This post isn't for you gunnies. You folks are pretty much sitting on go and have been for a while now. But there are a lot of people out there who are either just coming into our world or who badly want to only to find themselves on the outside of the rifle window looking longingly in. If you fit that description this post is for you. I hope the rest of you will chime in with your own corrections/suggestions in comments or on your own sites to help out our new brothers and sisters. We need to lend all the encouragement and advice we can.
Ok. The panic buying is in full swing and it's worse than I've ever seen. Even here in gun friendly Utah the shelves are bare of anything that even smacks of tactical or military. Including rifles, handguns and shotguns. Throw in the absolute dearth of any ammo in most popular calibers and we're talking about shortages here.
If you've stocked up over the months and years you're probably good to go. But what if you didn't? What if you're just now waking up and understanding what the progressive politicians and the media are really up to and find yourself in need of something with which to protect your family and your freedom? What if you want, no need, that "assault rifle" that you simply cannot buy and may never get to if things go bad for us?
The Evil Black Rifles and their handgun counterparts are, for the moment, gone. Inventory that should have lasted a year or more has evaporated and I hate to say it but it may be a while before any come available again. Ditto the ammo and without that bang bang you ain't gonna get your shooty on no matter what. What's the answer?
Beats me. Kidding. I kid because I love. I do have a suggestion though you will undoubtedly find others, either more or less qualified than I, who can point you in different directions. Make to mistake here. This isn't a direct replacement for a modern military pattern rifle and I'm not trying to tell you it is. It's an alternative when you find yourself in need and those rifles either aren't anywhere to be had or priced way out of your ability or comfort zone. Kinda like right now. Ok, enough waffling. Presenting one answer to the "Holy Crap I Can't Get An EBR! Now What?" problem.
First off DON'T PANIC! Guns aren't going to be outlawed (probably). Take a deep breath and seek your center. Better now? Ok. But that doesn't really help here and now does it. There's a real shortage out there and prices are spiking. There are alternatives.
That's a Winchester Model 94 in 30-30. Steel and wood in a light, handy carbine length rifle that carries easily, points naturally, and shoots well as long as you do your part and don't ask it to do more than it was made to do. It comes in barrel lengths ranging from 20 to 22 inches. It fires a 30 caliber cartridge that is perfectly adequate for either putting dinner on the table or a bad guy in the ground. The action is really easy to learn to manipulate and follow up shots are surprisingly quick once you get a basic mastery of the rifle. It has a tubular magazine that holds 5-7 rounds plus one in the chamber for a perfectly adequate response to most situations. The sights are pretty basic but there's a host of companies out there offering peep sights (for the tactically minded think Ghost Ring). Yes, the new price is a little Yikes but the used gun market is booming and nice, well preserved examples can be found starting around 600 bucks. That's about a nice used car below what a used AR is going for these days. Plus they can still be found on some dealer's shelves. I have one and I love it.
In this rifle my suggestion is to stick with 30-30. It's cheap, plenty powerful unless you're hunting Grizzlies in the Yukon (and even then I'm betting there have been quite a few taken with this venerable cartridge) and readily available. Every Mom and Pop store across the country will have at least a box or two laying around. If you shop around you can easily find it for under a dollar per round and two or three hundred will take you a very long way. Like most rimmed cartridges, reloading is relatively simple and cost effective. I've seen bullets ranging from 88 grains to 200. Lots of choices between those two extremes.
But wait, there's more. The Winchester can be pricey when bought new and some don't care for the older technology. Side ejection is for the purists and iron sight shooters mostly but what if you want to mount an optic or want something with a little better tech? There is a way. Say hello to Marlin Firearms
That is a Marlin Model 336C. Same caliber as the Winchester but with a few differences. The receiver is side ejection so the receiver is stronger that the 94 and it has provisions to easily mount either a scope or a red dot type sight.
Want it in a caliber other than 30-30? How about a handgun cartridge like 45 LC or 44 magnum? The 1894 will fit that bill well plus the magazine holds 10 plus one in the chamber.
I have one of each of those rifles but there is one additional to consider. Something a little bigger. Behold the 1895 in 45-70. Shoots anything up to 405 grain bullets and is adequate to take on anything you're likely to run into in North America.
I talked a little about reloading before but I want to address it again in relation to Marlin lever actions specifically. That receiver is stronger that most any other lever out there which makes hand loading all the more attractive. Your cartridges can be loaded up to maximum pressures so you can get the absolute best performance from them. I'll be doing another post on beginning reloading in the near future and I'll talk more about this but I wanted to put that out there for now.
What about a practice gun? You know how you can buy a 22 Long Rifle copy of the AR pattern rigles like the S&W M&P 15-22? Well there';s also levers that will fit that bill as well.
That's a Marlin Model 39A. A 22 caliber rifle with 19 + 1 capacity. Yep, you can cheaply train with the same gun you want to use for protection, just like the AR guys. Plus, it's a dang good rifle all by itself.
Prices on new Marlins that I've seen lately run from just under $600 to just over $900. Used should be a little better. Not bad considering.
Ok, I can hear it now. Lever actions? Really? How serious a gun can they possibly be? Do an internet search for Cowboy Action Shooting and the CASS then watch this video.
That's 10 shots, all for hits mind you, in 2.09 seconds. Ok, he's probably a professional shooter with a worked over rifle but that's still within the range of the possible and shows how flexible and capable a good lever gun can be.
Want something even cooler? How about a Mossberg Tactical Levergun 464 SPX? Maybe the ultimate in Evil Black Lever Guns.
There are also schools out there offering lever gun specific training. Look around and if you can't find one just ask a local trainer. Lever action barrels range from 16 to 24 inches and are adequate for anything from contact distances out to 300 and even 400 yards (depending on the gun/ammo/sighting system combination).
This is just a very small sampling of what's available out there in the lever action rifle world. There are many more manufacturers like Henry, Uberti and Rossi, just to name a few. This post is also not meant to be the definitive guide to Evil Black Rifle alternatives. There's a lot more out there. Remington has the Model 7600 pump action and the Model 750 semi auto, both rifles chambered in modern calibers. And there's a lot more where those came from. All reasonably priced and available.
The last upside, and one of the things that convinced me to invest in four lever actions, is the appearance. I can tote mine around most anywhere without raising a single eyebrow. Hey, it's a Cowboy gun, how dangerous can it be? Right? Well, in the hands of a trained and prepared rifleman it's about as dangerous as a personal defense firearm can be. But I won't tell if you wont. It'll be our little secret.
The bottom line is this. If you find yourself in need of a gun that will do just about everything you need it to do you can't go wrong choosing a good lever action rifle. They'll go anywhere and do anything. You can sit Junior and Juniorette down and teach them safe gun handling skills with the same rifle your own forebears probably toted across the range a hundred years ago. They're pure American and damn capable to boot.
Lever action rifles, still defending American freedom after a century and a half. You gotta love that.