Cowboy Rifle for HD?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Dollar An Hour, Feb 1, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Dollar An Hour

    Dollar An Hour Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2005
    Messages:
    1,015
    Location:
    Mesa, AZ
    What about a lever-action carbine such as the Marlin 1894 as a primary HD weapon rather than a handgun?

    Seems like .38 Special or .44 Special would be a great stopper out of a rifle, and it should be much easier to aim under stress than a handgun, right?

    I'd like to add one to the collection eventually, maybe shoot some iron-sight silhouette with it. Just wondering what the forum thinks about these guns in a HD role?
     
  2. ANGUSLINCOLN

    ANGUSLINCOLN Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2005
    Messages:
    69
    Location:
    new hampsha
    I think it would make an excellent outdoor home defense weapon as rifles are more accurate than handguns. Especially at the likely ranges you might encounter around your house; it has perfect characteristics. Indoors, however, it might depend on the layout of your home. Close quarters, narrow hallways, smaller rooms might make it a bit difficult to take advantage of a carbine's strengths and a handgun would be a quicker weapon to deploy and faster to shoot. Matching ammo would be ideal combination for home defense weapons in both carbine and handgun.
     
  3. Richbaker

    Richbaker Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2007
    Messages:
    141
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    My M94 Trapper in .44Mag is by my bed with 10 rounds of .44Mag loaded and ready...
     
  4. 19-3Ben

    19-3Ben Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Messages:
    5,149
    Location:
    CT
    The next gun on my "to buy" list is actually a Marlin1849c in .357mag. Loaded with 125gr rounds it has energy on the same level as a 30-30 at close distance, and it has a wider diameter and hollow point that will allow it to disperse the energy into the target really well and not over-penetrate. It also is 2 inches shorter in OAL than my Rem 870HD IIRC.
    This has been my plan for a few years now. I just can't see one darned good reason NOT to use an 1894c for a bedside gun.
     
  5. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2002
    Messages:
    13,306
    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    A lever-action rifle or carbine is an outstanding choice for defensive purposes.

    Consider the archetypical days of the Old West. From the Texas Rangers through frontiersmen to outlaws, almost everyone carried a lever-action rifle from the late 1860's through the early 1900's. Calibers ranged from .44 Rimfire (the original Henry of 1860 and the Winchester 'Yellowboy' of 1866), through the .44-40 of the Winchester Model 1873, the higher-powered .45-75 of the Winchester Model 1876, the .45-70 in the Winchester Model 1886, to the first smokeless cartridge for leverguns, the great (and still great) .30-30 in the 1890's. I sometimes laugh when I read about what cartridge people want for bear defense. The old .44-40 is less powerful than even a .44 Special, but back in the day it was considered adequate to hunt grizzly!

    I think a .357 Magnum carbine is a wonderfully versatile tool. One thing, though: the bullets aren't made to withstand the enormous increase in velocity conferred by the long barrel. A 125gr. JHP that'll do 1,400 fps out of a revolver will deliver up to 2,000 fps out of a 16" or 20" barrel - and at that speed the bullet is likely to explode on impact, rather than penetrate. I'd suggest the heavier 158gr. loads for carbine use.

    I also like the .44 Magnum carbines very much. Out of the longer barrels I've hunted deer with both .44 Magnum and .30-30 lever-actions, and inside about 100-125 yards both will drop a deer with equal celerity.

    The .30-30 is probably overpowered for urban use, but for semi-rural and rural use it's magnificent. I keep one loaded and ready at home.

    Another good choice, oddly enough, for those who can't handle recoil is the .22 LR and (particularly) the .22 Win. Mag. Out of a rifle barrel these rounds offer a great improvement in performance compared to a handgun, and the WMR in particular is moving at up to 2,200 fps (and you can get decent heavy hollowpoints if you select your load carefully). They wouldn't be my first choice for defense by any means, but if you place your shots accurately they can get the job done.

    Another HUGE advantage of a rimfire levergun: if you get a .22 rifle that's a twin to your 'fighting rifle' you can practice all day, every day for pennies with the .22, reserving the more-expensive-to-feed fighting rifle for practice now and again. Since the two work the same way, practice with one translates directly into proficiency with the other. If you want to practice at realistic centerfire ranges, get a .22 WMR levergun (which is admittedly more expensive to feed), otherwise the standard .22LR is good to go out to 75-100 yards. You can match a Marlin 39A with your Marlin 1894 or 336; a Winchester 9422 with your 1892 or 1894; a Henry .22 with their Big Boy heavier-caliber offerings; or a Browning BL-22 with almost anything!

    There are some excellent articles on leverguns and calibers at Leverguns.com - see here for the index. Gabe Suarez has written about the levergun as a combat weapon - see here.
     
  6. Andrewsky

    Andrewsky Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Messages:
    696
    I've got a few lever-gun questions. I was at Cabela's today handling some used guns. They had a Winchester 1894 in .30-.30 for $450. I was amazed at how light and handy it was. I fired my cousin's 1894 in .30-.30 but that was about 7 months ago so I don't remember it too well. I just remember having a big grin on my face.

    How powerful is .30-.30 compared to say, a 150 grain .308?

    How many rounds would the magazine hold?

    If you want to empty the magazine, do you have to do it one by one by cycling the action?

    Where is the safety?

    Are the sights adjustable at all?
     
  7. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2002
    Messages:
    13,306
    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    Andrewsky, I'll do my best to answer your questions.


    How powerful is .30-.30 compared to say, a 150 grain .308?

    Within its useful range a .30-30 will be as effective. The .308 moves a little faster and that gives it a slightly longer point-blank zero, or easily achievable accurate range. To compare apples to apples, let's look at the Remington 150gr. Express loading in each caliber. The .30-30 has a muzzle velocity of 2,390 fps compared to the .308's 2,820 fps, or a 15% lower figure for the .30-30. The .30-30's muzzle energy is 1,902 fpe compared to the .308's 2,648 fpe, or a 28% lower figure for the .30-30. At 300 yards range with a 100-yard zero the .30-30 will drop almost twice as much as the .308: 28.8 inches versus 14.7 inches.

    If you go by the generally accepted rule of thumb that one should smack a deer with 1,000 foot-pounds of energy to achieve a reasonably quick kill, the .30-30 will drop below that energy figure at a range of about 175 yards. The .308, on the other hand, will reach 400 yards before dropping below that level. That's academic, though: I've seen deer taken at 250 yards with both cartridges, and the deer didn't seem to know the difference! The .30-30 really is an amazingly efficient little cartridge, and its well-developed soft-point bullets do a very good job.

    Also, don't forget that the average range for a hunter's shot in the continental US has for decades been below 100 yards. Sure, in Western states without brush or tree cover one must expect longer ranges and select one's rifle accordingly: but for typical terrain in the Eastern half of the country, the .30-30 has more than adequate performance. Here in Louisiana where I live it's very unusual to have a shot further than 50-75 yards.

    (All figures taken from Remington's ballistic calculator.)

    Bear in mind that a more modern bullet such as that in Hornady's 160gr. FTX LeverEvolution round will dramatically improve the .30-30's performance. The 160gr. Hornady load retains 1,000 foot-pounds of energy right out to 300 yards, and drops only 12.1 inches at that range - a vast improvement. With that ammo you're talking about virtually a .308 equivalent.


    How many rounds would the magazine hold?

    Most bolt-action .308's will hold four or five rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. Most 20" .30-30 rifles will hold five or six rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.


    If you want to empty the magazine, do you have to do it one by one by cycling the action?

    In a tubular-magazine .30-30, yes. However, some (e.g. the Savage 99) use non-tubular magazines. Those can be emptied as for any other magazine of their type, or removed if they allow for that.


    Where is the safety?

    Earlier models of lever-action carbines don't have an external safety. They have a half-cock notch for the external hammer, but that's not really to be relied upon. The safest method of carry is loaded magazine, chamber empty - it's very fast and easy to rack a round into the chamber as the gun comes to your shoulder.

    Later models (usually produced in the late 1980's and 1990's) have cross-bolt or tang safeties.


    Are the sights adjustable at all?

    Yes, the rear buckhorn sight can be adjusted up or down and from side to side in its dovetail. In some lever-action rifles the front sight can also be moved from side to side in its dovetail.

    There are many aftermarket sights offering finer adjustments; Williams and Lyman receiver sights, tang sights, ghost-ring sights (usually mounting to a scope mount or Weaver rail), etc. I particularly like XS Sight System's rails for scopes (including Scout scopes mounted forward of the action) and ghost-ring sights.


    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
  8. Dave Markowitz

    Dave Markowitz Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2002
    Messages:
    8,322
    Location:
    SE PA
    Picking a Nit

    Not with the original loads. Quite the contrary in fact. Both rounds were originally loaded with black powder, and when so restricted the .44 Special's much smaller case capacity is a disadvantage.

    The .44-40 drove a 200 grain flat point bullet at about 1200 FPS from a rifle, probably about 1000 FPS from a revolver. The .44 Special drove a 246 grain round nose bullet at under 800 FPS from a revolver. Except for a custom rifle, its use in rifles is limited to being shot from .44 Magnums.

    No longer available, the old .44-40 high velocity loads for use in Winchester 1892s pushed the 200 grain bullet to 1800 FPS from a rifle. I've seen handload data with max loads exceeding 2000 FPS. Due to the thin brass the cases don't last more than one or two loadings, however. (Don't put these loads into a Winchester '73 unless you want to pull the bolt out of your eye socket.)

    Elmer Keith used the .44 Special as the basis for his hot handloads because the brass is a lot stronger. With smokeless powder that was more important than case capacity.

    Also, FWIW, writing of his experiences in the late 19th Century, Ned Roberts didn't have much positive to say about .44-40 against bear.

    </thread veer> :)

    I like the idea of a lever action for home defense for reasons already addressed in this thread. My personal choice would be a Marlin 1894 in .357 Magnum.
     
  9. highlander 5

    highlander 5 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2006
    Messages:
    2,573
    Location:
    lynn,ma
    If I may,another alternatives is are the Colt Lightning clones from Taurus and several other manufactures. Chambered in 357 mag or 45 Colt with a 20" barrel
    and pump action would make a dandy HD gun. I've seen the Berreta version very nice but very pricey.
     
  10. Marlin 45 carbine

    Marlin 45 carbine Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2007
    Messages:
    2,477
    Location:
    South-Western North Carolina
    I don't have one of 'em but a shooting buddy has the .357 lever Marlin carbine, it's impressive - he loads his own for it and his Blackhawk revolver.
    dern sure would not want him shooting at me with it.
     
  11. Z71

    Z71 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2007
    Messages:
    650
    I inherited a Marlin Cowboy carbine in .45 Colt caliber.

    It's a nice, short little gun in a reasonably hard hitting caliber. I would bet it would be a fine little defensive carbine, although expensive!
     
  12. Dollar An Hour

    Dollar An Hour Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2005
    Messages:
    1,015
    Location:
    Mesa, AZ
    Am I off base thinking that either .38 or .44 Spl standard-pressure loads would be ideal for HD with this platform?

    The heavier & slower bullet (than their magnum brothers) seem like a good fit.


    Truth be told, I'm starting to think everyone ought to have a nice centrefire levergun, and maybe I'm looking for justification, heh heh... Is that so wrong?!

    But I would shoot some cowboy silhouette matches with it! ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
  13. Candiru

    Candiru Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2005
    Messages:
    372
    This reminds me of Gabe Suarez's article on the tactical lever-action. Regardless of what you may think of tacticality or Mr. Suarez, he raises some good points.
     
  14. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Messages:
    59,076
    Location:
    Eastern KS
    You have to keep in mind that the Winchester & Marlin lever-guns were the "Assault Rifles" of their day.

    As long as you had loose ammo available, you can't run one dry.
    You just keep stuffing them in the side and they keep coming out the muzzle.

    For home defense, I would personally feel just as well armed with a Marlin 1894 as I would with an AR-15.

    But I would carefully select the ammo I used in one.

    Heavy bullet Magnum loads in either the .357 or .44 out of a carbine or rifle will shoot through a couple of average houses end to end!

    1224.jpg
    rcmodel
     
  15. skinewmexico

    skinewmexico Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2006
    Messages:
    2,618
    Location:
    West Texas
    It would sure look better to a jury than some mall ninja "tacticool" AR, if you lived in one of those states without a Castle Doctrine law.
     
  16. Mike 56

    Mike 56 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2007
    Messages:
    644
    My Winchester 1894 30/30 is loaded with 125gr HP. They are great home defence rifles. I put a williams FP rear sight with a front fire sight. very nice setup.

    Mike
     
  17. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2002
    Messages:
    13,306
    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    One VERY IMPORTANT caveat in your lever-action carbine:

    If you're using one in a handgun caliber (e.g. .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt) then you need to be VERY careful about ammo selection.

    Some commercial ammo isn't very tightly crimped. For example, I've found Speer Gold Dot to be a mixed bag - some is fine, others are so loose you can almost extract the bullet from the cartridge case with your fingers.

    If you put a round like that into a tubular magazine, with the pressure of other rounds on it and the recoil impulse generated by firing, it's highly likely that the bullet will be set back into the case. When it reaches the chamber and is fired, pressures may be dangerously high - perhaps even enough to blow up the rifle.

    I've taken to checking my ammo for lever-action rifles VERY carefully as a result. I've never found a problem with .30-30, which is designed to be used in tubular magazines, after all: but several lots of pistol ammo from various manufacturers have displayed this problem.
     
  18. Bitswap

    Bitswap Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    251
    Back in the old western days, it was quite common to have a lever action rifle caliber match the six-shooter the cowboy was wearing.

    The same holds true today. Getting either a 44 mag rifle(recommend marlin 94 or 336) and a ruger blackhawk is a really nice combo and you can get both for under 1k. Both are well built firearms that will last a long long time.

    As stated earlier, the 44 mag is comparable to the 30-30. The 45 colt isn't far behind. There a lots and lots of advantages to having this rifle/pistol combo.

    Easy to reload, cheap off the shelf, uses cast bullets, and 10 rounds in the tube of the rifle, and overall a beautiful firearm you won't worry about scratching in the woods. The 44 mag isn't anything to sneeze at either... good 100 yards round. Lots of guides carry the 44 mag revolver for dangerous game... just in case.

    I have a fondness for lever actions as you can tell. I think they're faster than bolts.

    The high side of the levers is the 45-70. But I recommend if you buy one, shoot one first.

    If going this route, make sure you get the correct grip for the ruger. Some are much easier to handle than the originals.

    Since these are 100-150 yard rifles, I consider it a sin to put a scope on them. If you can't fire one with iron sights, you should be bannished. Get one and learn to use it as it was ment to be used.
     
  19. Furncliff

    Furncliff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2005
    Messages:
    2,217
    Location:
    Western Slope of Colorado
    The "Mad Ogre" did a number on a Marlin 336 in 30-30, but you could get some ideas for doing a Marlin 1894 in 357 magnum, for your HD gun.

    Article:

    http://www.madogre.com/Interviews/Marlin336CS.htm

    I've got an 1894c and I think with some of his mods and loaded with 158 grain, and especially the 16in. barrel it would be great for protection.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
  20. Bitswap

    Bitswap Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    251
    Just as a sidenote.

    Talked to my black-belt kung fu guy and he says it's much easier to disarm someone with a pistol than a rifle. I'm no expert on this but tend to believe him.
     
  21. Andrewsky

    Andrewsky Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Messages:
    696
    Preacherman: Thanks a lot for the answers to my questions.

    Are lever actions pretty trouble-free and reliable? Do they need to be cleaned well?
     
  22. Jaenak

    Jaenak Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Messages:
    223
    Slow down there John Wayne. Long guns make bad home defense guns. They're heavy, slow to turn and maneuver, slow to bring on target when tenths of a second count and slow to get an accurate aim on the target, and due to it's size is really easy to be knocked aside by a BG or taken from you all together in close quarters. The only reason why a shotgun is so popular in a home defense role is because if you put an 18" barrel and a pistol grip on it it's not that long, and the spray effect makes it very useful so you don't need to carefully aim when a second is a lifetime.

    In conclusion, if you want to effectively protect yourself and your family, stick to a tactical shotgun or a handgun. Full length hunting style shotguns and rifles must be avoided.
     
  23. Andrewsky

    Andrewsky Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Messages:
    696
    Are you serious Jaenak?:scrutiny:
     
  24. Regolith

    Regolith Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,365
    Location:
    Nevada & Oregon
    Jaenak: No offense, but you don't know what you're talking about.

    Have you ever picked up a Marlin or Winchester leveraction? Unless they have the heavy octagonal barrels, they're quite light.

    Not really. A '94 clone or a Marlin are typically 20" in length. That really isn't that bad for maneuvering. If the barrels were 24" or longer, you'd have a point, but any rifle under 20" isn't that difficult to use inside at all.

    COMPLETELY false. In fact, rifles are EASIER to aim accurately than a handgun. They might be slightly slower to point that a pistol, but with the longer sight radius its much easier to shoot accurately with them. And its hits that count.


    Again, not true, if you know what you're doing.

    Go out and group a shotgun at HD distances sometime. It might be very, very enlightening. At 9 or so yards, the spread from a load of buckshot is less than one or two inches accross. You cannot spray and pray with a shotgun; it must be aimed, same as a pistol or a rifle/carbine.

    The REASON shotguns are more popular for self defense than pistols is because, like a rifle, its easier to aim, and unlike a handgun it dumps a lot of lead at very high speeds into a target. Handguns quite frankly are anemic. We use them because they're a good compromise in terms of size and transportability. They're easy to carry with us and can be concealed if needed. However, even the most powerful handgun doesn't even come close to a moderately powerful rifle, in terms of energy and devastation to the target.

    If transportability or concealibility is not an issue, shotguns or carbines are ideal defense weapons, because they are much more powerful than a handgun, and because they are generally easier to point. Even the ones chambered in handgun calibers are more powerful, because they have a longer barrel and hence can develop greater velocities.

    Its been said that a handgun is there to allow you to fight your way to your rifle.
     
  25. Bitswap

    Bitswap Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    251
    Regolith, I think you can get the 94 with a 16" barrel.

    Some hd rules:
    1) bring a gun
    2) bring a friend with a rifle
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice