The Lever Action as a Fighting Rifle
[It worked for The Rifleman!]
Recently we had a thread discussing the merits and relevance of the lever action rifle. There has also been an article discussing, in part, the validity of the 30-30 cartridge. All of this, plus untold comments and posts on Red Flag and/or Assault Rifle bans got me thinking in a somewhat different direction. How valid is the lever action in general, the 30-30 in particular, as fighting rifle today. I’m not talking about home defense here, but as a real fighting rifle. For what it's worth, here’s my thoughts.
What are the advantages of the 336 Marlin or 94 Winchester (or pick yer poison, gents)? First, they are not nasty black plastic Assault Rifles. Yeah, yeah, I DO know the definition of “assault rifle”, but the average Joe we’re likely to encounter has no clue. Black rifle, extended magazine equals …. bad juju. The average lever action brings images of cowboys, western, rugged individualism, not the media promoted mass shooter. So, to Joe Average, 94 Winchester = John Wayne, Law and Order which, in turn, = no threat.
Second, look at the ballistics of the 30-30. Depending on your source, it compares very favorably with the 7.62X39 AK round. Both can be started at around 2,250 - 2,500 fps, both have a “minute of bad guy” rating of about 250 yards, and both drop less than 17” at 250 yards. All of that is comparing a 134 grain bullet (AK) to a 150 grain (30-30). Not too shabby for a blunt nose, 125 yer old cartridge.
Third, most all of the lever actions are portable. By this I mean that they balance well in the hand and are easy to carry. Natural carry point, without scope, is usually just forward of the receiver. The rifle will hang there all day without fatiguing your arm and come up instantly when needed. That same balance make these a natural pointer, with moderate recoil, which brings us to…
[16 shots, 9 seconds - No wonder he smirks]
Fourth, a lever action is fast! I’m no trained shooter by anyone’s definition, but I can consistently hit a 6” circle at 100 yards unsupported in rapid fire with my 94 Winchester. It is fairly easy to empty the magazine in 6 seconds and make every one count. With training and practice, younger men can do this in four seconds. I know, because I’ve timed them. Heck, just watch how fast Lucas McCain can fire his 92! And he never misses!!
So what about the downside? The first and foremost, when compared to the “assault rifle”, is magazine capacity. You won’t find lever actions with 30 round magazines. The tube usually holds 6 or 7, so you start with 7 or 8 in the rifle. Major disadvantage, no matter how you spin it. There are, of course, ways to minimize the reload time, like topping off after every 3-4 rounds, but that doesn’t make up for the disparity in mag capacity.
[Who dreamed up the "tactical" lever gun?
This is just SOOOOO wrong!]
The second I guess, is the lack of attachment points. Personally, I don’t see this as a disadvantage, but there is a distinct lack of mounting points for lasers, lights, red dots, co-witness mall ninja hyper glominated junk on an average lever gun. Of course, you CAN go to the Mossberg 464, which, in my not-so-humble opinion is the ugliest lever action ever made. If, however, you want the “tactical” look, it might suit your needs. I’m good with a 10 round elastic side saddle on the butt stock. Plastic has no place on John Wayne’s rifle! (course, neither does elastic. Should be laced leather. I’m working on that.)
What’s the take away? For me it’s that, barring a full scale zombie apocalypse or the entire city of Philadelphia attacking my house, I’m fine with my lever actions. Your mileage and opinion may vary. You have every right to disagree with me and I will defend your right to own as many AR's as you can afford. I just have no need for one. Winchester was good enough for John Wayne, it works for me.