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Thread: .30-30 accuracy problem

  1. #1
    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    Default .30-30 accuracy problem

    I'd like to ask all the experts out there about an accuracy issue a buddy is having with his Marlin .30-30. When he first bought it (used), it would print 5-6" groups at 100 yds. We both tried with the same results. I suggested it might be the scope/mount, so we looked at the mounts and sure enough one was loose. So we tightened it down and expected the groups to tighten considerably. While they did get better, they were still only around 3-4 inches. I know lever actions aren't benchrest guns (after all, Guide Guns are a joke) but I expected better than 4" groups from a Marlin. So I'm a bit perplexed. Here is the exact sequence noted with multiple groups and different brands of ammo. First and second shot are within an inch of each other, then 3rd shot is about 4 inches away, then 4th shot is back by the first two shots. So without the one flyer it would be 1-1.5" groups. But the flyer is always present. My only other theory having closely examined the rifle is that the original owner was overzealous about cleaning from the muzzle end as the crown appears to be damaged. I can't see any major nicks to the rifling with the naked eye but it does appear something bad happened. Could that cause the flyers? We've shot with Remington, Winchester, and Leverevolution ammo. The scope is a Simmons 3-9X with see-thru mount. My buddy is considering just selling it, but I'd like to get some opinions. Thanks.

    Hoosier

    P.S. We're both good shots, so don't blame us

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    Moderator stid2677's Avatar
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    My Marlin 45-70 will shoot sub MOA at 100 yards. Not to bust on the scope, but I would either try open sights or a better scope.
    Have heard some rumors about poor QC with the new Marlins.



    Hope you get it figured out.

    Steve
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  3. #3

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    The biggest problems I've encountered when benching Marlins is gun cant. It's real easy to shift it around while cycling the action. Using a deep V "rabbit ear" bag out front helps, but you need to have the whole rest setup high enough that you can cycle the action without lifting the gun from the rest.

    If you have all that going for you, the mystery deepens a lot.

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    How does it group at 50yards just useing sights?What grain of bullet,most 30/30's like 170gr.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Member marshall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c04hoosier View Post
    My only other theory having closely examined the rifle is that the original owner was overzealous about cleaning from the muzzle end as the crown appears to be damaged. I can't see any major nicks to the rifling with the naked eye but it does appear something bad happened. Could that cause the flyers?
    A damaged crown will degrade your accuracy. Have a good smith in your area take a look at it. Getting the crown re-cut isn't going to cost a lot and it may fix your issues.

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    Hoosier,
    If you can get 3-4" average from a variety of ammunition I'd say you're doing fine for the ranges a 30-30 is good for. Mine won't do any better than that and in its very long life (4 generations) has killed more deer than many folks will ever see.

    The scope mounts you describe (see-throughs) are typically an invitation to disaster- placing your head way too high and preventing any kind of cheek weld; that can't be helping your accuracy issue. Other features of lever guns like the two-piece stock, barrel bands and a generally bad trigger (by bolt actions standards at any rate) don't help much either. If you can reliably shoot 3-4" from field positions though it shouldn't hamper your buddy from reliably taking game.

    If you're looking for advice, I'd change mounts to a low, solid mount or (my personal preference for lever actions) scrap the whole mess and put on a receiver sight. I think scopes on lever guns just look out of place. The forte of the lever gun is handiness, not driving tacks.

  7. #7

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    +1 for hodgeman!
    Mike
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    Hodgeman +1

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    Member c04hoosier's Avatar
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    I suggested to my buddy that he replace the see thru mounts and/or get a better scope. That may be something to try if he is willing--he seems to like the setup as is. We did shoot it using the iron sites also. At 50 yards we could get 2.5-3" groups which technically isn't bad but to us it was inconclusive because A) the factory irons aren't too user friendly and B) 2.5" groups at 50 yds equates to 5" at 100 yds theoretically. I also suggested he try some 170 grain bullets since we were shooting 150s previously. But at this point, I'm not sure how much more time and money he wants to put into it. Just figured I'd ask the experts.

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    The big problem is the see thru mounts, those are garbage at best, He is not getting a good spot weld on the stock for consistant shooting. I would ditch that scope to. They are well, I never seen one hold zero. Some good mounts from Leupold a good place to start. And put a fixed 2 1/2 or fixed 4 x Leupold on it or maybe the 1.5 to 5 x . Just doing that will most likely solve poor accuracy problem, thou you are minute of Moose. Get some good bore cleaner and clean the barrel. Most marlins in 30-30 will shoot 170 gr. bullets better. If it was mine I would have a smith do a trigger job, and install a good front and peep sight .

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    I'd say that hodgeman is pretty much correct.

    That's probably as accurate as you're gonna get with that gun.

    You might try shooting TWO shots, and letting the barrel cool, while NOT moving you shooting position, and firing a cupla more shots. It's heating up, and that's bad for accuracy considering the attributes of most Lever actions.

    The claims of great accuracy with these lever actions are amazing to me.

    IME, they ain't accurate.

    If your gun shoots that good, I see no reason to sell it.

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    I have quite a few lever guns and have noted a few things about accuracy from the bench… first off BrownBear’s comment about gun cant should not be taken lightly. This is a much bigger deal with a lever action rifle than it is with a bolt gun, and when you go and mount your optics way above bore centerline like your buddy has done with the see thru mounts, you can really have a detrimental effect on groups if you don’t ensure that the rifle is perfectly vertical before each shot. It isn’t going to take much of an inconsistency in rifle cant to really open up a group. Also make sure that the forearm is securely on the bag and in the same location from shot to shot. Don’t set the magazine tube onto the bag, just the forearm. Also try shooting single shot mode with no loaded rounds in the magazine. Remember that barrel harmonics play a significant role in accuracy (which is why we don’t set the barrel on the bag) and when you change the weight hanging off of the barrel you are altering the harmonics, and as such most lever guns will print differently (albeit slightly) with the magazine loaded versus empty. If you have tried those suggestions and are satisfied that shooting technique isn’t part of the problem, then there are a couple of things to look at on the rifle…

    You noted that the muzzle crown looks to be damaged. This can be remedied at little to no cost if you can find a small ball bearing that fits well in the crown. It is kind of a pain, but you just goop up the bearing with some valve grinding compound and sort of roll it around on the crown with the palm of your hand. It’s messy and takes a long time, but it works and its nearly free. A step up in ease of use is to order a crown lapping brass adapter from Brownells or Midway USA that you chuck in a hand drill and do essentially the same thing. I think they run about $10. A 10x magnifying loupe makes inspection of the crown much easier.

    In regards to Marlin barrels, you of course know that most of the recent 30/30’s are of the micro-groove type and as the name implies, the grooves are smaller than you would expect to see on a typical rifle that has Ballard style rifling. That said, if the previous owner has gotten a little carried away and did a lot of cleaning with a stainless bore brush or some of the more aggressive copper removing solvents he could have theoretically done enough damage to the rifling to effect accuracy. I doubt it, but you might as well clean it really good and have a look down the pipe to see for yourself.

    Another thing that I would do, is slug the barrel with a pure lead musket ball. Just get yourself any old musket ball (doesn’t matter what size but the smaller the better) and after you lube the inside of the barrel, pound it into the muzzle with a wood or rawhide mallet. Then push it thru the bore towards the chamber and feel for any restrictions. Although it isn’t typically a problem unless shooting cast bullets, and also isn’t typically as prominent on the 30/30’s as say the 35 Rem, 375 Win, or 45/70, I have noted several rifles were the process of cutting the rear sight, forearm and magazine hangar dovetail slots has caused very slight constrictions in the bore. The remedy for this is fire lapping and I have had great success with this in the past.

    While you are messing with all of that, you might as well have a good look at those dovetails, especially the forearm hangar and magazine hangar and make sure they are tight. I have also “glass bedded” forearms and butt stocks, and although I cant really quantify its effect on overall accuracy, I would say that it cant hurt.

    One more thing to consider, if you hand load, is that the chambers and throats on these rifles are usually pretty generous, and while the cartridge lifter and action dimensions are ultimately going to determine how long you can load your cartridges, I have found that you can usually exceed listed OAL by a rather large amount thus reducing what in most cases is an excessive jump to the rifling, and thereby improving accuracy somewhat…

    In my experience, there are some true 1” lever guns out there… but I don’t own any of them. If my Marlins or Winchesters can put 5 shots consistently into a group that I can cover with a Copenhagen can (about 2 ½”) at 100 yards then I am a really happy guy!

    Good luck!
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    For a crown lapping tool, go to the hardware store and get a round head brass screw with a little bigger head than the bore, put it in a drill with some fine lapping compound and move it around in a circular pattern on the crown. Works pretty fast and is cheap. Never had a 30/30 so I don't really know what to expect there. A bad crown can make a rifle shoot very badly. I have a sks that shot about 2 foot groups at 50yds. I cut off about 1/4" of barrel and recrowned with a brass screw and fine valve grinding compound and it now shoots about 3" at 100yds. Although thats not great accuracy, at least its useable. My M92 Win in 25/20 will usually shoot under 2" at 100 yds and some are claiming much better than that.

  14. #14
    Member Kay9Cop's Avatar
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    Since it was bought used, is it possible its leaded from being shot with cast bullets?
    "Beware the man with only one gun; he may know how to use it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alangaq View Post
    One more thing to consider, if you hand load, is that the chambers and throats on these rifles are usually pretty generous, and while the cartridge lifter and action dimensions are ultimately going to determine how long you can load your cartridges, I have found that you can usually exceed listed OAL by a rather large amount thus reducing what in most cases is an excessive jump to the rifling, and thereby improving accuracy somewhat…
    I think you should Crimp rounds for lever actions that have tubular magazines.

    That would would require a crimping groove, and that pretty much determines the OAL, right there.

    Bullets that are designed for 30-30 for example, have flat noses, and crimping grooves.

    I know that it is widely believed, and even printed in some Loading Manuals, but IMO, and IME, How far a bullet must "jump" to the rifling usually has only a minor effect on accuracy.

    I seat bullets to be OFF the lands, and to have enough bullet in the neck for neck tension, and of course so the rounds will work through the magazine.

    Many FLs have deep seated bullets, with little more than the ogive sticking outta the case, and they are quite accurate, in some guns, at least.

    Smitty of the North
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    Member akgun&ammo's Avatar
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    You might also check the barrel for a bulge. It seems a lot of used lever actions have one now a days. Just seen one saturday that bugged out on the side, not a normal barrel bulge! It can happen fairly easily, and small bulges are hard to see sometimes. Causes- obstructions such as snow, mud, previous bullet, too much oil maybe in barrel. Only good fix is trim the barrel. Have to measure length to make sure still legal. If the rifle is one of the earlier models, check the barrel where it is screwed into the action. I had one marlin model 30 that the barrel was backed off just enough to play heck with accuracy.
    Next is the question: Is it always the third shot that's the flyer? normal flyers happen - when they happen. But, it is the first shot that counts the most on game animals. So if the first shot will always fall into a 1" group, you are doing pretty good.

    Chris

  17. #17

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    My 336 will do better than that, accuracy wise, being good for 1-1 1/2" at 100. The first thing is to dump that mount and scope. Low mount and better scope. Then a good barrel cleaning. Then go to the range and try it again, being careful not to cant. That may solve your probs. If it doesn't, get the muzzle looked at. I would expect it to be able to get around 2", if not better.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Many FLs have deep seated bullets, with little more than the ogive sticking outta the case, and they are quite accurate, in some guns, at least.

    Smitty of the North

    I can sure verify that.

    I have a 25-35 that shoots factory loads with amazing accuracy, and I'd bet none of the bullet in front of the crimp ever touches the lands. I've moved heaven and earth with my handloads trying to beat factory, even loading 117 grain spitzers for use with one in the chamber and one in the tube. Those have been seated to touch, almost touch, etc, and no brand of bullet or powder combo can match the factory rounds. Close, but not better.

    Funny thing, the Hornady 117 RN it has a little less taper forward and can be made to touch the lands with longer seating (and no cycling through the action due to OAL issues), and those shoot best, close to factory loads, when seated all the way back and crimped. Makes ya nuts!!!!!

  19. #19
    Sponsor ADfields's Avatar
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    Levers are not as accurate as a bolt in general but all I have are better than that, around 2moa or better. There are thousands of levers out there that shoot like this one usually because they were cleaned from the muzzle (people fear taking the bolt out) without a guide thus damaging the muzzle. So any lever gun I get that doesn’t shoot at least 3moa gets the following treatment.

    My first guess when getting flyers like that would be that the bullet nose is getting dinked up or bent over in the case neck as the action loads it. So check this first by load it and cycle the ammo out a couple times checking the ejected loaded ammo very closely for any new marks. If you find they are getting beat up find out why and fix it before even bothering with the other stuff as it may be un-necessary.

    Next would be a very good cleaning to remove any possible copper or lead following. I’d follow that with a quickie bore lapping (with a cast in place soft lead lap and very fine compound) staying ½” away from the chamber throat and muzzle area with most of the strokes. Caution here: If you don’t know how this is done have it done because it’s easy to go too far and you can’t go back. It is amazing however how a light lapping can improve a tired or improperly cleaned barrel making a so-so or shot out barrel back into a shooter.

    Then I’d re-crown it just on the general principle of “if in doubt buff it out” so you know it’s good. The crown is very important and very often damaged by poor application of a cleaning rod from the muzzle of lever guns without a guide in place . . . I believe this is where the “levers are inaccurate” myth comes from. I have used the brass bolt on a drill method for years and it works great so long as there isn’t cleaning rod damage inside the muzzle that would require removing some muzzle marital. If cleaning rod damage extends inside the muzzle (often does) then it will need to be cut back (at exactly 90* which is hard without the tools) a bit and re-crowned.

    Next would be that scope . . . if you can’t get a good consistent weld on the stock every time (difficult even with the best set up on most lever guns since the stocks were made for iron sights) you are looking at the reticle from a new angle every shot. Then there could be movement in the mount or the reticle from recoil as stated before. I’d lose the scope and get some good irons on there at least for testing what is going wrong with it . . . that alone could make it shoot.

    If he is discussed with it and doesn’t want to mess with it what do he want fer this junker fixer-upper . . . less the glass naturally?
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