Will A .357 Magnum Marlin 1894 Levergun Shoot .38 Specials Reliably?

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Nov 28, 2003
Tampa Bay area
I'm thinking about buying a .357 Magnum Marlin 1894 levergun, and I'd like to know if they will also shoot FMJ .38 Specials reliably. Thanks.

Mine does. Great gun! So far it has digested everything I've fed it, and it's never failed me.

Try it, you'll like it.

Mine did not. It would lock up the action. I sent it back to Marlin and they swapped some stuff out. After I got it back I've only had one not cycle properly but I think it was operator error. They have a minimum length that should be adhered to to guarantee functioning. I haven't had it very long so the round count is still pretty, probably around 600.
Thanks all for the quick/helpful replies.

Two more questions if I may, is it possible/how difficult would it be to install peep or ghost ring sights on the Marlin 1894? Also, does anyone make ghost ring/peep sights specifically for the Marlin 1894? Again, thanks.

There are quite a few aperture sights available for the Marlin 1894. The most commonly seen are receiver mounted sights, and flip-up tang sights. I prefer the latter, because they look more traditional and give a longer sight radius. The best choice in a tang-mounted sight would probably be the Lyman No. 2. I have one on a Winchester, and it's excellent. Lyman and others make aperture sights that attach directly to the receiver, too. The Lyman 66LA is an example of the latter for the Marlin 1894.
Williams sight company also makes front and rear and sets for the Marlin lever guns.
Trying to get a 1894 Marlin in 357 mag now but no one has any. The distributors are saying Marlin is not shipping any lately.
1. I can state that a Marlin 1894 357 will shoot Remington UMC 125grain +p 38 special rounds. I went through 100 of them yesterday.
2. There are a large number of easily mountable sights for Marlin 1894s. Do a search on http://www.midwayusa.com and see.
I really like my Marlin 1894C and have not shot it as much as I would like. I have put what I feel is the best sight setup around. I have a gold bead front sight and a Marble's tang sight.

My question to you is why shoot 38 when you can shoot 357. It is a pussycat with factory loads and with handloading you can really push it. I have a load with 165Gr LSWCGC and 17.5 gr of Lil'gun and it is a thumper. The really cool thing I can shoot this all day long.


Everyone in this thread has said the 1894C will shoot .38 special reliably, but I believe Marlin's own manual has some conditions on OAL? And I believe I've read posts saying people have had hang-ups... for those in the latter category, what are we talking about? Are these the kind of jams/feeding problems we can solve ourselves without taking the gun apart or is these "send-it-back-to-the-factory" level issues?

I can't remember if it was on THR or TFL, but I do remember reading a poster saying their 1894C was jammed up but good and had to- at least- get taken apart... but I don't know if that's one of those rare problems similar to a Super Aquila getting stuck in a rifle barrel (99% of people never have a problem with the primer-only rounds, but every now and then you hear about a stuck bullet).
I have never had a problem with feeding in my 1894c, IF I do my part. Don't short shuck it and do it with some speed. If you go slow, you will jam up the action. If you only pull that lever halfway, you will jam it up. Trying to do it any way but level is asking for problems too. I can reliably feed flush fitting wadcutters without incident. If I want to do anything fancy, I would jsut stick to the 357's - they have less chance of binding in less than perfect conditions.

incidentally, if the price of the 357's bothers you, try getting the most basic reloading setup. You can shoot lead 357's all day long if you have a ballard cut barrel, and with no problems and very cheap ammo.

I believe I've read posts saying people have had hang-ups... for those in the latter category, what are we talking about? Are these the kind of jams/feeding problems we can solve ourselves without taking the gun apart or is these "send-it-back-to-the-factory" level issues?

The jam in question is not about a bullet getting stuck in the barrel, like the Aguila; it's about a groove getting worn in the cartridge lifter. It does seize the gun up completely, and this can be an aggravating thing, but it is something that can be dealt with by the owner. It involves removing the bolt from the gun, but this is something you need to be comfortably doing in order to thoroughly clean the gun every once in a while, anyway.

IF a groove forms in the lifter (whether this will happen to a given Marlin or not appears to depend on the precise fit of the lever and the lifter; if it is going to happen to a given gun, it typically takes many, many rounds) you need to either modify or replace the lifter. The modification is a fairly elaborate home-smithing routine (google 'dreaded marlin jam'). The replacement is a drop-in operation that you can do if you can turn a screwdriver and read instructions on the internet (i.e., about how to totally dismantle the action).

My 1894c, when I bought it used, already had the groove (which I didn't know about). It was sensitive to cartridge length and would not cycle .38's at all. For a while, I just shot .357's of the right length and was happy with it. Then I decided to get into CAS, and needed to be able to load 10 in the tube (you can only fit 9 .357's), so I called Marlin and ordered the replacement lifter. Dropped it in, and it'll feed anything like buttah now. I would expect no problems from a new gun.
I'm going to resurrect this thread from the dusty archives.

My 1894C is on the way now. It'll be here as early as tomorrow.

I've got a slightly different question about shooting .38 spl in it.

Specifically, I've read some posts on another forum in which
authors swear that shooting .38s often will cause damage in the chamber.

Yet others say not.

Truth, truth, who's got the truth?



I think you're referring to the OAL mentioned in #14,
but if you're referencing my question,
the exact measurement of the .38 spl wasn't specified.
I've read some posts on another forum in which authors swear that shooting .38s often will cause damage in the chamber.
Let me add a question about the OAL for .38 spl mentioned above. What is the exact measurement?
From the owner’s manual list


“If your rifle is chambered for 357 Magnum, it is designed to handle 357 Magnum factory-loaded ammunition (except wad cutters and shot shells). It will also function with 38 Special cartridges that are within the length parameters shown below. (NOTE: Since 38 Special cartridges are shorter than 357 Magnums, their use can cause a lead buildup in the forward part of the chamber. Be sure to thoroughly clean the chamber with a wire brush after using 38 Specials.)”

Minimum overall cartridge length — 1.400"
Maximum overall cartridge length — 1.590"
The only 38 or 357 ammo my rifle wont' feed 100% is loaded with wadcutters. Wadcutters require you to hold the rifle still and level while you work the lever slowly as it pushes the cartridge in the chamber. Some times you have to tilt the rifle slightly to one side or the other so the cartridge lines up dead center of the cartridge lifter when entering the chamber.
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