear at close range if placed right. But this is not a deer and bear cartridge, although it has killed many of these animals. Those desiring a center fire cartridge of medium power for hunting purposes will be pleased with this ammunition — the black semi smokeless or ordinary smokeless powder and lead bullets for small game and high velocity loads for larger game.
Aside from its greater power and reloading feature, the .25-20 has another advantage over the Long-rifle and that is the cleaning. Admitting, as we must, every virtue of the popular twenty-two, the fact remains that it is the hardest of all calibers to keep in good condition. Not that it is impossible to keep a twenty-two in perfect order, but that it does require considerable care and a knowledge of "how to" keep this smallest of all rifled bores in perfect shape. While the .25-caIiber is only slightly larger than the .22-caliber, still
bullets it gives a muzzle energy of 680. This is only 60 ft. Ibs. less than the muzzle energy of the .32-40, and not so very many years ago the .32-40 was considered fine for deer and black bear.
In accuracy the .32-20 don't have to sneak off behind the barn for up to 200 yards it will make a creditable showing. The regular factory black powder loads will give at least 3i inch groups at 100 yards, and something less than 8-inch groups at 200 yards. Something like 8-inch groups at 200 yards mean little to the hunter as most game is killed at 50-yards and under. Why, then, worry about the 200 yard shots that you never get?
In this cartridge, as in the .25-20, the bullet has a flat nose but pointed bullets may be cast for reloading and they are excellent for small game, kill quickly and do not spoil a lot of meat.
Where one feels that the twenty-two is too light for the game sought, and a better cartridge than the .25-20 is desired, rest assured that the .32-20 will prove a winner. For squirrel, rabbits, foxes, bob cats, ducks, geese, and all game up to deer and small bear and even there is a noticeable difference when it comes to cleaning. There is more room inside and one can use larger cleaning patches. If you clean by passing a patch through the slot, then try the .22 rod in the .25 barrel. You will find it better.
There is another cartridge of the low power class, a cartridge of larger diameter than the .25-20 and one that has been used with great success on small and medium game for half a century. It is the .32 Winchester, commonly known as the .32-20. Beyond a doubt this is one of the best, if not the best cartridge ever brought out for all-round game shooting up to, but not including deer and small bear, although many of the "old boys" claim that it isn't bad for deer and black bear at close range. Any way, I'd prefer not to be the bear or deer when some one was working the lever of his .32 Winchester.
In power the .32-20 has something on the .25-20. The muzzle energy, with the standard load of 20 grains of black powder and 115 grain lead bullet, is 380 with a mid-range trajectory, when shooting 100 yards, of 3J inches. In the high velocity loads with metal cased these at close range with high velocity ammunition it is. indeed, hard to beat. Years ago when turkey matches were so common about Thanksgiving, the .32 Winchester was one of the most popular arms for this work. And to be a winner at that kind of shooting a rifle had to "deliver the goods." While for wild turkey hunting the .32-20 is still one of the best arms procurable in the low power class.
It is strange, but true that while a great number of hunting cartridges for big game have been brought out within the past few years, practically nothing has been done in the way of new rifle ammunition for small and medium game, the .22 Long-rifle, as mentioned above, being the onlv one that has been given serious attention. In fact, many excellent low power cartridges as well as the rifles using them have been discontinued. But thanks for the .32-20 it still remains and will do so for many years to come.
One of the strong features of this cartridge that makes it a favorite with many shooters who can still see some virtue in low power ammunition, is the ease with which it may be reloaded. The shell being only slightly reduced at the neck and almost of the same diameter throughout its entire length is easy to clean and extremely easy to reload. Those desiring to reload will find the Bond reloading tools all that could be desired. The double cavity Bond mould is the thing for sharp point bullets, this mould casting two bullets of different weights. But for regular hunting the standard flat nose bullets give more smashing effect and should be used.
A noted rifle authority has the following to say regarding the .32-20:
"The advocates of high power and high velocity would have us believe that three-quarters of the rifles are antiquated, worthless and worthy only of the junk heap. Yet, take one of the smallest and oldest of them all, the .32-20 W. C. F. It is doubtful if there is a better all-round rifle made for use in the Eastern states. It will kill deer and smaller game as neatly as you please, will shoot with the best up to 200 yards, is hardy, light, uses cheap ammunition, to be had anywhere."
But good as the .32-20 cartridge Is, there is only two repeating rifles now on the market that handles it. The Model 1892 Winchester lever action and the Marlin Model 27 slide action. The Model 1873 and single shot Winchesters were chambered for this ammunition, but these rifles are not listed in the last Winchester catalogues. Frankly, we owe these companies a debt of gratitude for continuing the manufacture of rifles in this caliber. Let us, therefore, briefly discuss these arms as to their construction. Both are made with 24-inch barrel with stock of first quality walnut. The Winchester has a full length tubular magazine under the barrel, blued receiver, plain wooden fore-end and open sights. The weight is about 6 Ibs. and it can be had in either solid frame or take-down. It is also procurable in Carbine style with 20-inch round barrel and half magazine. The Carbine is around 5 Ibs. The Marlin is made in slide action with three quarter tube magazine and weight 5 Ibs. It is fitted with Ivory bead and Rocky mountain rear sights. We are sorry that the photos of the rifle used with this article do not show the extremely high-class arm it is. It is a special fancy sporting model having a fancy stock with checkered pistol grip and fancy fore-end checkered with and No. 6 style of engraving. In addition to the beautiful scroll work on the right side of the receiver a deer is shown coming down to drink; on the left a mountain goat is shown in the mountains. It is indeed hard to imagine a more beautiful arm. It is a work of art. The present price would be around $125.00. It's the gun that a gun crank dreams about.
But a beautiful stock and engraving do not add a bit to a gun's shooting qualities; these are for looks only and they certainly do help the outward appearance. But the arm with plain finish is just as good in every way and will in fact, stand more rough use and not show it than will the fancy, highly finished arms.
The sights regularly supplied with this rifle are, as noted above, of the open variety and give very good results for open sights. The front sight is tied with white metal, the rear sight has a flat tip with U-notch and operated for elevation by a stair step slide.
The arm shown with this article is equipped with a Marble Flexible joint peep, no rear sight on barrel and Marble's Duplex front sight. This latter sight has a small gold bead for ordinary shooting and a J-inch white bead that may be instantly brought into use for dim light.
The .32 caliber is so easy to clean that one need never worry about a rough, rusty barrel. This is one of the easiest calibers to care for since it is large enough to permit the use of cleaning cloths of liberal size. It is far easier to keep in fine shape than either the .22- or .25-caIiber. The black powder cartridges do not foul the barrel nearly so much as do the. black powder loads in a .22-caliber arm but of course, smokeless powder loads are cleaner and more pleasant to shoot. Use plenty of nitro solvent for cleaning and clean well and oil good. Then put in a Marble's anti-rust rope and you will have it.
So don't imagine that you must have a high power repeater to have a real rifle. While the .32 Winchester in lever action and Marlin in slide action is still with us, we have an arm that will give excellent results on both target and game. It's a rifle that's hard to beat.
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
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