.300 HAM’R vs. .30-30 Winchester

Caliber Battles
.300 HAM’R vs. .30-30 Winchester

When Bill Wilson began developing the .300 HAM’R in the early 2010s, he wanted to create a .30-caliber cartridge that could be chambered in AR-type rifles and would “at least equal the legendary and time-proven .30-30 Winchester in terminal performance.”

If the Wilson Combat website is any indication, he believes the project was a smashing success. The company claims the cartridge “offers near .308 Winchester effectiveness on game animals” along with “amazing accuracy” and “low recoil.” Ballistics data indicate that the HAM’R does indeed beat out similar cartridges like the .300 Blackout and the 7.62x39mm.

But can the relatively small cartridge (it fires a .30-caliber bullet from a necked-up .223 Rem. case) really compete with the king of the deer woods? Read on to find out.


Several ammo companies started loading the .300 HAM’R after it became a SAAMI-approved cartridge in 2018, so we don’t have to take the word of the cartridge’s creator when evaluating its ballistic potential.

Sig Sauer, for instance, offers a 125-grain .300 HAM’R that flies 2,450 feet-per-second at the muzzle and delivers 1,666 ft.-lbs. of energy. With a 100-yard zero, that bullet will drop 4.6 inches at 200 yards, 19 inches at 300 yards, and 47 inches at 400 yards.

A shooter can always compensate for bullet drop, but the projectile may be moving too slowly at those distances for full expansion. That 125-grain projectile will be traveling just below 1,800 fps at 200 yards and only 1,600 fps at 300 yards. Most hunting bullets need to be traveling about 1,500 fps for full expansion (faster for monolithic bullets), so the maximum range for the .300 HAM’R is something around 300 yards (assuming good accuracy).

That beats out the .300 Blackout, but the HAM’R has a tougher time surpassing the .30-30. The old Winchester isn’t a long-range powerhouse by any means, but it can take a poke out to 300 yards in the right conditions–and it would hit harder than the HAM’R at any distance.

This 170-grain .30-30, for instance, leaves the barrel at 2,200 fps and drops 7.7 inches at 200 yards and 27.2 inches at 300 yards. That’s a more looping trajectory than the HAM’R, but the heavier bullet is traveling about the same speed, so it hits the animal with more energy. At 200 yards, the .30-30 hits with 1115 ft-lbs. (compared to the HAM’R’s 974 ft-lbs.) and with 860 ft.-lbs. at 300 yards (compared to the HAM’R’s 730 ft.-lbs.).

If you’re looking for a flatter trajectory, these 150-grain HammerDown .30-30 bullets drop 6.5 inches at 200 yards and 23.9 inches at 300 yards. That’s still not as flat as the HAM’R, but it’s a doable holdover with a good scope, an accurate rifle, and some practice.

HAM’R fans (not to be confused with hammer pants or Hammer Time) might point out that ballistic data for the newer cartridge is obtained using 16-inch barrels while the .30-30 generally uses 20- or 24-inch barrels. It is true that the HAM’R might run slightly faster out of a longer barrel. These 125-grain bullets reach 2,500 fps from an 18-inch barrel, and these reach 2,525 fps, according to Wilson Combat. But the HAM’R’s small case capacity means that most of the powder burns up in shorter barrel lengths, so it’s unlikely that a 20-inch barrel will produce significantly faster muzzle velocities.

The HAM’R boasts a flatter trajectory while the .30-30 hits harder and can be loaded with heavier bullets. It’s difficult to declare a winner based on bullet energy and trajectory alone, but I think the HAM’R gets the nod in this category due to its accuracy potential.

The first reason the HAM’R is more likely to be accurate than the Winchester relates to the free bore diameter. The free bore is the part of the gun barrel between the chamber and the rifled section of the bore. If that diameter is too wide, the bullet can yaw slightly before engaging the rifling. As a modern cartridge, the HAM’R’s chamber was designed with a tiny, .309-­inch free bore diameter, a mere .001 inches wider than the bullet itself. The .30-30’s free bore, by contrast, is .3307 inches, .0227 inches wider than the bullet. While a gun maker can build a more accurate .30-30 using a custom chamber reamer, a factory HAM’R is much more likely to be a tack driver than a Winchester.

Semi-auto, AR-type rifles are also generally more accurate than lever guns. This isn’t a knock on the .30-30 per se, but the vast, vast majority of .30-30 rifles are lever actions. For a variety of reasons we don’t have time to detail here, it’s difficult to make a really accurate lever gun. Semi-auto guns also have a tough time competing with bolt-action rifles, but a well-made AR-15 can shoot sub-MOA groups all day. I can’t say the same for any of the lever guns I’ve owned, as much as I love them. That might impact a shot at close ranges, but it will also limit maximum effective range more than any feature of the cartridge itself. It’s for this reason that most hunters say the actual max range of a .30-30 is closer to 200 yards than 300.

We don’t usually touch on accuracy when comparing cartridges, but I think the difference is stark enough in this case that it will impact most hunters who shoot both cartridges.

Winner: .300 HAM’R


Both cartridges are soft-shooting, but the HAM’R uses about 30% less powder than the .30-30 and so hits with a bit less recoil. The HAM’R is too new for much independent recoil data to be readily available, but Wilson Combat published a video on this topic, and it looks like the HAM’R is somewhat more pleasant to shoot. It also stands to reason that an AR-type rifle fitted with a buffer tube and spring will dampen recoil transfer better than a lever gun.

The HAM’R may be lighter on your shoulder, but it won’t be lighter on your wallet–and you’ll have a hell of a time finding ammo at your local gun store. Midway USA only has one .300 HAM’R option for sale, and you’ll pay about $50 for a box of 20. Sig Sauer lists their 125-grain .300 HAM’R for only $30 for a box of 20, which is about the cheapest I’ve been able to find it. Wilson Combat lists a wide variety of options on its website, but none are less expensive than about $32 for a box of 20 cartridges.

The .30-30, by contrast, comes in a huge variety of bullet weights and bullet styles at a variety of price points. You’ll pay about $25 for a box of the cheapest .30-30, so it’s not massively less expensive than the .300 HAM’R. But it is far more widely available. Midway USA lists 33 options and, more importantly, every gun shop in America has some .30-30 in stock. If you realize the week before opening day that you need more cartridges, you’ll be able to find .30-30 locally. If your rifle is chambered in .300 HAM’R, you may miss the first few days of the season.

Rifle availability mirrors ammo availability. Most gun stores–big box and local–have a few .30-30 lever guns in stock. They may be 60 years old, but they’re available. Not so for the HAM’R. Wilson Combat offers a variety of AR-type rifles chambered in their cartridge, but as far as I can tell, they’re the only gun company making rifles for the HAM’R.

The HAM’R might be slightly more pleasant to shoot, but the lack of ammo and rifle options make the .30-30 a clear winner here.

Winner: .30-30 Winchester


Both the .30-30 and the .300 HAM’R are great cartridges for taking deer, pigs, and other animals of similar size. The .300 HAM’R was designed specifically for wild hogs, and the .30-30 has been taking whitetail for nearly 100 years. Both could also take varmints but wouldn’t be ideal for, say, prairie dog hunting on windy grasslands.

The real question is whether these cartridges can step up to elk-sized animals. For the .30-30, the answer is a pretty clear affirmative. The .30-30 has a long track record of taking elk, moose, bear, and even lions. Terminal Ballistics research reports that the .30-30 can make clean, quick kills on game up to about 330 pounds, particularly inside 75 yards. Larger game might not go down as quickly, but they say it’s more than adequate for these animals with a broadside shot on the vitals.

Given that the HAM’R also uses .30-caliber bullets and fires them about as fast, it stands to reason that it could also step up to elk-sized animals. Wilson Combat reports that this load using 150-grain Hornady SST bullets has proven to be effective on elk and kudu, and all their 150-grain hunting bullet options are listed as appropriate for elk. Whether hunters can independently verify these claims remains to be seen, but if the .30-30 can bring down an elk quickly and humanely at short distances, I see no reason why the HAM’R can’t, too.

Winner: Tie

And the Winner Is…

If I’m recommending a cartridge to a new hunter, I’m going with the .30-30 Winchester. The HAM’R’s intriguing ballistics can’t outweigh the fact that ammo and rifles are expensive and impossible to find locally. Even for veteran hunters and certified Gun Nuts, that’s a real turn-off.

However, if I’m considering each cartridge in a vacuum, I think the HAM’R gets the nod. Its ballistics mirror the .30-30 in a smaller, more efficient package, and it produces less recoil. Even more importantly, .300 HAM’R rifles will almost always be more accurate than .30-30 lever guns. That increases maximum range and makes it tough for the old Winchester to touch the HAM’R. Plus, while ammo and rifles are hard to find locally, they can both be ordered online from Wilson Combat.

I don’t like this, either. But I think this Caliber Battle goes to the .300 HAM’R.

Overall Winner: .300 HAM’R

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