Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The .357 Mag in a Carbine

Probably the best single gun a person could buy. It is good enough to do many jobs, is light in recoil (very light with .38 Specials), light to carry and easy on the budget. One can choose a Winchester Model 92 clone or the Marlin 1894C. The Winchester 1894 was made in .357 Mag but has been discontinued. Likewise, one could go with the Timberwolf pump gun or any of the 1873 clones. I am somewhat leery of the later for continuous use as .357 Magnums but they've been around for a while and much used. I'll confine most of my comments to the Winchester 92 clones and the Marlin 1894C.

Ammo isn't a problem. Just about any commercially available ammo for the .38 Special or .357 Magnum will work in these rifles. The only exception in the Marlin 1894C is the .38 Special wadcutter but some of the Winchester 92 clones will feed these without problems or alterations. However, the wadcutter ammo can be singly loaded and is a wonderful small game load. Recoil of the most powerful of these loads will be in the very mild range of about 7.3 fpe compared to the 14.3 fpe of the .30-30. The Winchester 1873 guns are very sensitive to cartridge overall length.

As I've said before, I do have some favorite loads to cover the gamut of use for me. #1 is the Federal full wadcutter load. This load shoots to point of aim at 25 yards when the gun is sighted at 100 yards with my .357 Magnum 180 gr bullet load. One can duplicate the factory load with 2.7 gr. Bullseye and a 148 gr. wadcutter.

#2 favorite load uses either the Hornady 180 gr. XTP or Remington 180 gr. SJHP over 15 gr. of L'ilGun. I prefer to use CCI's small pistol magnum primers for this and load #3.

#3 is the Hornady 158 gr. XTP-FP (emphasis on the FP which is designed for these velocities while the HP is not) over 18 gr. of L'ilGun. This load gets an honest 2000 fps from my carbine. It would be an about perfect all-around load for deer and varmints. I don't use it on squirrels or rabbits though!

The weight of these two carbines is a very portable and usable 5½ to 6½ pounds maximum with the Marlin 1894C being the heavier of the two. The 1894C is what I have. The major advantage the Marlin has is being drilled and tapped for and readily accepting a telescopic sight. The 92's major advantage is in weight. Either are more than strong enough to handle any factory .357 Magnum load.

A short aside about the guns. First, if you decide you want a 92 clone you can do no better than to visit Steve's Gunz and get one of his Rossi guns already slicked up with all the negatives mitigated. That would include his slicking up of the action, replacement of the plastic follower with one of metal and removal of the stupid bolt top safety. He'll also install a peep sight on that gun to fully exploit the cartridge.

Second, if you're going to get a Marlin and don't want one of the current cross-bolt safety guns, you're going to have to look around for one. The good news is that you probably won't have to pay a premium for the pre-safety gun. That's a good thing!

Sights are a flexible option mostly because the legitimate operating range for these rifles maxes out at about 150 yards and that is due more to energy levels at that range for deer size targets and the practical limits of accuracy for the smaller game. I prefer the Williams Foolproof receiver sight because it adds precision while remaining as compact as the factory open sights. However, I compact 4X or 1-5X variable is about ideal for this platform. I understand that some folks are using scout mounts to put IER and EER scopes on the 92 clones. For those that can utilize them or NEED them, scope sights are doable and usable.

So, you might say, just what is such a "light" carbine good for? Well, using .38 Special loads of your preference it is an excellent small game gun. Back before the turn of the 19th to the 20th century cartridges (both rimfire and centerfire) with the ballistic output of the .38 Special wadcutter load were considered outstanding small game guns. The .38 Special roundnose (yes roundnose) is an excellent plinking/training round for the gun. It does or can be made to slickly feed through the .357 Magnum guns, the recoil is about nil (actually around 3-4 fpe) and it is plenty accurate (oh, and still relatively CHEAP, too). The .357 Mag 125 gr. load, often recommended for revolvers used for self-defense, is a hot self-defense load and much easier on the ears from the carbine than from the revolver. Lots of folks find a shoulder gun easier to use accurately under stress and it has the added bonus of being legal where a handgun might not be. Move up to the 158 gr. and 180 gr. loads (personal preference & locale might have a lot to do with the choice) and you have a viable big game rifle. At least it will be suitable for deer, eating sized hogs, and certainly larger varmints like coyotes. One might even use it on bear, in a pinch, maybe not, without being tremendously undergunned. With forethought one could single load CCI's shot cartridges for eliminating poisonous snakes around the homestead. Again, this is a tremendously versatile firearm.

Frankly, I don't see how anybody serious about a cost effective firearms collection could avoid getting a .357 Mag carbine.

1 comment:

CalFred said...

Interesting and I believe astute observation of this as the best single gun you can buy.