Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Marlin 1894

Seeing as how I can't hardly shoot for a while I'll write about a shootin' iron I have that I haven't written much here. I have a little Marlin lever action. It's the .357 Magnum, the 1984C. Marlin made several models in this frame size including several built specifically for Cowboy Action Shooting. These have heavier octagon barrels.

This little gun was first designed back in 1894 to compete with the '92 Winchester. It was loaded in the same cartridges, .32-20, .38-40, .44-40 and later, .25-20. It was a good seller up until the great depression. Then after the .44 Magnum got popular they brought it back. Soon after they put it around the .357.

Anyhow, mine is the plain vanilla 1894C the only difference is that I put a Williams Receiver Sight on it and, since that is taller than the standard rear sight, a slightly taller front sight. The Standard 1894 model also came in .44 Mag, .45 Colt and a very few in .41 Mag, plus, for a while, .32-20 aka .32WCF.

These little carbines are nifty little guns. Mine is 36 inches long and weighs six pounds. In other words, light and handy. They are a great companion to the revolvers in the same cartridges. Back when I was chronographing everything in town I did some work with this carbine and the revolver that went with it. As near as I could calculate the carbine puts a bullet out that hits as hard as the revolver does at the muzzle. In other words the extra length of the barrel gives the bullet enough extra velocity that it is going as fast at a hundred yards as the revolver is going as it exits the barrel.

The main advantage though, is accuracy. It is just flat easier to shoot a rifle accurately than a handgun. It is no great trick to get a five shot group at a hundred yards of two inches. This means that if the rifle is sighted to hit at that range, every shot will hit within an inch if the aiming point.

With all that, what is this thing FOR? Mine rode in the trunk of a county cruiser for a lot of years. In the country a carbine can be a lot handier than a shotgun. Most of us don't wear kevlar to work, though and most of those who do no longer carry .357s on the belt. There are very few carbines in the autoloading pistol cartridges. The Marlin Camp Carbine didn't last long. I am not sure why the Camp Carbine is no longer with us. It had some trouble with rust and I heard that they weren't overly accurate. LEOs that need a long gun are carrying AR-15s.

Why should a civilian bother with these little carbines? Well, it is a nice little small game, varmint and even deer rifle. Well, I don't know much about those fabled three hundred pound Yankee monster bucks but our smaller southern whitetails drop to a .357 like somebody yelled "GRENADE!" This is a great little woods rifle.

With the right handload it is possible to get nearly 2,000 feet per second out of this gun with a 158 grain bullet. This is right up there close to a .30-30 factory load. I have actually beat that velocity although it was at pressures higher than SAAMI specs. Most people know that some years back they lowered the maximum allowable pressure. That is probably a good idea with all these little five shot revolvers out. I backed it down for fear I might accidentally get one into my Ruger SP101 five shooter. I don't think it would have blown up the Ruger, just my hand.

Of course back when the .357 was a brand new cartridge Doug Wesson took one of those new revolvers out and swatted moose, grizzly bear and elk with it. Don't. None of us are Doug Wesson. Plus, back then they'd write about the great kills and slink off quietly from the critters who escaped, wounded. Now I haven't been hunting in a while but last I was in the big woods there were no emergency rooms for wounded critters.

Someone interested in small game can load the .38 special. A lot more smack than the .22 lr and if one chooses the bullet wisely, very little meat destruction. Then with the lighter jacketed hollowpoint bullets this little carbine is a death ray for coyotes and other varmints.

Up until very recently it was illegal to carry a loaded handgun in the passenger compartment of a car here in Texas. It was not illegal to pack one of these (or any other) long guns. The Marlin Carbine is just the gun for those who live where handguns are difficult or impossible to own. There are also those who just cannot shoot a full power handgun for one reason or another. As my tremors get worse I will be one of them. So with two hands and a shoulder and cheek all canceling the shakes I will still be able to defend my home.

There have been several changes in the 1894 series since Marlin reintroduced the rifle. When they first brought it back on the market they all had the Microgroove barrels. This barrel has many very shallow grooves to spin the bullet. There are several advantages and disadvantages to this barrel. The bullet is distorted less and this can mean slightly better accuracy. The downside of the Microgroove is that it does not work particularly well with fairly soft cast bullets. Now it's fine with very hard cast bullets but, as we know, hard bullets won't expand. Now, in the larger calibers this doesn't matter so much. Of course, at the time the thinking was that cast bullets were a thing of the past. Wrong-o. So now the Marlin 1894s all have have the old Ballard style deep cur rifling.

Another change is a push button safety on the receiver. This is an idiot modification put on in response to Washington, DC. This is what we get when lawyers get involved. The gun already has a half cock safety. which is all the safety anyone really needs.

Now the Marlin 1894 is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. I don't quite know why a shooter would want to put a scope on one of these, those little pistol cartridge carbines. By about 200 yards those short bullets lose enough velocity to be out of it. In the .357 a hundred and fifty is a pretty long poke, I wouldn't take a shot at an unwounded deer at much past 100 yards unless it was standing motionless. And at that range I don't need glass on top of the gun. To each his own, though. If one wants the scope it's not hard. I like the weight and balance of the unscoped carbine.

Anyhow, this is one of my favorite guns. Nine shots of a reasonably powerful cartridge. With a bit of practice one can shoot this gun as fast as one can recover from recoil and get an aimed shot out of a semiauto. An ideal woods deer hunting rifle, excellent for small game and great for a walkabout rifle. Not to mention, nearly perfect for defense. It's a great little gun to put ahint the door of a rural house to keep coyotes out of the chicken coop or discourage tractor thieves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pete. I really enjoyed reading your post.