Sometimes what you have is better than what is theoretically “better.” Some time ago I settled on the idea that the ideal around-the-farm cartridge for dispatching varmints was .223/5.56×45. It is, after all, one of the standard small arms cartridges of NATO. It is unquestionably one of the finest, if not the finest, varmint cartridge. It combines a very flat trajectory, with appropriate power levels, and is economical. It is most often chambered in either semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 or the Ruger Mini-14. It is sometimes found in bolt-action rifles or single shot rifles.
30-30 WCF is seldom thought of a a varmint cartridge. It is generally thought of a intermediate power deer hunting cartridge, a role that I think it is optimally fitted for. But it is also surprisingly versatile. For example, it makes a fine intermediate range varmint cartridge and will hit with considerably more authority than a .223. Also, owing to the POOR ballistic coefficients of lightweight, flat-pointed, 30 caliber bullets, energy is shed rapidly beyond 300-400 yards. So if you are concerned about errant shots going over to the next county, it offers a bit of advantage in this way.
So how does the standard 55 grain .223 varmint load stack up to a 100 grain 30-30 varmint load?
First let’s take a look at the lightweight contender. I am using the excellent 55 grain Hornady spire point bullet (intended for varmints) with a standard load of 28 grains of BL-C(2) propellent.
Now let’s take a look at the middleweight contender. I am using the unusual 100 grain Hornady Half-jacket bullet (intended for the 30 Carbine) which features a flat point and should expand rapidly or fragment on varmints. Hornady technical support stated this bullet is safe to use in tubular magazines, and it listed in the 8th edition of the Hornady Load Manual for used in a Winchester 94 (a tubular magazine lever rifle with a 20″ barrel). Propelled by 38 grains of BL-C(2).
In fact, under 250 yards 30-30 is a better varmint cartridge than .223, and I would reckon that about 95% of practical shots at petty animals are taken under 250 yards in the wooded and hilly Eastern US.