Favorite Guns Part 2
By Terry Murbach
After finishing part I of this expose and in reality just skipping lightly across the surface of favorite handguns (How could I forget my old Colt National Match .45 ACP with 55,000 + rounds through that finely rifled tube, or the Kimber Gold Match, my "livin’ gun" bought in celebration of living through one hell of a bad accident, or my two carry guns, a Glock 20 and Glock 30, one of which is on my side 12 hours each day, or the Shootist Bisley SS.22…) It dawned on me that I’d forgotten an entire class of guns so important to my being that life wouldn’t be the same without them; lever action rifles and carbines.
My first lever gun was a Marlin .39M Mountie, with a six dollar weaver B4 scope. It shot beautifully with WW22 LRHP’s cutting one hole groups at 50 yards. I used it with every satisfaction until I heard the siren call of a Savage Anschutz M141 (or was it 181, not sure). The Anschutz was a fine 22 rifle, never missed a single shot at squirrels, groundhogs black birds, etc. in the six or eight years I used it. Superbly accurate it was ugly as a manure sandwich with its blond wood stock. Darn wood looked like a canoe paddle; The Anshutz surely did not have the panache of the blued still, American walnut stocked Marlin .22 lever gun. I traded the Anschutz for a star Model F .22 pistol (don’t ask…) and went without F .22 rifle for six years. In 1977 I bought another Marlin Mountie and was dismayed to find it shot something awful, the only bad shooting Marlin .22 I’ve ever heard of. I called Marlin, talked with a young fellow in their service department who said that Mountie had bad rifling and the barrel was probably crooked in the receiver, "ship it back here". In a few days I had a newly re-barreled Mountie back, re-mounted the scope, and off we went to the range, as luck would have it, a pal of mine was there to test fire his brand new Kimber .22 bolt gun. To make a long story short my re-barreled Marlin Mountie out shot that Kimber .22 so badly it wasn’t even close. I still own this Mountie. One of these days I’m gonna take the scope off this Mountie and put receiver sights on it.
There is no more versatile light carbine than a .357 Magnum lever gun. Light of recoil, more powerful than a .44 Magnum sixgun, a .357 Mag lever gun handles swiftly and can be point shot out to a fair distance almost like a shotgun. The average Marlin, Rossi, or Browning .357 will hit near 2200 fps with Federal or Cor-Bon .357-125 JHP loads; these splatter soft targets. Most .357-158 gr loads fly at 1750-1800 fps and are deadly on deer sized game. The Cor-Bon .357-140 JHP’s go 1850 fps out of my Rossi and are my favorite load. The Cor-Bon .357-180’s are superior deer killers and hit 1550 from my Rossi. I always have a .357 lever gun near by 24 hours a day, home or on the road.
In the early ‘70’s I bought a Marlin ’94 .44 Magnum. I figured it to be a lighter recoiling gun, easier to shoot for longer periods of time than my .44 Mag sixguns. Wrong again, powder breath. A box of 50 .44 Mag 240 JHP’s out of that smooth Marlin leaves me punch drunk, I swear. A 240 gr JHP at 1750-1800 fps has some serious punch on both ends. What would you think of a 30 caliber re-loadable .22 Magnum? This is how I see my .32/20 Browning lever gun. It shoots 100 gr SWC bullets at 1550 fps with 533 fps. The more traditional 115 gr LFN bullets fly at 1400 fps for 500 fpe. I’ve yet to pop anything with my .32/20 other than paper, rocks, and tin cans but I’m willing to place a small bet the first critter to intercept one of those flat point lead bullets is not long for this earthly domain.
If you don’t own a 30/30 lever gun, you ain’t an American cowboy. No big game rifle handles better or points more naturally. It’s become fashionable to bad mouth the 30/30 in this "modern" age but in it’s modern factory loadings, or with handloads tailored to a particular rifle it’s far more powerful than the original 1895 loads that Teddy Roosevelt said were excellent for African plains game and all but big bears here on the North American continent. You gonna argue with T.R.? I didn’t think so. Me neither. By the way, did you know the name "30/30" was coined by Marlin, not Winchester?
A couple years ago I found a new ’94 AE Winchester .356 collecting dust at the First Stop Gun Shop in Rapid City, SD. I grabbed it as I’d wanted a .35 Rem saddle gun since I was knee high to a toad stool. The .356 is far more powerful than the 35 Rem but it can always be loaded down. The only load I’ve tested are Winchester’s .356-200 gr PP loads. They fly at 2514 fps with 2807 fpe and shoot extremely well from that receiver sighted carbine. Felt recoil is the mildest of any big bore rifle I’ve ever fired and I’m not sure why this carbine doesn’t kick harder.
Now, if you’ve a yen to be seriously pushed around by a lever gun may I suggest top end loads form a .45/70. It’s hard to believe the resurgence of this 127 year old cartridge. Marlin is selling their 45/70 guide guns by the box car loads. My 45/70 lever gun is a Browning ’86 carbine with the 22" round barrel. It shoots beautifully and it’s curved butt plate beats the bejesus out of me with full power loads. My favorite everyday shootin’ load is the Remington 405 gr JSP load. I’ve yet to hand load for the 45/70. That is scheduled to change shortly.
This addition to my favorite hand guns was meant to point out my favorite lever guns. Shucks, I’ve never met a lever gun I didn’t like. Perhaps the finest lever gun of all time is the Savage 99. I have two in the Classic 99 calibers, 300 Savage and 250-3000 Savage. The 300 delivers 308 Win power and the 250-3000 easily equals 243 Win power shooting 87 or 90 gr bullets at 3250 fps and 100 gr bullets at 3050 fps. Arthur Savage was a genius; Bill Ruger Sr. says the three American gun designers are Colt, Browning, and Savage.
As for lever guns, the man who woke me up to their true potential in all their varied calibers was F. Paco Kelly. There is nothing you can do with a bolt action rifle that Paco can’t do with a lever gun. In the hunting fields lever guns have no superior.
There are two primeval thrills for me in shooting. One is the act of loading a single action revolver, the other is thumbing cartridges through the loading gate into a lever gun magazine. Oh, an finding a Marlin straight grip 336 in 35 Remington.