Which lever action, which caliber?


September 18, 2006, 08:33 AM

I really have a hankering to get my wife a lever action for hunting. I prefer the 308 cartridge for it's 30 cal bullets to match my 300WSM for reloading supplies. But then again, I really like the looks of the Marlin guns best, and they do not offer a 308 in their selections to my knowledge. I know I can find a Savage 99 in 308, but I recall it being a heavy rifle carrying it as a kid and this won't fly with my wife.

What caliber, if any, will fit the shoes of the 308 for hunting in the PNW. It must be a lever action for the sake of this post. We have a lot of rain forests and rugged terrain which usually means well under 150 yard shots. On the other hand, we have the opportunity for mule deer in Eastern Oregon, which could realistically be upwards of 300 yards. I don't think my wife and I would take shots that far being newbies to hunting, but I know a 308 cartridge could handle this task with proper holdover. I guess it's a Browning to fit the bill then, but just curious as to what other cartridges offered in lever guns comes close to this. Like I said, the Marlin guns are the preference, but so is the 308 round, there in lies the issue.

All thoughts welcome, all experience greatly appreciated.


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September 18, 2006, 09:10 AM
If she is used to shooting, the Browning in 308 or the Marlin in 30/30 would be fine, if she is not, the same rifles with downloaded ammo or those new federals would be the go. I wouldn't think that there would be much weight difference in the Savage and the Browning. The Marlin should be lighter again. I'd buy a 30/30 marlin and if she doesn't like it, keep it for yourself for a fun gun. They have a charm all there own. You can shoot pointy thingos in the Browning and the Savage, but only the Hornady stuff in the Marlin. The 30/30 is a natural for lead bullets (we all em boolits when we make em ourselves).

What would be a nice ladies rifle would be the Browning in 243. It ain't 30 cal, but heck it would be a sweet little number.


Father Knows Best
September 18, 2006, 09:11 AM
The issue with Marlins and most Winchester lever guns is that they use tubular magazines. Until recently, that meant you could not use pointed bullets in them. The Savage 99, Browning BLR and a few others (Winchester 1895, for instance) use box or rotary magazines, and so allow the use of pointed bullets. Pointed bullets have better drag coefficients, of course, which leads to flatter trajectories and better long range performance.

Personally, I love tube-fed lever guns. They are the classic American hunting rifles. They are light, handy, strong and powerful, and allow much faster follow-up shots than typical turnbolt rifles. The limited ammo choice has been the only downside.

Hornady may have come to the rescue, though. Hornady has a new line of ammo called LeverEvolution. It's the traditional tube-fed lever gun ammo, but with soft polymer-tipped pointed bullets. Supposedly, they are safe for tubular magazines, but with the ballistic performance typically only found in rifle rounds designed for box and rotary mags. It's offered in 30-30, 35 Remington, 45/70, 444 Marlin and 450 Marlin. The 444 Marlin is the fastest, with a claimed muzzle velocity of 2,325 fps with a 265 grain bullet. That's still below .308 velocity, of course, but with a much heavier bullet it will pack a serious punch. The flattest shooting is the 30-30, which pushes a 160 grain bullet at 2,046 fps at the muzzle. Zeroed at 200 yards, impact will be 3.0 inches high at 100 and 12 inches low at 300.

September 18, 2006, 09:14 AM
I know I can find a Savage 99 in 308, but I recall it being a heavy rifle carrying it as a kid and this won't fly with my wife.A 99F in 308 is probably lighter than a 20" Marlin 336 by a solid pound-n-a-half....

I have two Marlins and a handful of 99F's. The 99F's are among the lightest long guns I've handled.

September 18, 2006, 09:21 AM
Maybe the Savage felt heavy because you were young. I used to carry a SMLE 303 when I was 14 years old and in teh Aussie army cadets, that thing seemed to be 6' long and also seemed to weigh about 20lbs:D .Mick.

September 18, 2006, 11:55 PM
I guess I was on track with the Savage or Browning. I just like the classic lines of the Marlins, something about them. I must have watched too many Westerns as a kid. However, I need the 308 round for my needs, so I suspect I'll keep looking for the Browning or the Savage to fit the bill.

As far as weight, I was comparing it to my fathers 7mm Rem Mag and his buddy's pump action 30-06. The 308 savage I was carrying outweighed both of those by at least a pound, maybe more.


September 19, 2006, 07:56 PM
shop around for a winchester 94 or marlin 336 in either 307win or 356win,

the 307win is the same dimentionaly as a 308win with a rim and the 356 is a 358win with a rim, although the 307 and 356 are loaded to lower pressures, and the 307 is about 150 to 200fps slower than the 308 with simular bullet weights,

the 356win is a damn fine lever round, my buddy's got a marlin and out of it's 20" barrel it'll throw a handloaded 250gr hornaday rn to nearly 2200fps,

if your hearts set on the 308win, look for a savage 99, I picked one up in a pawn shop for $125 otd a few years back, its got a slick action, 22" barrel and sweet trigger, with a scope it'll shoot 1.5" 5 shot groups @100yrds when I do my part.

September 19, 2006, 10:11 PM
I've only shot the Browning BLR in 7mm-08, love it, very accurate and the action is smooth. The lightweight models only weigh 6 lbs.8 oz. and come with straight or pistol grip stocks.

September 19, 2006, 10:14 PM
What about a Winchester '95 in .30-06?
It has the traditional looks (albeit from a slightly later period than the tube-mag guns) is definately classy, and fires ...um... .308-long? :)

September 20, 2006, 01:43 AM
The Savage '99 is actually a very light weight rifle. The rotary mag also helps keep the balance towards the center.

September 20, 2006, 01:48 AM
One of the best of the lot is the Winchester 88, from what I can tell. It is a bolt gun with a lever actuation, and is very accurate and can be had in the basic 308 or 243, etc.

September 20, 2006, 02:03 AM
30 30

September 20, 2006, 02:15 AM
Look at the Browning Lever Lightweight in .308. Weighs only 6lbs. 8ozs. and should be very easy for your wife tohandle and shoot comfortably. If you can afford it the BLR is the only way to go these days if you want a high powered cartrige in a lever action rifle. The Savage 99F is a good rifle, but it's heavier and not as compact as the BLR.

Good luck.

September 20, 2006, 07:02 AM
This is for your wife. What does she prefer? Any chance you can let her shoot a .308 and a .30-30 and compare? Sounds like your letting your own interest in the .308 color your decision (unless of course, getting your wife a gun is like the kid who gave his mother a baseball glove :D ). Anyway, I wonder if she wouldn't be more comfortable shooting the .30-30.

Father Knows Best
September 20, 2006, 03:15 PM
If you can afford it the BLR is the only way to go

Sorry. Friends don't let friends buy ugly guns. And the BLR is one BUTTUGLY gun. :neener:

September 20, 2006, 04:23 PM
More good info, thank you. I hear the what does she want angle, and I agree, but SHE wants to hunt Elk. I don't feel a 30-30 is adequate for Elk, if I'm wrong, please sound off.

If so, what is max yardarge for a 30-30 on elk? She would definitely shoot a 30-30 more often with low recoil. However, I purchased a .233 varminter for oodles of cheap low recoil skill development. And any varmints. ;)

Non-pointed bullets expand the inventory on my 30 caliber formula. Still, it's a consideration, if lower recoil means she shoots more and gets better with the rifle, that's a plus.

Yes, I agree, the BLR is ugly, but its a Browning, and comes in 308. I will look into the other suggestions for 308's.

Right now she was convinced by a friend that an 8mm Mauser will do the trick. We are going shopping this week. If I have to toss in a little extra to see she gets what she wants, that's fine. But most likely, we will get whatever she wants, probably the Mauser, then I'll sporterize it for her with a new stock. I started another thread on that angle. I'll share results when they come about.


September 20, 2006, 04:33 PM
A Savage in .308 may be difficult to find but .300 Savage is popular and the difference between the two is small. The .300 takes the same .308 bullet and with the rotary magazine you have unlimited selection of bullets.
Give it some consideration, you might just find it to your likeing.

September 21, 2006, 01:18 PM
in .357 magnum great deer round out to 150yds, can use .38's for dirt cheap
plinking and small game. Handy short action, slab sided and 10+1 capacity.....
you don't find many used for a good reason......people don't want to let go of em. You won't regret it.:D

September 22, 2006, 02:36 AM
I would also give the Savage 99 a try. I have an .300 Savage EG made in 1946. It's light, accurate, and with less recoil than the .308, for me anyway. I thinned down the schnable forend and it is a great fit. And the thing is built like a tank. You have to look at bit for ammo, but for deer in wooded country, like here west of the Cascades, it fits the bill.

September 22, 2006, 07:31 AM
The Marlin 1894c is a great gun, but the OP said his wife wanted to hunt elk. I'd think the .357 pretty light for elk, even with hot loads from a carbine barrel.

Danny Creasy
September 22, 2006, 11:02 PM
This customized Savage 99 was manufactured in the teens then probably shot out and then refurbed with a short new barrel (not a take down this time) and a set of Redfield sights. Reblued. Quite the grouper with Winchester Silvertips.


September 23, 2006, 12:53 PM
In a brand new rifle about the only thing out there in .308 Win. is the BLR. Very modern, slick and a light-weight version is available. Semi-expensive, but will last a lifetime with a bit of care.

I'm with rbernie on the Savage 99F. I have one, and it's a honey. You see a lot more 99s in .300 Savage and even .303 Savage than .308 at the shows and shops around here, but it's a good deal easier to find factory ammo most places with the .308.

The Winchester 88s are nice, but harder to find and pre-64 examples in good shape bring collector prices.

The Marlin 336s in .307 Win. are relatively rare, and suffer from the same projectile restrictions as any other tube-fed LA. Recoil compared to a .30-30 is sharp and a good deal stouter, too. With the LeverEvolution ammo, the .30-30 can now match it for effective range, but the bullets aren't available as components yet AFAIK. Older 336s may need to have one of the new cartridge lifters fitted for reliable feeding of the new ammo, I'm told. The part is available from Marlin, but it isn't a DIY.

Personally, I would consider a .357, even in a carbine, to be marginal for deer past 75 yds as it needs an ideal broadside presentation and precise placement to be humanely effective. I wouldn't try it on Wapiti unless it was a dire necessity.

September 23, 2006, 06:33 PM
I have a Marlin 336cs in .35 Rem and love it.

September 23, 2006, 07:25 PM
Does your wife hunt now? If she does your a lucky man. If she doesn't you might better take her and see what she thinks she would like. Why a lever?
A couple of different companys make some nice single shot rifles, that you can use different barrels in different calibers. Simple to use, less likely to cause trouble and are drilled and tapped for a scope. Rossi and N.E.F. makes them, they both break open like a single shot shot gun. Just remember what you like may not be what your wife likes. At least yours is willing to go hunting,
I took mine along one time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was the last time. Some women just dont understand the beauty of freezing your a** off on a cold Novenber morning waiting until that deer walks by. :)

September 24, 2006, 01:22 AM
But the cold November rains of the PNW might change her mind. If we can bag some game, it will go a lot way to motivationg her than anything I could possibly do with/for her to enjoy hunting.

If she does not warm up to it, we'll have another rifle. Again, I'm still leaning towards a 308 cartridge rifle since she stated she wanted to hunt elk. This will be her first season, ever, so it may be a rude awakening for both of us.

So, back to the motivation game, if I can put game in front of her sights, I think it will be all the motivation required. If not, I suspect next season I may be alone and she may be on a quilting retreat or similar.

All this advice has been very good and I thank everyone for it. Being it's the hunting venue though, she will lean on me heavily in her decision process, so I chose the caliber range. She gets to pick out the rifle she wants, I just want to be sure it can handle elk. Should she fall in love with something that is not the caliber I prefer, it will still need to be a cartridge adequate to take elk. It has to, by her definition of wanting to hunt elk. If she only wanted to hunt deer, I would opt for the softest recoiling cartridge adequate for deer simply so she will shoot it more often and become more proficient with it.


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