Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Good Question...

Got an e-mail from the Scary Yankee Chick looking for advice/thoughts on a Marlin rifle...
I've been slowly doing research on buying a rifle for hunting and target shooting.  Someone suggested to me to look at lever action rifles, as they don't appear to be on the gun banner radar as such. So I've been slowly working my way around the internet looking at lever action rifles.

Do you (or any of your readers, if you're willing to post this) know anything about the Marlin 336 line of lever action rifles?  Reviews appear to be generally good.  Some notes about some used models having some issues, that the person in question thought was due to Remington manufacture.  And they're not overly expensive, at least in comparison to some.

Can you suggest any other lever action rifles I should add to my list to look at?  I'm open to suggestions.  This will be both my and Hubby's first rifle.  We're looking for something to shoot distances in the 100-200yard range.  Preferably in a caliber that's (normally) easy to find (I realize there's not much normal about the ammo situation right now).  And preferably without being overly expensive.

Well, I own a Marlin 336 in .30-30 Winchester, but it's a 50+ year old rifle - it was my grandfather's deer rifle, and he's owned it at least as long as I've been alive (and I don't think he bought it new right before I was born). I've only shot it once, and 5 rounds at that, but it was dead-nuts accurate at 25 yards with iron sights and ancient ammunition. I've got a Marlin 989 (magazine-fed semi-automatic) and a 39A lever action, both in .22LR. The 989 is finicky - although that may be from having several thousand rounds through it with no cleaning or lubricating whatsoever. The 39A is one of my favorite guns, hands-down.

Mossberg carries a line of lever-action rifles, although they only have them available in .22LR and .30-30. I haven't heard much about the action or reliability; seeing as how Mossberg isn't really known for lever action rifles, there's not a lot of history. They also have a new line out of bolt-action rifles that take AR-15 magazines, their MVP series. Haven't heard much feedback on them, though. One of the nice things about the bolt-action mechanism is that there's a lot less dependence on finding the right ammo the gun "likes" when shooting (my Bushmaster AR-15 will not load anything with a soft point. At all). Also, the less expensive steel-cased ammo shouldn't be an issue; not to mention bolties are much easier to clean... MSRP starts at $681; I would imagine the off-the-shelf price would be under $500 (at least once prices come back down to something resembling normal).

Henry has a few pistol caliber lever action rifles out there, like their Big Boy in .44 Magnum. I've shot a friend's Henry .22LR lever action, and the mechanism is smooth like butter and the gun is quite accurate. Price is pretty decent as well - and with .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum, you're definitely good out to 150 - 200 yards. Rossi - as evidenced by the model 92 I've been testing, also has some lever action rifles in pistol calibers.

One last non-semi-automatic option would be something like the Remington 7600 series of pump-action rifles. They're based on the tried-and-true 870 shotgun pump-action, and even the .30-06 variant doesn't kick too terribly bad. They're only available in hunting calibers, although they do have a G-d's Own Caliber version available. Of course, their fine 700 series of bolt-action rifles is also something to consider.

Any other thoughts on lever guns or other actions out there?

That is all.

20 comments:

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, with Rifle Ammo going for over $1 a round in most places, I'm advising those who might have to face the Terror of Bloomburg to get a 38/357 Lever Gun or two, plus matching .357 Revolvers. One could rig a Stock Pouch on the Lever Guns, and use Bianchi Speed Strips to reload them.

Even with using standard .38 Special Loads, one gets a nice velocity increase when it comes out of a 16 or 20 inch Barrel.

As much as I love War Surplus Bolt Actions, the fact that most of them are in Calibers that seem to have dried up like the Bonneville Salt Flats precludes them from General Purpose use.

YMMV, of course.

Dave H said...

I have a Marlin 1895 in .45-70 that I bought a year and a half ago. It was pretty disappointing out of the box - cracked stock, loose front sight, and it won't cycle Hornady's special lever-action ammo. It was built in Ilion (home of Remington) shortly after the Freedom Group moved Marlin's production there. Guns from that period are known to have quality issues. I don't know if they've been resolved yet. I'd say go ahead and look at a new Marlin, but check it over VERY carefully before you buy it.

I wouldn't recommend the .45-70 cartridge for hunting unless you're going after bison or brown bear. Ballistically it's good out to 130 yards or so, but it kicks like a mule.

I'm thinking of getting a .45 Colt lever gun to match my new revolver. I like the look of the Rossi 92. Marlin also makes one, the 1894, but I'd lean toward a used one.

JD said...

Love my marlin 1894 cowboy in 45 long colt. .. if you are going to shoot a lot may want to look at 38 or 357 but a great lever action and very accurate

Little Green Man said...

If it's for a "first rifle, for social work distances up to 200 yards," I'd look very hard at the pistol-caliber lever guns over the rifle-calibers, and I'd look first at .44 Magnum, then .357, then .45 Colt. Honestly speaking, my all-time favorite is the .45 Colt, but unless they're willing to handload (or know someone who is), they're just not going to get the full potential out of that cartridge. Availability might also be if-y, depending on how popular CASS is in their area. The .357 and .44 are both good and commonly available, but for social work, especially out of a rifle, I'd go with .44. Recoil isn't that bad from a long gun, and it pokes a rather larger hole in the target.

Recommendation: A Browning, Rossi, or "other" clone of the the 1892 lever-action, chambered in .44 Magnum.

Bonus, they can get a Henry .22 for "cheap practice" too. I got one for BAG Day, a day late, and I'm itching to find out if SWMBO will let me keep it, or claim it for her own.

Bob said...

With all of the used Winchester '94's out there in great shape, why not consider America's Classic Deer Hunting Rifle? It was designed by John Moses Browning (PBUH), after all.

Wally said...

Marlins from Remington should be avoided.

The only easily available rifle calibers in these parts are 7.62x54R (so that means Mosin Nagant) or 30-06 - which does have some more rifle options (rem 700 frex) but even though it is available it is at 1-1.50 per round.

capcha : lewssum762
Yes, yes I will.

Pakkinpoppa said...

I have a Marlin 336 made just prior to the Remington takeover and an older Glenfield. Both are nice pieces.

I'd ponder an older model if one can be found, just look it over well. Newer ones may be better now, but ponder looking over it really well. Maybe take along snap caps to cycle the action if that's allowed.

Winchester 94's are a little more delicate

Ruth aka ScaryYankeeChick said...

Thank you for posting the question, and thank you for everyone who has and will be posting!

Hand loading isn't going to happen in the for-see-able future. So note made....

We're looking at shooting deer and possibly coyote.

Not sure yet "how much" shooting we're going to be doing, but since this is our first rifle I expect to spending some signifigant time shooting targets just to get the idea down...

Wolfman said...

I'm a bolt-action guy, myself, without a great deal of depth in lever guns, but if a bolty is on the options list then Savage, Ruger, Howa, and CZ should all be on the short list. Don't get me wrong, Remington makes a great gun, as does Winchester, but you'll pay a bit more for them. Savage and Howa both have great reputations for accuracy, and the Ruger and CZ rifles are basically bulletproof. Howa is also nameplated as Smith and Wesson in some older rifles, and the Weatherby Vanguard. My lever action time is limited to an early Savage 1899 (1910ish vintage) and my brother's 94 Marlin in .44 Mag. That 94 (the Cowboy Action model) is one sweet, buttery smooth gun, I do know that. His is about 8 years old (maybe).

Dave H said...

Ruth: A lot of people around here like .223 for coyote, but feel it's a bit light for deer unless you're really experienced. The .30-30 Jay mentioned is a classic deer gun and will take 'yotes too. But .223 ammo tends to be cheaper. Decisons, decisions.

If you can't find ammo locally, Gunbot will show you near-real-time price and availability of many calibers. Here's the link for .30-30:

Dave H said...

This time for sure!

http://www.gunbot.net/ammo/3030/

Wolfman said...

Although this is really not the forum for a caliber war, I will risk this statement- .243 is very popular for deer hunting and would also be good on coyotes. Bigger/faster rounds will start to cost more in ammo, of course, but its hard to go wrong with a .270 or .30-06. Anything that can BE hunted has been hunted with a .30-06. 7mm-08 is also very capable, especially if you aren't planning on moose or bull elk any time soon. There are other great calibers that do 'yotes and deer equally well, but availability is hit-or-miss. .30-30, .270 and -06 can be found (under normal circumstances) anywhere ammo is sold.

Gregory Milewski said...

Marlin 336 is a great classic rifle and .30-30 ammo is still cheap and widely available. Given the choice I would buy an older (pre-Remington) Marlin. Remember Remington is owned by an investment group, they are money people, not gun people, and I think it has a negative effect on quality, though things seem to be improving.

Gregory Milewski said...

I would personally recommend against pistol caliber lever rifles based on ammo cost and availability right now. Also pistol calibers run out of steam much faster than rifle calibers at the distances mentioned (100-200 yards). Not that a lever action 30-30 excels at that distance either, but definitely better suited than a pistol caliber in my opinion

Oddball said...

There's a good reason that when people talk about lever guns they're either talking of or comparing to Winchester or Marlin. I personally prefer the Marlin design over the Winchester (and its many clones) due to being able to easily mount a scope on it since it ejects to the side, not up.

I have heard of some issues with Marlins immediately after they moved operations to the Remington plant, but I think those have been resolved. I bought a .357 1894 this past December (which I need to review), and it looks and shoots great. The good news is, if there is a concern about it, there's a ton of used 336's on the market that are still in great shape.

Unfortunately, I would caution someone buying a pistol caliber lever gun for hunting. A number of states limit the number of rounds your rifle can carry to 5+1, and most of the ones that I've seen carry more than that (ex. my .357 1894 carries 9+1). Although, I've been told by a few folks that the local officials tend to look the other way if you're carrying a 336 (which holds 6+1).

I'd say go with the 336. I expect 30-30 will be easy to find and cheap once the craziness dies down, it's easy to mount optics if you choose to, and can be found for $300-$400.

disclaimer: I own a Marlin 336, 1894, 790, 981T, and Papoose. I learned on a 39A and 336. I may be a bit of a fan boy. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a 100+ year old Winchester 1892 in .38-40 that shoots like a dream--reliable, accurate, and it holds 13+1. Ammo can be hard to find, but I have always been able to get it after hunting around a bit. The Winchester short action is fast and smooth, allowing a pretty good rate of fire, too.

Daddy Hawk said...

I do not currently own a lever action, but I have been investigating it as an option too. I found the Chuck Hawks article (http://www.chuckhawks.com/compared_big-boy_1894C_1873.htm) very helpful as a starting point.

David said...

My kids and I have been Cowboy Action Shooting with a Henry Big Boy and a Marlin Cowboy rifle both in 38/357.

We love both guns. My kids prefer the Henry, I like the Marlin.

Both have several thousand rounds through them and run like clocks. They usually get cleaned about every hundred rounds. But I got lazy last year and we went through several shoots and well over 500 rounds through them without cleaning with no discernable reduction in performance.

We don't regularly shoot them at 100-200 yrds. But with the light cowboy loaded 38 specials we shoot we get about a 3 inch drop at 100 yrds. With full 357 Magnum loads we get about the same 3 in drop at 200 yds.

We also have both Henry and Marlin leverguns in 22LR. Love them both. But if I had to chose one, we would keep the Henry Golden Boy.

As for rifle calibers I have been shooting a post-64 Winchester model 94 in 30-30 for over 40 years. I took several antelope and white-tail with it when younger. Great shooter out to 150 yards - effective to 200. Beyond that will heavily depend on your hands and eyes.

Inspite of the fact that when cycling the action it sounds like parts are going to start falling out of it - they never have...

Adam said...

If you are going to shoot deer and coyotes up to 200 yards, and you want a lever gun, a Marlin .30-30 is for you. Good out to 300 yards consistently. Hornady Leverevolution is a remarkable load designed just for this situation. A .44 mag is good out to about 200 but with more drop. If you said 150 yards max, I'd tell you to get a Henry .357 (I have one in .357 and one in .22lr) but anything more than 150 and I wouldn't personally feel comfortable hunting deer with it. I admit bias though, I bagged my first deer with Marlin .30-30.

Ruth aka ScaryYankeeChick said...

Thank you everyone! You've given me some more guns to research, and some more ideas. Which I needed. Plus links, links are always handy! (Why does Gander Mountain not show 30-30 on their website but does on the gunbot site? Am I just blind?)

DaddyHawk, I'd found that article too, definetly helpfull!

I said 100-200yds, but to be honest 150's probly about as far we're really looking. I just like having options.

Wolfman, I don't have an objection to a bolt action rifle, and the Savage name has come up several times, but I had to narrow down my search somewhere......