Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lever Guns

This excellent post from Brigid got me thinking lever guns.

So here are my three: Top to bottom, a Winchester Model 94 in .30-30 (pre-1964, of course), a Marlin 1894 in .357 which has been mentioned here all too often before, and a Henry .22 that I've also boasted about.

The Winchester was once that I found in a shop some years back, in such bad shape that the owner was about to break it up for parts. I got it cheap and spent the time and effort to find the appropriate replacement parts and it cleaned up good and returned to action suitably reliably enough that I now consider it one of my backpacking rifles, carrying it afield for enjoyment and self-defense. Now it's been joined in that role by the Marlin, which has the advantage of my also having pistols in .357 Magnum, which allow me to carry a common cartridge for both while benefiting from the size of the pistol and the range and increased power of the rifle. I always backpack camp with a rifle and these days I lean towards the lever guns as they don't scare the wanna-be druid eco-freaks and assorted bunny-huggers that one meets on the trails. They see a black rifle and they get all upset, but a wood-stocked lever gun? Few people have an issue with those, even though they hit just as hard and shoot just as fast as an AR-15.

The Henry's just a fun little plinker that I enjoy playing with. I also used it to teach my nephew The Spud to shoot, and it was worth buying it for that alone. Like the other two rifles, it was defective when I bought it on impulse at a local pawn shop, but a simple phone call to the company got it a trip back to the factory for a complete rebuild at no cost to me, even though it was just a used .22. I'll tout Henry Repeating Arms' customer service every chance I get.

I like my lever guns. They're light, feel good in the hand and at the shoulder, and they balance well. Also, a good shooter can keep topping off the mag tube while firing, often preventing the rifle from ever running empty. They also evoke memories of the old-school movie heroes, men like John Wayne, James Stewart, Richard Widmark, and Randolph Scott. Even real heroes like Audie Murphy (the war hero, not the dog) and Ronald Reagan toted these rifles across the silver screen at times. Lever guns have an aura of class and history that few other firearms can claim, and that's why even though I have my choice of modern semi-auto rifles, I prefer a lever gun on my hikes afield; they're what real men carry.


  1. Functional & aesthetically pleasing. High praise, indeed! :)

  2. All good ones, just don't shoot a damn hog in the head... sigh

  3. I've got two Marlins, an 1894C in 357, and a 336 in 30-30.

    And I LOVE shooting them both!

  4. Dangit, now I have this sudden urge to go visit pawn shops around here. Love those lever-guns!!

  5. Love those levers. Particularly favor the JMs - 39A, 336, .444, 1894 and 1895. (The .444 has a companion in the form of a Navy Arms Rolling Block carbine repro in the same caliber. Both actions are suitable for Buffalo Bore heavy loads, or handloads pushing heavy jacketed 285-300 grain bullets.)

    But, I have another, that's kind of an oddity: a Ted Williams Model 100 - essentially a W94 - I'm thinking from the late '60s or early '70s. It's just slightly smaller and lighter than my 336.

    Ever since I read your post about the 1894 carrier lock up, I've been on the lookout for any problems, but none have manifest thus far.

  6. Anonymous12:40 AM

    I am green with envy

  7. I got my first one last winter during the height of the Sandy Hook fallout - a Marlin 336 in .30-30. It's a 1972's vintage with a couple of stock dings but otherwise in terrific shape. I got it for much the same reason as you use it for backpacking - it doesn't scare the druids as much, but it has similar ballistic performance to 7.62x39. It came with an old KMart scope, but I put a red dot on it that I had laying around and took it out to sight it in, and once I got it dialed in, it was shooting cloverleafs at 50 yds. Can't complain about that! Think I'm going to like it!

  8. Go and watch the Winchester Model 73 on "Gun Stories" on the Outdoor channel! DVR it now!