.30 BELLM Illinois Deer Hunting Bliss

Why stop at 75 yards? Get 200 yard plus capability from Illinois legal handgun cartridges. Here's HOW!

.30 Bellm is the best of the two bottle neck .30 cal. 

cartridges on the Illinois list of approved legal handgun cartridges for deer hunting.

200 Yard Plus Capability! 

Incredible Accuracy! 

Rimmed Cartridge for Easier Loading/Unloading on Cold Mornings!

.30 Bellm, right, with .44 Mag. and .30 Herrett rounds for comparison.

The .30 Bellm cartridge came about in 1998 when Ken Valentine, below, posed the challenge of creating a 200 yard plus handgun cartridge that met the Illinois deer hunting regulations in effect at the time. The cartridge had to be .30 cal. or larger and the brass case no more than 1.4" long. 

I went to work doing some research, made the reamers, form dies, and reloading dies, and the .30 Bellm was born.

It has been grandfathered in under the Illinois handgun cartridge requirements and continues to be the best of the bottle neck cartridges for long range handgun deer hunting with TC handguns in Illinois. It is also finding interest across the country when a moderate capacity, benchrest type, "short/fat" .30 cal. accuracy cartridge is wanted.

Meet a prince of a fellow, Ken Valentine, the guy who sparked the creation of the .30 Bellm.

Ken with a nice Mississippi River bottom Illinois whitetail taken with the 

.30 Bellm Since 1998, Ken Valentine has scored dozens of deer with the .30 Bellm in Illinois and Montana often around 200 yards and beyond.

Ken with a nice Mississippi River bottom Illinois whitetail taken with the .30 Bellm Since 1998, Ken Valentine has scored dozens of deer with the .30 Bellm in Illinois and Montana often around 200 yards and beyond. .30 Bellm Encore Test by Sean Coombs .30 Bellm barrel review by Sean Coombs on the Staunton River Outfitters website. This is a more exotic, LONG range deer .30 Bellm setup. 

Quite interesting! Current Illinois regulations permit any straight wall cartridge, plus the two bottle neck cartridges "grandfathered in" from the previous regulations pertaining to the January control hunt..... .300 Whisper and .30 Bellm. The .30 Bellm, not to be confused with the .308 Bellm, is like its big brother also made from strong .444 Marlin brass. But instead of using the .444 Marlin case full length, .30 Bellm is simply a .444 Marlin case necked down to .30 cal with a 40 degree shoulder at a maximum length of 1.400."  .30 Bellm cases can also be made from easier to form, less expensive, premium quality 7mm BR brass with the small rifle primer pocket for a rimless version of the same cartridge. Rimmed cases are preferred, especially when removing a fired round with cold, numb fingers or gloved hands.

 I now make all barrels capable of shooting both rimmed and rimless cases interchangeably. The extractors are now set up to handle both rimmed and rimless ammo.

 Existing barrels can also be retrofitted for rimless extractors.  The 7mm BR case requires fire forming the shoulder forward and trimming the case back, but is something any reloader can do. On the other hand, extensive case forming is required making cases from .444 Marlin brass. The 7mm BR case, with its small rifle primer accuracy proven with this size of case, offers even greater accuracy potentials, making it more and more popular for general use even where the 1.4" case length limit imposed by Illinois hunting regulations is not an issue.

 It is also conceivable to form .30 Bellm brass from any rimless case with the .30/06 or .308 Win. head size, and I will do this on request.

 In terms of performance, think of the .30 Bellm as the chubby little sister to the .30 Herrett. Velocities are quite similar, so checking ballistics charts for .30 Herrett or .30/30 WCF will quickly reveal the drop figures and energy levels you are interested in knowing about.  Two proven loads are now commercially available from CNC Cartridge Company, Benton, Illinois. 130 Gr. bullet @ 2200 fps from 14" barrel.  

125 Gr. @ 2300 fps, Nosler Ballistic Tip preferred.  

These two bullet weights perform great on deer and give you a good trajectory and plenty of energy for 200 yard shots. Ballistics are the same or better than delivered by the standard .30/30, but in a small package that meets Illinois requirements.  Rechambering To .30 Bellm:  Any 10" bull or longer Contender barrel, factory or custom, currently chambered for .32-20, 32 H&R; Mag., .30 Carbine, or .300 Whisper and having the stronger "stepped" barrel lug (as opposed to the early flat bottom barrel lugs) can be rechambered to .30 Bellm. If you already have a .300 Whisper, its chamber is 1.4" long, and thus when I rechamber it, no change will be made to the existing throat. So if the throat is misaligned and it does not shoot well as a .300 Whisper, my chamber work will not likely help its accuracy. .30 Bellm will up the performance of your .300 Whisper barrel and give you a decent sized case with a rim on it that is much easier to handle in cold weather..... no more fighting that small diameter case head and spring loaded extractor. 

 Contact me for rechambering to .30 Bellm, .30 Bellm reloading dies, formed brass, and 

contact information for factory ammo. (541) 956-6938 

First Blood with a new twist to the .30 Bellm cartridge..... rimless.

Robert Bellm used the new rimless version of the .30 Bellm for this Illinois whitetail taken on the family farm, November 2006

Robert with whitetail No. 2 taken with the new rimless .30 Bellm cartridge.

Report from Robert:


Well, the new barrel is officially “blooded.” Got a young doe at 7:00 a.m. on the 16th, and took a small 8-point at 4:45 p.m. on the 17th. Neither shot was impressive for distance ( 50 yards and 40 yards, respectively), but the cartridge does do the job effectively and neither animal went more than 200 feet after being hit.

I still need to work on accuracy before I’m comfortable at much longer distances. Shooting from a bench is a lot different than being half-frozen and shaking in a deer stand."

Robert also commented:

"One thing I noted: most big-bore slow bullets like the 12 gauge slug or  the.50 black powder conical, etc. don't do too much to internal organs but  sure damage a lot of meat. Your cartridge doesn't hurt the meat much, but  the internal organs are pretty much soup after it goes through."

2008, Robert scored this nice Illinois buck

And John Neal, this one.

John's deer sniper set up, close up.

Another deer sniping rig, ready to roll, submitted by RL.

Bergara Encore rifle barrel cut to handgun length.  

The Bellm Headspace Indicator has a lot of uses, this time for propping the grip up for the photo. It is not a part of the gun. Bergara Encore barrels come standard with rifle forend screw hole spacing, which works beautifully for shooting from a rest, attaching a bipod, or a firmer hold shooting off hand. For $35 additional, I will drill and tap the barrel for the shorter handgun forend hole spacing.

A pair of .30 Bellm's, Contender handgun, Encore rifle

Thanks M.Z. for the pic. 

 Care must be taken to not load .30 Bellm to the Encore's potentials, then shoot those loads in the Contender. Stay with the standard loads for both guns. Loads worked up hotter for the Encore are too much for the smaller Contender/G2 platform.

Rimless .30 Bellm Bolt Action Guns

Pictured above is a Savage Striker " JS" in Illinois put together with a 17" barrel I chambered for him. The 17" barrel lets 31.5gr of H4198 with a 125 Nosler BT produce 2620 fps with 125 gr. bullets and 1 3/4" 5-shot 200 yard groups.  

 This type of load is for Encore and bolt action guns ONLY!  Too hot for Contender! This spells Deer Sniper and coyote Rx. Need I comment that unless a maximum barrel length limit is stipulated by law, you can essentially have rifle performance so long as there is a handgun grip and no shoulder stock attached.

"Blooded" in the 2011 season with this nice Illinois buck.

..... and more meat for the freezer it collected.

About the rimless .30 Bellm cartridge.

The very first .30 Bellm rimless barrel was made on a trial basis for my cousin, Robert Bellm, originally from our home town, Carlinville, Illinois.  Cases are made from small rifle primer pocket 7mm BR brass instead of .444 Marlin brass, which cuts the cost of the brass by about a third. It does, however require fireforming cases to blow the shoulders of the cases forward. 7mm BR brass is excellent quality brass, and the small rifle primer approach has proven itself for accuracy in cases of this approximate capacity. Robert's barrel was made for the Encore frame, and loads were run a bit higher than the Contender/G2 frames will routinely stand.

 I now set up Encore and Contender barrels to handle both the rimless and the original rimmed .444 Marlin based .30 Bellm brass interchangeably.  The load we started out with is 29 gr. Reloader 7 with 125 gr. 

Nosler Ballistic Tips. CNC Cartridge loads this same load in the rimmed .30 Bellm cases with a charge of 28 gr. Robert's load was the standard 28 gr. charge used in Contender loads. 

 This prototype stainless steel Encore barrel was made by rechambering an existing .32/20 TC custom shop untapered rifle barrel that I cut back to 14." Benchrest style forend was made by Jim Hendershot in Grants Pass, OR.

John S. supplied this data taken from the bolt action Savage handgun pictured above. This shows the potential of the .30 Bellm in longer barrels and run at the higher pressures permissible in bolt action guns and the TC Encore.





Cases are very easy to fireform.

Neck up 7mm BR brass to .30 cal., trim to give zero headspace, headspacing ON THE MOUTH OF THE CHAMBER FOR FIRE FORMING ONLY, charge case with 8 gr. of Bullseye pistol powder, fill case with Cream of Wheat, fire, then maintain the fireformed trim length or trim to 1.4" or less to meet Illinois 1.4" legal case length limit.  

 Other fast pistol powders with a burning rate similar to Bullseye can be used also of course.

How to get your own .30 Bellm barrel now!

Several ways to go.........

1) Encore .30 Bellm Barrels, call me at (541) 956-6938. I custom chamber Bergara Encore barrels for .30 Bellm.

2) New Custom .30 Bellm Contender/G2 Barrels 

Since I am not making any Contender barrels, I recommend having Match Grade Machine make a custom barrel for you with no chamber, then sending the barrel to me for chamber work. Or, find a .32 H&R; Mag, .327 Federal, .32-20, or .30 Carbine barrel for me to rechamber to .30 Bellm. I can also upgrade .300 Whisper barrels to .30 Bellm, 

but most Whisper barrels have somewhat long throat and no real guarantee of throat alignment with the bore. However, if it shoots well as a Whisper, it will shoot well as a .30 Bellm. 

3) Bolt Action Guns

I do not have an FFL, so you can NOT send a gun to me for rebarrelling. However, you can send threaded unchambered Savage barrels to me for chambering as JS did above or send a barrel blank for me to chamber and for your FFL gunsmith to thread and fit to your action. OR, you can fit to your Savage action yourself.

A few words about twist rates for .30 Bellm barrels

When setting up a bolt action gun for .30 Bellm you have more latitude in selection of twist rate, as opposed to those options available for the TC break open barrels unless you go full custom and have the option of specifying a particular twist rate.

In selecting a barrel for a bolt action, if you have the option to get a 1-12" twist, this is would be my recommendation. 1-14" is good also, but less commonly available from the various custom barrel sources. In actuality, a 1-16" twist rate is probably plenty adequate. 

 The vast majority of .30 Bellm barrels I have chambered since 1998, including the very first ones the original load data was developed in, have had 1-10" twist rates and have proven quite satisfactory in spite of the fact that 1-12" or 1-14" twist are closer to optimum for the light weight bullets used. Theoretically, the slower twist rates should give a little more velocity. 

 Note that all of the early TC Contender .30 cal. barrels chambered for .30 Herrett and .30/30, those with 6 groove rifling, were 1-14" twist, and it is the 1-14" twist that Don Bower's much larger .30 Alaskan cartridge thrived on with bullet weights up to 165 gr. doing his 500 yard plus handgun shooting.  With a properly configured and aligned chamber throat, over spinning a bullet has less detrimental effect on accuracy. Thus the faster 1-10" twist rate is apparently not a factor when it comes to accuracy. Back when Danny Campbell at CNC Cartridge Co. was selling .30 Bellm Contender handguns, he would take customers out to the field, put up a quart oil bottle filled with water at 225 yards, and tell the potential buyers to put the cross hairs on the bottle.

 The bottle exploded, the buyers saw the potential on deer, and went home with a .30 Bellm Contender. Again, the vast majority of the time it was with a 1-10" twist barrel. The bottom line is that twist rate is not at all important unless you are a perfectionist in search of that holy grail of tack driving accuracy. Any twist rate will do nicely.... including twists as fast as 1-8".

.30 Bellm as a dual purpose deer and varmint cartridge.

Over the years quite a few shooters have reported getting a lot of use from their .30 Bellm barrels zapping coyotes. I have no loading data on hand for 110 gr. bullets, but whether you use 110 gr. varmint bullets or the heavier deer loads, .30 Bellm does a number on 'yotes. 

To me, there is no substitute for the familiarity with a gun for deer season derived from year round varmint hunting with the same gun.

 Data for .30 Bellm is similar to data for .30 Herrett, so use 110 gr. bullet data for the Herrett as your guide, but use good sense paying attention to pressures in the Contender especially. 

Any hint of hard unLOCKING, not extraction, indicates it is time to back off the throttle to where unlocking takes the normal amount of effort.

Double Annealed .30 Bellm brass made from new .444 Marlin brass.

Annealed before forming due to Remington factory annealing sometimes not going far enough down the .444 Marlin case for this round. After the numerous forming operations and cutting back to 1.4", the reformed .444 Marlin cases are given a final annealing to assure your investment in this brass gives the longest case life. Formed, trimmed, chamfered, double annealed rimmed brass $1.50 each, $30 per box (empty, not loaded), $150 per hundred.

Rimless .30 Bellm cases can also be made from anything with the .30/06 or .308 Win. type case head size. With the 2013 brass shortages and the cost of 7mm BR and .444 Marlin brass, you can cut your costs using odds and ends of brass you already have on hand.

I charge $0.75 each to form .444 cases down to .30 Bellm and the same using rimless cases, which will cut your out of pocket expense roughly in half using brass you have lying around. Starting from new unfired brass maximizes the $0.75 per case investment in the reformed brass, but good once fired brass is still a viable option for making rimless .30 Bellm cases. 

 Again, any of the cases with the approx. .470" case head size can be reformed to .30 Bellm. These include all the popular, common .243 Win, 7mm/08, .270 Win., and .30/06 cases. 

And I assume that you can send such cases to CNC Cartridge Co. to have them "commercially loaded" so as to satisfy the stated Illinois handgun deer cartridge regulations that stipulate the cartridge must produce at least 500 ft/lbs of energy as certified by the manufacturer and normally marked on the boxes of CNC Cartridge Co. ammo boxes for the benefit of DNR enforcement officers.  At this writing March 3, 2013, I have not discussed this with CNC Cartridge Co.

 but would be glad to work with them on your behalf. Regardless, you can use the reformed brass for your own reloading purposes, but in the field, it is best to be able to produce a CNC Cartridge Co. box that states the energy produced to meet the letter of the law.

Commercially loaded .30 Bellm rimmed ammo:

Top quality .30 Bellm ammunition custom loaded, production loaded, and reloaded. If you do not reload and want to take advantage of the .30 Bellm, BELLM TCs is the one to talk to for both new ammunition and for reloading your fired .30 Bellm brass. 

Contact Kurt Bellm to get on a list for a spring run of ammo just in time for the fall hunts. [email protected] 970.433.9525

 Also available soon will be brass ready to reload!

Random Notes, Forming Rimless .30 Bellm cases, & General Comments

I made the reamers and dies in '98, so the round is actually over 15 years old. It was originally "Illinois specific" and is one of only two bottle neck cartridges on the approved list with the Illinois Division of Natural Resources. It is also the fastest, longest range round on the list.

For insurance reasons, the loads CNC Cartridge Co. produces were H.P. White Laboratory tested at pressure levels for the Contender. 

The Encore and bolt action guns will handle a lot more pressure, but one should be careful never to mix hotter loads for the Encore with loads for the Contender in the event has has barrels for both guns. 

 From the beginning, in spite of the cost of the labor intensive brass forming process, there have been a number of people buying barrels from all parts of the country that do not handgun hunt in Illinois and do not have that particular need for the round but who appreciate it for the excellent round it is. 

 I chose the heavy, rimmed .444 Marlin case largely because originally the Illinois handgun season was in January, one miserable place to shoot a handgun in the winter. I wanted the ease of loading and unloading a rimmed case.

 That and the fact that the .444 Marlin case is much thicker than, say, .445 Super Mag brass. The .444 case has proven itself a most excellent case in the Contender in the .444 Marlin chambering as well as a host of wildcat rounds formed from it. 

 However, with the cost of the brass and extending handgun use to the general shotgun season in warmer weather, I am shifting focus to the rimless BR case. Along with the quality of the BR case, of course, comes the small rifle primer that works so well in small capacity cases like this with the faster, easy to ignite powders. 

 The BR case is thinner than the .444 case. Thus loads can be increased some from standard, but at this point I have not worked up loads to max. in the BR brass or had any loads pressure tested.

 In the Contender/G2, a change from normal to hard UNLOCKING (occurs before hard extraction) indicates flexing of the frame and too much force back on it. Back loads off to the point where the hard unlocking stops. 

 NEVER take loads in the Contender to the point extraction is difficult.  Basically, the .30 Bellm can be thought of as a .30 BR Improved with the neck shortened .1", 1.4" o.a.l. compared to 1.5" for the 7 BR case.

 There is one key difference. The shoulder location on mine is forward of the shoulder on the BR case. Thus the BR shoulders have to be blown forward. Forming cases from BR is easy. Expand the case neck to .30 cal. Trim the case neck back precisely to the point the case sticks out of the chamber the same amount as the barrel-to-frame gap measures. 

Since the shoulder on my round is farther forward, the case then headspaces on the mouth of the case ala .30 Carbine for example. Charge the case with 7-8 grains of Bullseye pistol powder, fill the case with Cream of Wheat, gently tap the case a bit to settle the Cream of Wheat without mixing it with the powder charge, then either hold the case and barrel upright while loading and firing straight up in the air, OR drip some candle wax on top to keep the Cream of Wheat in the cases if they are to be handled going to the range, etc. 7 gr. 

leaves the shoulders a bit rounded. 8 gr. fills them out pretty well.  With individuals able to make their own cases, the quality of the BR brass, the inherent accuracy, and ease of shooting this neat round, it will likely continue in popularity in other states for general use.

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