*Lever Action Rifles for Survival*
By Tailgunner

Lever action, metallic cartridge, repeating rifles have been around for about 140 years. A recent unsubstantiated statistic in the gun press stated that there are more deer and other game animals taken with the .30-30 Winchester M94 and Marlin 336 style rifles than any others. Not to mention millions (approximately 10+ million according to serial number records alone) of these rifles are in the hands of people across the United States. What has endeared this rifle to millions of hunters is not its great accuracy, nor its great knockdown power; in the hand it is easily carried and quickly brought into action. If you ever get a chance to hold one, grasp it in your hand at the balance point just in front of the lever and let it hang beside you. It is very comfortable to carry, unlike most of the other “hunting” rifles (in my opinion of course). It can be quickly reloaded and because of its numbers across this nation it is recognized as Grandpa’s “deer gun” not a “terrorist tool”. As much as many people like their AKs or ARs (me included) they are viewed by the sheeple public as a tool of those “vicious terrorists”. If you are bugging out to an alternate site or retreat, or just trying to get home, low profile may require you to keep your AK or AR under wraps. However, the common “deer rifle” in the hands of the same person would be viewed much less threatening, yet available to deliver quick shots should the need arise.

Now I am not going out and getting rid of my AR or anything else! Nor am I saying that there are not going to be times when a Battle Rifle is not more important just because of the need for rapid accurate fire, quick magazine changes, or the intimidation effect it provides. There are situations where the mere visual presence of a Battle Rifle held confidently can totally diffuse a touchy situation, or if needed, eliminate the problem quickly and soundly.

There are times and places in this land where the presence of the lowly “deer rifle” is preferred to a Battle Rifle. Don’t ever discount a lever action rifle as “lowly” however, in trained hands it has taken many game animals with quick shots out past its reported 150 yard limit, and it has proven a formidable arm in gunfights. In the “old west” long arms (both shotguns and rifles) were preferred to handguns because of the increased ability to hit something. As a 16-year-old, I got handed down my grandfather’s old .30-30 Winchester. It was badly worn, the wood was dry rotting off the metal and the barrel itself was badly pitted both inside and out. I shot it often, and in fact I learned to reload with a Lee Loader for this gun. To clean it I would take it down by taking off the magazine tube and unscrewing the barrel with my fingers and replace it the same way when finished, just screwing it down until I couldn’t turn it any more then backing up until the sight lined up before putting in the screw securing the magazine tube. After entering the Army at 19, I permanently retired the old gun when I had received enough training to realize that that gun blowing up in my face could have killed me. Indeed I was watched over, that and other things I did as a youth tells me that there must have been a whole platoon of folks watching over me!

I replaced that old Model 94 with a newer one and have been using it for “fun” shooting and some hunting since. Back again to my youth, I would take my rifle out with a pocket full of reloads and shoot in the creek bottoms at whatever seemed to need shooting. I found that I could hit reliably a long ways off. Now I don’t even pretend to remember how far that was 30 some years ago. But the more I shot it the better I got. It spent a lot of time in the back window of my pickup and was used on numerous occasions for impromptu target sessions and the occasional varmint. It is handy, it is not scary to most people, yet when pointed at someone is just as intimidating as any other firearm and just as capable. You can quickly lever in another cartridge for follow-up shots. You can top off the magazine with a shell or two into the side without having to open up the chamber, or if pressed, toss a shell into the open chamber with your off hand and close the lever and be ready to fire quickly. With practice you can even top off your magazine without taking the rifle off of your shoulder or your eyes off the target area.

The .30-30 cartridge is what the 7.62x39 is compared to ballistically most of the time. In factory ammunition it comes in basically two bullet weights, the 150 grain and 170 grain with a trajectory described today as “rainbow like”; yet when it was introduced was hailed as a high-speed, flat trajectory powerhouse. The .30-30 was one of the two first smokeless cartridges brought out by Winchester in the Model 1894 rifle (.25-35 was the other). It shot a 160-grain bullet with 30 grains of smokeless powder (the method of designating a cartridge at the time was to include the amount of powder with the caliber), at the time it was the fastest and flattest shooting rifle around. We have many more powerful cartridges now, but the .30-30 can be found in just about any store that sells ammo, from gas stations to small grocery stores to hardware stores. During the pre-hunting season sales it can be found for as little as $5.75 a box (or even less if you look around), not too bad if you want to stock up on a few boxes. If you are a reloader, you can load bullets weighing as little as 100 grains to as much as 180 grains, or cast lead bullets (remember to use round nose or flat nosed bullets, because the way the magazine orients the cartridges it places bullet points contacting the base of the next cartridge). It has acceptable combat accuracy out to about 200 yards from a carbine length 20" barrel, even better with the 24" barrel. I have gotten my later M94s to shoot in the 3-4 inch group range at 100 yards with the standard open sights (I won’t even allow ammo around the old one). Supposedly if you change the sights to a good Williams aperture or perhaps a Ghost Ring you can extend the accuracy of even the carbines, though I still get about 3-4 inches at 100 yards, but I’m no great rifle shot. Ammo is relatively as easy to carry as anything else, except you can’t “pre-load” it into ready magazines, I have a number of Uncle Mikes folding shell holders that can be added to my belt or other gear that help carry spare ammo. Other options I find helpful include the addition of a sling and a black nylon shell holder for the stock, to provide quick access to 8-10 rounds. My goal in using this gun would be to put it in the truck with my BOB during non-threatening calm periods and not to get into an extended firefight, but to help provide covering fire while extricating myself from a difficult situation. If things were getting somewhat hot prior to a TSHTF my Battle Rifle would replace it.

There are a number of Lever Action Rifles available from a number of domestic and foreign makers, some in handgun chamberings that could simplify logistics somewhat. For some shorter range conditions (urban for instance) the .357Mag rifle combined with a good DA revolver in .357Mag or a similar pair in .44Mag could take out targets to 125 yards or so. The only benefits in my opinion to the pistol cartridge guns are the logistics of only needing one cartridge on your belt and the increased magazine capacity (from 5-7 for the .30-30 to 10 for the .357 or .44mags). On the negative side you do end up with a reduced range, reduced power and reduced penetration on hard targets. I personally prefer the older pre cross-bolt safety Winchester Model 94 or the similar Marlin 336 (that I can easily put a scope on, if needed or wanted). I have found both in great condition at Gun Shows for as little as $150, with some looking. As an additional note (which you might have picked up above), I personally do not like the cross-bolt safety, I was taught to lower the hammer to the half-cock notch after chambering a round, then thumbing back the hammer when raising the rifle to the shoulder, so none of my lever rifles have one, I personally feel that they get in the way and might accidentally get set on at an inopportune moment (again my opinion, the safety is there for a reason-poor training).

To sum it all up, when low profile is desired or the presence of a battle rifle might cause unwanted attention a quality lever action .30-30 rifle can be a useful tool for defense. It would store well in the truck with my BOB during non-threatening calm periods. To help provide covering fire while extricating myself from a difficult situation and getting home safely should the need arise. I would not feel unarmed, however, if things were getting somewhat hot prior to a TSHTF situation, my Battle Rifle would replace it.


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