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Improving Trigger Pull And Reducing Action Stiffness On An 1894 Marlin

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Old Stumpy, Aug 30, 2020.

  1. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    The new Marlin 1894 Cowboy in .45 Colt that I bought a year or so ago was really well finished with nice wood and screw slots, straight sights, and no flaws that I could see. It functions well, and feeds and ejects very well.
    However it did have a trigger pull heavier than the carbine, and in common with most newer 1894s, was a little stiff to operate.
    So, I bit the bullet and tried to see what I could do to improve things.

    - I simply cycled the action (lowering the hammer each time) for 800 cycles. I believe that this smoothed the bolt surfaces somewhat.

    - I figured out that the ejector doesn't work any better if you increase spring tension on it by bending the spring outward. In fact it makes the action drag from the increased spring pressure. So I straightened it out some and the bolt slid smoother and easier, and ejection was unaffected.

    - Finally, I gambled and clipped 1 1/2 turns off the hammer spring and flattened the end just a bit by touching it to my grinder. This had been suggested by other people in other forums, but not everyone was in favor of it, fearing that firing pin impact would be too light for reliable ignition.

    Results were dramatic.
    Although the spring is quite heavy, a little bit goes a long way if you shorten it.
    - The hammer tension dropped more than I expected, but seemed still okay. Probably more like smooth old lever guns with leaf main springs. (Clipping off a single coil might be a better place to start.)
    - Cycling the action was much easier and smoother. Getting past that initial "hump" was pretty much gone.
    - The trigger pull was reduced to maybe 4 or 5 pounds. Certainly much better than it was.
    - I loaded an empty case repeatedly with large pistol primers and test-fired them. All primers fired properly and all were dimpled deeply and normally. (I suspect that this would depend on how stiffly your firing pin moves due to the firing pin safety spring.)

    So, if your trigger pull is too heavy you might try this. If your trigger pull is not too heavy, it might reduce it more than you would want.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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  2. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    Wolf spring makes springs in reduced, standard and higher grades for Marlin rifles. As to cycling the rifle 800 times I am sure that did smooth the action. I usually disassemble any new Marlin (JM or REP) and work certain areas very carefully with oiled 600/1000 paper. Mobil 1 red grease on the ejector and the ejector track in the bolt, on the lever pivot screw and carrier pivot screw and hammer contact surface of the bolt, also the lever plunger. I also very carefully and imperceptibly remove the "sharp" edge from the snail cam on the lever. The loading gate spring is often too stiff, RPP has a wonderful upgrade there, but you can "relax" the OE part by removing it and gently working the spring on the edge of your bench such that it fully comes home on the inner surface of the receiver, but just barely so. Also, using a rod of appropriate diameter wrapped with the oiled 600/1000 paper, work the inner edge of the loading gate to provided a small radius and remove any burrs (more often worse on stainless rifles). Using a similar rod and paper or your finger with the paper and work the carrier forward area (cup) to provide a clean surface for the brass case to slide over.

    I have used the WWG happy Trigger and prefer it to the RPP trigger but both are excellent and I just installed a gold RPP trigger in my 77 JM Texan 336 and a matching gold RPP gate. The single piece WWG Bear Claw ejector is an upgrade and seems to have a slightly delayed ejection to allow a (over length) loaded round to clear the gate.

    Some of the videos I see on "slicking" Marlin actions make me break out in hives. New or old, JM or REP, using files and even 600 paper to remove metal is iffy. A machined part will have surface that may have highs (and lows) that are outside the intended tolerance due to a variety of reasons, operator skill, worn tools, improper cutting rate, lack of lubrication etc. When I polish a part I am only removing those deviations from the norm, not trying to make a "glass" smooth surface. That removes too much metal IMO and is detrimental again IMO to a smooth action (and longevity), those normal peaks and valleys will wear home to one another on mating parts and reduce surface area for friction and retain a film of lubricant.

    My grandfather was a Marlin man, so am I, owned many and still have seven Marlins, 5 JM and two more recent REP. They are all fine rifles. The REP tend to be somewhat worser with wood quality and more consistent in metal work quality. The consistent is not meaning to say better, just that parts are more interchangeable and show less evidence of (probably required) factory hand fitting. Yes, the walnut 40 years past was better.

    Accuracy can be improved by reducing the preload on the barrel, end cap models, the end cap radius that mates to the barrel may need some fitting, the idea being to reduce the preload that the magazine applies to the barrel which will string shots as the barrel heats. I have also used a small shim washer at the muzzle end. Barrel banded rifles are more challenging as the bands need to be tight enough to hold the stock snug and rattle free but they do not need to clamp down like a vice either, careful, time consuming fitting of the bands and stock can improve accuracy. The myth that Marlins are not accurate is just that, a myth, they are not bench rifles but are more than accurate enough to be interesting hunting weapons. A good 336 or 1895 should approach MOA with hand loads and certainly 2 MOA, bench rested on bags, good scope. And just to say it, the two REP rifles, excluding my 39A, are the most accurate Marlins I have owned.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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  3. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Since the Marlin hammer spring is football shaped, coils should be cut from both ends.

    The best influence a person can give in action feel for the Marlin 1894 is to dress the hammer nose and the cocking cam on the bolt. The cam is typically very aggressive which makes primary opening difficult, and frankly, the bolt typically over-cocks the hammer considerably, such it carries much heavier drag than necessary throughout the action cycle. This correction will allow full power mainspring to be used for reliable ignition, without increasing lock time or decreasing ignition reliability, and while still considerably reducing the “initial hump” resistance as well as reducing total resistance throughout both ejection and charging strokes. Polishing the locking bolt and it’s raceway will also reduce total cycle drag. Polishing the tip of the finger lever and cutting a “perceptible“ radius on the end of the carrier lifting cam will also improve the smoothness of the primary open and primary close movements in cycling. Polishing the nose of the carrier to reduce drag against the cartridges in the mag tube is another significant improvement in 1894 action feel. Polishing and “throating” the carrier to allow smoother feeding, and confirming or correcting the height of the carrier during the charging stroke cam also be a considerably notable improvement to the feel of the action during cycle (in some instances, a tig welder may be vital). Reshaping the tip of the extractor can considerably improve the final lockup feel as well. Relaxing the trigger block safety spring, reducing the rate of the finger lever plunger spring, and reshaping and polishing the finger lever plunger will also reduce the resistance to open and especially resistance to close the finger lever (and ensure the lever more reliably stays closed during portage).

    There are a few cowboy action based websites about tuning the Marlin 1894 for the non-smith or kitchen table smith, Marauder’s site does a nice job cataloging several links and describing this work, as an example. The Marlins are incredibly simple and visually intuitive, so it shouldn’t be challenging to identify resistance points even without a guide, but there still seem to be a lot of folks who either don’t understand the mechanism (I had a reblue job request on an 1894 once where a guy had polished his entire bolt before he realized the right hand side wasn’t a bearing surface - so he had polished all of the bluing from the exterior - aesthetic - surface of his bolt) and even more folks ALMOST get it but don’t quite fully understand what they are seeing and feeling, so they over cut/over polish/over work certain areas, and/or ignore actual wear and bearing areas which would have produced much more notable results than what they attempted.

    In the case of the Marlin, changing/working on a lot of things a little typically pays back less than would changing a little thing a lot.
     
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  4. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    As @Varminterror says, and neither of my posts are directed at anyone, there are a few critical areas that often need attention and he points out some of them. The wholesale attacking of a rifle with sandpaper and files and got forbid a Dremel, just no need for it. Sure, there may be a specific defect on a particular rifle that needs more attention than usual, a file or a high speed cutter, but tread lightly there, metal removed cannot be put back. I am not much into cutting that lever plunger spring, yes, it does reduce that lock up effort and that is beneficial to cowboy shooters or trick shooters but for a hunting rifle, like many things, I would probably let that find it's own home.
     
  5. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    I expect @3Crows’ reticence to reduce the lever plunger spring is due to a common unfortunate perception by folks who only ran half of the race. Lots of kitchen table gunsmiths install the wolf spring kit and are disappointed that their finger lever unlocks at the drop of a pin, so in defeat, they revert back to the factory spring. In my post, you’ll note I addressed relaxing the trigger block safety spring and reshaping the plunger. In doing so - the whole of the job, not simply half of the job - lever retention is as reliable as ever, but the shooter doesn’t have to exert excessive force to overcome the plunger.

    A trick or competitive shooter might remove the plunger assy altogether, as the action will be displayed open when not actively firing on the line. The rest of us just need reliable retention, without excessive resistance. But simply swapping springs isn’t the whole job.
     
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  6. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    I tend to look at guns in an odd manner, not what they are today but what they become over time. I was originally a geologist in training and work and there is in that field the concept of Deep Time, a difficult concept for lay folks, just look at the fuss over climate change! Attempting to hurry along what time and use takes care of in due course is where I differ I suppose from many riflemen. Mountains do not spring up in a lifetime or even thousands of lifetimes and a smooth Marlin can be helped along but not hurried along. Some of my rifles have belonged to three or more people who have passed on. A rifle is a forever thing, not a consumable thing. My rifles will someday be held and used and owned and loved by someone not yet born so when I "smith" on them it is with that in mind, that they will outlast me.

    I am not against skilled reworking of the plunger spring by cutting or replacement along with equally skilled reshaping of the plunger, as has been stated, reducing the lock up/plunger force is a two part process.

    The example given of the fellow who polished his bolt without a full understanding of what needed polishing and then reblueing to attempt to repair the damage is exactly the carnage I see on to many firearms. There is the fellow on Youtube, GunBlue, I think he is, he did a video and in the course of it came to talk about blue printing of actions (bolts guns) and he sort of stepped back and gave the camera the eye in a way that I cannot fully describe, but it is probably in like manner to the look I give people when they start "slicking up" Marlins. You have to know exactly what you want to accomplish, what parts need to be addressed to reach that goal and the knowledge/skill and proper tools to accomplish it without compromising the longevity and value of the rifle.

    Sorry to have gotten so far off track.
     
  7. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    No complaints from me. I come online to go “off-track“ when my day has free moments.

    I also view my firearms not for what they are but for what they can be, and consider the fact my firearms will outlive me. I can be sure, however, that whoever finds themselves holding one of my rifles long after I am dead - if they are capable of appreciating how an action feels and handles - they too will appreciate that mine run and feel better than others of its factory brothers because I challenged that “good enough” for factory shelf rifles wasn’t such for me.
     
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  8. greyling22

    greyling22 Member

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    I'm with varminterror. Marlin's are rough and oversprung. Lighten the hammer, lever plunger, trigger, ejector springs, take the nose of the hammer down to reduce overcocking, Polish everything that contacts on itself and you will have a whole new and significantly better gun. You can tweak sear surfaces later if you need.

    Just because a gun company is too cheap or inept to put out a finely finished and tuned product doesn't mean I have to leave it that way.
     
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  9. 3Crows

    3Crows Member

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    LOL, I think we are saying the same thing from a different perspective. Your rifles I would not hesitate to own and count upon, the fellow who polished the blue off of his bolt, his rifle, not so much. Gotta know what you are doing.
     
  10. chicharrones

    chicharrones needs more ammo

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    My newly purchased stainless Marlin 1894 came with surprisingly well smoothed and polished action mechanicals. Not sure if that's normal for how Remington/Marlin finishes stainless steel or not.

    For the trigger spring I used a hook tool to pull up on it, bending it slightly, to try and reduce preload a bit.

    For the hammer spring, I actually left the spring alone but filed down (and polished) the shoulders of the hammer strut to allow the spring to relax a bit. This makes the spring area of the strut longer, which compresses the hammer spring less. Before doing this the strut has to be folded into the hammer slot and the shoulder area marked as a limit guide so that you don't go too far cutting those shoulders. Otherwise the spring would interfere with the hammer being cocked. I left about 1/16" clearance of the strut shoulders to the hammer with the strut folded in. (I wish there was a diagram somewhere on the net to explain this better.)

    I polished a couple of spots within the action and receiver, but nothing major. Not counting having to chamfer the magazine tube opening in the receiver below the barrel, but that's a whole 'nuther story for .357 guns only, I'd guess.

    I followed all that with cycling and "shooting" Azoom snap caps. Plus live fire. The action is really sweet, slow or fast. The trigger is better than originally but it sure isn't some nice bolt gun trigger. I'm pretty sure I won't mess with it further, as it shoots well for a newly made lever gun.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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