Friday, February 1, 2013

New toy

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.

Marlin Model 336 (image courtesy of Marlin Firearms)

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!)



BC said...

If you look at the Buffalo Bore heavy 357 loads, they pack more punch out of a carbine than a 30-30 does. May not hold longer range quite as well, but out to at least 100 that's a heck of a hit.

LL said...

Aging myself completely with this post...I became a fan of lever action rifles a LONG time ago when as a kid, I watched THE RIFLEMAN on TV.

Toejam said...

Assault weapons/Personal Defense weapons

Both used to describe the very same objects fits into the Orwellian definition of Doublethink.

Or, in this case Obama/Socialist Doubleordaining:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs (definitions) in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting (imposing) both of them.

B said...

If you reload for those pistol caliber carbines, you can attain pretty significant velocities from these cartridges in the 20" barrel. My 1993 gets 1870 fps from a .357 with a 158 G JHP using H110. Pistol bullets don't have the aerodynamic shape to hold steady at over 175yds or so, but in that envelope, they are impressive at those velocities.

Note: Label these reloads carefully so you don't use 'em in yer revolvers.

Retired Mustang said...

I've been a fan of the Marlin for a very long time. Functionally, I've always preferred it over the Winchester, which is without a doubt a fine rifle. In terms of appearance,though, the Marlin wins by more than a little. I've just never liked the looks of the Winchester. As for the utility of the 30-30, I doubt any other round has put as much venison on the table. I've known people who used it for white tail and black bear back east and the first time I lived in Arizona, it was the round used by those old ranchers and cowboys for white tail and mule deer...and elk.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

My late father bought a Model 94 in 1951. That rifle put food on our table for the next twenty five years, until he got a Model 70 in 30-06.

The Game Wardens may have considered him a poacher. He was a subsistence hunter. We would have gone hungry without that rifle.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't tried them, I suggest you look and Hornady's Leverevolution 30-30 cartridges. Polymer tip enables better ballistic shape, making a great caliber even better.

Anonymous said...

Growing up, for deer hunting I had the Winchester and my brother the Marlin. The Marlin definitely pointed better, but I preferred my Winchester because it was lighter, and that meant something while driving dogs up, over and around the Sierras.

Old NFO said...

I love my 94, and it's 51 years old this year... :-) I got it when I was 12. It's not pretty anymore, but it still shoots...

DaddyBear said...

Matthew over at Straight Forward In A Crooked World had much the same thoughts. I've wanted a lever action in .357 for a while. It's rapidly approaching the top of my list.

MrGarabaldi said...

I have been looking for a lever action .357 but the price has skyrocketed lately. I will have to wait a bit and find one then.

Anonymous said...

The Marlin 1894FG in .41 Magnum is
also an interesting gun.
Holds a lot of rounds, shoots well
out to 200 yards with XS peep sights installed.

Got other lever rifles too, but the
.41 may be the most fun to shoot.

Anonymous said...

Marlin 336c in .32 Win Special.
It is old..Was old when I bought it from my Grandmother's 2nd husband in the mid 1980s.
I still shoot it, hunt with it and it shoots as well as I can. I did have a scope mounted on it..well the eyes have aged.
I reload it and snatch brass up whenever I find it.
Is a fine old gun.
I am looking to add a .357 lever sometime soon when funds permit..
Like my lever actions..

Scott said...

Nice find on the Marlin!

I think I'm going to start looking at Marlins instead of the Winchesters, but I really regret having to sell my Winchester 94 in .45 Colt.

I about had to pry it out of a friend's hands when I let him borrow it for shooting...

cybrus said...

Grrrrrr. I've been trying to find a decently priced, good condition 336 in 30-30 around here for quite some time. Nice find!

TwoDogs said...

I've had a Win 1894 with a Williams peep rear for years. Never had the opportunity to shoot a critter of any kind with it, but on the few times I took it out in the field it was a joy to carry. My son, young at the time, really enjoyed shooting the "cowboy assault rifle".

Ed Foster said...

If anybody can find an early (1950's) Marlin 336 in 35 Remington, could they give me a hoot? I want the Ballard rifling rather than the Microgroove, as it will be a dedicated cast bullet gun. Heavy, hardcast flatpoints for deer, and lightweight 150's for plinking and varmints. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

don't forget to look for other Marlin's that wear another name - I had a "Western Auto" .30-30 that was my first ever centerfire. When I bought a Marlin for my son, he took the Western Auto instead. Something about preserving family history. Proud of the boy but miss the rifle.
I've loved lever guns forever. I have a Marlin in .45-70 Marlin (called .450 Marlin now) that also shoots .45-70 Govt as well as a EAA Winchester clone in .45 Colt. I second the comment about the Hornady rounds. I checked with Hornady and their "critical defense" has the same soft tip as the Leverevolution so the .45 Colt CD works well in the lever as well. I've never found a Hornady product I did not like.
Really do like lever guns.

Anonymous said...

More good stuff on the lever action .30-30 in this article, reinforces everything you said