.30-30 Winchester for Black Bear Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cart – Foundry Outdoors
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.30-30 Winchester for Black Bear Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cartridge) for a Successful Black Bear Hunt

Is the .30-30 Winchester a viable caliber/load/round/cartridge for black bear hunting? The accurate answer is “it depends”. However, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether the .30-30 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest black bear.

As with anything, the devil is in the details. To answer the question completely, we would need to evaluate the downrange distance to the black bear, the bullet type, the grain weight of the bullet, the physical condition of the firearm, the size of the black bear in question, the shot placement, the local wind conditions, the expected accuracy of the shooter, the ethics of the ideal maximum number of shots – the list goes on.

What we can do is provide a framework to understand what average conditions might look like, and whether those are reasonably viable for a shot from the average shooter to harvest a black bear in the fewest number of shots possible, i.e., ethically.

Let’s dive right in. In the question of “Is the .30-30 Winchester within the ideal range of suitable calibers for black bear hunting?” our answer is:

No, the .30-30 Winchester is UNDERKILL for black bear hunting, under average conditions, from a mid-range distance, with a medium grain expanding bullet, and with correct shot placement.

Let’s look at those assumptions a bit closer in the following table.

Assumption Value
Caliber .30-30 Winchester
Animal Species Black Bear
Muzzle Energy 1890 foot-pounds
Animal Weight 340 lbs
Shot Distance 150 yards

What is the average muzzle energy for a .30-30 Winchester? In this case, we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a .30-30 Winchester round is approximately 1890 foot-pounds.

What is the average weight of an adult male black bear? Here we have leaned conservative by taking the average weight of a male individual of the species, since females generally weigh less and require less stopping power. In this case, the average weight of an adult male black bear is approximately 340 lbs.

What is the distance this species is typically hunted from? Distance, of course, plays an important role in the viability of a given caliber in black bear hunting. The kinetic energy of the projectile drops dramatically the further downrange it travels primarily due to energy lost in the form of heat generated by friction against the air itself. This phenonemon is known as drag or air resistance. Thus, a caliber that is effective from 50 yards may not have enough stopping power from 200 yards. With that said, we have assumed the average hunting distance for black bear to be approximately 150 yards.

What about the other assumptions? We have three other primary assumptions being made here. First, the average bullet weight is encapsulated in the average muzzle energy for the .30-30 Winchester. The second important assumption is ‘slightly-suboptimal’ to ‘optimal’ shot placement. That is to say, we assume the black bear being harvested is shot directly or nearly directly in the vitals (heart and/or lungs). The third assumption is that a projectile with appropriate terminal ballistics is being used, which for hunting usually means an expanding bullet.

Various calibers

A common thread you may encounter in online forums is anecdote after anecdote of large animals being brought down by small caliber bullets, or small animals surviving large caliber bullets. Of course those stories exist, and they are not disputed here. A 22LR cartridge can fell a bull elephant under the right conditions, and a newborn squirrel can survive a 50 BMG round under other specific conditions.

Again, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether .30-30 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest black bear - and to this question, the response again is no, the .30-30 Winchester is UNDERKILL for black bear hunting.

This article does not serve as the final say, but simply as a starting point for beginner hunters, as well as a venue for further discussion. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and share stories from your own experience in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: the information above is purely for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as permission to use a particular caliber, a statement of the legality or safety of using certain calibers, or legal advice in any way. You must read and understand your own local laws before hunting black bear to know whether your caliber of choice is a legal option.

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Jon - Aug 18, 2021

Why is it that everyone thinks you need a 300 super double extra magnum that fires a 1000 grain bullet @ 5500fps to kill typical medium/thin skin game like deer and black bear? Have we as humans not killed everything that walks on land for the past how many thousands of years with sharp rocks attached to sticks that traveled at half the speed of smell? !
It matters not what you hit them with as much as where you hit them with it.

P.S. tell the thousands of bears (black and brown, not to mention elk, moose and deer) that have fallen to the 30-30 that it was not enough to do the job right the first time. Give me a break.

Matt - Dec 03, 2021

3030 has killed more black bears than any of us can count. Some of us believe it is a go to round for black bears, in the north east.

Contrary to “popular” (keyboard only hunters) belief, you do not need a 50bmg for black bear.

Black bears are harvested with 357mag handguns.. 3030 is way more powerful.

Lynn Bear - Jun 09, 2022

The ol 30-30 Winchester sure will kill a black bear!! Several years ago, here in Pennsylvania, a hunter killed a 800 plus pound black bear in the Pocono mountains with a 30-30. My son killed a medium size black bear in North Carolina with his 30-30 Winchester model 94 using a 170 grain bullet. Range was 20 yards and they were hunting bear with dogs. I seen the biggest wild boar that weighed 380 pounds drop like a light being turned off using the same bullet (170 grain Hornady Flat point). There have been all kinds of big game animals fall to the 30-30 Winchester. Don’t dare underestimate it, because you would be wrong doing so. I seen it do too wonderful a job bringing home the bacon and back straps. 😃👍

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