TFB Round Table: When 30-30 is Not Enough? 7-30 Waters


    Welcome back to another edition of the TFB Round Table sponsored by Ammunition To Go! For those who are first joining us, this is a multi-part series where TFB will discuss the characteristics of great ammunition for specific applications. This could vary from big game hunting, plinking, precision rifle matches, small game hunting, or even pistol competitions. Chances are there is someone here at TFB who can offer you advice on buying the right round for your task at hand. This week I’m at the helm on TFB Round Table to discuss and recommend a cartridge that I myself was not entirely familiar with. The cartridge in question is the 7-30 Waters. Do you have an old Winchester chambered in this wildcat round? Are you finding yourself pondering the purpose of such an upgrade to 30-30? Stay tuned! Let’s dive right into the 7-30 Waters cartridge and some ammunition options to bring your brush gat back to the range!


    After the early parts of the 20th century when we, for the most part, have what I would call household basics in terms of types of cartridges, it almost seems like people started to get bored. All sorts of wildcats and oddities start to pop up and answering questions that most people were not asking. You know what though? I get it. It still goes on today and I think it’s really lovely when someone thinks to themselves “how can I improve this cartridge”?

    Cut to the late ’70s and meet Mr. Ken Waters for instance. The United States loves itself a good lever-action rifle. The Winchester Model 94 is probably the one that comes to everyone’s minds. Ken sought out to better the performance of lever-action rifles with a cartridge that was based on the extremely common and popular 30-30 Winchester cartridge that had been around since 1895.

    With the parent cartridge at the ready, Waters necked it down to use a 7mm bullet (.284 inches). This resulted in a new wildcat with a lighter bullet that at the same lower pressures, had higher velocities and flatter trajectories. Winchester eventually brought this cartridge to its commercial status and chambered it in some 94 models in 1984 and Thompson Center followed suit in 1986 with their tough Contenders.

    Ammunition to Go gives us a good overview:

    7×30 Waters ammunition was a wildcat load developed by Ken Waters in 1976 to be an improvement over the .30-30 Winchester but keeping it in a lever-action gun. He necked down the .30-30 case to accept .284 inch (7mm) bullets. The .284 or 7mm line of bullets is well-known for its inherently high ballistic coefficients and great sectional densities. The .30-30 usually sports 170 grain bullets while the 7×30 something less but with higher velocities than the .30-30. Together, Waters intended to put a superior bullet downrange faster and flatter. He succeeded. But, was the performance enough to impress the gun manufacturers to chamber for it? Well, Winchester did build lever guns for the round for a time. Now, new guns sporting this chambering are made primarily by Thompson Center for its Contender gun.

    Since the round was initially offered in tube-fed guns, that configuration necessitated the use of round-nosed bullets unless guns were used as single shots or only held two rounds. Hornady’s introduction of it LEVERevolution ammunition enabled shooters to squeeze a bit more performance out of their lever guns without using them as single shots.

    7-30 Waters. Photo Credit: AMMOTOGO.COM


    If you find yourself in possession of a firearm chambered in such a caliber, there are a few things to consider. You have yourself a 1980s Winchester 94 chambered in this cartridge and want to go deer hunting confidently. Have a Thompson Center, and are working on the perfect hand load to hit those bullseyes, or even have a custom rifle chambered in this odd duck. Regardless, it is important to know your intent and even better yet know what you are looking for in terms of 7-30 Waters which is rare to be found on shelves today.

    • Bullet Type
    • Bullet Grain Weight
    • Velocity

    Companies such as Federal and Hornady still produce some 7-30 Waters ammunition. The cartridges will always be in a hunting configuration with pressures and bullets meant for taking down game. Any hand loaders out there are less limited if they have brass at the very least. 7mm bullets are common and in all sorts of shapes and purposes to feed that hand loader’s imagination and push the limits of that tough Thompson Center Contender action.

    As always, thank you for reading TFB! Be safe out there, have fun while shooting, and we will see you next time for the TFB Round Table brought to you by Ammunition to Go! Also, let us know what you think in the comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.


    TFB Round Table

    Federal Premium 7-30 Waters 120 Grain Sierra GameKing BTSP 20rd×30-waters-federal-premium-120gr-sierra-gameking-btsp-ammo

    20rds - 7x30 Waters Federal Premium 120gr. Sierra GameKing BTSP Ammo

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    Writer | TheFirearmBlog
    Writer |

    Instagram | sfsgunsmith

    Old soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.