30-30: To Scope or Not and How?


Random Discharge
December 27, 2008, 09:54 PM
I picked up my first lever gun. A Marlin 336SS in 30-30 for deer hunting.

What are your thoughts on scoping this beauty? I'm thinking either a fixed 4x or a variable 2-7x32. If I scope it, what do you think of the see through mounts that let you still use the fixed sights? Good idea, or stick with a "normal" mount?

Then again, it looks so good with just the fixed sights I'm tempted to leave it as is. Decisions decisions.

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December 27, 2008, 10:10 PM
If you are using it to deer hunt I always would recommend adding a scope. Unless you have awesome vision acuity a good scope will always be better for low light performance in the early morning and evening and in inclement weather. Also I would stay away from those see through mounts as they usually mount the scope too high and are never used. I have a scope mount that pivots out of the way on my deer shotgun and I have never used it.

My father has a Marlin 30-30 with a 3-9x40 Nikon Prostaff that works well for him. I can post a picture if you would like. Honestly the only reason not to use a scope is if you enjoy a bigger challenge when hunting. I guess some would argue this and say they are a better shot with irons but I don't care at 30 minutes before sunrise or after sunset sometimes the eyes just don't cut it. A proper scope will almost always make your hunt easier and more successful. Of course this is just IMO.

And how is easy just get rings that mount in the groove on the top of your receiver.

December 27, 2008, 10:45 PM
Depends. I don't care for scopes on my hunting rifles because I mostly hunt in fairly thick brush that limits the distance of shots I can take. We have fairly thick woods here in LA, and there are no pipelines or power lines on our lease. A scope for me would just be a liability.


Saint Dennis
December 27, 2008, 11:00 PM
I have a 336 my dad gave me. I installed the see through mounts and after 35 years of hunting with it, I don't ever recall using the iron sights. I hunt thick cover in Minnesota and still have never used the iron sights harvesting a deer. I always figured it would be a good back up if snow or rain messed up the scope. Never happened tho. Shot lots of deer including two this year.

December 27, 2008, 11:16 PM
For my 336s, I run a fixed 2.5x or 2.75x on a forward 'scout' mount.

December 27, 2008, 11:51 PM
my 336 has gone scoped, then no scope, then scoped again, etc. i was never really satisfied w/ it, but i didn't like the scope. ultimately, i pulled the factory front and rear sights, and put a good receiver sight on it (instead of the barrel), and put a good front sight on, and i found happiness there. so, my advice is to leave it unscoped and spend a couple bucks on a good receiver-mounted peep.

December 28, 2008, 05:49 AM
Try XS ghost ring sights.

December 28, 2008, 06:36 AM
If you are going to mount a scope you are are on the right track with a small low powered scope. The straight 4X scopes are simple and rugged but in my opinion even 4X is too much for woods work. I like a 2-7 or even a 1.5-4 scope on a lever action.

While scopes do not look right on a lever action to many people there is no denying they help. In good light with a deer standing in the open I have no doubts about my ability to make a kill with an iron sighted rifle at from 150-200 yards. Put that same deer in deep woods at dawn or dusk and you will not be able to make a 35 yard shot with irons. The scopes ability to transmit avalible light will allow you to identify whether it is a legal deer and see the sights. With even the best irons you will be guessing. Scopes are not just for long range work.

Avoid the high see-through mounts like the plague. They set the scope too high to use well and make it difficult to use the irons. With a Marlins stock design you want to mount the scope as low as possible so the scope will line up with your eyes when mounted. They are not as popular as they once were but the old standard Weaver rings are cheap and in reality work just as good as anything else. If you damage your scope or just want to remove it you can use a Leatherman screwdriver, or even a knife blade in a pinch, to remove the scope in 30 seconds and us your irons. If you replace the scope I have yet to find one that did not return to perfect zero.

December 28, 2008, 06:45 AM
I have a bias against scopes on leverguns. If I had a problem with low light I'd add fiber optic sights. If I needed a scope I'd move to a bolt action.

December 28, 2008, 07:15 AM
I don't deer hunt much with a rifle, but when I did, it was with a Marlin 336. I had a Bushnell 1.5 X 4X scope on it. Early and late in the day was when it really shined gathering more light than my eyes could. At 1.5X, with both eyes open it was as fast, probably faster than iron sights for me.

December 28, 2008, 07:26 AM
if you have GOOD eyes, and hunt in thick cover, leave it as is. if your eyes arent so good, and / or you hunt in more open terrain, get the 2-7, but go larger on the objective lense. going larger there will give you way better dusk/dawn seeing capabilities. my 30-30 has the over/under scope mounts on it. it has for the past 25 years. to be totaly honest, there was only 1 time i used the open sigts hunting. the deer was about 15 feet away. my rifle has a 3-9 on it. which is fine for most hunting situations. a 2-7 would really be better for a 30-30. then you could forget about the see through mounts. you will probably never use the opens sights anyways.

December 28, 2008, 08:49 AM
Put a Simmons 3-9x40 scope on it.

December 28, 2008, 09:11 AM
When my 336 wears a scope it is the Nikon ProStaff 2x7. Cost me all of about $120 and worth every single penny of it.

The "see-thru" mounts are a worthless, "Rube Goldberg" item invented only to sell something else to unthnking hunters. They push the scope so high that it almost always wrecks the pressure and contact that the shooter's cheek is supposed to have on against the comb of the stock. That contact/pressure is necessary for good, consistant shooting. If you are going use "see-thru" mounts you might just as well not buy the scope OR the rifle. Save a bunch of money that way too.


December 28, 2008, 09:29 AM
The see through sight mounts are ok, they do mount the scope pretty high up but if you're hunting in a wooded area probably won't be too long a shot anyway. A nice low power scope (such as a Leupold VX-I) should do fine.

Random Discharge
December 28, 2008, 09:56 AM
See through mounts: Puts the scope too high and sounds like those with them never use the fixed sites beneath anyway. Thanks for saving me from that mistake.

Lots of good ideas. I'm gravitating to a low mounted scope in the 1.5x-4x range now, or around 2x if I go fixed. I'm going to sacrifice some light gathering and keep the objective small enough to not asthetically overwhelm the little lever gun. Sounds like a low power scope is fast enough to acquire that I won't give up much if any of the fast handling benefit of fixed sites.

Time for some better informed shopping! Appreciate everyone's feedback.

December 28, 2008, 10:07 AM
It's not so traditional looking but you might consider one of the RedDot style sites. They come in 2x and are short enough and light enough that you can still carry the rifle very near the point-of-balance. Downside is you need to carry spare batteries because sooner or later (probably sooner) you are going to forget to turn it off and the battery will be D.O.A. in about 24 hours.
Don't get anything with a dot any larger than 3 MOA. You wouldn't have to spend a lot of money on one but steer clear of the $39 specials.

Good Luck !

December 28, 2008, 11:48 AM
I never liked scopes on my lever guns but that is just me.

December 28, 2008, 02:48 PM
but go larger on the objective lense. going larger there will give you way better dusk/dawn seeing capabilities

Not exactly a 100% correct statement as there are other variables at play such as the exit pupil size, modern coatings and also glass quality. I personally like a 40 mm scope as I think the 50 mm mount the scopes a bit too high for a handy hunting rifle. A good 40 mm scope, say a 3-9x Bushnell 4200 Elite, will be more efficient when it comes to light transmission than say a 50 mm 3-9x Leupold VX-I.

1-4x, 2-8x or 3-9x are all great variable hunting scope types. If you like the 3-9x40 configuration the Nikon Team Primos and Bushnell Elite 4200 scopes are the best bang deal going at the moment (www.swfa.com). You can get really fast with any configuration it just takes a lot of practice aquiring targets.

December 28, 2008, 03:06 PM
"I never liked scopes on my lever guns but that is just me."

Gotta agree with you 100%, "Seafarer12".:) My Marlin is only scoped because I am going to do a specific shooting experiment with it. My 94 isn't scoped and I would never do so with a 94 or 92.


December 28, 2008, 03:16 PM
Sounds like I'll be the odd one out saying this, but I just used the iron sights (under a see-through mount) two weeks ago to get my first buck. In Kansas, a scope is a good thing, but I happened to be in some thick brush and had to take a quick shot... I couldn't acquire it with the scope since all I could see was a bunch of homogeneous branches, so I just used the iron sights. Maybe I should practice my acquiring skills with a scope (or lessen the magnification?)... maybe I'll never use the iron sights again. But that was one day I was happy to have a see-through scope mount. It wasn't with a lever action, though... it was a Rem 700.

Big Bill
December 28, 2008, 03:17 PM
I'd never put a scope on a lever rifle or a revolver or pistol; it ruins the astetics. However, Marlin scopes them at the factory so.....?



December 28, 2008, 03:24 PM
i've never been a big fan of scopes. here in the northeast the longest shot you'll have to take will be no greater than 200 yds, and i usually encounter game within 50 yards. It really depends on your location. midwest? definantly. northeast? not likely.

December 28, 2008, 03:34 PM
I am in western NY and I would say the average shots where we hunt are about 75 yards. Some of these shots I would not have been able to take without a scope. It can get dark in the woods at dawn or dusk and a scope can only help on these situations. In my personal experience where I hunt (which is pretty heavily wooded) a scope has only made my hunts easier and more successful and has never prevented me from taking a shot or got in the way.

December 28, 2008, 04:23 PM
Avoid the high see-through mounts like the plague. They set the scope too high to use well and make it difficult to use the irons.+1,000!

IF and thats a pretty big if, I were to scope a 30-30 carbine, it would be with an XS Lever-Scout mount and a very low power pistol scope.

Heres one on my 1894P .44 Mag.
Nothing in the world any faster!

For sure I would never put a 3-9x50 on one!
Unnecessarly huge & hidious on a little 30-30 carbine!


December 28, 2008, 04:47 PM
I'm kind of surprised at how many of us think alike in terms of scoping lever-action rifles! Scopes maybe on the likes of Winchester 88s, Marlin 56/57/62s, Savage 99s and Sako Finnwolfs (wolves? :)) levers; never on "traditional" lever rifles and carbines. Scopes certainly have their multiple uses and most of my rifles have them. Some situations like poor eyesight, long-range anticipated shooting distances or target shooting may well dictate the use of telescopic sights. But no scope ever added to the handling properties of a rifle (or a shotgun for that matter and certainly NEVER of a handgun) and almost always a scope detracts from the handling qualities of any firearm to one degree or another.

I've always believed that the 30-30 became one of America's most popular cartridges due more to the handy carbines they were chambered in than to any inherent ballistic advantage. Slap a scope on one of these lever-actions, be it a Marlin or Winchester or their ilk, and you have diminished the intrinsically wonderful handling attributes they possess. I recommend using a Williams or Lyman receiver sight to keep the carbines quick on their feet and fast to the point.

And like most others have opined, unless you have a very specific use for them, stay the heck away from those abominations known as "see-thru" sights!

December 28, 2008, 05:47 PM
Hard to put a scope on something as beautiful as this:


I might go with something like this peep sight

P.S. I ordered mine yesterday.

December 28, 2008, 08:59 PM
Hard to put a scope on something as beautiful as this:

It's actually pretty easy, you just need an allen wrench, a pair of scope rings and maybe some loctite :evil:

Saint Dennis
December 28, 2008, 11:27 PM
A deer rifle is for hunting deer. If you want a scuplture for admiring on the wall fine, but especially in thick woods, a scope can help pick a hole to shoot through. Hit them with the first shot. It can look clear through iron, but put the scope on it and you'll see the brush in the way. I've shot a lot of deer using a scope on those "abominal" see through mounts. They aren't that bad. Just learn where to weld your cheek.

December 28, 2008, 11:41 PM
Figure you can get quick release scope rings so you can easily remove the scope when you are not hunting in order to admire it's form :)

December 29, 2008, 01:00 AM
Why not? I put one on my 336 and have never looked back. We use a 30-30 for just about everything bigger than what a 22lr would be used for. For that we tend to be shooting at smaller targets than the typical deer shot. If you can make humane shots on what you are shooting at without a scope then great. I feel better about a lot of my hunting with a scope on. I thought the factory sights were mediocre anyways and was looking at either going scope or new irons. Having a few extra scopes and rings laying around it was pretty easy to just pick up a base and be set. It was a lot cheaper than the iron sight replacements I had looked at.

December 29, 2008, 11:28 AM
My eyes are not good, so a scope is a must. I somehow decided on a Leupold Vari-X III in 1.75x6, and I'm tickled with it. I think it's perfect.

December 29, 2008, 11:36 AM
I have a scope on mine. Especially with the new Hornady LeverEvolution ammo that is pushing the effective distance of 30-30 ammo accuracy, I'm considering getting the new scope that is made for this ammo. 30-30 just got even better, and I say "it's about time!"

December 29, 2008, 11:52 AM
Put an aimpoint with a FTS 3x magnifier and a 6 position stock on it. You might want to add a quad rail for the tac-lite and foregrip. Just make sure to get some MagPul rail covers. You wouldn't want any exposed rails or your 30-30 might look too tactical.

JK. A 2x scope would be perfect, IMO.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
December 29, 2008, 12:26 PM
IF you're gonna scope it, then stick with a normal mount, not a see-through - that puts the scope too high and could result in a miss if the target is only 5, 10, 15, 20 yards away.

As for scoping it or not, either way. I would personally, because I have bad eyes, and adding a scope adds a good 15-20 minutes on either side of prime time legal hunting time in the morning and evening.

December 29, 2008, 12:59 PM
I thought the whole Point of a see through scope Mount, Is for the Ability to use stock sights for close shots.

December 29, 2008, 01:18 PM
With a good 2.5x or 4x scope, one should be able to make a good close shot (30 yards). No need for those see-through mounts.

December 29, 2008, 01:20 PM
Yes, scope it if it is going to be used as a hunting rifle and not some cowboy action shooting gun where purists rule.

A good quality scope can only help. Helps to identify the target, helps in low light situation, helps to pick exactly the right spot. No question I can shoot a lot more accurate at 100 yds with a scope than open sights. The game deserves the best shot I can put out there.
If you get a low powered variable you don't give up anything on quick shots if you leave it on low power when in the brush.

I used an open sight 30-30 many times and have shot deer and hogs with it, but there were a few times I really screwed up by carrying it because I could see the deer in my binoculars, but not well enough with the iron sights to get a shot. Frustrating when I was looking at a nice buck I know I could have had if I'd have carried the .270 with the scope that day instead.

Nope, always a scope for me these days unless it's a special situation (i.e. heavy brush daylight close shot situation only).

Random Discharge
December 31, 2008, 12:52 AM
Again, thank you to all for the input. I decided to scope it, but with a low mounted Weaver V3 (1-3x20). It has a nice wide field of view at 1X for short quick shots, and 3X should suffice for longer shots within 30-30 range. That's the thinking anyway.

I concede it will uglify my Marlin a bit (OK, a lot - its the 336SS model). But the scope is only 9" long and has no big bell on the business end. From an asthetic point of view, I could have done worse to it for sure.

December 31, 2008, 02:43 AM
It has a nice wide field of view at 1X for short quick shots, and 3X should suffice for longer shots within 30-30 range. That's the thinking anyway.

I completely agree with your thought process on this but I don't agree that it will make your rifle "ugly".

I mounted 1.5-5x scopes with SPR reticles on my Marlin XLR (shown below) and my Guide Gun. The reticles are good for range estimation, holdover etc which are particularly important given the ballistics of the .45-70. I plan on leaving the '94 as is with a ghost ring rear sight.

Personally I like the look of a scope on a lever action and it makes them significantly more accurate (therefore more useful) over a wider range of conditions.



December 31, 2008, 03:21 AM
Zero your iron sights with whatever load you are going to hunt with, then mount your scope.

That way if your scope fails/breaks/fogs/gets whacked on a rock etc your rifle is still ready to hunt with.

I've never put a scope bigger than 2x-7x on a 30-30, but have hunted with a 4x fixed on the same rifle. Big advantage of the variable scope was the bigger 40mm objective that let in more light for low light shooting.

No need for mil-dot reticles on a 30-30, any heavy 2 stage crosshairs will do.

December 31, 2008, 11:47 AM
Here is a pic of my new Mossberg 464 with a Burris Fullfield II 2-7x-35. It is as low as it can go, it has about 1/32" clearance between the bottom of the lens and top of the rear iron sight folded down.
I think that scopes look great on lever guns when they are blued and match, but when the receivers are "gold" they look like crap.

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