Return to the Back Creek Diary

A Winchester Lever in .35/.30-30

© 2014 – Ed Harris



Click on photo for larger pic…

A few years ago I acquired a much-used 1894 Winchester .30-30 with shot out barrel.  Factory loads keyholed and cast loads wouldn’t shoot acceptably.  In the 1980s Roy Dunlap showed me a wildcat .35/.30-30 Marquart on a Remington 788 which worked well, so I thought a lever-action in this caliber would make sense. I sent my 1894 to John Taylor for relining because due to condition it had no collector value.

My old 1894 now uses .30-30 brass necked up to .35 cal. with no other change.  John recommended relining instead of reboring, because the old nickel steel Winchester barrels often are difficult to get good interior finish on a rebore.  Cost is about the same either way. Original markings and patina are preserved.  My new bore is 16-inch twist with rifling dimensions the same as for the .35 Remington.  I wanted a cast-bullet rifle which I would use common jacketed or cast bullets and common .30-30 brass which I have in abundance. The objective was to “split the difference” between the .32-40 and .38-55 Winchester.  It does exactly that.


Sinclair provided a custom Redding die set which easily necks up .30-30 brass to .35 in one pass.  I can use either .32 Winchester Special or .30-30 brass as feedstock. There being no pressure tested load data for this wildcat, I measured water capacities of the .35 Remington and .35/.30-30 to see how close they were. Brass in both calibers was Winchester, the .35 Remington case was once-fired from a Marlin.

Capacity in grains of water when filled to base of neck:

.35 Remington          39 grains

.35/.30-30                  34 grains

When a 200-grain bullet is seated in the .35/.30-30 case, its base is 1/3 the way up the neck, so I took another measurement, this time filling the case neck with water and carefully squeezing out the excess pressing a bullet to the crimp groove in the fired case.  That result was 37 grains. I determined that using .35 Remington load data was OK as a guide as long as I stayed a grain or so below maximum loads. This has worked well in practice.

I sent Saeco #351 blocks to Erik Ohlen at Hollow Point Moulds with an upset throat slug from my .35 Winchester model 1894.


Erik did his inset-bar conversion, truncating the nose to a .25 diameter meplat, shortening the nose length to .50 from crimp groove to meplat. The cup-point nose cavity is of 60 degrees included angle and 0.6 of the meplat diameter. Erik also cut a new front driving band ahead of the crimp groove which is .175 wide and .359 diameter to fit the throat of the relined rifle. He also widened and enlarged the rear driving band while reducing the width and depth of the lube groove to strengthen the base.

Saeco#351HP   Saeco351HP

Having a crimp groove and one small grease groove not much larger than the crimp groove is all that’s necessary, because velocity will not exceed about 1400 fps and this plain base bullet will be slobbered all over all over with Lee Liquid Alox anyway. The modified bullet weighs 200 grains in soft BHN 10 alloy, vs. 208 grs. for the original Saeco spitzer.

Overall cartridge length when crimped in the reformed .30-30 brass is 2.52", which is ideal to feed perfectly in the Winchester 94. The bullet shoots better than I can hold with 8 grs. of Bullseye at about 1300 fps. The bullet was modified to provide a longer bearing surface ahead of the crimp groove and its forepart now fits the throat of the relined / rechambered 94. It looks just like a .38-55 slug which has been “shrunk in the washing machine.”


Open sight groups shot at 100 yards, hand rested on the deck rail were about 4 inches, eyeballing strikes on a freshly painted steel gong. No different from any other open-sighted 94.  Charge establishment tests were shot with Bullseye and 201-gr. plain base Modified Saeco #351, by Hollow Point Moulds , Ten-shot strings.

7.2 grs. of Bullseye 1050 f.p.s. -  Sd 37, necks smoky. DO NOT REDUCE

7.8 grs. of Bullseye 1250 f.p.s. -  Sd 19, clean shooting hot weather load 

8.4 grs. of Bullseye 1313 f.p.s. -  Sd 11, Max. useable without any leading

9.0 grs. of Bullseye 1371 f.p.s. -  Sd 17, Some leading. DO NOT EXCEED.

Subsonic loads with the 200-gr. plain based bullets were quiet and low noise.  Ballistic uniformity with Bullseye was not acceptable below 1000 f.p.s.  I didn't use any case filler and made no attempt to orient powder charge, but just shoved 'em past the loading gate, levered them into the chamber and banged them off, multi-tasking feed check, velocity measurements and gong music.  Groups eyeballed in the spotting scope observing strikes on a freshly spray painted 12 inch gong, judging against the gong diameter for each string averaged about 4 inches, typical for an open sighted 94. Winchester LP primers showed no pressure signs and didn’t flatten. 

7.2 grains of Bullseye is a bit light, but is fairly quiet and shoots well.  I don't recommend loading less than 7 grs. of Bullseye in this case.

Loads bracketing 8 grs. of Bullseye shot very well and gave uniform velocities without any bore leading using 10 BHN alloy.  The bore began to lead at 9 grains of Bullseye. Accuracy declined as velocity much exceeded about 1300 fps. Shoots as good as I can hold. 

Other powders were, #2400, RL-7 were disappointing. I decided that for loads with anything other than Bullseye I needed a heavier bullet to provide enough shot-start resistance to build pressure for a clean burn.


LBT361-250LFN_2  LBTBulletNeckFit

LBT to the rescue!  I sent an upset chamber slug and fired case and asked Veral to make as heavy a plain based bullet as would stabilize in a 16 inch twist which would not exceed 2.54 inches overall when loaded in necked-up .30-30 brass.  He returned a 4-cavity mold which casts a 260-grain plain base bullet 0.99 inch long, .361 diameter, with .225 meplat, crimp groove 0.5” back from the nose, with three driving bands 0.11” wide and two grease grooves. Absolutely beautiful, casting good bullets immediately, giving splendid shooting results just as easily.  A charge of 7.8 grains of Bullseye gave 1095 f.p.s. with an Sd of 18 over a 10-shot string.  A charge of 16 grs. of #2400 gave 1421 f.p.s. with an Sd of 30 with only slight leading on the driving edges of the lands.  Reducing the charge slightly to 15.4 grs. of #2400 gave 1383 f.p.s., with round open-sight, 4-inch groups at 100 yards without leading.  Who could ask for anything more?


Return to the Back Creek Diary