May 2013

Space Age versus Old Age: We Compare Two Lever Actions

The contrast between old and new is no more apparent than with the newly released Mossberg Model 464 ZMB 30-30 Win. and

For some shooters, Hollywood seems to have become a prime factor in choosing the style and type of firearm finding favor on the range and in the field. This truism seems to be particularly prevalent when dealing with lever-action rifles. In the old days, Westerns ruled the movie screens and a true-blue cowboy had three good companions – “my rifle, my pony and me” – as sung by Dean Martin in the classic western Rio Bravo.

One of those good companions for quite a few cowboys and hunters of that time period was the Winchester Model 1895. The Model 1895 was the first Winchester rifle to feature a box magazine located underneath the action instead of the tubular magazine design, allowing for the use of military and hunting cartridges with pointed bullets, and was the last lever-action rifle to be designed by legendary gunsmith and inventor John M. Browning. For our test, we were able to obtain a vintage Model 1985 in 30-40 Krag that dates back to the early 1900s, when it sold for a mere $25. The specific firearm we used in the test had spent countless hours in a rifle scabbard on horseback or on the side of a truck bouncing through the South Texas brush near Laredo and has accounted for more jack rabbits, coyotes and whitetail deer than can easily be counted.

On the more modern side of the Hollywood depiction of a lever-action shooter is the recently introduced Mossberg Model 464 ZMB 30-30 Win., offering a variety of high-tech features to handle the highly promoted zombie apocalypse. Short and quick with the ability to add all kinds of optics and lights for effective firepower to stop the undead — if they ever make their appearance — or varmints and deer-sized big game, the Mossberg has upgraded the lever-action rifle to a space-age weapon.

Although the calibers are identical — the 30-40 Krag is also known as the 30 U.S. — the Krag provides a little more punch with a larger bullet than the 30-30 Win. Both cartridges are considered prime brush guns for handling small game up to animals the size of a whitetail deer at ranges of 100 yards or less.

It should be noted that while quite a few rifle cartridges are hard to find with the ongoing high ammo demand, the 30-30 rounds are generally easier to obtain than the veteran 30-40 Krag. We were able to obtain three varieties of 30-30 (including the specially marketed Hornady Zombie Max designed for use on the undead) and two brands of 30-40 Krag for our tests. Here’s our report:

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