The Meplat's Tale
A close look at four cast 30-30 bullets

Click photos for full size versions.

Here's a close look at four cast bullets designed for leveraction 30-30 rifles. I arranged them from left to right by OAL. The list includes each double-cavity mold's approximate cost on 6-12-08. Click for full size popup photo
  1. RCBS 30-180-FN ($64)
  2. Lyman 311041 ($47)
  3. Lee C309-170-F ($19)
  4. Ranch Dog TLC311-165-RF ($26)
Let's begin with the measured OAL of the four bullets pictured:
  • RCBS = 1.054"
  • Lyman = .988"
  • Lee = .967"
  • Ranch Dog = .940"
Ranch Dog molds closed, but ask around on the Castboolits forum at

Let's look at the actual weight of each bullet above (all cast with acww alloy):

  • RCBS = 197.0 grs
  • Lyman = 178.4 grs
  • Lee = 172.5 grs
  • Ranch Dog = 175.7 grs
Click for full size popup photoHere's the meplat or business end of each bullet.

Experienced cast bullet big game hunters like big meplats. The sharp edge slices flesh instead of pushing it aside and causes heavy bleeding. Think of how hard it is to stop your own blood from flowing when you get a paper cut. Razor sharp broadhead arrows kill the same way—massive and unstoppable bleeding.

Disregarding bullet weight, the killing power of these four bullets are, in order of killing power/meplat size:

  1. Ranch Dog TLC311-165-RF
  2. RCBS 30-180-FN
  3. Lyman 311041
  4. Lee C309-170-F
In the photo below we see them aligned by crimping groove. The Lyman 311041 is an exact fit inside the neck of a 30-30 case. The bottom of its gas check is even with the bottom of a case neck. Knowing that fact, you can visibly judge the case neck fit of the other three bullets.

But how do they "fit" as hunting bullets? Here's my
ranking from best to worst: Click for full size popup photo

  1. RCBS 30-180-FN gets my nod as best hunting bullet. It has a big meplat and, just as important, it's a big ol' bullet—197 grs! Pushed with Varget powder to 1900 fps in my Winchester Model 94, it's a potent round. If grizzly bears roamed the same woods I roam, I'd pack nothing but this round.

    I only have one complaint about this bullet—I don't like iron molds. For one thing, it's humid here in Louisiana. For another thing, while you're warming an iron mold you could have cast a pile of bullets with an aluminum mold.

  2. Ranch Dog TLC311-165-RF is second best hunting bullet. Its meplat is bigger to much bigger than the other three bullets, and it only gives up about 3 grs weight to the Lyman bullet. The meplat is so big I worried about jams in my Winchester Model 94, but it fed slick as glass. It's also an aluminum mold made by Lee via special order to Ranch Dog.

    Look at the photo above and notice the copious amount of lube in this bullet's Tumble Lube grooves. Ranch Dog himself pushes it past 2,000 fps in his Marlin with zero leading. All that lube is probably why he can do it. Notice 6 grooves for lube in the Ranch Dog bullet vs 5 in the RCBS vs 4 in the Lyman vs 3 1/2 in the Lee.

    While the RCBS bullet got my nod as best hunting bullet due to its weight and big meplat, this Ranch Dog bullet is the best overall. In fact, I consider it the best cast bullet ever designed for leveraction 30-30 rifles.

  3. Lyman 311041 is third best, barely. It lost the second nod because: (a) its meplat is smaller than the Ranch Dog's meplat; (b) its mold is iron; and (c) the Ranch Dog is capable of higher velocity due to the extra lube.

  4. Lee C309-170-F is the worst, easily. Its meplat is more like a Spire Point. That gives it a better Ballistic Coefficient, but what good is a 2" higher trajectory @ 200 yards in a 100 yard rifle? Give me a big meplat which gives me a dead right there deer or an easy to follow blood trail. And look at that tiny crimping groove. Get a case a little long or short or get lube on the nose, and you'll crimp out of the groove—not a good thing.
So there you have it—four bullets and one man's opinion.

Copyright 2008 by Junior Doughty

Home     Back to the Reloading section