A .30-30 "Scout Rifle" From Days of Yore
This is a discussion on A .30-30 "Scout Rifle" From Days of Yore within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; This thread is the result of the other .30-30 thread.
Winchester Model 54 .30-30 Carbine w/20" barrel
This handy and very accurate little rifle was ...
October 30th, 2008 11:15 PM
A .30-30 "Scout Rifle" From Days of Yore
This thread is the result of the other .30-30 thread.
Winchester Model 54 .30-30 Carbine w/20" barrel
This handy and very accurate little rifle was acquired from my good friend Cres Lawson, a long time shooting bud who was 50 years older than I. He bought it brand new from William Crites gun shop in San Antonio, Texas after Christmas in 1928, just before he and his dad left for their annual month long deer hunt at their ranch in Mexico. Cres wanted a handy rifle for use on horseback. He told me that Mr. Crites had a dozen or so of the Model 54 .30-30 carbines on the rack in the shop that were received on clearance from Winchester. They were marked $30 and Cres traded a Savage Model 20 bolt action .250-3000 and $10 that he'd borrowed from his mother for this rifle. He mounted a Lyman aperture sight on it which makes it so much more effective in use.
He shot two deer with it right off, the day after their arrival to the ranch. He'd slipped up on a couple of bucks browsing. The first dropped in its tracks and the second only looked at his fallen comrade and kept browsing so Cres took it as well, its body falling across the first one. After 12 years and quite a few deer, he last used it in deer season of 1940 in Gillespie County, Texas, one more taking two deer at the same time.
At the end of January 1929, the day before they were to leave on the train to return from Mexico to their home in San Antonio, Cres took this little rifle and hiked over to an adjoining ranch, which was also owned by an American, to say goodbye. The fellow said that he'd been seeing a large buck in a field in late afternoon and would Cres like to take it. Cres was up for it so they saddled up a couple of the rancher's horses and rode out to the field. Sure enough when they arrived this great buck was in the field. Cres asked the rancher if the horse was fine with a rifle being discharged from the saddle. The rancher said yes so Cres essayed a shot at the buck, killing him. Cres didn't get the satisfaction of observing the bullet strike because, as he said:
"The next thing I knew I was completely prone in mid air with my rifle sailing off towards Jones."
Scrambling to his feet as the horse continued to buck away, he complained to the rancher who was laughing uproariously.
"I thought you said I could shoot from astride your horse".
"Well you can...once" came the reply as the rancher howled with glee, the tears streaming down his cheek.
Cres looked around for his new rifle, chagrined to see it stobbed muzzle down in the soft earth with it's butt stock sticking straight up at the sky.
They field dressed the buck, loaded him up on a hired hand's convenient mule and headed back towards home, the rancher just completely dissolved in laughter.
This region was mostly jungle and they were traversing a portion of it to return to the ranch house. The rancher was still chuckling and poking fun at Cres but not paying attention to his horse which had veered off the jungle path and stopped abruptly in front of some thick brush. The rancher kicked up the horse to force him on through the brush and both horse and rider suddenly disappeared from Cres' view. It was as the earth had swallowed him up.
Immediately though Cres became aware of a tremendous thrashing and flailing about along with a monumental barrage of cussin' all coming from out of the ground. It seems that the rancher inattentively compelled his horse to dive into one of the many sink holes common to the locale. He sent his horse headlong into a 12 foot deep pit full of tangled brush.
Cres felt that it was some justice for the treatment he'd received earlier and razzed the rancher for the remainder of the ride back to the hacienda.
The Winchester Model 54 is the immediate predecessor to the more famous pre-64 Model 70. Around 50,000 were made altogether which makes it many times less common than the pre-64 Model 70. Despite this there is not nearly the collector interest in the Model 54. The Model 54 was not popular in .30-30 since it could also be had in .30-06 and .270 and the carbine is an uncommon variation so the combination of the two is quite scarce. Cres told me that the only other Model 54 .30-30 carbines he ever saw were in the hands of some guards in a Mexican prison in the mid 1930s. He said their rifles were in absolutely wretched condition. I never got around to asking him what he was doing in a Mexican prison.
I must have seen one of these rifles at a Dallas gun show some years ago. It was gray metal and rust with a broken and repaired stock that looked all dried and shrunken. The integral front sight was worn down to a nub and would have been useless for sighting the rifle. The rear sight was missing it's elevator. The bore had that newly plowed field look about it, all ravaged by corrosive priming and neglect. That's the only other .30-30 chambered Winchester Model 54 carbine I've ever seen.
This rifle is an outstanding stalking rife in the spirit of the traditional European rifles. It carries wonderfully in the crook of one's arm and may be shouldered and fired in an instant. I took one buck by working through a long section of a river bottom. Took me most of the morning to traverse the mesquite scrub but a nice buck taken at 40 yards made for a rewarding hunt.
This rifle has the smoothest bore I've ever seen. One may fire several boxes of jacketed bullets through it and clean it in a jiffy with no copper fouling to contend with. With careful sighting off the bench rest I've obtained five-shot groups of 1 1/2-inches along with a single 1 1/4-inch group at 100 yards. In hunting with this rifle I've taken four deer at ranges from 25 yards to 130 yards. I've always used Sierra 170 grain flat nosed bullets.
I assumed it'd be tailor-made for use with spitzer bullets since it is fed from the box magazine but it wants no part of them. I've tried seating bullets out and also various seating depths but it won't shoot them like it will the 150 and 170 grain flat nose bullets made for the lever action .30-30s. It'll even handle the 125 grain flat nose that Sierra made (may still make them) to useful velocity and with good accuracy.
It'd likely be a great cast bullet shooter but I've not explored that aspect of shooting it. It would also be a great rifle to try some of the Hornady Leverevolution 160 grain ammunition that Raevan mentions in the other .30-30 thread but I've not yet taken the opportunity. In the strong Model 54 bolt action it's said that one may get away with experimentation with hand loads that exceed that which a lever gun can safely handle but that would be against the spirit of using a classic .30-30 for hunting in my view.
I've taken lots of deer and seen many more taken with a host of different rounds. The .30-30 will work just as effectively as will the hottest magnum. An observer won't be able to tell the difference in a deer shot with a .30-30 and one shot with a magnum rifle by looking at the carcasses.
October 30th, 2008 11:22 PM
October 30th, 2008 11:24 PM
You can't tell any difference in the taste of the meat either.
Nice rifle and a great story to boot.
When you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts & minds will follow. Semper Fi.
October 30th, 2008 11:50 PM
Good post...love the 30-30...we need to have a steak together some time...
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October 31st, 2008 01:15 AM
October 31st, 2008 08:36 AM
BMC, You should know better than to show that! Now I will be looking for one for myself!!!!
October 31st, 2008 09:26 AM
I can do steaks retsupt99. Perhaps in our travels we can get together and chow down.
Leighton, if you do get one I'd sure like to hear all about it. The Model 54 must not have been popular in Texas back in the day. One never sees even the more common rifles, much less the carbine variation.
A scan of a photo of Cres and me taken some years ago. He'd wanted me to collect an armadillo for him. Jack Newhouse, a frend of Cres' and regionally famous taxidermist in Fort Worth, Texas stuffed it and the Lawsons presented to their son Scott one Christmas. He got a chuckle because I collected it with a Colt Model 1901 Army revolver chambered for .38 Colt.
I hunted armadillos one afternoon at our old place at the lake and selected the most likely looking specimen from several found. Drawing a careful bead at no more than about 8 feet, I shot it in the bands just behind the left front shoulder, seeing a red .38 hole appear just where I'd aimed. Imagine my surprise when the silly thing leaped high in the air and ran for his hole, escaping me. I had to stalk and look over several more before I found another fine specimen. I struck the second armadillo just as I'd hit the first but this one went down for the count. I'd used the .38 Long Colt as a lark and because I figured that it wouldn't be as liable to crack the shell as a .22 Long Rifle bullet is prone to do on occasion at close range.
The old WW factory .38 Long Colt load must have been pretty puny if it couldn't even put down a fairly struck armadillo.
Colt Model 1901 U.S. Army .38 Long Colt
October 31st, 2008 09:47 AM
Thanks for the post. Good read
November 1st, 2008 12:18 AM
Wonderful read, bmcgilvray, thank you.
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November 1st, 2008 02:29 AM
Great post. I have been looking for a Model 54 for some time, yours looks great. Now I want one more and in 30-30.
November 1st, 2008 02:41 AM
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