The .30-30 lever-action rifle is a classic American weapon that’s been used for generations in both military and hunting capacities. While these rifles are not incredibly large, their cartridges pack enough punch to take down medium or large game at their effective ranges.
Even with this power, .30-30 rifles are known for their relatively light recoil, which makes them easy to use and enjoy. Two of the more popular rifles using the cartridge are Marlin 336 and Winchester Model 1894.
Combining your .30-30 lever-action rifle with a good scope is a great way to improve your accuracy and allow you to push out your effective range. Rifles that use .30-30 cartridges can hit targets consistently at around 150 yards, but the human eye needs a little help to make that happen.
Our guide to the best scopes for your .30-30 has everything you need to make the best purchase for your needs.
What to Look for in the Best .30-30 Scope
Before we show you the best scopes for a .30-30 lever-action rifle, keep these key considerations in mind. Each of these aspects drastically affects how good a particular scope will be or what it’s best used for.
.30-30 lever-action rifles, also called “brush guns”, are specifically designed to hunt at medium to close range. Their cartridge size and firing power are best suited for hitting targets between 100 and 150 yards, although you can push your accuracy out to a maximum of about 200-250 yards with the right scope.
Because of this, scopes with very high magnification settings will be overkill in a lot of situations. Going up to about 10-12x magnification is as high as you want to go. Scopes with magnification settings on the lower end of the spectrum, around 4-8x magnification, are even better since they go well with the intended range of a standard brush gun.
Examine the magnification ranges available on each scope you consider so you get one that fully complements your rifle and its cartridges.
First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane
One of the biggest arguments among scope enthusiasts has to deal with which of these two focal plane settings is better. The truth is that neither is superior all the time but instead that both excel in different situations.
First focal plane reticles are designed in such a way that their size appears to change depending on your magnification level. This can be particularly advantageous when used with scopes that swap between high or low magnification settings frequently. Your holdover points for windage and elevation will remain accurate relative to your target no matter how far you zoom in or out. This is because the reticle of an FFP scope will appear to get larger as you zoom in and smaller as you zoom out. However, this can make your reticle too small for comfort or difficult to get used to on certain settings.
Second focal plane reticles don’t change size even as you switch between magnification levels. This means that one magnification setting, usually the highest, is the “correct” magnification for the spaces between holdover points. But this can still be helpful if you don’t switch very much between magnification levels or your range is relatively limited. Your reticle will always be consistent and, therefore, easier to get used to.
.30-30 lever-action rifles benefit most from second focal plane reticles since they don’t usually utilize scopes that reach into the farther magnification settings.
You can read more on the topic FFP vs SFP here.
The reticle is important, as well. Some scopes come with a BDC reticle that lets you estimate the bullet point of impact without having to adjust for elevation. Others are illuminated, like red dot sights, and these can be helpful for target acquisition during variable lighting conditions.
While many .30-30 lever-action rifles don’t have a lot of recoil, mounting is still an important consideration. A good mount will reduce recoil even further and help you maintain stability as you track a moving target and take several shots.
Side mounts will let you use any normal scope, while forward scopes force you to use long eye relief scopes that may not be ideal for your chosen target or firing range.
Some of the best .30-30 lever action scopes can work with different kinds of mounts for extra flexibility on your part. These are usually great bonuses.
If you purchase a brand new scope, you want it to last for a long time. Be sure to get a scope that has some kind of weatherproofing as a feature. The best scopes will be waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof; you can take these excellent scopes out into the wilderness and depend on them even if conditions become difficult or you drop them by accident.
Buying a cheap, unprotected scope might save you some money initially but you’ll end up spending extra to purchase a new scope if your first breaks easily.
The 5 Best .30-30 Scopes
To help you find the best scope for 30-30, we have gone through a variety of products, read through forums, consulted .30-30 rifle owners and as a result compiled a list of the 5 most suitable scopes for the .30-30 cartridge. It is up to you to choose the best scope for your 30-30 based on your needs and budget.
1. Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC)
This riflescope has a special BDC reticle. It compensates for bullet drop and lets you estimate where a shot will land outside your scope’s zeroed range. This allows you to take shots without having to adjust your elevation manually and is a great additional perk to any scope.
The scope is compact and provides magnification settings between 3x and 9x with a 40mm objective lens. These magnification ranges are great for use with a typical .30-30 rifle and are ideal for hunting at close to medium distances.
The optics are fully multicoated; this coating improves light transmission to provide you with high contrast, bright sight picture. This can be particularly advantageous when hunting animals that would normally blend in very easily with their surroundings.
You can use the ¼-inch reticle adjustment knob on the side of the scope to zero you in on your target quickly. Combined with the light recoil of a typical lever-action rifle, you should be able to maintain accuracy even as you take several rapid-fire shots. There are a solid 3.6 inches of eye relief included in the design to prevent accidental bruises as you fire, too.
The aluminum-body scope is also fully weatherproof, having been nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed. Both of these design additions ensure that the scope will continue to work even if it’s submerged in water or dropped from a perch.
As a bonus, this scope comes with a lifetime warranty from Nikon. Such a warranty shows great value for money and gives you peace of mind; you can purchase the scope without worrying about defects, as Nikon will repair or replace the scope at no extra charge.
All these features combined make this the best scope for Marlin 336 and any other 30-30 rifle, of course.
- Great magnification ranges for .30-30
- Tough and long-lasting
- Great size and adjustment knob
- A little pricey
Check also our full Nikon ProStaff 3-9×40 review.
2. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32 SFP Riflescope
This scope also has a BDC reticle, perfect for hitting shots at ranges longer than your zeroed range. It uses a customized dot design at the vertex of the crosshairs that helps you estimate holdover and windage corrections. Shooting in variable wind conditions is easier thanks to this feature.
The reticle is also a second-focal plane type, so no matter which magnification level you choose, the reticle stays the same size for consistency. This scope has a great range of magnification settings from 2x-7x: ideal for use at closer ranges where the power of the .30-30 lever-action rifle can excel at bringing down meatier animals.
The scope has a very forgiving eye box and plenty of eye relief to go along with it. You should be able to get a clear sight picture quickly and acquire your target with a snap; the eyepiece is fast-focus designed.
The lenses have been multicoated with an anti-reflective material. This allows the lenses to give you a colorful and bright sight picture without risking reflecting any of that light into your eye, potentially ruining your shot.
The scope has been constructed from a single piece of aircraft-grade aluminum. The tube has been anodized, meaning that it stands less of a chance of sustaining rust damage over time. This brings great durability to the entire piece and, when combined with O-ring sealing and nitrogen purging, allows the scope to be weatherproof, as well. It’s one of the most durable scopes you can find.
- Excellent durability
- Fantastic magnification settings for .30-30
- Snappy optics
- Comfortable eye relief
- Not as accurate at medium ranges
3. UTG 3-12X44 30mm Compact Scope
This scope has a relatively wide selection of available magnification settings. You can shoot for targets as close as three times magnification or as far as targets that require the maximum twelve times magnification. It’s a great design for a .30-30 rifle, as it covers practically all ranges typically considered “close” and “medium”.
It’s got emerald coated lenses with an integrated, angled front sunshade, along with a flip-open lens cap. The sunshade helps you maintain accuracy even at high noon without a lot of tree cover but still brings in enough light to provide you with a clear sight picture. The flip-open lens is great for protecting the lens when it’s not in use and allows it to remain perfect for much longer.
The reticle is truly special. It’s illuminated and allows you to choose between red or green depending on your environment or preference.
There are 36 different luminosity settings to choose from, so you can depend on the scope to provide you with excellent accuracy in the brightness of day or the shadow of night. Switching between these elimination settings as easy thanks to two soft, ergonomic buttons that you can reach with just a finger.
This is great for a .30-30 lever-action rifle; even under recoil and the motion of the lever-action itself, the scope can maintain consistent illumination due to its special circuit housing. This durability is seen again on the body of the scope, which is weatherproof.
No matter your magnification setting, resetting to zero is consistent and snappy. Changing your MOA levels by ¼-inch can be done with an audible clicking turret. The tactile satisfaction from this adjustment knob is echoed by the windage and elevation turret, as well. This is a fantastic scope for many .30-30 shooters, especially given the asking price.
- Good magnification setting spread
- 36 different reticle luminosity choices
- A bit bulky on the tops and sides
4. Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12x40mm SFP Riflescope
Like the first two scopes, this .30-30 scope has a BDC dead-hold reticle that allows you to track your targets much more easily at a distance and you do not have to adjust for elevation. It’s placed on the second focal plane so that it maintains the shape no matter which of the magnification settings you are currently using.
This reticle is combined very well with the scope’s variable magnification settings which range from as close as 4x to as far as 12x. These ranges are perfect for .30-30 lever-action rifle.
The lenses have been XR multicoated for clear, high contrast sight pictures no matter the light level or time of day; light is dispersed as minimally as possible through the glass. The eyepiece has been calibrated to allow you to focus your reticle snappily as soon as you see your target move in the brush.
The scope’s precision turrets let you easily zero reset after you’ve already sighted-in to your target’s location. The knobs can be adjusted without looking by listening to the tactile clicks that come with each ¼-inch adjustment.
The scope’s tubular body is made with a hard-anodized finish to prevent rust or corrosive damage over time. The anodized finish also lends significant durability and, as an extra advantage, helps camouflage your position due to its shadowy, non-reflective color. The scope has been O-ring sealed and argon purged to lend it true weatherproof qualities.
- Very durable, somewhat camouflages
- Great magnification ranges
- Excellent light capture via lenses
- A bit expensive
5. Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9x40mm Riflescope
Here’s a great scope for use with any lever action 30-30 rifle, made by one of the best scope manufacturers in the business: Leupold. It features magnification settings between 3x and 9x, meaning you can easily push out your effective range to 150 yards or even a little more, especially since it features a 40 mm objective lens. This allows it to capture plenty of light for optimal transmission.
Furthermore, the scope features a simplistic duplex reticle that isn’t overly busy with a ton of hash marks. Thus, it’s great for keeping track of moving critters you want to hit or hitting targets when competing with your friends. The scope is made to be suitably durable for outdoor use and inclement weather, featuring waterproof and fog proof construction. The scope’s body is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and tested by Leupold to ensure that it’ll hold up even under heavy recoil. This is nice, but it isn’t necessary given the relatively low recoil of most 30-30 rifles.
Even better, this scope features scratch-resistant lenses, even to military standards. The proprietary Twilight Max Light management System can add an additional 10 minutes or so of shooting light at the beginning and end of the day and makes this a great scope for hunters that normally hunt targets at around 100 yards or so ranges.
Add to all of these positive benefits excellent eye relief at ranges between 3.66 inches and 4.17 inches and you have an altogether phenomenal scope that can handle any occasion or need. Pair it with your favorite versatile 30-30 rifle and you won’t be disappointed.
The scope as a set of windage and elevation adjustment turrets that are nonetheless not very well marked. But this is the only real downside on this otherwise phenomenal scope.
- Features excellent materials and assembly
- Lenses are scratch-resistant
- Made to work in any weather
- Has an excellent reticle and magnification range
- Features Twilight Max Light Management System
- Windage and elevation turrets aren’t well marked
All of the products mentioned have been successful in providing quality one way or another. While all of them feature a few minor flaws, at the end of the day, their benefits outstrip the drawbacks.
Which product is the best scope for your 30-30 rifle will depend on your preferences and priorities.