This article written by Mustafa Curtess appeared in the July/Aug 2000 #146 issue of the Fouling Shot.
(Info on .30-30 Wesson cartridge found here)
On the drive home from the 1998 BPCRS Nationals at Raton, NM, nephew Wes Windel, close friend Mark Cox and I conspired to each build a Schuetzen style rifle. We agreed that they would be of an obsolete late 1800s cartridge, use our many .30 caliber moulds, be something for which cases are available, and beyond all else, depart from the .32-40 and .32 Miller Short stampede.
A quick study of Cartridges of the World and the Donnally book on reforming cartridges narrowed it down to the .30-30 Wesson, using .357 Maximum brass necked down to a straight taper with a short cylindrical neck, accepting a .310” diameter CB. At the time, we did not know that die sets were stocked by C-H/4D, so we ordered finish and sizer reamers from JGS (which for some reason they marked ".310 Windel”).
I hoped to use as much of the case length as possible, so had to do some guesstimating as to what that would be after sizing down, fire forming and squaring the case mouths. The result is a "miniature” .32-40, and ultimately the C-H/4D dies matched our chamber precisely.
Wes had an extra .308”, 1-10 twist, 6-groove, 1.250” barrel blank and I had a Star Rolling Block action available, so we agreed that my rifle would be built first (besides, I’m known to get cross when I don’t get my way).
Gunsmithing of my rifle was done by Mark and Dennis Dyer (Oklahoma Territorial Arms), who builds replicas and restores originals. At my request, Dennis just polished and blued the 24” blank, keeping it the full 1.250” diameter.
If Dennis has a signature, it is exceptional heat treatment and color case hardening. Even though I had )not expected any cosmetic work, he would not allow the rifle to leave his shop until it met his high standards of workmanship and appearance. A "silk purse from a sow’s ear.”
I retained the original buttstock, and Wes fur-nished walnut for a suitable forestock which, once finished, appears to have been cut from the same tree. The new "bench rest” stock is longer, wider and flat to match my wide front bench rest bag nicely.
Case forming was straightforward, once I learned a minimal anneal of the neck area was needed for 100% success rate. I had specified a .310” throat .300” long, and a 3° leade into the lands. I can use any bullet from the Lee 130 RNGC to the 225 gr. Lyman #311284. The shorter bullets sized .310” can be seated in unsized cases with firm hand pressure, the gas check spring-back holding them securely in place. Longer bullets in the 180 to 225 gr. range are more easily seated with the seater die. As expected, the shorter bullets are best used for off-hand practice, while the longer bullets give better bench rest accuracy.
Load development was begun with some care,as no loading data could be found. I did not know how strong the .357 Maximum cases were, nor had I any experience with any similar size cartridge. As it happens, bullets up to 160 grs. work with loads for my .30-223 Ingram, and expansion volume for fixed .30-30 Wesson cases is quite close to that of breech seated .32 Miller short loads. This is published in the Schuetzen chapter of the Accurate Arms guide #1. The chronographed velocities of the same charges and bullet weights are identical.
The only surprise came when we ran out of IMR-4227 and began a fresh can of H-4227 (which is somewhat faster in this small case). Three small pistol primers were blown but extraction remained normal. Since then I have used small rifle primers only.
The barrel shank diameter and thread pitch in the Star action is the same as the M-98 Mauser. This action has been proven with hundreds of .30-30 Win. reloads, then thousands of .30 Herrett loads, so fundamental reliability was never in doubt.
Just about every likely powder from Bullseye to AA8700 has been tried, and very few have not been useful in some application, but the Accurate Arms loads mentioned have been clearly the most accurate and reliable (in my rifle).
This action is far from sophisticated. The longish lock time does not outpace the disruption generated when the massive hammer is set in motion. Mark Cox did spend an evening tuning and honing the trigger and sear surfaces, and achieved a clean, safe predictable break at about three pounds. Not a genuine Rolling Block, parts are a problem, so I am pleased with it as-is.
Initial trials were at 200 yards, with only marginal results, and since then the 200 yard range has not been available. However, improvements to the crown, throat and bore condition have been made, and exten-sive load development has been done.
Any number of loads do 1.00” to 1.75” at 100 yards fairly consistently, and frequent "advantages” crop up.
For instance, CBA member Wayne Schwartz (Der Schuetzenmeister, TFS 142-5) had a concern about fine ball powders (which I prefer) collecting in the primer pocket and causing hang fires. His tip to "screen” the primer pocket to exclude the powder seemed like a logical attempt to reduce velocity spreads, which I believe contributed to my consistent vertical groups. I concocted a simple, effective way to install nitrated paper disks under the primer when seating it. This expedient instantly converted 1.75” vertical groups to much rounder ones of 1.25” or less. (Editor’s note: Recently I have read of black powder cartridge shooters placing a newspaper disk over the primer to improve ballistic consistency. It sounds like they are slipping a strip of paper between the case head and the primer, then seating the primer right through it, cutting a disk in the process. Something to play with.)
For plain base experiments, Rodney Storie (Bison Mfg. Co.) lent me a fine Ideal #311278 mould, and Forrest Asmus made available the custom Hoch 667A with which he campaigned at Coors with much success.
Minor, but persistent lead fouling vanished when I began using Ed’s Red Solvent. Who knows what I will discover tomorrow?
I index bullets to the chamber but do not index cases. No load has yielded poor extraction, and although this is a well tapered case, fired ones can be re-inserted without indexing, so I am assured that my chamber is round, straight and the headspace is correct.
All my expectations for this project have been met or exceeded.
Mark’s Stevens 44-1/2 and Wes’ High Wall are well under way. They should shortly have their own successes to relate.