Lever action rifles have been excellent hunting rifles for close to 150 years. Most people don’t usually consider them for use as a defensive weapon. There are a number of reasons you might want to reconsider it as a defensive rifle. They’re easy to operate, usually quite accurate and carry enough ammo to get the job done. If semi-auto's were banned tomorrow, I'd simply rely on my lever action Marlin 336 as an excellent alternative.
The Marlin Model 336 Lever Action Rifle has a number of good qualities that make it an excellent choice. Its light weight and low recoil, fairly good accuracy, decent range and shot capacity and ease of use are all excellent qualities. Combined with the fact that a wide range of ammo (55 grain to 170 grain) is readily available for the lever action makes it an even better choice for a hunting and defensive weapon combination.
There is another point to consider when talking about lever action rifles in a defensive situation. Using a lever action rifle in a self defense situation would be as close to “politically correct” self defense as possible. It doesn’t look “threatening”. It most assuredly can’t be confused with a “tactical” weapon. It simply looks like someone had to use his hunting rifle to protect himself or his family from a criminal. Unlike the response you may get if they showed what would probably be called an “evil black rifle” to a jury.
Lever action rifles may not be the “best” weapon to have in your arsenal as a defensive rifle and they are certainly not the most modern type of rifle that is available. They are, however, very reliable and more than adequate for most defensive situations and also have a very formidable reputation as an excellent hunting rifle.
Also, don’t sell the .30-30 cartridge short in the ballistics department either. The ballistics of the .30-30 cartridge are also very similar to those for the more specifically designed battle rifle cartridge, the 7.62X39mm Russian which is used for the AK-47.
Here are some figures using the same bullet weight of 150 grain Soft Points for a comparison.
At the muzzle:
1.) 7.62x39mm = 2200fps
2.) .30-30 caliber = 2390fps
At 100 yards:
1.) 7.62x39mm = 1977fps
2.) .30-30 caliber = 2018fps
At 200 yards:
1.) 7.62x39mm = 1769fps
2.) .30-30 caliber = 1605fps
At less than 100 yards, the .30-30 is marginally better than 7.62x39mm.
At 200 yards, the .30-30 is only marginally less than the 7.62x39mm.
At distances over 200 yards, the 7.62x39mm does have an edge over the .30-30.
A similar pattern also occurs with the lighter 125 grain bullet weights.
Note: fps (feet per second)
Source: G&A ballistic tables (factory ammo only):
I generally use 170 grain Remington Core Lokt in my Marlin 336 lever action rifle. I really like the .30/30 because it is an extremely versatile rifle. Even though it should not be considered a substitute for a long range defensive rifle, it should still be more than adequate in the majority of defensive situations. If this is the only rifle you have in your arsenal, there will be no need for you to feel “under-gunned” in any situation.
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