Thursday, December 16, 2004

Nearing Year's End

Well, we're coming to the years end. Only a few (15) days left in 2004 and there have been many interesting things that happened this year.

My love of the lever action rifle has re-awakened and I am encouraged to find some of those guns that I always wanted when I was a kid but never found due to circumstance OR had and let go.

From top to bottom: Marlin 1894C .357 Magnum, Marlin 39-A Mountie .22 LR, Marlin 336T .30 WCF (.30-30 Winchester), Winchester M94 .30 WCF and Browning 1886 .45-70 Government

The first rifle was the first I bought this year and I got it from a forum member. Lever action rifles, particularly those made before the current legislated spate of add-on safeties, are difficult to find in this area. They can be found but I think that the majority either sell them to family and friends or hold on to them! When Lubbockdave offered this one I was on it! Of course he'd shot it a lot, apparently with .38 Specials (and kept the chamber clean) and it was well broken in and slick! I immediately installed a Williams Foolproof Receiver Sight (you might notice that I have this habit!) and went to the range. I quickly discovered that the rifle was accurate and fun and the .357 Magnum cartridge in the rifle is a winner. My load for this rifle is 15 gr. of Hodgdon's Lil'Gun under the Remington 180 gr. SJHP lit by the CCI550 primer. This load produces about 1675 fps and is adequate for all Virginia game to about 100 yards. Loading 18 gr. of Lil'Gun under the Hornady 158 gr. FP/XTP also lit by the CCI550 primer produces 2000 fps! This is the load for those who want to maximize velocity while retaining the suitability of the rifle for deer and the FP bullet holds together better than the HP version of the XTP.

The second rifle illustrated is actually the last I purchased this year. I found it on with a "Buy It Now" price of $300 but a minimum bid of $250! I bid the minimum and nobody else bid on it! This is an outstanding price for my area and I was offered $300 at the shop when I picked it up.

I'd always wanted a Mountie but, when I was a kid, you didn't spend money on what you did not NEED. Dad had a .22 I could use and I didn't have the money for one. When I turned 18 and had money I did buy a .22 but it was a Winchester M320, a bolt gun with a detachable magazine (and I still have it!). Yes, I already had a Williams Foolproof and mounted it. I then rushed to the range to try it out. At this point, I'm using the Winchester PowerPoint and it did very well at the range. Even with the factory bead sight, I was able to shoot groups no bigger than a squirrel's head at 25 yards. I think it will do better than that. It does have one flaw in that the tube magazine catch needs some work but it functions well (and is smooooooooth) and is accurate and I'm glad I bought it.

The third gun from the top, the Marlin 336T is a straight grip version of the rifle I had bought in 1970 (or rather my DAD bought for me). I liked that gun (also with a Williams Foolproof) but foolishly traded it off. The .30 WCF (.30-30 Winchester) cartridge needs no description by me. My load in all 3 of my .30-30s is 30 gr. of IMR 3031 under a 170 gr. FP lit by the CCI200 primer. I get 2100-2200 fps from my rifles. I killed my first deer (which dropped where it stood) with the rifle I owned earlier and I've got complete confidence in this rifle. After all, it will put a magazine into just 2½" at 100 yards even though the factory bead subtends the target bull at that range. I think it is a great gun.

The fourth gun is a Winchester M94 in .30 WCF. This gun was built (shipped) in 1943 and is a flatband, i.e. the front band is flat rather than curved. the gun was probably produced so that people could hunt for food during the rationing period of WWII. It isn't marked as such and so it is unlikely that it was used by the bridge or railroad guards. I traded a sofa for it in 1977 and when I got it it had a pine 2x4 that had been carved, very roughly, into a stock. It still worked but needed a new carrier spring. I also had it reblued and installed the Williams Foolproof. This is a great gun and because the front bead is smaller than the Marlin, it is easier to hold and shoot 2-2½" groups at 100 yards. I have killed deer with this rifle and after my divorce it was my only deer rifle.

The fifth and bottom rifle in the photo is a Browning 1886. Made by Browning as a reproduction of the Winchester 1886 and chambered for the .45-70 Government cartridge this is a Saddle Ring Carbine (SRC). I bought this one from another Leverguns forum member and it is a good one indeed. NIB when I got it I've already carried for a whole deer season and the stock has picked up the inevitable nick or two. Not to worry, I've already got a Williams Foolproof to mount but await the end of the deer and Christmas seasons before taking it to my gunsmith for drilling and tapping. Not much to say about the .45-70 cartridge either as it is well know and much has been written. I'm currently shooting the Federal factory 300 gr. "express" load (for which the gun is zeroed) or my reload equivalent. I wanted to get this gun for elk and/or moose hunting (if the opportunity ever presents itself) and for that purpose I think I will load a good 400 gr. bullet at about 1800 fps. I imagine that that will be all the recoil I will want!

These are wonderful rifles but I will be seeking three more. I like having examples of everything.

The first of those rifles I've yet to buy are a clone of the Winchester M92 in .45 Colt set up for me by Steve of Steve's Gunz who will buy a rifle or carbine at wholesale, set it up and ship to my dealer.

The second of those rifles is more up in the air. I'm thinking that I'd like a Savage 99 and would prefer to get one in .358 Winchester. I'd also like to get a Winchester M71 in .348 Winchester. These two cartridges are almost identical in performance. This makes the decision very difficult so I'm hoping that I get some clarity as I approach the time when I can actually afford one!

I could do it all with the rifles I have already but we know that being merely practical isn't the point.

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