The classic .30-30 rifle has been an American staple since the closing years of the 19th century. Still going strong today, the iconic .30-30 levergun is a part of our cultural heritage, and a traditional hunting and sport shooting rifle for countless people. Given the ubiquitous nature of this rifle, it is no wonder people are constantly looking for the best scope for a lever action rifle. While many rifles, like the Marlin 336 are a solid top and easily scoped, other lever action rifles require special side scope mounts. However, regardless of what rifle you have, there are plenty of scope options out there.
While early .30-30 lever action rifles did not have optics, it didn’t take long for savvy hunters and shooters to seek out a lever action rifle scope. Today, we can choose between very simple, to amazing military grade optics. There has never been a better time to look for a .30-30 scope, and we’ve lined up four of ‘em that will fit any pocketbook- and rifle. They range from classic, to exploring the modern concept of the scout rifle. One key consideration for lever action scopes is how they look. After all, half the fun of a lever action .30-30 is that timeless aesthetic that hearkens back to a more romantic time, and it would be a real shame to ruin that look with a clumsy looking scope. Because the .30-30 is a medium range cartridge, we will only consider scopes suitable for that kind of work, and also compliment the fine lines of a lever gun.
While the scout rifle concept was originally designed around a .308 bolt action rifle, it was readily conceded that the concept could be applied to a lever action rifle in case of restrictive local laws. That aside, the idea has grown to encompass most any handy rifle that can be fitted with a long eye relief scope. An optic like this is ideal as a scope for the .30-30 on rifles like the Winchester 94 or similar, where the top eject requires specialized side scope mounts. It also works well for anyone who desires a unique, easy handling rifle. The Burris Scout Scope is a simple, yet refined 2-7 power scope with unique Burris multicoated optics, fog, water and shockproof construction, and the famous Burris Forever Warranty. It comes with a special trajectory compensating reticle that allows for quick trajectory compensation with any load. This is an ideal scope for a .30-30, due to the modest magnification which is perfect for the modest distances most .30-30 shooters operate at. It is also a great way to scope some older Winchester 94’s with special no drill/tap mounts which don’t make any permanent modifications to older and collectible rifles. Either way, the Burris Scout scope is an excellent choice for your favorite lever rifle.
- Affordable- this is a great scope that won’t break the bank.
- Well known and trusted brand- If you can’t trust a Burris scope, what can you trust?
- Perfect magnification for most .30-30 ranges
- Requires special scout scope mounting setup
- 32mm objective lens may not work well under all low light conditions
- High price makes it less useful for scoping inexpensive or budget rifles
It’s pretty hard to write about 30-30 scopes without putting a Leupold on the list. As American as apple pie, baseball, and complaining about politics, Leupold has been building fine hunting scopes for generations. In fact, one might argue a scoped lever gun with a Leupold is a timeless combination that is hard to beat. The VX-1 is all but perfect for a .30-30 lever action rifle, with it’s 3-9 magnification, and 40mm reticle. Built Leupold tough, the VX-1 is water, fog and shockproof, and features special multicoated lenses for maximum clarity and light transmission. It is well known that a 3-9 scope is an ideal sweet spot for most any common hunting application, and the intermediate range of something like a 30-30 Marlin 336 really doesn’t need much more scope. Some things simply work, and work well, and a 3-9 scoped levergun is one of those things. Such a combo is ideal for anything from working heavy brush, to taking a whitetail in the wheat fields of eastern Washington. As a bonus, the Leupold VX-1 is an affordable optic and hard to beat in its price range. So if you have an old dusty rifle looking for a new lease on life, or just picked up a brand new gun, the Leupold VX-1 could be the best 30-30 scope for you.
- Traditional US made hunting scope
- 3-9×40 configuration ideal for most any hunting conditions
- Affordably priced
- May not be suitable for the most extreme hunting conditions
- 40mm objective may not be optimal for night hunting
- 3-9 magnification may not get you the most range for well made handloads
Lever action scopes are like candy. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but once you do, you tend to stick with it. The venerable Weaver K4 is one of those favorites that are just begging to be stuck on top of a .30-30 lever gun. One of the all time greatest American hunting scopes, the Weaver K4 has served American sportsmen, soldiers and law enforcement since the 1940’s and is still going strong today. Discerning shooters understand that a fixed power scope offers rugged simplicity in design, which leads to increased reliability. For a lever action rifle scope, there is no need to use the latest whiz bang tacticool optic, when something like a reliable 4x K4 will do the job. Built to be water, fog and shock proof, and faithfully carrying on a multi generation tradition of excellence, this modern incarnation of the K4 will serve you and your family faithfully for years to come, and you too will see why so many people have come to depend on a Weaver K4 scoped rifle.
- A real classic rifle scope
- Simple fixed power design reduces potential for failure in use
- Modest 4x magnification ideal for many common .30-30 hunting scenarios
- Fixed power optic reduces some shooting opportunities
- 4x magnification not useful at longer ranges
- Price is similar to comparable quality variable power scopes
This is a rather elegant scope, although a bit of an odd duck. The 4-12 magnification could be a bit much for a .30-30, or it could be ideal for your favorite lever action rifle. It’s really your call, but it’s a dandy scope for when you have room to really push the limits of your rifle, or simply enjoy a bit more magnification. Because it’s a Nikon, you know it’s going to be water, fog and shock proof, plus be built with state of the art coated optics that give you a crystal clear sight picture. As a bonus, it works with Nikon’s unique Ballistic Match software, which tells you how to make optimum use of your scope for the load you are shooting. Because many shooters are handloaders, this may be the best lever action scope for those who prefer something a little different than factory options. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, this might be the scope you need for your favorite .30-30.
- Has enough power to really work the practical limits of the .30-30 round
- Nikon Ballistic Match software makes dialing in your scope for your favorite round a breeze
- Quick focus eyepiece for rapid target acquisition
- May be too much scope for some applications
- Primary advantages of this scope benefit handloaders
- The price may be too high for some budget minded shooters
A brief history of the .30-30 Round
I think the best way to understand something is to go back to the beginning, and when dealing with firearms, history, legend and tradition all roll into one romantic package. Now granted, this romance and legend make choosing the best 30-30 scope an almost religious act at times, but that’s part of the fun of the whole thing.
In 1895 Winchester introduced the venerable .30-30 round, making it the first commercial smokeless round sold in the US. First chambered in the Winchester Model 1894, the .30-30 became an instant hit. By combining a state of the art lever action rifle, with a cutting edge smokeless cartridge, an unbeatable combination was born, which is still wildly popular to this day.
Naturally it did not take Winchester’s competitors long to build rifles in .30-30, and rather than use the official name of the round; .30 Winchester Centerfire, a page was taken from old black powder naming conventions, and Winchester’s competition commonly sold it as the .30-30. This meant a thirty caliber bullet was placed over thirty grains of period smokeless powder. Regardless the name, it quickly became a defacto standard.
Popular 30-30 Rifle Scope Mounts
If you are going to scope your Marlin 336 or Winchester 94, you’ll need a scope mount of some sort. A few of the most common and popular are reviewed below.
A pretty simple, yet rugged single piece Weaver compatible rail made to fit the Marlin 336. Built by Leupold, so you know it’s going to be good, there is simply no reason not to buy this affordable, high quality scope rail.
Weaver Side Mount For the Winchester 94
You’ll need two pieces for this one, first the side mount base itself– and then the rings which attach to the base. This combo is a very old, but very reliable way to scope your Winchester 94, and if you are shooting an older gun from the 50’s or 60’s, a great way to keep a period look about it, especially if you mount a Weaver K4 in it. These will fit Winchester 94’s and rifles made for Sears by Winchester.
If you’ve got an angle ejecting Winchester 94, here is the perfect scope mount. Inexpensive, reliable and built to last a lifetime, this Weaver compatible base set will get your angle eject Model 94 scoped in no time flat!
There was a few year period when Winchester, in a fit of cost cutting irrationality, decided to stop making the Model 94. The United States being a capitalist society, quickly found a replacement for the at the time out of production model 94, with the Mossberg 464. To scope this almost-but-not-quite copy of the Model 94, simply use a pair of the Weaver 403 bases, and you’ll be good to go!
Picking the best .30-30 Lever Action Scope
Now this is mostly a sort of rifleman’s voodoo. Just what is the best 30-30 scope? What is ideal to stick on top of your favorite levergrun? When dealing with something as culturally significant as a lever action rifle, anything you do to it will be judged against over a century of tradition and common practice. Now, there is a lot to be said for a traditional scope like the Weaver K4, it simply just works, and is both affordable and timeless.
If you want to step up to something a bit more modern, a long eye relief scout scope works well on any lever action rifle, and is quite popular in some circles, and is a pleasant alternative to scoping open topped rifles like the Winchester 94.
Beyond that, there is simply no need to get goofy with the glass for your .30-30 lever action rifle. Many people consider 250 yards to be pushing the upper limits of most .30-30 ammo, with a distinct preference for shots topping out at around 150-200 yards. Let’s face it, this isn’t exactly a long range sniper cartridge, but that also means you don’t need crazy scopes either. A simple 3-9 power optic with a 40mm objective lens will do the job quite nicely, which is why all the optics we reviewed fall somewhere around that ideal.
Your biggest consideration is budget and whatever romantic sort of attachment you have to your particular lever gun, or what constitutes the ideal rifle in your mind. These are blue collar, working class guns, and there is simply no reason to spend two or three times what you paid for the gun on your optic. Keep it simple and affordable and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
The .30-30 cartridge and lever action rifle has been used for rear guard soldiers in North America during two world wars, to say nothing of regular use by countless rural law enforcement agencies over the years, and it is of course still popular with hunters and sport shooters. This iconic rifle and cartridge combination will likely still be popular a century from now, and there is a good chance that if you truly buy the best scope you can for your rifle, your grandchildren or great grand children will appreciate your choice as they carry forward a grand old American tradition. Go ahead, take a look, and buy the scope you like, knowing you are keeping this tradition alive for another generation, and preparing the one after you to carry it forward.