The .30-30 is widely acclaimed as the first smokeless centerfire cartridge commercially loaded in the U.S. Actually, it's the first such sporting cartridge. The .30-40 Krag, introduced as a military round, featured 40 grains of smokeless in its original load three years before the 1895 debut of the .30-30.
In 1893, Winchester became the first U.S. gunmaker to offer a rifle in a smokeless chambering: the John Browning-designed Model 1885 High Wall in .30-40 Krag. Remington's Rolling Block, the Remington-Lee repeater and Winchester's lever-action Model 1895 were also chambered to the .30-40.
The smooth-cycling Krag-Jorgensen rifle lasted as the U.S. service arm for a decade. In original (1892) form, it out-dueled Arthur Savage's revolutionary lever gun in ordnance trials. The 1898 model lost out to the stronger 1903 Springfield and a potent, rimless round that became the .30-06.
While the .30-40 Krag made its reputation with 220-grain bullets (to match, in form, the 227-grain 8x57 and 215-grain .303 in other arsenals), it has since been loaded with flatter-shooting 180-grain spitzers. The 220-grain roundnose once available in hunting ammo has been dropped.
With a strong head and plenty of taper, it begs attention from wildcatters. Ackley's version boosts capacity enough to matter. However, the original hull holds enough fuel for big game. In fact, the highest-scoring elk of a century, shot by John Plute in Colorado in 1899, fell to a .30-40 Krag. The round remained popular well into the 20th century, mainly in surplus rifles.
The .30-40 Krag is not quite as powerful as the .308 or .30-06. Like its ballistic counterparts--.303 British and .300 Savage--it has killed more game than all but a handful of modern rounds. At 100 yards, the Krag still carries a ton of energy, 30 percent more than traditional .30-30 ammo. Though 220-grain bullets at 2,200 fps shed velocity quickly, they exit the muzzle with the same energy package as 180-grain spitzers--and much more momentum. A hunter with heavy-bullet Krag loads is well equipped for any North American game at iron-sight range.
The only remaining commercial loads for the .30-40 Krag come from Remington and Winchester. You can handload this round more ambitiously in the stout Ruger Number Three (bored for the .30-40 from 1973 to 1977). One of the most fetching .30-40 rifles I've seen was a Dakota Model 10 owned by the late Don Allen. He let me fire it; it kicked like a .30-06. "It should," said Don. "Those loads match the .30-06."