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  1. #1
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    Default BLAST FROM THE PAST - LEVER ACTION

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    From 1999 - The Tactical Lever Action


    Ask any student of small arms to name the most typically American rifle and chances are that they will name the .30-30 lever action rifle. Manufactured for over a century by Marlin, Winchester, and others - the lever action invokes images of the Old West. We see Jimmy Stewart in "Winchester '73" smiting the enemies of justice and freedom with his "repeater". We see John Wayne admonishing his adversaries to "fill their hands" as he gallops forward, a stubby Winchester in each hand. And, of course, we see photos of that most American of presidents - Theodore Roosevelt wielding his lever action against all manner of beasties in Africa. This ubiquitous and understated weapon has played a very major role in this country's history.


    Today the lever action is most often seen in the hands of close range deer hunters as a brush gun. It is not likely to be the first weapon that comes to our minds when the talk turns to fighting. But make no mistake friends, as a fighting (anti-personnel) weapon, the lever action is just as useful and deadly today, on a lonely stretch of highway in the bad part of town, as it was in the dusty cow towns of the Kansas Territory more than a century ago.


    Today a rifle of this sort might be kept in tactical storage in a hall closet, above the hearth, or in the trunk of a car for unexpected social unpleasantries. In such a role the lever action has several advantages over other weapons that are more commonly thought of as fighting tools.


    Primarily, the lever action is inexpensive. Used examples in perfect working condition may be had for about a hundred bucks. Even brand new weapons will set you back less than the price of a night on the town for two. Compare that with the price of a more military-like, and hopefully still legal, Sturmgewehr-fighting rifle (If you can find one for sale these days)!


    The ammunition (.30-30 Winchester Centerfire) has all the characteristics desirable in a mid-range fighting rifle cartridge. In fact, the ballistics of the .30-30 cartridge are amazingly similar to those for the most specifically designed fighting cartridge of all, the 7.62X39 Russian chambered in the AK-47. Shot for shot, the .30-30 will do almost everything you could ask from a mid-range tactical rifle. And it will do these things as well as many military weapons will!


    Being "sporting guns", lever actions are usually issued with fairly good triggers which are crisp and conducive to hitting. Even if the trigger action is rough on some pieces, it is a simple matter to have it brought up to speed by a gunsmith. Additionally, you'd have to look long and hard to find a gunsmith that isn't familiar with the lever action lock-work. This is certainly more than we can say about the gritty as-issued, or modified triggers of some military grade weapons.


    Finally, the lever action rifle is more compact in its 16 inch barrel configuration than most other rifles that might be chosen to fill the role. Equally important in this age of sensitive, touchie-feelie, politically-correct idiots, it looks innocent. Don't dismiss this last attribute too easily. In our troubled and ignorant times - specially in certain states, juries release violent murderers and rapists because they are not intelligent enough to discern the real facts from the spun fiction. In California for example, such things as a bayonet lug or a 30 round magazine "like the SEALs use", may confuse them enough to change your life's plans...drastically.


    The standard .30-30 will suffice as issued for most duties. But enhancement may be undertaken to improve its performance. One area where improvements may be made is the sights. These weapons are issued with the old buckhorn type sights. They will do, but a rear ghost ring aperture sight with its accompanying front sight post will, in my opinion, do much better. These are available from various sources.


    My .30-30 carbine has a modified 1903-A3 rear sight whose aperture has been opened up to ghost ring configuration. This rear sight, coupled with a tall front sight at the end of the barrel, works very well indeed.
    Also useful is a leather butt-cuff. This keeps extra ammunition on the weapon itself. This may compromise the concept of the light carbine, but if you have to grab the rifle and run out of your house at 0'dark 30 one night to repel the Visigoths, you'll be glad the extra ammo was there. I know that I was always glad to have a few extras!


    Marlin once made a similar model called the "Marauder". If your fighting lever gun is too long, it is a simple matter to have your excess barrel lopped off at the local gunsmithy (make certain it remains at least 16" long to keep "you know who" away). Such a conversion will greatly enhance handling, as well as keep the spirit of the compact weapon.


    I thus modified an old Marlin 336 rifle that I rescued from the used gun rack at the local gun store. Total cost of the entire package was less than two hundred bucks (including a nice 4X Leupold scope, which I eventually mounted on another rifle!). It is short, light, hard hitting, rugged, cheap to replace if necessary...and well, it looks innocent. I obtained a supply of hunting grade PMC 150 grain .30-30 ammo and tested the combative utility of the carbine via a series of rifle exercises from Suarez International's Rifle Course. The drills involve both close range reactive shooting as well as longer distances possible in combative encounters. For purposes of uniformity, all drills commenced from the patrol ready position - that is gun held loosely at the belt level with the muzzle depressed to the offside.


    Head shots were fired from the shoulder at 25 meters. Body shots were next at 50 meters, 75 meters, and 100 meters. Multiple targets were shot at 50 meters distance as well as up close at 7 meters. Close quarters targets were engaged both with snap shots from the shoulder, as well as from the Close Contact CQB position. Approximately 200 rounds were fired to get an overall impression of the lever action rifle in the anti-personnel role. Our findings were that there is very little that a realistic rifleman (acting as an individual - not a member of a military rifle squad) can expect from his weapon that the lever action cannot deliver.


    If you are in need of an economic and effective rifle that offers as many advantages as a single rifleman can use within "defensive" or "urban" conflict distances, and you live in a place where an AK or AR is reserved for those in uniform, take a serious look at the lever action carbine. I think you'll like what you see.

    Copyright 1999, Gabriel Suarez
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  2. #2
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    The Truth About the Lever Action Rifle

    Few guys today will remember those heady days in Los Angeles. It was early 1992, and the focus of everything in the news and on television was the violent arrest of Rodney King. King, a known Altadena Bloc Crip Gangmember, became the rationale for a week of rioting in April of that year. Known today as the LA Riots. It was a violent time, and for young hard charging officers, it was a great time to be on the job. If you were in a Special Enforcement Unit, it was the time you would always recall as the busiest and most active part of your career.

    We heard stories of LA Gang members targeting officers off duty, on their way home or to work. We heard of road blocks set up by those same people. As much as the political officials and police administrators wanted to ignore it, we were facing an insurgency. At the time, the agency I worked for was very strict with weaponry for Special Enforcement. We had access to many things, but controls were tight and we often conducted entries with handguns and sawed off shotguns because we could handle it right then rather than wait for approval to go to the armory. The common idea of taking home your patrol rifle was so foreign as to be inconceivable. But I knew I needed something more than my pistol in my personal vehicle, and while I had several unregistered "AR assault rifles", I was reluctant to keep one in my personal car.

    After some thought, I went to the now defunct Pony Express Gun Store and bought an old used Marlin 336 in 30-30. The rifle was rusty and needed some work, but the action was smoother than anything I had ever seen. I bought it for the princely sum of about $100. My next stop was Hoag Gunworks in Canoga Park. I had an idea of what I wanted. This was going to be a rifle for killing humans not deer. It would be used well inside 100 yards, more likely inside 25 yards. I wanted it fast and handy and as short as I could make it without being arrested for an NFA violation. I had obtained a few items - the front sight for a Remington 870, and a rear sight from a Springfield 1903-A3 (with a large rear aperture). In retrospect, the standard sights that came on the rifle could have been improved a bit and then left alone. But Gunsite being fresh in my mind, I thought the Ghost Ring was the only way to go.

    I had Mr. Hoag cut the barrel to 16" exactly, crown it, mount the front sight and rear sight respectively, and polish the action. I had him do a trigger job and dehorn the hammer slightly. Once I had it back I added a leather stock-mounted ammo sleeve and put it in the trunk of my T-bird. That rifle rolled with me to work and home everyday beginning in early January of 1992 and through the riots and afterwards. There were some nights that it rode up front with me based on credible information received. I never had the opportunity to use it in its anti-personnel mode, but it was always there should the need arise.



    Today, a quarter century later, I see a renewed interest in the lever action. I will offer these points for consideration, from one who has already been there.


    1. The lever action rifle has value in locations where theft from a vehicle is likely (a stolen 30-30 is not as bad as a stolen Noveske M4).
    2. The lever action rifle has value in locations that are restrictive of modern weapons such as an AR.
    3. For anti-personnel use, the 30-30 is the choice. For anti-animal use the 45-70 may offer some advantages over the 30-30, but not for anti-personnel uses.
    4. The anti-personnel use of these rifles will not exceed 100 yards, and 25 yards will be more likely. For that, the standard sights will serve admirably.
    5. If you want more accuracy, get a red dot and not the Ghost Rings. Avoid those big fat front sights that the gun magazines get orgasmic about.
    6. Resist the temptation to add the accessories that seem so easy to add to an AR. A sleek and fast 30-30 is better than a fat and heavy 30-30 AR imitation.
    7. Shorter is better. Lighter is better.
    8. Look at the lead image of my original "Rodney King Riot Rifle" and compare it to the Braced Stakeout below it. Weapons like the Stakeout (Tac-14/Shockwave) were not available back then...and specially not in Los Angeles. But they are shorter and offer the same capability in the application as the 30-30.





    If I had a similar situation today I would likely opt for the braced Stakeout over the 30-30. But if you have your heart set on a Combat 30-30, here is what I suggest you do. Ignore all the naysayers that bemoan the poor quality of the modern lever action rifle. Today all American mass produced weapons will in fact need a trip to the custom gunsmith to make them into what they should be. That is a fact of life. Why is that? Because most gun buyers look at price first and only and gun companies have to present their wares at a price point that appeals to the masses. If you want excellence, buy whatever you want and take it to a custom shop to make it the way it should be.

    Keep it short. Barrel no longer than 16". Eschew ghost rings and leave the sights as they are. You can add improvements if you wish (such as tritium front sight, and improved rear open sight). Add a receiver mounted rail for addition of a red dot sight. Have a gunsmith slick up the trigger and the action (maybe have the bolt and lever finished in Np3). Make any reliability improvements that are needed (sometimes the extractor is a concern), and eliminate the silly crossbolt safety some of the guns come with. That is it.

    Then get some ammo and work with the rifle a bit. The best ways to run it will become evident to you. It is a very simple system.

    Original Gabe Suarez Article on the Lever Action (1999)
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    5,550
    "Then get some ammo and work with the rifle a bit."

    Be nice if .30-30 was cheap and readily available. Got one or two idle because I want to preserve my stash.

    Don't dry fire Winchesters. You'll break the firing pin sooner than later. Don't know about Marlins.
    Warrior for the working day.

    Es una cosa muy seria. --Robert Capa

    "...I rode the range in a Ford V8...Yippy Yi Yo Ki Yay." --Johnny Mercer (as modified)

    "What cannot be remedied must be endured."

    Vale et omnia quae.

    P:25

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Several years ago I drove to San Diego periodically on business. Having to go through two-three Border Patrol check points, any firearm in possession had to be California compliant. The lever action not only met that requirement, but is historically a benign implement of the hunt; the thought of it being a fighting rifle didn't even cross the mind. The lever action was my California business travel rifle; it's not about being "grey mans" as it is being a social chameleon.

    My free time spent roaming nearby So-Cal gun shops found that Californians loved their lever actions. A small cottage gunsmith community would trick out Marlins (which were plentiful at the time) much like Gabe's, the .357 and .44 was the favorite.

    If Ruger ever gets the Marlin line going again, it would be interesting to se if aftermarket accessories follow.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Default BLAST FROM THE PAST - LEVER ACTION

    I love my Marlin .357 lever gun. Copied a page from shotguns and made a bunch of Velcro backed ammo cards that I run on my stock. Two ammo cards fit in an AR mag pouch. Simple and effective.
    Last edited by Sigma05; 12-23-2021 at 12:58 PM.
    "Ex Umbris Venimus"

  6. #6
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    Jan 2018
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    Only things I would change/prefer is a .357 and maybe a threaded barrel. Could share ammo with a MP340 when traveling to a commie state...


    Are there any good new production .357 lever actions or wait till Ruger hopefully brings them out?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar01 View Post
    Only things I would change/prefer is a .357 and maybe a threaded barrel. Could share ammo with a MP340 when traveling to a commie state...


    Are there any good new production .357 lever actions or wait till Ruger hopefully brings them out?
    Uberti but they're expensive. Cowboy action shooters use them more than all others combined, and quickly.
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  8. #8
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    Default BLAST FROM THE PAST - LEVER ACTION

    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar01 View Post
    Are there any good new production .357 lever actions or wait till Ruger hopefully brings them out?
    Ruger just released their new Marlin 1895s in 45-70. Shouldn’t be long before their other models come out. Including the 1894 in .357. Uberti is definitely a more high end option as mentioned.


    Last edited by Sigma05; 12-23-2021 at 04:29 PM.
    "Ex Umbris Venimus"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    Exiled in Texas
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    The smoothest lever gun I've ever shot was an 1892, chambered in .357 mag. It had a stubby little 16" barrel that felt almost pistol-short. If I recall correctly, it was made by Rossi. I didn't get to put any magnum rounds through it; just some .38 Special LRN loads. With those, it had negligible recoil and could hammer anything out to 100y. It certainly wouldn't be as potent as a .30-30, but I wonder about the pistol caliber guns--particularly the .44 mag models.

    The lever gun certainly shows its glory in a courtroom. Imagine that dipshit DA in the Rittenhouse trial trying the same stunt with a gun that looks like it came out of John Wayne's closet.
    Virtute et Armis

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Will Gabe’s crew of sneaky elves tackle the NP3 job as mentioned above?

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