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advice needed on a Marlin 30-30

ken55ken55 Senior MemberPosts: 782 Senior Member
I bought an old (1949-50) Marlin 30-30 at a pawn shop several years ago on a whim. It was kinda beat up looking but I wanted a 30-30 lever gun. Think I paid $250 OTD for it. To my surprise, it shot really well - 1 1/2" at 100 yards consistently with the 4X scope that came with it. A year or so back when I was fooling with it at the range, I noticed it was keyholing the Winchester ammo I was using. Every round went through the paper sideways. Started calling it "Ol' Sidewainder." I tried some Remington Coreloks and that solved the problem - until a few days ago when it started keyholing the Coreloks, too. Tried some 170 grain spitzer Hornady handloads that were built for a bolt-action (too long to feed from the tube magazine and pointy anyway). Those worked fine and I was back to nice little groups.

I've cleaned the barrel several times through all this and soaked it in foaming copper remover and that micro-groove bore is as clean as the day it was built so fouling is not the problem. Linefinder shared a similar experience with me about one of his rifles and suggested there might be a damaged spot in the bore somewhere but i don't have a borescope to check. Makes sense, though. I suspect I can build some handloads that will shoot in the rifle with enough trial and error but I'm wondering if that might just be putting off the inevitable. I'm not inclined to put any money into the rifle but I was going to use for deer hunting this fall just for the sentimental value of taking an old lever gun out where it was intended to be. Now I'm thinking it may be time to just call it shot-out and hang it on the wall. What do you all think?

Replies

  • Big Al1Big Al1 Senior Member Posts: 8,255 Senior Member
    What does the muzzle crown look like?? Any dings will cause key holing.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Ken, if it were me, I'd slug the rifle with a soft lead bullet and see what it mikes out at, while paying attention to the amount of force it takes to push the bullet down the bore. A .32 auto or .32 S&W roundnose lead bullet would be a good candidate. Push an oily patch through the bore first. Makes pushing the slug down the barrel a little easier.

    Keyholing could be caused by a larger than normal bore diameter not gripping the bullet in the barrel lands and causing the bullet not to spin fast enough to stabilize.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
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  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    Big Al1 wrote: »
    What does the muzzle crown look like?? Any dings will cause key holing.

    Sorry, should have mentioned that in my OP - the muzzle crown looks fine. Examined it with a magnifier and couldn't find any damage at all. The internet research I did suggested that those older micro-groove barrels are prone to gong bad all at once and that may be what happened.
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    tennmike wrote: »
    Ken, if it were me, I'd slug the rifle with a soft lead bullet and see what it mikes out at, while paying attention to the amount of force it takes to push the bullet down the bore. A .32 auto or .32 S&W roundnose lead bullet would be a good candidate. Push an oily patch through the bore first. Makes pushing the slug down the barrel a little easier.

    Keyholing could be caused by a larger than normal bore diameter not gripping the bullet in the barrel lands and causing the bullet not to spin fast enough to stabilize.

    Makes sense, Mike. If I can put my hands on a .32 bullet I'll give that a try. What if the bore checks out to be over-size - would that explain why it shot very well for a long time and then started keyholing all of a sudden? Seems like if it was a wear problem, I'd be able to see it. Those micro grooves would make that kind of wear pretty obvious, wouldn't they? Sure has me baffled.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Borescoping it would really help. The rifling may be gone. Being it's an old rifle, the barrel may be just shot out. Slugging the barrel will tell you a lot about the rifling condition. If there's none or little left, the soft lead will show a lack of grooves in the surface. The actual age of the rifle is the determining factor. Microgroove rifling was patented by Marlin in 1953. If the rifle was made in 1953 or later, it will have microgroove rifling, and have more lands and grooves than cut or button rifling. If made before 1953, it will have standard rifling, and the grooves will be deeper, with fewer lands and grooves.

    If the barrel is shot out, I'd consider replacing the barrel with a new one. No sense in hanging an otherwise good rifle over the mantle.

    Edit to add:
    You said it shot 170 grain Spitzers O.K. They would probably have a slightly longer bearing surface than 170 grain RN bullets. Might be that the added bearing surface was enough to allow the barrel to get enough grip on the bullet to spin it up and stabilize it. Just thinking out loud here. :tooth:
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    ― Douglas Adams
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    tennmike wrote: »
    Borescoping it would really help. The rifling may be gone. Being it's an old rifle, the barrel may be just shot out. Slugging the barrel will tell you a lot about the rifling condition. If there's none or little left, the soft lead will show a lack of grooves in the surface. The actual age of the rifle is the determining factor. Microgroove rifling was patented by Marlin in 1953. If the rifle was made in 1953 or later, it will have microgroove rifling, and have more lands and grooves than cut or button rifling. If made before 1953, it will have standard rifling, and the grooves will be deeper, with fewer lands and grooves.

    If the barrel is shot out, I'd consider replacing the barrel with a new one. No sense in hanging an otherwise good rifle over the mantle.

    Edit to add:
    You said it shot 170 grain Spitzers O.K. They would probably have a slightly longer bearing surface than 170 grain RN bullets. Might be that the added bearing surface was enough to allow the barrel to get enough grip on the bullet to spin it up and stabilize it. Just thinking out loud here. :tooth:

    I just checked the date code and found the rifle was built in 1957 so it's not quite as old as I thought and it does say "Microgroove rifling" on the barrel. To the eyeball, the rifling looks pretty good although I'm not sure what I'm looking for with that kind of rifling. Your comment about the longer bearing surface makes sense to me although I'm still not sure how that could happen all at once like it did. Any thoughts about that?
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Microgroove rifling is pretty shallow; it makes up for a few deep grooves with a lot of shallow ones. If the rifling was already worn down, the additional shots you've put through it may have taken it down to the point that it just can't get a grip on the bullets.

    Slugging the barrel will tell you a lot. If the slug doesn't show the shallow lands and grooves distinctly, or hardly any at all, time for considering a rebarreling.

    Here's a picture of what microgroove rifling should look like. Best one I could find.

    imagesqtbnANd9GcRZRf6MNGRhdw3Zd0VZ4.jpg
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    tennmike wrote: »
    Microgroove rifling is pretty shallow; it makes up for a few deep grooves with a lot of shallow ones. If the rifling was already worn down, the additional shots you've put through it may have taken it down to the point that it just can't get a grip on the bullets.

    Slugging the barrel will tell you a lot. If the slug doesn't show the shallow lands and grooves distinctly, or hardly any at all, time for considering a rebarreling.

    Here's a picture of what microgroove rifling should look like. Best one I could find.

    imagesqtbnANd9GcRZRf6MNGRhdw3Zd0VZ4.jpg

    Thanks, Mike. That's very helpful and I appreciate you! I'll figure out how to slug it and then get back to you.
  • shushshush Senior Member Posts: 6,259 Senior Member
    I may be out of my depth here and step on a few toes, I do apologise in advance.
    Could the old girl not be kept in use with re-bore, .32 or .35 perhaps.
    Again, if my nose is in the wrong place, I do understand having it lopped.
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 24,962 Senior Member
    If you cannot get a .32 bullet anyother way, I can pull one and mail it to you or maybe a reloader here has one liying around..
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,347 Senior Member
    A new barrel would be cheaper than a rebore.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • shushshush Senior Member Posts: 6,259 Senior Member
    Gene L wrote: »
    A new barrel would be cheaper than a rebore.

    Ah I see, thank you.:beer:
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,494 Senior Member
    ken55 wrote: »
    i don't have a borescope to check.

    But you know somebody that does. We've just gotta figure out when to make it happen.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    If you need a few .32 cal pistol bullets to run through it, IM me your address and I'll have some in the mail to you Monday morning. I also have a bunch of .309 cast lead rifle bullets, too. I can send a few of them, too.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    shush wrote: »
    I may be out of my depth here and step on a few toes, I do apologise in advance.
    Could the old girl not be kept in use with re-bore, .32 or .35 perhaps.
    Again, if my nose is in the wrong place, I do understand having it lopped.

    No worries - thanks for weighing. I had considered re-boring but as somebody already said, it costs more than re-barreling. No sure either is worth it for a rifle that might be worth $350 if it was in perfect condition. Maybe better to just replace it.
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    tennmike wrote: »
    If you need a few .32 cal pistol bullets to run through it, IM me your address and I'll have some in the mail to you Monday morning. I also have a bunch of .309 cast lead rifle bullets, too. I can send a few of them, too.

    Mike, that's very generous. Hold off a day or two and I'll see if can scrounge something around here first before I put you out. If I can't, I'll take you up on it. Many thanks.
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    Linefinder wrote: »
    But you know somebody that does. We've just gotta figure out when to make it happen.

    Mike

    Shoulda known you would have one, Mike. Let's see if we can get together somehow. No hurry, though. I know you have a tough schedule.
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    NN wrote: »
    If you cannot get a .32 bullet anyother way, I can pull one and mail it to you or maybe a reloader here has one liying around..

    Thanks, Ned. Give me a couple days to see if I can find one around here first. I really appreciate your help.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,347 Senior Member
    Well, it's a pre-safety Marlin. I don't know what shape it's in but you can't replace the memories.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    Ken, if you happen to pass by a place that sells fishin' stuff, one of those little plastic bags of lead split shot are a good substitute for a lead boolit to shove down the bore. Just pick a bag that either has an assortment, or a bag that is close to .30 cal.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    1/8 or 3/16 oz split shot ought to be about the right size.
      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,871 Senior Member
    Trade it in for a Winchester :tooth:
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 18,428 Senior Member
    Check the Gun Parts Co. website. They probably have a good-condition takeoff barrel for a reasonable price.
    Jerry
  • ken55ken55 Senior Member Posts: 782 Senior Member
    Trade it in for a Winchester :tooth:

    I've been waiting for for somebody to mention that! :wink:
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,429 Senior Member
    Man, I have a problem with the idea of a 30-30 being shot out. They just aren't that hard on barrels. Marlins use Micro Groove rifling and as I understand, it doesn't take much to screw it up. I would first get a good copper solvent and give it a good try before you give it the last rites.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 32,995 Senior Member
    I have an Enfield .303 British that would keyhole bullets in the target. Not every time, but 2 or 3 outta every 5 fired. Closer inspection showed the last several inches of the barrel were "Smooth-bore" at the muzzle end. I had the barrel replaced and the problem was solved.

    i wanna say it shot some profile bullets better than others too. I forgot which and it was before I started reloading for it, either 180 grain round nose or 174 FMJ did better in it. It could have been the bullet diameter, as well .310 vs .311?
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
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