Reloading Quandry For 1894 Marlin In .44 Magnum

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Old Stumpy, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    I bought a new 1894 Marlin a couple of months back and after slugging the bore discovered that it was .432", which isn't unusual at all.
    Not surprisingly I guess, Hornaday XTP 240 grain .430" bullets won't shoot accurately at all even at magnum velocities. Also, loading .434" cast lead bullets from a custom mold will result in cartridges that won't chamber, based on the .432" inside measurement of the fired cases after spring-back.
    Some suggested that using faster burning powders might cause both soft lead and jacketed bullets to bump up and result in decent accuracy, but I'm not gong to invest in a .432" custom bullet mold to find out.
    Ultimately I decided that it's simpler to just load up my Marlin Cowboy in .45 Colt to magnum velocities, which is accurate with .452" jacketed bullets in a .451"-.452" slugged bore, and use a custom 230 grain .454" bullet mold for slower shooting.
    So the .44 magnum will get sold and I will replace it with a .357 magnum 1894C model with the shorter and lighter barrel, which does have a properly sized bore, and will be more fun to shoot anyway.
    The easiest solution.
     
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  2. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    If you want i can send you some 200 gr powder coated bullets. My 44 marlin shoots them very good..
     
  3. Hooda Thunkit

    Hooda Thunkit Member

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    Or, size the .434 down to .433 or .432.
    A push through sizer will do it in about 3 seconds per bullet.

    However, I'll never be the one to tell a feller to not buy a new gun.
     
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  4. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Did you try and contact Marlin? Iffin' the bore is really that oversized, one would think they would want to know, and odds are they may do something about it. While I have a .357 lever and love it to death, I also have a coupla .44 carbines. All shoot better than me and I wouldn't want to give up any of them. Big difference in performance between the .44 carbines and the .357.

    Just how bad did those 240 XTPs shoot?
     
  5. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Powder coat is a great way to up-size a cast bullet on the cheap. I do it often. I don't have a .430ish mold, but I (or anyone else here) can powder cost a handful for you. Adding .002 is easy.

    I would not trust a spring-back neck measurement. . . especially when it's so easy to try a larger bullet.
     
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  6. Axis II

    Axis II Member

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    Send back to marlin for the correct barrel
     
  7. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Selling a rifle with a known issue is like passing the clap. You know it’s a problem, don’t make it someone else’s problem. Call Marlin, they’ll fix it. Not that complicated, just takes a little time in transit and repair.
     
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  8. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    Of course you are 100% sure that your measurements of "slugging" are correct?

    If you call Marlin it will be tricky trying to explain about using hand-loadso_O
     
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  9. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    I used several soft lead slugs and measured them thoroughly with a Starrett dial caliper of known accuracy, so yes I absolutely know that my measurements are correct.
    I have no intention of calling Marlin since sadly a .432" bore is within SAAMI spec for a .44 magnum rifle. It has been since the micro-groove days according to the research that I did.
    SAAMI spec for .44 magnum revolver and rifle are different.
    It's the only cartridge apparently that is.
    Reducing chamber pressures in lever actions seems to be the reason, mad though that seems.
     
  10. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    A Marlin with a .432" barrel is within SAAMI spec, bizarre though that might seem. There are separate SAAMI specs for .44 magnum revolver and .44 magnum rifle. It's about the only cartridge has separate specs, apparently relating to a desire by lever gun makers to keep pressures down, even at the expense of accuracy.
    So, Marlin isn't going to fix it. They consider it normal manufacturing tolerances for the barrel. Quite likely most of the 1894s range from .431" to .432" these days.
    So, since it's normal spec, and not a manufacturing defect or a safety issue, I will sell it with a clear conscience.
     
  11. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    As I already mentioned, the oversize bore diameter is within SAAMI spec. for a rifle, bizarre though it might seem, so Marlin already knows.
    Even if Remington were prepared to rebarrel it (Which I seriously doubt because it is within SAAMI spec) the process seems to be more trouble than it's worth.
    In any case, I decided to go the .357 route since these barrels are bored to .357" as a rule.

    In the past I owned a stainless 1894 in .44 magnum that did shoot quite well with Speer 270 grain Gold Dots, but since I never slugged the bore I can't really say why. Perhaps these were softer jacketed bullets. Hard to say.

    By comparison, my Marlin Cowboy in .45 Colt shoots Federal 225 grain factory ammo into 1"-1 1/2" groups at 50 yards with the factory irons.
    The .44 magnum rifle groups about 4 1/2" at best at 50 yards with the 240 grain XTPs, with both 2400 and Blue dot magnum loads.

    I'm confident that the .45 Colt Cowboy will perform well at 100 yards with either jacketed bullets or .454" cast lead bullets, so it's a keeper.
    And I am confident that the .357 will also perform well.
     
  12. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    There have been a number of .38-55s rechambered to accept cartridges with groove filling .380" bullets instead of the book .377".
    If you were determined to improve the .44, it could be reamed to chamber .432s.
     
  13. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    Thanks for the offer. .432" soft lead bullets might bump up well enough to shoot well, and 200 grain bullets would be more appropriate for the slow twist barrel, but that doesn't address the jacketed bullet problem.
    So, I will pass.
    I prefer the versatility of a rifle that shoots both types well and the .357 will I'm sure achieve that.
     
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  14. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    Oversized bore is one thing - shooting like crap is another. Marlin doesn’t guarantee precision, but they’ve traditionally stood behind products. When I’ve had Marlins which didn’t shoot, they were fixed or replaced.

    Guys tolerate it, pass on the problem, or they are too lazy to call and ask - but that’s no fault of the rifles nor the company.
     
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  15. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    You almost seem determined to provoke a confrontation for some reason, but I am not interested in one.

    And as you say, I DO have a choice. It is a free country, after all.
    1) I can ship the rifle back and they might even replace the barrel, though it's hard to say with Remington these days, and it's a PITA regardless of what you say. And .432" is SAAMI spec. So I'm not going to pursue that course of action. Call me lazy if you like.
    2) I don't want to tolerate it. Life is too short.
    3) I can flog it off and buy a .357 magnum Marlin 1894C, which is the path of least resistance and for me the most practical solution..
    Selling a gun off is also the solution that a great many gun owners do pursue, whether you like it or not.

    And, if Marlin is boring their .44 magnum rifles to .432" spec as a common practice, and that is resulting in substandard accuracy, then that IS the fault of the manufacturer, whether you like it or not. It certainly is NOT my fault.

    Finally, if I had no faith in Marlin then I would not be expressing my satisfaction with my 1894 Cowboy in .45 Colt, and I would not be buying a .357 magnum Marlin 1894C as a replacement for the .44.

    You might prefer to jump through all the hoops instead. I prefer not too.
     
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  16. Axis II

    Axis II Member

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    Yep. Easy way out is make it someone else’s issue so someone else has to deal with the issue. This is exactly why I don’t buy used guns!
     
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  17. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    Let the buyer beware.

    While there seems to always be a few people who take the moral high ground about used guns, I don't worry about it unless it's a safety issue or unless the gun has serious hidden problems.
    Questionable accuracy? Not enough. This rifle has a SAAMI in spec barrel, and I haven't spent a lot of time shooting it. It might shoot well with some types of factory ammo. I'm just not going to pursue the issue any further.

    The reality is that most shooters sell off rifles that don't perform to their satisfaction. And since I am neither a boy scout nor a priest, I will too.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
  18. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I am the original owner of a 44 Magnum M1894, I purchased it for $173.25 dollars, May 1983 at a K-Mart in Texarkana Texas.

    BVKls04.jpg

    UcPKkpi.jpg


    The microgroove barrels on these rifles were in a word: horrible. I sent the rifle back twice to replace, in my opinion, defective barrels. The first barrel clearly had some machining rings in the tube and both barrels varied in tube diameter. You could push a patch down the barrel and feel it stop and start as the barrel interior alternately grew larger and smaller. By the way, when How the barrel interior dimensions could vary so much when gundrilled is a mystery to me. Incidentally, back in the 80’s, discussing barrel quality with the factory guys , they verbally expressed contempt about the barrels at that time. I stopped sending the action back for barrels at the third microgroove barrel. While Marlin replaced two barrels for free, none of them were really better than any other and it was a futile experience and a waste of my travel time and shipping money.

    For the first 18 years, I did not shot it much, basically because with those microgroove barrels, it would not accurately shoot lead bulleted pistol ammo. I do not cast my own, I purchase thousands of commercial cast bullets at gun shows, load them, and go shoot. The standard 240LSWC .429” lead pistol bullets would strip out at velocities greater than 1000 fps in a microgroove barrel. It was dismaying to compare 25 yard targets between the rifle and my pistols. Generally the pistol group at 25 yards was equal to or better than the rifle group with the same ammo. This was awful. Jacketed bullets however shot reasonable well, about 4 inch or less groups at 100 yards.

    In 1999 I found out that Marlin was making new “Ballard” barrels. I called up the factory and discussed replacing the microgroove barrel with a Ballard barrel. The customer service representative, Mr. Tim Mooney, told me that it would cost $130.00 to get this rifle rebarreled. When I mentioned that I was firing .429 cast bullets, the gunsmith informed me that the rifle barrels were made to SAAMI specs which called out for rifles barrel interior dimensions of .431”. Marlin claimed that their specifications for the barrels were 0.431 ± .001”. Also the factory guys were very positive about the quality of these late 90’s era barrels. I asked the gunsmith to find me a good barrel made to the minimum dimension. The gun smith air gaged a number of barrels and claimed that none were on the low end, I got the basic understanding that the barrels were all .431 with very little dimensional variation. Well that shows that production processes had improved in 18 years.

    Marlin had not changed the 1:38” twist of the microgroove barrels nor was the groove depth significantly deeper than the microgroove barrel. In my opinion the difference between a Ballard barrel and a microgroove is a bunch of lands. This is a mistake in my opinion as my Ruger pistol barrels had much quicker barrel twists and were much deeper grooved, and shoot cast bullets very well.

    When I received the rifle back from Marlin I noticed that the gunsmith had inserted small strips of cloth tape on the front inside of the handguard. The handguard had always been loose and I believe that this was his attempt to take out some of the movement.

    When I took this rifle out and shot it, it shot horribly with lead bullets or jacketed bullets. I was very unhappy at this point.

    First thing I decided to do was some load development. The rifle did not like commercial cast bullets, the best groups came with H110 and I was using standard 240 JHP’s. Any brand. Group size with the best ammunition was unimpressive.

    I decided to try to tighten things up in the hope that my group sizes would reduce. First thing I did was to soft solder the hanger bracket to the barrel. There is a bracket that keeps the fore end in place. The bracket fit into a dovetail on the bottom of the barrel. That dovetail was not very tight and the bracket would rotate/move within the dovetail. Using the copper pipe soft solder and fluxing paste with a blow torch permanently fixed the bracket in place. I only heated the bracket to the point where the solder melted. And then I took the heat off. I might have wrapped the barrel around that area with a wet towel to remove heat quickly. I did not want to get the barrel hot as I did not know if it was heat treated.

    Next I decided to replace the cloth strips that the gunsmith put in the fore end with something more permanent. In the end I tightened up the fore end using Accur Glass gel. I poured gel over the cloth strips, in between the handguard cap, and the butt of the fore end. I wanted to take out any longitudinal and rotational movement between the fore end, its mounting pieces, and the front of the receiver. Overall it worked. The fore end is very solidly mounted.

    Accuracy was improved but not as dramatically as glass bedding a bolt action. The rifle will shoot into four MOA at 100 yards. I am using a Williams rear and a post front.

    I have noticed that pulling or pushing on the fore end greatly affects accuracy. Even though my fore end is quite tight and does not rattle it is possible to pull it and move it out maybe a card thickness out from the receiver. Groups moved left and right on the target by at least eight inches depending on whether the fore end is in or out.

    I only have one other lever action, which is a 90's Marlin 336 in 30-30 and that rifle has a huge chamber and a throat cut so deep that the bullet has to jump two tenth's of an inch before it touches rifling. The best that rifle will do at 100 yards is two inch groups and at 200 yards the best groups start at three MOA and go up. This is with jacketed bullets. I have extensively tested the rifle with cast bullets and they will not hold on an 8.5" X 11" sheet of paper.

    o2f4W5K.jpg

    while I often read of posters claiming MOA and sub MOA accuracy with their lever actions, if the claimant shows a group, it is a three or five shot group. None of them has every shown a sub MOA ten or twenty shot group, so what those characters are doing is cherry picking the best out a bunch of low shot group targets and are only showing the clustering in a random set of data points. Call it the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy. This is incidentally why the in print crowd considers three shot groups their gold standard. For one thing, the more shots you fire the larger the group you are going to get.

    Until such time as Marlin changes the barrel twist, I have no desire to own another M1894 in 44 Magnum as the 1:38" twist is too slow. I want to be able to shoot heavier bullets in the 44 Magnum rifle. Also, my accuracy experience has been disappointing in the 44 Magnum and 30-30 Win as I wanted rifles that were better than 3 MOA or 4 MOA, though these things are used to harvest deer every year, at distances less than 100 yards, so I can't say they are not fit for purpose. But I want better accuracy and I want to be able to shoot cast bullets and get groups.
     
  19. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Anything within SAAMI spec should be able to shoot decent groups, and being "within" SAAMI specs means it's not oversized. While levers are not known to be tack drivers, you should be able to do better than 4 1/2" @ 50 yards. Historically, some of the Marlins with large bores or shallow microgroove rifling had issues with lead bullets, but generally not with jacketed. Have heard of folks with .433 Marlins finding good accuracy. Have you tried any factory ammo or only your reloads? The 270 gr Gold Dots(called Deep Curls now) shoot well for me also, but they are not a jacketed bullet, but a bonded bullet. My .44 carbines do not like Blue Dot or 2400. While IMR4227 does not shoot that well in my revolvers, it is exceptionally accurate in my .44 carbines. The best ammo for both revolvers and the carbines are filled with H110/W296. Me, personally, would try a few more combinations before I sent the gun down the road. I certainly wouldn't think to go faster burning powders than you are using now, but with slower burning powders.

    A gun that is safe and functions as intended is not an issue. I have no problem with you trading or selling it to someone else because you can't find an accurate load for it.. With different ammo, odds are they may be happy as 'ell with it, who knows. Myself, I would rather not have any handgun caliber carbines iffin' I couldn't have my .44s. While my .357s and .45s are a hoot to shoot, they are not the deer guns my .44s are. Your gun, your choice tho....good luck.
     
  20. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    I had supposed that I could have tried other powders in the .44 magnum. However, in my experience different powders usually means the difference between adequate or good groups and exceptional ones. 2400 shot well in my stainless Marlin1894 and I would expect it to do well in this one.
    However, it might be worthwhile to try some IMR-4227 or some H110 as you suggest.
    It had occurred to me that Marlin would not have been cranking these out with .431" and .432" bores for so long if they would not produce at least 4 inch groups at 100 yards with some factory ammo, which is what they expect that these rifles will be shot with. And who knows what the average burning rate is in factory ammo?

    The thing is that the 1894C has a lot going for it.
    1) a 1:16" twist which is better suited to slower cast lead bullets.
    2) more versatile than the .44 since it will easily shoot both jacketed and cast lead bullets well.
    3) a shorter and lighter barrel that, in the one that I fired a few years back, was more fun to shoot.
    4) uses less lead per shot which conserves bullet metal.
    5) still a viable hunting rifle if I were so inclined, with 158 grain bullets launched at 1700FPS with H110.

    So I guess that maybe I will start by buying some factory ammo and see what happens. If results are positive, I will try the H110 I guess.
    If it works well I may keep it and get the .357 as well later.
     
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  21. Salmoneye

    Salmoneye Member

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  22. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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  23. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    SAAMI list for a 44 Mag Rifle a bore of .424 and a Groove of .431. =/- .004

    https://saami.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/ANSI-SAAMI-Z299.4-CFR-Approved-2015-12-14-Posting-Copy.pdf

    http://www.leverguns.com/articles/fryxell/microgrove-barrels.htm

    For informational purposes only, a guys gotta do, what a guys gotta do.
     
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  24. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    Okay. So the SAAMI spec is .431" for the internal barrel diameter at groove depth.
    Although I used the term ".432 bore" I am sure that you knew that I was referring to this major dimension. That is the dimension that I measured.

    But I did run across this on another forum specializing in cast bullets from a fellow named Buchanan:

    (snipped)
    OK Rem/Marlin is not going to change to .429 bores because the SAMMI Spec for .44 Magnum rifles is .431 +/- .002. The larger dia. is due to the rifles inability to vent gasses like a Revolver does and thus the safety margin for pressure is much less. Factory .44 Mag ammo is loaded to 36,000 psi and the 1894 action is good to about 45,000psi ( actually 43,500) so there is not much room for customer error. Thus the larger bore dia. to cut pressure back. No manufacturer builds guns to be fired with Handloads. They can't control you or yours so all guns are designed and produced to be safe with Factory Ammo.
    (snipped)

    So .432" is still within the normal spec for a Marlin 1894 .44 magnum barrel.
    Obviously, if Marlin is trying to achieve the SAAMI spec of .431" there will be normal variations at least between.430" and .432"

    Also, as this extract from Slamfire's excellent post #18 reveals, Marlin states that it's own specifications are .431" plus or minus .001", or .430" to .432".

    Also that Glen Fryxell article you supplied mentions that Marlin commonly rifled their .44 magnum barrels to a standard of both .4315" and .432" as common practice.

    So .432" is within their factory specifications and I am sure that there are plenty of 1894 .44 magnum rifles out there rifled to .432".

    Are you claiming that Marlin does NOT commonly produce .432" barrels and consider them as within spec?
    If so, can you provide evidence of this?
    If not, then what exactly was the point that you were trying to make?
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  25. Old Stumpy

    Old Stumpy Member

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    Thanks to those who contributed information and assistance to me.
     
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