Gut Rumbles

May 19, 2005

a request

While I was shopping for guns that I didn't buy today, I asked my nefarious acquaintence to look into something for me. I want a lever-action repeating rifle in the .30 caliber range. I've been watching too many "Gunsmoke: reruns lately, and I want the kind of rifle that won the west.

I'd prefer a .30-06, but a .30-30 will probably do just fine. I just want a rifle that looks like the one Matt Dillon carries in that saddle-sheath of his. I'd like a genuine Winchester, but I'll take whatever I can get at a reasonable price.

I checked with Catfish today and even HE doesn't have a lever action rifle. He's probably got close to 100 guns in his house, but he doesn't have one of those. That fact made me want one even more than I already did.

I want a .30-06 if possible, because you can shoot anything from squirrels to a full-grown moose with one of those, depending on the ammo you use. I've never had much experience with a 30-30, but I can probably figure that one out if it's what I can get when I have the chance. My acquaintence said that he would look into that project for me.

I've never owned a lever-action rifle. I have HAD pumps, semi-autos and bolt action rifles, but I've never owned an old-fashioned, genuine lever-action model, the kind that once scared Indians away when you were alone on the prarie. I understand that Marlin makes a .22 now that looks just like an old frontier Winchester, but I don't need another .22. I want the real deal.

Anybody know anything about a good lever-action rifle in the .30 caliber range that ain't going to break my wallet to buy it?


Yep, I have a lever action Winchester 30-30 circa 1978 (or so). Best gun I have ever shot. Deadly accurate at 100-150 yards easy. If your a damn good shot with one maybe 200.
If I where looking I would go to the pawn shops first and look for one(though I do not know the Georgia law on this) you might be able to pick one up fairly cheap without all th e paperwork bullshit. If you happen to find one it will be one of the most fun investments you have made in a awhile.

Posted by: gravdigr on May 20, 2005 12:43 AM

The classic lever action is the Winchester Model 94 in 30-30.

One of the traits of 30-30 ammo is that all of the bullets are soft-nose bullets. This is because lever action 30-30s have a tube magazine. This means that the point of one cartridge touchs the primer of the cartridge in front of it. The 30-30 bullets are sufficiently blunt-nosed (and lead blunt-nosed at that) that they cannot ignite the primer in front of it.

Were that 30-06 rounds loaded in a tube magazine, given an adequate shock (i.e. a round being fired from the rifle, or the rifle being dropped), some of the pointier 30-06 rounds could easily cause the ignition of the round ahead of it , thus spoiling the shooter's day.

So only particular types of rounds will ever be found chambered in a lever action rifle. Typically these are 30-30, 44 SPL/Mag, 45 ACP, 45 LC, 40-50 Government, etc.

I have heard that more deer have been taken with the 30-30 round than any other round, so there is certainly some merit in this smaller brother of the 30-06. It's a round rich with its own history, and is a cartridge that has withstood the test of time.

Posted by: Hank on May 20, 2005 01:39 AM

I would check out the Marlin 336C. It's based on the Winchester Model 94 in .30-30. It features a 6shot tubular magazine, a beautiful black walnut stock with checkering and a rubber butt pad, and the steal has been blued. Adjustable folding rear site and the receiver is tapped for a scope and you can offset the hammer spur to the left or right for scope use.

A good dealer should beable to get you this rifle for between $380 and $420. Although the market in your area could make the price something otherwise.

Posted by: chaos on May 20, 2005 02:08 AM

Gitcha an *old* Savage 99, with the rotary magazine. They handle pointy bullets, no problem. Might be expensive, though.

Posted by: Justthisguy on May 20, 2005 04:40 AM

Nothing wrong with the model 94 Winchester 30-30. I've had one for years. In fact I shot my first deer with one and several more in the following years. I've used it to bring down elk as well. It's a great gun and handy as hell.

I also have a Savage 99. The design of this rifle makes it so that it can handle higher pressure loads. Trouble is, is finding one. They've been out of production for some time. I think the model 94 is way handier though.

If one were to find a model 99 in a .308 caliber for a reasonable price and in good shape however, you'd be doing yourself a HUGE favor by picking that puppy up.

Posted by: Daniel Medley on May 20, 2005 05:27 AM

Yeah, I have a Marlin 336C in .35 Remington. A great brush gun here in Michigan. Hardly any recoil either.

Posted by: Terry on May 20, 2005 06:19 AM

Hell, Rob, hie yourself down to Wally-World and pick up a Win94 in.30-30. It's a hell of a lot better round than people give it credit for being. You can buy a new one for under $300.

Or, get your butt to a pawn shop and pick up a used one for under $200.

Either way you'll be glad you did.

Posted by: PawPaw on May 20, 2005 06:37 AM

i used to own a pre-1964 Win.30-30.a collector friend sold it to me with the understanding i would return -sell it to him if needed to let it go.i took several deer with it and managed to knock down one friend claimed that rifles with a lower starting serial number than a 27... were of the best Winchester quality. something to do with the steel and machining. also had the Marlin 22 a beautiful piece of a rifle.

Posted by: c.j.g. on May 20, 2005 07:30 AM

I've also got an old Savage 99 (in .308) and I would swear by it. This is one of the toughest, most reliable weapons I have ever shot. They can be hard to find, but I have seen them in a couple local pawn shops here in Texas for very reasonable prices. If you can find one this would be a fine choice.

Posted by: Steve on May 20, 2005 07:36 AM

I've got a Marlin Model 1894 lever action carbine chambered for .44 Mag which I carry with my Ruger Super Redhawk stainless .44 Mag. That way I only carry one ammunition for both the revolver and the carbine. By the way, either one will stop most anything on two or four legs....guaranteed.

Posted by: Vulgorilla on May 20, 2005 08:11 AM

Yes, I know a lot. My Dad is a Winchester collector. When I was growing up there were model 73's, 76's, 92's, and 94's, behind every corner. They only one we don't got is the model 95.

The model 94 in 30-30 (we've got five or six of these), while ubiqutous is actually kinda sucky and very expensive. If you're actually gonna hunt with the thing, get a Marlin in 30-30 or even a .35. (or .444 for bear) These can be had for $300 to $500.

I won an auction today. I just told the wife and she's not happy. I got a Savage model 99 (The lever action competition to Winchester) in .303 Savage caliber for $349.00. Made in 1919. A thing of beauty. I'll be sleeping with it soon as soon as it comes in the mail. (I've got a C&R FFL).

And Rob, I've been interested in a .410 derringer for a while now. What brand was it that you didn't buy?

Posted by: Ed on May 20, 2005 08:32 AM

What you want Rob is a "Big Bore 94" Winchester 30-30. The Marlin 336 is a nice substitute, if you can't find the original.

Posted by: Florida Bill on May 20, 2005 08:38 AM


A vote for the Marlin 336 in .30-30. Had a Winchester Model 94 (agin in .30-30) for years and it is a game getting sumbitch. I have a .30-06 that belonged to a great uncle and it stays cased.

I had a Marlin in .45-70 when I lived in Oregon that I used for elk hunting - but the .30-30 is plenty of deer gun if you can shoot worth a damn. (I prefer the 170 gr. bullet.)

These days I have the Marlin 336, a .22 LR and .22 mag, and an M-1 Garand for . . er, social events.

I promise you will enjoy the lever gun. It is my hunting favorite - gets the job done and I am not dead from carrying it at the end of the day.

Posted by: Jay on May 20, 2005 08:40 AM

Winchester 94 .30-.30 was the first rifle I owned bigger than a .22.

Dad bought me that rifle when I was 12.
Accurate as hell, beautiful walnut stock, action like oiled glass....

Posted by: Graumagus on May 20, 2005 08:48 AM

The .308 has nearly the same velocity and knockdown power as a 30.06 with comparable grain lead. Range about the same-fairly accurate at 200 yards from a bench rest provided the rigling is still good in one of those old Savages.

the 30.30 is one of the most popular bores around. However, despite what you hear anything over a 150 yards takes some knowledge of Kentucky windage. Try one on a 200 yard range with 170 grain lead and you will see what I mean. Lots of drop out past a 100 yards.

A .243 in a lever action is a sweet weapon. Little recoil, fast, and accurate a 200 plus yards. Great for 'varmits' and legal for deer most places.

The .44 Mag is a hell of a brush gun with enough knock down power to stop a raging buffalo. 100 yards is about it on range and at 200 yards will drop more than a foot.

Good luck finding one of these lever actions that you just want to look at and not purchase.
Pesonally like the Rem 7mm mag but there is not a lever action made thus far that can handle it.

Posted by: GUYK on May 20, 2005 09:28 AM

.. I've got a model 94 Winchester 30-30... and a Marlin .444... both are great weapons, and a real pleasure to shoot...

Posted by: Eric on May 20, 2005 09:48 AM

Use what Teddy Roosevelt used:


And yes, modern Browning versions are available in .30-'06.

Sorry 'bout not HTML-ing the link, but I'm away from my own PC and don't have the clif-notes handy. Please feel free to edit this comment to encode those links!

Also, check out Kim's take on the Winchester / Marlin comparison:

There are/were several lever-action rifles featuring box-type magazines, which are necessary when chambering spitzer type bullets. Otherwise, you're stuck with the tube magazine and round nose / blunt tipped bullets per Hank's comment.

It'll be a nice rifle for you not to own, Rob.

Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim on May 20, 2005 10:14 AM

Can't go wrong with the Marlin per the comments above.

Posted by: torchpraise on May 20, 2005 12:00 PM

... or you could go for the Daisy Red Rider BB gun ... but be careful, or "you'll shoot your eye out".

Posted by: Max on May 20, 2005 12:17 PM

A Winchester 1895 could be and was chambered in .30-06. It has a single stack vertical magazine, so the pointy bullets don't cause a problem.

The problem with it is they don't make 'em anymore and they command a steep price. There are three chambered in .30-06 listed in GunsAmerica, one for $1895 and two at $1200.

The Savage 99 is a lever action that uses a rotary magazine. Prices seem to be in the $500-1000 range, but I didn't see one in .30-06 listed on the GunsAmerica site. Lots of them in .300 Savage though.

Posted by: Curtis on May 20, 2005 12:57 PM

Sheesh. 410 derringers seemed a little effetish, now you are stooping to lever-action rifles. They are cute...but hells bells. I thought you wanted to SHOOT.
30-30 Lever guns have killed a lot of white tails, but they also lead the stats for limp-offs and die laters I'd betcha.
The CMP has 1903A3 30-06s for 420.00 delivered. There are any number of 30-06 bolt guns available with scopes. I'd shuck off that derringer you don't own for a 1911 or even a Kahr 9mm if you have to put something in your pocket.
I worry about your gun-shui. Next thing we know you will be thinking up a "handle", strapping on some chaps and a big hat and joining the SASS.
If you aren't going to own a gun, at least don't own a GOOD gun.
PS: I'm not sure that Catfish person is a good influence.

Posted by: robert on May 20, 2005 01:00 PM

Downsides to a Winchester 94 in .30-30:
- the .30-30 round is underpowered
- no pointy bullets allowed
- top eject means you can't have a scope (the Marlin is side eject)
- the receiver isn't as strong as the Marlin

Whatever. The .30-30 is powerful enough, and gives trivial recoil in a light, handy rifle. You can get a Lyman peep sight that's just as effective as any scope, and doesn't mess up the balance. Finally, the Winchester is BEAUTIFUL, which the Marlin is not; it's slender, and it's lighter than the Marlin.

But don't get a new one. Get a pre-'64. If it's been well taken care of, the action will be smooth as oiled glass, as they say (way smoother than the Marlin). It'll be made of premium materials with fine craftsmanship, and it won't have the stupid cross-bolt safety. There is no reason for a safety on a lever-action rifle.

Posted by: dipnut on May 20, 2005 01:36 PM

I'll, likewise, recommend the Savage 99.

I have one in .300 Savage (which is respectable, but not nearly so widely available and inexpensive as the .308), and it's a beautiful, absurdly well-made gun.

Posted by: Sigivald on May 20, 2005 01:53 PM

It'd be interesting to see what kind of condition the bore is on this gun.

Posted by: Daniel Medley on May 20, 2005 02:04 PM

Robert, you are a bit preachy, but esentially correct. In 1983, while deer hunting, I had the pleasure of having a 350 pound female black bear walk up on me. Four shots later she expired AT MY FEET. She was trying to get a piece of my ass. All shots were good, but just not enough. I swore never to hunt with a 30-30 again and I've kept that promise. (Bear number two was taken with a 30-06)

Now I've done gone and bought a model 99 in .303 Savage, the balistic equivalent of the 30-30. Bite me. It was just too damned pretty NOT to buy.

I've got about 500 rounds of .410 and I just can't get excited about shooting it in my long guns. I'm gonna get me one of them derringers that Rob didn't buy!

Posted by: Ed on May 20, 2005 02:11 PM

I've got both a Winchester 30-30, and a Winchester .44 mag. I shoot the .44 all the time, never shoot the 30-30.

Posted by: Bane on May 20, 2005 02:33 PM

Screw the 30-30. Imagine yourself a nice Marlin lever in .44 Magnum.

They're extremely fun, and a great excuse to buy a .44 pistol to go with it.

Posted by: Mr. Lion on May 20, 2005 02:47 PM

Go with the Marlin 30 - 30 I have one. I bought the short model, put a scope on it and it shoots a 1-1/4" group at a hundred yards, but I do my own reloading.

The Winchesters are kind of junky, the marlin is solid, I like it because it is fun to shoot, not a serious weapon like my 300 weatherby. The biggest thing I have ever killed with it is a 200lb feral hog.

Posted by: Gregg on May 20, 2005 03:40 PM

How about a word from someone who has had one and never wants another one.
They are fine guns, Well balanced, 'nuff accurate, and you can get pretty good, even, shooting from the hip like in the movies. So well balanced with all those cartridges in the tube, you can get so you know how many shots you have left by the change in balance.
Had to have one. Used it one deer season and couldn't wait to get rid of it.
If it is a gun that you are going to load, and keep loaded at all times, go for it, you can't go wrong.
But here is the deal.
Major pain in the ass to unload. If you gotta keep unloading it to lock it in your trunk, or gun safe, you will grow to hate that sumbitch. Even knew a guy who shot himself in the mouth unloading one. Had it down to a science, he did. Done it a thousand times. Put your cap on the ground, set the stock on your shoe and just rack those live rounds into your hat. Easy right. KEEP YOUR FACE AWAY FROM THE BARREL.
In one season, I had the hammer get pulled into
'Full ock' by branches and such when walking thru heavy brush.
Now the Clip an Vertical loading lever actions, well that is something different. You have just bought yourself a bolt action wannabe. Might as well just Jack-off. Dont have to worry about balance there,..
There is none. Talking real clumsy.
One other thing. When I had my Winchester, there were a lot of guys with Marlins, telling me to buy Marlins. Back then the only reasoln to buy a Marlin was because you could not afford a Winchester.
Nopbody wants to admit making a mistake, they would rather encourage you to make the same.
Gonna load it and leave it loaded---go for it.
You will never be sorry.

Posted by: GrampaPinhead on May 20, 2005 06:21 PM

Have shot both the Win94 and Marlin in .30-30. Shoot about the same. The side eject on the Marlin much better for scope or other non-iron sight mount.

If you've got brush, try the Marlin in .444 or .44Rem. Good to Very Good stopping power, and won't tumble after nicking a twig.

The Winchesters are twice as pretty as the Marlins, but the Marlins cost half as much. Hmmm, there's a nasty parallel to that one...

Posted by: Jack in TX on May 20, 2005 06:25 PM

If you want a cowboy lever gun, (don't) get a Marlin .30-30. None better. Strong as hell, plenty accurate, and you can mount a scope on it, although I think it looks like shit. And the .30-30 will work on anything you're going to shoot at, in your neck of the woods. Ignore the big-caliber guys -- you just don't need it.

If you want to go the full nostalgia route, (don't) get a Winchester 94 in .30-30, and if you can afford the premium, (don't) get one which was made before 1964 (aka. the "pre-64").

If you want a beautiful and well-designed lever rifle, (don't) get a Savage 99 in either .300 Savage or .308 Win (you're not going to shoot a thousand rounds a year through it, so the .300 Savage is what would get my vote -- less recoil than the .300 Savage).

I have both kinds: a 1935-made Win 94 in .32 Win Special (never mind the caliber, it was a good deal from a good friend), and a 1963-made Savage 99 in .308 Win.

I'll never sell either: I love them both. My only regret is that the Savage isn't in .300 Savage.

If you'd ever bother to drag yer sorry Cracker ass over to Dallas, I'd let you shoot them both, just to see.

Not that I'm nagging, or anything.

Posted by: Kim du Toit on May 20, 2005 08:59 PM

Rob, nothing I can add to Kim's response. I think you want ^h^h^h^h would be happy with a Winchester 94 in either .30/30 or .32 Special. (As someone said once, the .30/30 is/was popular *because* of the Model 94, not the other way around.) That said, I LOVE my Savage 99, think that Browning BLRs in 7mm Mag. are the bee's knees, wouldn't mind tripping across a Winchester 88 in any of the issued calibers, and that Marlins in any flavor, rimfire or centerfire, are worthy of a place of honor in any gunrack . But, THAT said, I cherish my saddleguns, handy little buggers that they are. But YOU will probably want a Rooster Cogburn loop lever to boot, won't you? 8-)


Posted by: JohnW on May 20, 2005 10:07 PM

Yep. I've got a Marlin 30-30 lever action that came wiht a saddle scabbard that my step-dad gave me years ago. I love this gun. It's a great caliber for deer, elk what have you, especially in brushy conditions. Since it's lower velocity than a 30-06, it's IMHO a better round for mucking about in the brush. And, there's something about a lever action. I don't know. Maybe it was all those old westerns I used to watch as a kid. Whatever it is, that Marlin is one of the most fun to shoot and definitely one of my favorites. Trust me, you'll love owning one!

Posted by: Jdog on May 21, 2005 06:03 PM

If you want a plinker, and something that might be used now and again for a hunting gun I see no reason not to go with a Marlin 1894 in .347. I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned.

With a good .357 load from the guys at Buffalo Bore you can get 30-30 performance out if it. Now, I've got nothing against the 30-30 round, but it's not cheap compared to the .38 specials that you can "plink" with out of the Marlin 1894 in .357.

Since most of MY shooting out of my lever gun in me playing cowboy it made sense to pay a bit more for a .357 gun than a .30-30. If I ever feel the need to take a deer with it then I can buy some high-end ammo for it, but in the mean time I'm quite happy to plink away with the case of .38 specials I've got laying around.

If you want to go through 20-50 shells of ammo in a year, then a 30-30 makes sense. If you want to go through 500ish, go with the .357 version and plink with the .38's.

Posted by: Justin Buist on May 21, 2005 11:36 PM

Just one problem with that Justin. The majority od sporting rifles were made for the 20 to fifty rounds a year. Start putting 500 rounds a year through them and within a few years you will wonder where the acuracy went! If you just want to target shoor then you need a target rifle with a thicker barrel and heavier cut riflings that will not wear out with use.

Posted by: GUYK on May 22, 2005 07:40 AM

Why is there some 99s savage Lever action have the brass cartridge counter on the left side of the rifle and some 99s dont have it. Does anybody know.

Posted by: Mike on October 26, 2005 02:41 PM

I own a marlin 336c 30/30 lever. It shoots great! It's more of a brush rifle than a precision. But it has no problems taking a deer down. As actions go levers are one of the smoothest feeling I've ever experienced. Also I have always trusted hammerd weapons over any of the hammerless. Personally I think they are safer, not as prone to go off if you drop it.

Posted by: Alan Olinzock on January 23, 2006 06:02 PM
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