Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Lever Action Rifle For Defense

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.

Staying above the water line!



scoutinlife said...

I trade off a Winchester 44. mag a couple years ago I miss that lever action fast handling!

Degringolade said...

I couldn't agree more.

The lever action 30-30 is INHO about the most versatile piggie around. I really like your thoughts about it vs the "black guns".

Keep up the great work and have a wonderful holiday

Anonymous said...

Well stated Riverwalker. A lot of 'thutty thuttys' were used south of the Texas border during quite a few Mexican Revolutions - the 'treinta treinta' was well respected. I think our local Academy had Monarch 30-30 Winchester 150 and 170 grain for $12 a box of 20, last time I looked.

Going through that exercise of 'If you only had ONE gun for the rest of your life . . .", I've thought the .357 lever gun would make an excellent choice. Ammo availability / reloading, high capacity, small / medium and big game potentials, as well as the point you made above about it being rather innocent looking, especially to a jury (Hey, Granpa had one of those!). Lots to consider.

More than a few full time outdoors folks in the Far North chose the lever gun because it just packs so well. Many of them with full gun racks often choose the Winchester or Marlin, for just this reason.

riverwalker said...

To: scoutinlife

I sure hope it was for a good reason. That Winchester .44 Mag was probably a "sweet" shooter.


riverwalker said...

To: degringolade

Sometimes "innocent looking" makes a good "stealth" defense.

A great holiday to you and yours.


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous

Looking for a used .357 Mag lever action but will probably have to buy a new one when funds permit.

And yea, my Grandpa had one!

A lot of guides prefer them, just usually in a larger caliber than .30-30.

Thanks for the excellent comments.


M.D. Creekmore said...


I totally agree with your assertion of the lever action rifle. I did a post on The survivalist Blog some time ago on this same subject Lever actions for Survival? It seems great minds think alike...

Anonymous said...

You know, a lot of deer hunters gave up a perfectly good deer rifle when they bought 'better' bolt action rifles, with cartridges having better ballistics / flatter trajectory, but still often shoot their deer at less than 150 yards. Shucks, a 30-30 has enough power and accuracy for that range. And without the excessive blood shot meat that goes with the heavier, louder rifle to boot.

Probably be a good idea to stock up extra 30-30 ammo or its components - I think quite a few 30-30s are out there.

I really really wish I would have bought a 16" Trapper length 30-30 Winchester when I had the chance. The .44 was excellent as well.

Anonymous said...


...and it can be reloaded after every shot

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous #2

Mine is fairly accurate between 150and 175 yards, even with my poor eyesight and shotting skills. My scope helps make up for the bad eyesight and more practice is the only thing that will help my shotting skills. Thanks.


riverwalker said...

To: anonymous #3

And fairly quickly too...



BTW, Anonymous #2 - That should have been shooting instead. My bad.

theotherryan said...

If I somehow did not have what is in the gun safe and needed to purchase new weapons tomorrow my rifle for personal defense (under 150 yards) would without a doubt be a lever action 30-30. Since Winchester is defunct it would be a Marlin. I am going to pick up a pair of them at some point.

riverwalker said...

To: theotherryan

I've got a pair for the wfe and I and hope to have something with a little more range when funds permit. The wife liked shooting my Marlin .30-30 so much I had to get her one of her own. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Get yourself a Puma '92 .357 20" bbl; you can use .38/.357. Cheaper ammo and you get 11 shots. Really nice gun and you can load it with
.38 125gr hollow points. No recoil.

Best Survival Rifles said...

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