Been thinking about a lever action for HD/SD


July 29, 2012, 07:01 AM
I've been thinking about getting a lever action chambered in a pistol-cartridge for HD/SD/BUG, particularly after reading Jim Wilson's thoughts on his blog. It makes sense in a lot of ways: I'm in a suburban subdivision with houses surrounding me for blocks. I'm on a quarter-acre lot. I don't hunt. When I go to the range to shoot, I'm a plinker, not a precision shooter. Having a gun/rifle combo in the same caliber is also a nice idea, should I need to hit the road - just grab one box of ammo for both guns. Since I reload for my pistols and am set up for .38/.357 and .45 Colt, so ammo is not a problem.

I have champagne tastes (Winchester, old Marlins) but a beer budget, so that leaves me looking at Rossi's model 92. Prices are in the high $300s to low $400s. A couple months and I can save that up.

As far as caliber, I'm looking at either the .38/.357 or .45 Colt. I have several .38/.357 revolvers, guns that should something bad happen, I'm very comfortable grabbing and using. In .45, I have a Uberti SAA clone. I'm comfortable with it, but while I love the idea of the big ol' bullet thrown by the .45, I don't think that a SAA is the best handgun to grab when things go bump in the night. My heart says .45, but logic says the .357 would be the more practical choice.

Next is barrel length: 16", 20", or 24"? The 24" is kind of self-eliminating. Weighing 7lbs (the barrel is also octagonal), that's kind of heavy for a HD/SD/bug-out gun. The shorter barrels are in the 5lb range. How much of a difference is there between the 16" and 20" when it comes to balance, handling, velocity, etc? I prefer rifles with a bit of weight out front. Is a 20" barrel too long for my intended use?

Any thoughts would be appreciated on caliber choice, barrel length, and even the Rossi line.


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July 29, 2012, 07:16 AM
I had a Marlin 44 MAG with 20" bbl that would have been a great home def. gun. I think it held 11 44 SPL. Not too long.

July 29, 2012, 07:48 AM
The lever action rifle is a good choice. lots of used ones around me and prices are reasonable. Caliber, personally, I like them large, so I would opt for the 45 long Colt. I also reload so I would get a couple hundred of the 45 Cowboy Special hulls and load them with a 240 or 260 grain lead bullet. This would increase the magazine capacity. It would require a bit of riflesmithing but it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Pair it up with a S&W in the same cartridge and you would have a formidible system.

If you prefer the 38 caliber, I imagine the Special would allow you a few more rounds in the magazine than the magnum. Again, paired with a double action revolver.

For use in a house, the 24 inch may or may not be too long. Get a 48" dowel from the lumber yard and see how that plays in your house. (Much easier to cut down a dowel than a rifle barrel.)

My personal choice would be a lever action in 45 ACP paired with my 4" N frame. They don't make a facry lever action for the ACP and gunsmithing one will seriously dent my IRA! Maybe someday.

July 29, 2012, 07:49 AM
I'd be looking for a used Marlin 94 in a pistol caliber if you insist on a rifle. The Winchester is a good rifle in 30-30 and other rifle calibers, but it was not designed to be used in pistol calibers and is less reliable in those calibers. None of the others impresse me Caliber is less important, I'd buy either 357 or 44 mag whichever I found a good deal on. Same with the barrel length. If I had my prefernce 16-18" would be ideal,but 20" would not be a handicap really.

To be honest you will find may more options in either Marlin or Winchester in 30-30 than pistol calibers,and they are much less expensive. Loaded with 7 rounds of 125 gr HP ammo the 30-30 won't recoil much if any more, will be a deadly load, and will penetrate buildng material LESS than the pistol calibers. You'll have 3-4 fewer rounds, but I think 7 should be enough.

If on as tight a budget as you say you are a good pump shotgun is the most gun for the money. You can find a good new 870 or 500 for $300, maybe less.

July 29, 2012, 08:15 AM
I keep a 1977 Marlin 1894c .357 stoked next to my 870. It is a quick handling smooth running short carbine. .357 is nothing to sneeze at and from a 16" barrel even better.

It has never failed to feed anything, even .38 specials (I have not tried wadcutters) but for HD it is loaded with the .357 Hornady Leverevolution rounds simply because I think the shape practically guarantees feeding if I do my part.

I acquired it a few years ago before they got so popular, based on pricing today I think I'll be hanging on to it. It would not be easy to replace.

I know prices are nuts right now but you can't go wrong with an older Marlin.

July 29, 2012, 01:38 PM
I agree with Tryshoot. The .44 mag version, loaded with .44 special, would be the best SD/HD caliber, in my opinion. However, the others are certainly capable if reloading is a personal concern of yours.

Lever actions are a great choice! They're as quick to reload as a pump shotgun and come in better calibers for the job, as opposed to bolts and semi-autos (usually too small, like .22lr, or too big/penetrating, like .223 or .308.)

20" seems like the only real choice to me. That's most of what's out there that I've seen. 24" is pretty long for sneaking through doorways and down halls, and I really haven't seen a 16"...

Texan Scott
July 29, 2012, 01:56 PM
Get the .357. load it with whatever you use in your handguns, even if that's .38s. The whole point is to have the same box of ammo... otherwise, you may as well have a 12 gauge, right? others will tell you the 38 in a lever gun ain't much. well, it's more than a .38 in a revolver for sure. longer barrel, longer sight radius. higher velocities, easier to shoot straight. anything you can do with a .38 revolver at point blank range, you can do with the carbine at 50 yds. get the 16". you don't need the extra barrel length; you don't hunt or compete, or shoot over a chronograph... you won't notice the difference, or miss the length. rossi makes them in stainless now, and they feel nice. it's currentl #2 on my top 3 list to buy. enjoy.

July 29, 2012, 02:05 PM
16 inch .38/357. That was my HD gun until I bought a Mini-14 (The Marlin is not for sale, so don't ask ;)) .357 Magnum gets a bigger boost from a long barrel than most pistol cartridges.

Another way you could go is a used .30-30 because they are far more plentiful and you'll save a couple of hundred dollars. That'll buy a lot of ammo, and it's a more powerful cartridge -- but it's not *that* much more powerful and it won't match your pistol, and it only holds half as many rounds in the magazine. Still not a bad choice.

You really don't want to shoot .45 Colt unless you reload. It's really expensive, and hard to find good ammo. It's a great cartridge for reloaders though.

July 29, 2012, 02:15 PM
The Rossi 92s (YES, the Win 92s were designed for pistol cartridges!) I've handled were very nice. Certainly a great bargain. I'd greatly like to have one in .44 Mag to pair up with my 629.

For $300-$400 that they're going for (unbelievable, really, considering the fit and finish and slickness of the one's I've seen) only a pump shotgun really can match it for home-defense bang-for-the-buck.

I'd get one without hesitation if you feel the need to add a rifle to your defensive preparations.

July 29, 2012, 02:18 PM
Check this thread for some great links on the R'92s:

A few quotes from the TruthAboutGuns link:

The .357 Magnum basically doubles its kinetic energy when itís fired from a carbine, and it almost earns a promotion to the Big Leagues of rifle ballistics.


If your gun is likely to be used primarily for recreational shooting, hunting medium game within 100 yards, or defensive use, the .357 is superior. Its higher capacity and lower recoil are more suited to such applications where the extra power and penetration of the .30-30 would be wasted.

WNC Seabee
July 29, 2012, 02:48 PM
As the owner of 1/2 dozen lever actions of various calibers (.22, .357, .44, .308, .30-30), I would suggest a semi auto carbine instead for HD. You describe yourself as a casual shooter; in an HD situation, do you want to worry about short stroking the lever? Or fumbling with reloads?

Ugly as they may be, I'd strongly recommend a .45ACP Hi-Point Carbine. Reliable, accurate and dead simple. Light and red dot can be added easily. I've never heard anybody that actually owns one disparage them.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

July 29, 2012, 03:00 PM

It looks like you have worked out an acceptable set up for you.
I agree with the .45 Colt round for your selected Lever Action.

My problems, these are mine not yours, are:
a. The SAA type revolver is too slow to reload, particular if under stress.
b. The selected round would be better served if replaced with the .44 Mag. Soft rounds out of Mag brass are both very controllable and still potent.
c. Barrel length for a Lever Action that is long, gives better accuracy (longer sight radius) and short is more handy in close quarters. Your selected 20 inch sound good for both options. Or drop to a shorter barrel and add a cheap 'Red Dot' but keep the iron sights.

Best of luck in your search.

July 29, 2012, 03:17 PM
I'd have to agree with Sam1911 that the 44 Mag in rifle/revolver combination would be be the best.

I'd greatly like to have one in .44 Mag to pair up with my 629.

But since you have a batch of 357 Mag revolvers that would be the way to go.


July 29, 2012, 03:24 PM
I own a Rossi 92 in 454 Casull ... but mainly shoot it in 45 Colt.

It would make a FINE HD/SD weapon.

However, I'll still grab my 18.5" barrel Rem 870 first. :evil:

July 29, 2012, 07:15 PM
Next to bed is 16 in Marlin cp 44 mag, with cut down stock (12.5 in lop) and thick recoil pad. It is loaded with 180 jhp's that chrono around 1600 fps. Recoil is negligible, and accurate to 100 yards. Unlike a semi with high sights, there is not a huge change in poa from 5 to 100 yards. The sights are right on top of the barrel.

July 29, 2012, 08:32 PM
Since your post is actually about handgun/rifle combo I would like more information about your handgun plans.

Is this a mano-mano handgun?

That is. Are you going to be the only user? A 44 or 45 is going to be a large frame and heavy and may too much for a female to handle comfortably.

Or is it going to be used by females?

If so the K-frame revolver would be a hard choice to beat. Small and light and able to chamber the .357

The ultimate mano-mano gun for me would be the S7W Model 627 10 shot revolver.

P.S. It is unlikely a 357 rifle will feed 38 Specials without gunsmithing.

July 29, 2012, 09:51 PM
Thanks all for the comments. A couple of my comments in reply:

As to the .44 Mag chambering - Part of my goal is to have a one-caliber handgun/rifle combination --- or, at minimum, to buy a rifle that I already reload for. I don't own any .44 Mag handguns and don't load for it, so that defeats my purpose.

I do own pump shotguns, both in 20 and 12 ga.

As to what handguns I own and would grab in a "bad day just got worse" scene, I'm a K-frame man. My daughter is hell-on-wheels with my Model 15 in .38 Special and my Smith 66 has as slick of an action as you've ever tried. Bill Jordan would have been jealous. I can pair those with a Colt DS, if I need to. So, the .38 and .357 will be represented.

I love the big ol' .45 Colt. I had a Smith 25 N-frame in .45 Colt, but that was just too big for my smallish hands. A Blackhawk in 45 Colt is on my short-list but I'm not there yet...and even at that, then we're back to the SAA issue.

I guess I'm answering my own question. While the Colt round might be the sentimental favorite, the .357 makes more sense for me in my plans.


July 29, 2012, 09:59 PM
Even from a carbine, the sharp blast of the .357 cartridge is something to consider indoors. The .45 Colt will be much easier on the ears, and they will recover faster. I would rather have the .45 Colt for ballistic reasons as well.

July 29, 2012, 10:19 PM
A couple things,
My Marlin .357 lever carbine feeds .38s fine.
Albeit maybe not recommended I can run the .357s in the carbine without ear muffs, from a pistol that is painful. I am not saying it wouldn't hurt shooting it inside but would it be more than a 12 gauge? a 5.56 rifle?

I suppose you could load soft for any round if you roll your own though. Someday I gotta get some reloading equipment.

July 29, 2012, 10:22 PM
If it were me, I would go with the .357. It is a real gem out of a carbine. You don't specifically mention over penetration concerns, but you do speak about your situation. FYI any handgun round will penetrate more than a high velocity rifle round that breaks up.

August 27, 2012, 02:22 PM
Do they make .357/.38sp lever gun in stainless? I live near the ocean. In my old age I'm shooting a .38 revolver and was looking for a rifle using the same ammo and I will have to worry about spare magazines and my wife can shoot it too.

August 27, 2012, 02:25 PM

August 27, 2012, 03:25 PM
Lever guns are a great choice in places where other shoulder arms are frowned upon.

357 is a good caliber choice, I wouldn't bother shooting 38's in it, unless thats all I had on hand.

I prefer Marlin's action but Rossi's 92's are pretty slick. I'd get the 10 shot rifle over the carbine for the added capacity and sight radius with minimal weight.

I have a Marlin in 44.. 'slicking up' the action is as easy as not messing around when you work it. Within 100 yards it's a pretty accurate rifle. Out side 100 it starts dropping like a rock. 357 should shoot a little flatter.

August 27, 2012, 04:29 PM
You're on the right track. You really can't go wrong with either chambering. I don't care for the .357 in sixguns, even though I just bought one but it is fantastic in a levergun. I would recommend the 16" over the 20" for maneuvering around indoors. I like the Marlins and own two .44Mag's but the 92's are really a nicer, more refined and usually lighter design. Rossi/Legacy/Puma is a very good choice. Miroku-made Winchesters and Brownings are the best made but not cheap. I have a wonderful little late model Winchester Trapper .45.

Andrew Wyatt
August 27, 2012, 05:13 PM
Lever guns are hard to load/keep loaded, and IME, less reliable than a good semi-auto.

I'd be more inclined toward something like an Ar-15 than a pistol caliber lever gun, just based on the ease of use.

August 27, 2012, 05:52 PM
I just picked up a Rossi 16" in .357/.38 and I am impressed. It's right next to my Mossy 12 ga. pump. Either will do in a pinch!

August 27, 2012, 06:24 PM
I owned a stainless Rossi .357 16" carbine and it was a fun shooter, reliability with .38 Specials was spotty and could induce a wicked jam that would give you a bad day in a HD situation. I had 0 feed issues when running a variety of .357 magnum loads and would not want to deal with the long term cleaning implications of the chamber getting fouled up from the shorter .38's anyway even though the gun is advertised as good to go with either. Recoil is mild even with full power .357's, if you hand load you can always turn out reduced powder .38 type loads in .357 magnum cases.

Out of the box the plastic (yellow) magazine follower tended to stick and cause the magazine to perform unreliably so I replaced it with a stainless steel model (1 screws to remove the magazine tube cap, zip out the spring/follower - run a dry swab or 3 through the magazine tube while you're in there and then swap the metal for plastic follower, reverse steps... 5 minutes you're done):

I also disliked the full buckhorn rear site and and replaced it with one of the Marbles Bullseye rear (replacement drifted right in to the stock dovetail, 5 minute project, max).

After 1 box of 50 Federal .357 magnum 158 grain Semi-jacketed SP's the action slicked right up and was much smoother than the recent batch of Marlin pistol caliber levelguns I've tried. I can't argue with it's likely effectiveness as a home defense gun as long as you're feeding it .357 Magnum ammunition, 9 rounds should take care of business if called upon.

The little safety switch on the bolt is the only feature that would give me some heartburn, in a HD firearm I'd likely remove this feature and plug the hole with one of these:

Also, the latest batch of the Rossi 92's have been drilled/tapped for a scope mount below the rear sight in a forward/scout configuration (for a red-dot or pistol optic). Stevez also has the mount option for this:

August 28, 2012, 11:03 AM
Even from a carbine, the sharp blast of the .357 cartridge is something to consider indoors. The .45 Colt will be much easier on the ears, and they will recover faster. I would rather have the .45 Colt for ballistic reasons as well.
Lever guns are hard to load/keep loaded, and IME, less reliable than a good semi-auto.

I'd be more inclined toward something like an Ar-15 than a pistol caliber lever gun, just based on the ease of use.
You need to keep the conditions the OP stated in mind, though. He's looking for a rifle/handgun combo that share the same cartidges, and he's on a budget. For .45LC the only real options I know of for a SD handgun is the old, OOP S&W Model 25, which is probably going to cost him an additional $600-800 on top of the cost of the rifle. As far as going for a semiauto carbine, any AR15 is probably going to cost at least twice what the Rossi lever action he was considering.

I would tend to go with the .357 option for the OP's needs. It makes a good SD round in a revolver, and should be just as good if not better in a carbine, as long as it functions reliably. Sure, it may not have the "stopping power" of full up 12ga buckshot, or the ease of loading of a semiauto, but it should still be an effective SD set up.

Andrew Wyatt
August 28, 2012, 11:42 AM
an SKS would cost about as much as the marlin, and would do a better job.

August 28, 2012, 11:46 AM
an SKS would cost about as much as the marlin, and would do a better job.
If that was true, we'd all trade in our leverguns for SKS's but that ain't happening.....ever.

Andrew Wyatt
August 28, 2012, 11:51 AM
I did trade in a model 94 for an SKS, and I'm happy i did it, but i don't see where what i said warranted that response.

August 28, 2012, 11:52 AM
When I travel, I often only bring that which I enjoy to shoot. Often it is my lever gun with a back up pistol. I personally like a 16" barrel as it is compact. For your purposes, I would lean towards the 20" barrel for the extra rounds. Since you like the 38/357 I would go that direction. I'm partial to Marlins and I'm sure you can find a used one in your price range.

Two websites worth looking up are velocity by the inch (may not be exact title) that has taken the time to measure lots of velocity data with many length barrels. The other if box o truth which has done lots of penetration tests to help sort out fact from fiction.

By the way, lever actions are lots of fun. So much so that I rarely want to play with my semi auto rifles. It's probably not e best choice purely for self defense but if you train with it you will be well armed.

August 28, 2012, 12:38 PM
You can carry more .38/.357 rounds per pound than .44 or .45. When supplies run low, .38's and .357's are more common, thus will be easier to scrounge.

August 29, 2012, 07:49 PM
^^^ They are not as convenient as semi but they are so much fun.

Red Cent
August 29, 2012, 09:01 PM
Andrew Wyatt, nothing personal but I would not trade my lever(s) for an SKS.
Just a preference. Like yours.

Texan Scott
August 29, 2012, 10:06 PM
The thing about lever actions is, the only "gas tube" or " impingement" issues I've ever had with them have been solved dietarily ;) . Y'all enjoy your semis, and that's great... I really want that .357 levergun now.

August 30, 2012, 09:10 PM
A couple things:

1. Don't shoot too many 38 specials in your lever gun, they leave a ring of schmutz in the chamber that is nigh on impossible to remove, even using a brush. Don't know why that is.

2. One thing I learned loading 170 grain bullets in a 357 mag, although I don't remember what the velocity was now, it came within 150 fps of a 30-30 170 grain load. I remember being impressed with that performance from a 16" carbine length Marlin.

I think your idea is a swell one.

August 31, 2012, 08:22 AM
Lever guns are hard to load/keep loaded,

I have one and the only reason it is hard to keep loaded is because I want so badly to go shoot it!

I went through exactly what the OP is going through. I keep my Rossi M92 16" next to the bed, loaded, along with my Ruger Security Six.

I also have a Remington 870 with 18" bbl, but the Rossi is shorter, lighter, higher capacity, quicker (for me) to operate, shoulders more quickly, has less recoil, and still more than powerful enough to get the job done.

People compare the power of a .357mag out of a carbine, to a .30-30. That's true, but there's another thing to take into account. The .30-30 only really comes in hunting rounds, and it's a .30cal bullet that will likely over penetrate and not expand THAT much.

On the other hand, a .357mag 158gr. hollowpoint like the Speer Gold Dot that I have loaded in mine will expand like crazy at the high velocities it reaches in a 16" bbl. And it's a .35cal bullet instead of a .30cal. It's really more aptly suited for "two legged game," not to put too fine a point on it.

The 870 is now relegated to second string home defense in my house. If trouble finds me, that slick little carbine is first at bat.

August 31, 2012, 09:07 AM
FYI, if you choose a lever-action for HD, this video is well worth the money:

Fundamentals of Defensive Long Guns (

It is a video by instructor Rob Pincus on the defensive use of long guns, and he has an entire chapter devoted to how to best employ a lever-action in the HD role.

August 31, 2012, 01:07 PM
So what it isn't "the best" choice. Almost every choice we make is constrained in some way. Do you drive 'the best' car, live in 'the best' house, wear 'the best' clothing? There are a ton of choices that are worse than a levergun, so don't let that bother you.

I use a levergun often, especially when I am camping. I realize that .44 Mag and .357 Mag are both great out of a rifle barrel, but I really like the .30-30 chambering for my uses.

I don't think you can go wrong with any of them, but they are ALL going to penetrate more building material than a 5.56x45 round will. If that is a concern or not depends on your locale.

September 2, 2012, 12:33 AM
I don't have a lever action .38/.357, but I have a couple of S&W .357's and a .38 cal model 36 Smith.

I think a .38/.357 lever gun could but the right stuff, since you reload, less than magnum loads wouldn't be a problem. I have 6 or 7 hammers, I only use the 16lb one occasionally.

The reason I wrote was to share this.

If you have to "bug-out" and grab your .38/.357 pistols and your lever action carbine, hunt with .38's.

I used to squirrel hunt with my .357. After my second murder scene, I switched to .38 wad-cutters. The magnum's weren't leaving enough squirrel to justify carrying them back home to clean. 8-)

Sounds like a lotta fun, post picts if you decide to get one!

September 2, 2012, 01:00 AM
I haven't owned a rossi but I have a marlin in 357, I have no complaints. I really like that mares leg but I can't find an actual use for it. 38/357 is my most useful caliber aside from 22lr and mag and of course 12ga.

I almost bought a puma a few years back but we just couldn't come together on the price. Found a marlin in great shape for a little less but I had to search for it for quite some time. Don't come across many used, I guess that should tell ya something.

September 2, 2012, 01:16 AM
I have a few leverguns and really like my Win 94 Trappers in .357. They are short, handy, decently powerful, and very accurate. They are also very easy on the shoulder and ears. I would have not problems using these for HD, in fact I often do. They are also my traveling rifles and go on most vacations, camping trips, etc...with us.

Last spring I killed a 150-180 lbs wild hog with my .357 Trapper and 158 grn XTP. I dropped right on the spot when shot from 20 yards. The XTP more than did it's job and terminal performance was very impressive.

I like my .44's, .30-30's, .45-70's and others, but mostly stick to the .357 for HD Duties.

September 2, 2012, 02:43 AM
Shot my 1894 in 44mag today a little bit. Yeah. It'll do.

September 2, 2012, 08:32 AM
Assuming we have a choice I think in an HD situation the .357 carbine trumps the longer stroke 30-30 rifle before we even talk about all the 357 load and bullet configurations. If feeding is a concern consider the Lever-evolution stuff from Hornady. I'm a real believer in my 870 but the Marlin 94c is right next to it ready to go.

September 2, 2012, 08:55 AM
I would go with the 20'' carbine. It's still pretty compact. Mine holds 12 rounds of 357 magnum or 13 rounds of 38's and boy is it slick! I bought it second hand and have not had a single problem with it. It feeds absolutely anything.

September 2, 2012, 09:28 AM
You mean like this ?

September 2, 2012, 10:21 AM
I bought a used Marlin 357 a year ago that was on the top end of your price range. It loads everything I've tried in it (38 or 357, including full wadcutters) except semi wadcutters. I have had it jam on me twice. I guess it's called "the Marlin jam". I haven't figured out why it jams open that way. The only remedy is removing the lever which isn't very tactical :)

For me that takes it out of the personal defense category. I'll just stick with the Winchester 44 trapper.

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