Miss D. and I went on a road trip today, to a little town in Kentucky. I'd learned, via an e-mail to a list to which I subscribe, that a firearms dealer there had a mint-condition Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle, chambered in .30-30 Winchester.
Of particular interest to me was that this rifle was manufactured long before the so-called 'lawyer button' (a cross-bolt safety mechanism blocking the hammer from reaching the firing-pin) was built into later versions. I think it's an unnecessary complication, adding little or nothing to safety but offering the potential to hear a 'click' when you really want - perhaps desperately need! - to hear a 'bang' instead! (Many shooters, including myself, choose to disable or remove them for that reason. For reasons of legal liability, I prefer a temporary rather than permanent solution, which I've described here.)
Being a great fan of lever-action rifles in general and the Marlin 336 in particular, I called the dealer yesterday and asked them to hold the rifle for me. We went up today to take a look, and buy it if it was as good as promised. The rifle did, indeed, live up to initial reports, and now resides in my gunsafe. I'm going to enjoy giving it a thorough cleaning, then zeroing it at the range soon. It looks as if it hasn't had more than a box of ammunition through it since it was manufactured in 1979.
If you live in an area where it's hard to get a permit to buy a handgun (e.g. New York City, Chicago, etc.), or if civilian ownership of so-called 'assault weapons' (which aren't 'assault weapons' at all, in terms of the classic definition) is forbidden or subject to onerous restrictions (e.g. in New York state, California, etc.), a lever-action rifle or carbine is an excellent alternative choice for a defensive weapon. Consider:
- They can be had in pistol calibers such as .357 Magnum (which can also fire .38 Special), .44 Magnum (which can also fire .44 Special) and .45 Colt. These are very effective out of the longer barrel of a rifle or carbine - they gain about 300 feet per second in velocity, as well as greatly increased muzzle energy.
- The rifle calibers (predominantly .30-30, but also including .35 Remington , .45-70 and others) offer even higher energy levels, and the .30-30 is better at penetrating cover (e.g. motor vehicle bodywork) than pistol-caliber cartridges.
- The .30-30 offers ballistics similar to or slightly better than the Russian 7.62x39mm. round, found in the ubiquitous AK-47 pattern rifles and the earlier SKS. No-one's ever accused either round of being a slouch in a gunfight! (Many law enforcement departments issued .30-30 carbines for decades. Some individual officers still carry them - because they still work as well as ever!)
- The .30-30 gives you a maximum point-blank range of a little over 200 yards. What this means is that, when correctly zeroed, you can put your sights dead on the target at any range out to 200 yards, and expect your bullet to hit within 3" above or below your point of aim. That's plenty accurate enough for minute-of-deer or minute-of-bad-guy, and more than adequate for most distances over which you're likely to have to shoot.
- In most models of either the Marlin Model 336 or its greatest rival, the Winchester Model 1894, you have six rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. You can fire, chamber a new round and fire again very rapidly (the lever action is one of the fastest around). Reloading is slower than changing a magazine, but if you 'shoot one, load one', that's not a major problem (at least, no more so than for the even more ubiquitous pump-action shotgun). Besides, if you can't solve your problem with seven accurately-aimed rounds, you'll probably need more than a full 30-round magazine in a semi-auto rifle to do so, anyway!
For a comparison between the Marlin Model 336 and the Winchester Model 1894, see here. I've owned both, but prefer the Marlin for ease of mounting a scope or red-dot sight on its solid-top receiver, as well as its simpler, smoother action. For articles on using a lever-action rifle or carbine as a defensive tool, see here and here.
(As for the previously-mentioned 'assault weapons', I note that they're now officially referred to by the Department of Homeland Security as 'personal defense weapons'. So be it. My 'evil black rifles' - which, being civilian-legal, are not actually 'assault weapons' at all - will nevertheless henceforth be referred to by that designation. After all, it's indisputably and officially 'politically correct' to do so!)