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Why a lever action rifle in pistol caliber?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Shrinkmd, Aug 22, 2006.

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  1. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Member

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    I've been reading a bunch of the posts here, but I'm still a little lost on what niche they fill (besides for history, cowboy reenacting, etc) For cheap plinking a milsurp is cheaper and more powerful, the sharing between revolver and rifle is nice. They seem like 100 yd open sight guns. I guess it is cheaper to reload for 38/357 or even 44 compared to bigger rifles. To keep your reloading setup simpler?

    Of course, they look cool, so I'm getting interested, but I'm curious to hear people's "reason for ownership" stories.
     
  2. News Shooter

    News Shooter Member

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    I think you touched on most of the reasons

    Big demand these days from Cowboy Action shooters. We like having the same calibre for pistol and rifle and it simplifies reloading.
     
  3. Nathanael_Greene

    Nathanael_Greene Member

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    I have mine 'cause I think they're cool.
     
  4. Stickjockey

    Stickjockey Member

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    1. Lower recoil, handy for teaching new guys/gals.

    2. Ammo compatibility between rifle and handgun.
     
  5. dasmi

    dasmi Member

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    Fun.
     
  6. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

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    I never wanted one until I shot a .44 Mag Marlin lever gun. Fun sums it up nicely. You can still hunt with it too.
     
  7. Fosbery

    Fosbery Member

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    Lower recoil than just about anything in man-killing calibers and no nasty muzzle blast. Faster than bolt actions, more accurate than a shotgun, more powerful than a pistol (due to the lnoger barrel length, greater sight radius and because it's fired from the shoulder). Good for hunting, self defence, cowboy action shooting and 'gallery rifle'.
     
  8. B.D. Turner

    B.D. Turner Member

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    I have always loved lever action rifles. A couple of years ago I bought a new Marlin 1894 in .44 Magnum and love it. It holds 11 rounds and is the most handy rifle I have ever owned. The 1894 can fire cast lead bulets, .44 specials, and .44 magnums. I can carry it camping, out plinking and during deer and black bear season it works so well for me that I cannot ever think of wanting to be without it. I do want to add a pistol as a companion and the Taurus Tracker in .44 magnum or a Ruger Blackhawk .44 would do just fine.
     
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Most milsurps also rely on FMJ rounds, and SP's are very expensive or a handloading affair. That limits their practical use. A levergun in .357 or .44 with HP or SP rounds, OTOH, is good for anything up to and including moose and black bear. The velocity increase in the longer barrel is substantial, and can be increased further using slower burning powder. Accuracy is also improved. For hunting, home defense, plinking, etc. the lever action firing a potent handgun cartridge is a very useful tool. Also, if we're comparing them to mil surps they run many pounds lighter and handier.
     
  10. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Member

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    Pistol caliber lever guns are the original assault rifles. The first of the breed was the Henry repeating rifle of 1860. Its cartridge was the .44 Henry Flat rimfire. While the .44 Henry was not a "pistol" cartridge in the sense that it was originally chambered for a handgun, it was a large caliber, short round with ballistics that would today place it squarely in the handgun category. The Henry rifle held 14 rounds, and its high rate of fire made it greatly feared. It was known to the rebs as "that damn Yankee rifle" and "the rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week."

    So let's see: lower power cartridge than a rifle, with shorter range, but large capacity and high rate of fire. Yup -- the original assault rifle.

    The "Improved Henry" (aka the Yellowboy or the 1866 Winchester) came next, with improvements such as a loading gate on the receiver and a wood forearm. It was followed in 1873 by the rifle that "won the west" -- the Winchester 1873. The 1873 Winchester used a new centerfire cartridge that is now known as the 44-40. Again, while it is technically a rifle cartridge in the sense that it was designed for a rifle, it is a short, fat cartridge that throws a large caliber, heavy bullet at subsonic velocities, i.e., a pistol cartridge. The original 44-40 closely matches the later .44 special cartridge in many respects. While originally offered in rifles, revolver makes (including Colt and Remington) soon offered six shooters chambered in 44-40.

    So why were the first lever action rifles designed for pistol cartridges? In part, it was because the original action designs could not handle the high pressures of larger and more powerful cartridges. Once stronger actions came along, however, pistol caliber lever rifles remained popular for the same reasons they were first popular -- they are compact, lightweight, fast handling, and have large magazine capacities.

    Rifle cartridges tend to be much longer than pistol cartridges. That's a problem with tubular magazines, because cartridge length determines the magazine capacity. A rifle with a 19-20" barrel that will easily hold 10 or more pistol cartridges in its magazine will hold just five or six rifle cartridges.

    The longer cartridges also require longer bolts, longer carriers/lifters, and lengthened receivers to hold that hardware. The receiver, barrel, bolt and locking lugs on rifles intended for use with rifle cartridges also have to be beefier to handle the higher pressures of rifle cartridges. That all adds up. By the time you take the sleek, lightweight, fast handling, high capacity pistol caliber lever rifle and modify it to handle rifle cartridges, you end up with a heavier, slower handling, clunkier, and lower capacity rifle. :barf:

    Finally, rifle cartridges typically depend on high velocity to deliver energy, whereas pistol cartridges rely less on velocity but make up for it through heavy bullets that travel more slowly. The import of this distinction is that rifle cartridges need bullets that are aerodynamically efficient in order to maintain their energy. The force required to overcome aerodynamic drag increases with the square of the velocity, so it takes four times as much force to move an identical bullet twice as fast. Thus, rifle bullets, which have to move fast to deliver energy to the target, need to have efficient shapes like spitzers. Unfortunately, you can't use pointed bullets in tubular magazines, because the point of the bullet may set off the cartridge in front of it under recoil. Since lever action rifles have typically relied on tubular magazines, that severely limits bullet choice. That's not a handicap for pistol calibers, but it is for rifle calibers. Some manufacturers have built rotary or box magazine lever actions (Winchester 1895 and Savage 99, for example) to allow the use of pointed bullets, but they tend to lose lots of the elegance and handling properties that otherwise make lever actions so great.

    More recently, Hornady has introduced the LeveRevolution line of rifle cartridges designed for tubular magazines. They use soft polymer pointed tips so they are safe in tubular mags while improving ballistics. You still have the issue of long cartridges, however, which give up a lot of mag capacity to pistol cartridges, and require heavier actions.

    So there you have it. Pistol caliber lever guns exist because they are lightweight, fast handling, reliable, and can deliver a lot of ammo on target quickly and reliably. Yes, they are short range guns due to the inherent ballistic properties of the cartridges, but by "short range" I mean 250 yards and under. In the right hands, .44 Magnum lever guns are very effective on deer sized game to that distance, and perfectly capable of doing the job.
     
  11. Jackal

    Jackal Member

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    I personally REALLY like having a a levergun in .44mag to go with my S&W 629.
     
  12. MacPelto

    MacPelto Member

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    Fun, with more oomph than a 22.

    Mac
     
  13. gopguy

    gopguy Member

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    Actually they make a lot of sense on several levels. In heavily populated states they make ideal short range deer guns. Here in Ohio there are some of us pushing (thus far without success) to get the state to allow us the use of pistol caliber carbines in deer season. Right now we have a blackpowder gun season and you can also use a slug gun. We also have a handgun season. The longer sight radius on a .44 magnum lever gun would make for a more humane kill than popping a deer with a 5 inch barrel .44 mag...if you see my point. So far we are making no progress in getting the state to go along with this....which is unfortunate as we are getting overpopulated with deer in my area. Every member of my family that drives has hit one of the damned things in the past 5 years, except me, and I have had my close calls.

    They also are good for home defense.
     
  14. dracphelan

    dracphelan Member

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    As others have said:
    1. They are just plain fun.
    2. They make great hunting rifles, especially in the woods.
    3. Caliber compatibility with sidearms.
     
  15. Langenator

    Langenator Member

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    Don't forget, many indoor ranges allow the use of pistol caliber carbines, but very few allow centerfire rifle rounds to be used.

    So they can be all-weather fun, too.
     
  16. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    The usual reasons

    Simplified ammo supply is one big plus.

    Pistol caliber carbines are usually smaller and lighter
    than full caliber rifles.

    Ammo effective from a pistol is usually more effective
    from a carbine.

    .357 158gr bullet from a carbine makes about 1900fps or
    ~500fps more than the same round in a pistol.
    .357 from my carbine puts craters in a 3/8" plate swinging target
    (I stopped shooting my swinging target with the carbine
    when I saw that!)

    Velocity gain in other pistol caliber carbines is not always
    spectacular. 9mm 147gr subsonic lose velocity in a longer
    barrel (no surprise if you think about it), regular 9mm 115gr
    gains ~200fps, .45 ACO gains 50 to 100 fps.
     
  17. ChristopherG

    ChristopherG Member

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    Hmm. Father DOES Know Best. That was an excellent exposition.

    9 or 10 shots in a modern magnum handgun cartridge carbine, as fast as an experienced hand can shuck and chuck them, is a pretty fearsome thought.
     
  18. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Member

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    Yup. The best cowboy action shooters can get off ten shots in a touch over 2 seconds. That's a cyclic rate of nearly 300 rounds per minute -- dern near subgun level. Granted, they're using slicked-up rifles with light loads to achieve those speeds, but with a little practice and a good rifle like a Marlin 1894, you can sustain an impressive rate of fire even with heavy .44 magnum hunting loads.
     
  19. roscoe

    roscoe Member

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    They are extremely versatile, given the wide variety of ammo in .357, .44, and .45LC. The heavy loads are extremely powerful from a longer barrel. The heavy .357 gets near 30-30 levels, and the heavy .45LC matches the old .45-70 load or yore.

    Considering ammo capacity, handiness, rate of fire, power, PC looks - inside 100-150 yards, they can pretty much do it all.
     
  20. NailGun

    NailGun Member

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    The Chicks Dig It!

    The first time my wife shot my Marlin 1894C .357 Mag. she developed a grin sooo big that ...well....kind of like this :D . That was the start of it. :banghead:
    Now...if one has a rifle that shoots revolver loads...than....:eek: one MUST IMMEDIATELY purchase a revolver to go with it. Score: wife +2, me -1. She is still smiling about that one. Fun FUn FUN FUNNN to shoot. Cheeeep to reload. Accurate. Death on ground squirrels and jackrabbits too. Great for home defense. I give it a "10".
     
  21. alamo

    alamo Member

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    Indeed. Very informative. I watched "Winchester '73" the other weekend for the umpteenth time. What a great movie. I will get lever rifle one of these days when some other priorities are taken care of.
     
  22. Euclidean

    Euclidean Member

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    Double the ammo capacity as a .30-30 for all intents and purposes, and at less than 100 yards I doubt any target can tell much difference between a properly chosen .44 Magnum load and thutty thutty.
     
  23. USP45T

    USP45T Member

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    Fun gun, no other reason for me. Just put a Marlin 1894c on layaway.
     
  24. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

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    Well one of my friends was buying a Winchester 1895 in 405 Win, and a Winchester 1886 in 45-70; both recent last of the currently made Winchesters. He needed room in the gunsafe and was willing to part with his 94AE in 45LC, the dies for it, a few hundred rounds of a mix of once and unfired starline brass, and a couple hundred rounds of new ammo; all for a great price. So I bought it. I then found out that it's a great handling rifle, it's fun to shoot, and recoil is negligible. Add the fact that this little 16" carbine holds 8 rounds of 45 Colt in the tube and you've got a great little hunting and defensive rifle. 146 years after the original Henry a "pistol caliber" lever gun is still very tough to argue against for many reasons.
     
  25. Shrinkmd

    Shrinkmd Member

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    Other questions...

    Sounds like people really enjoy having one! I guess if you're a revolver person it seems like a natural companion at the 100 yd range.

    What kind of groups does the .357 marlin do out of the box? What are the triggers like? Aftermarket mods?

    Also, someone mentioned needing to clean from the front. I've become more careful than when I started out, and I know you can mess up a bore cleaning from the breech as well, but I'm still less fond of putting that cleaning rod down the muzzle.

    Also, what do the new ones go for, nowadays?
     
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