Turning a .30-30 into a .32-20

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Turning a .30-30 into a .32-20

Postby FergusonTO35 » Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:49 am

The old .32-20 Winchester has always been regarded as likely the best small game and varmint rounds ever available in a lever action. Typical factory loads, then and now, usually launch a 100 grain lead bullet at 1200 fps or so from a 20" rifle barrel. Souped up loads have been available from time to time, adding around 300-400 fps. Of course, reloaders can easily create their own also. My Lee reloading manual has two sections of data, one for old blackpowder proofed guns such as the Winchester 1873 and another section of stronger loads for more modern guns such as the Winchester and Browning 1892 and the Marlin 1894. Unfortunately, no one makes .32-20 rifles today that I am aware of and a nice late model example will probably set you back close to $1000.00. Factory ammo and brass aren't cheap and plentiful either. If you can even find it locally, expect to pay the same or more as a larger bottleneck rifle round would cost. My local shop sells the Remington version for around $45.00 a box of 50. Midway has some options with lower cost cowboy action type loads, but once you add shipping you are paying about the same.

On the other hand, rifles chambered in the .30-30 are plentiful and cheap, as is ammo, brass, and just about everything else for it. The .30-30 groove diameter is a nominal .308. The .32-20 is .312, however in actual practice it is all over the place. I'm pretty sure that the Marlin, Winchester, and Browning .32-20 rifles of the last few decades have all been .308. As long as it will chamber easily, there is no harm at all in using a lead bullet a few thousandths over groove diameter, many guns actually shoot better this way. Lee makes a very nice 113 grain round nose flat point gas check mold for the .32-20, of course you can make it work in just about any .30 caliber rifle with the proper loads and sizing. I have a Mossberg 464 .30-30 rifle, which is sort of a Winchester 94 continuation with some differences. It has a nice shiny bore and good rifling, and so is a good candidate for cast bullet shooting.

I cast the bullets out of range scrap alloy and size to .310 with Tac-X lube and an aluminum gas check. Currently I'm loading to 2.30 OAL with 8.8 grains Unique. Out of the 464 this load is plenty accurate for my uses and clocks 1560 fps across my chronograph. Feeds as easily as factory rounds too, the 2.30 OAL does not have any chambering difficulty or leave any marks on the bullet ogive. Next up I'm going to try charges of 9-10 grains and see what shoots the best. 10 grains of Unique has long been kind of a standard cast bullet load for .30 caliber rifles, of course I want to figure out what is most accurate in my rifle. Will post updates!
"If magic is to be defined as the use of ineffective means to allay anxiety when effective ones are not available, then we must conclude that no society will ever be completely free from it." -Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 1971.
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Re: Turning a .30-30 into a .32-20

Postby FergusonTO35 » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:31 am

I tried 9.2, 9.6, and 10 grains Unique the other day after work. Using shooting sticks at 50 yards, 9.2 grains Unique shot the best, however it doesn't seem to be as accurate as the 8.8 grains I have been using. Then again, it was pretty hot outside and I was sweating. I'll have to shoot them side by side on a good day for a proper comparison. I really need to get a real bench rest at some point.
"If magic is to be defined as the use of ineffective means to allay anxiety when effective ones are not available, then we must conclude that no society will ever be completely free from it." -Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 1971.
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