TAFFIN TESTS: THE .30-30
MARLIN'S LONG RANGE COWBOY LEVERGUN
At the SHOT Show four years ago it was my privilege, along with Bob Baer and Brian Pearce, to meet with three of the top brass from the Marlin Firearms Company. Baer had set up the meeting through Marlin's Tony Aeschliman, so the three of us, all levergun fans in general and fond of Marlins in particular, could express our ideas as to what Marlin should be offering.
We met for over an hour and they listened to everything we had to offer as well as questioning us about other possibilities. I am not going to say that we three are responsible for the great leverguns now coming forth from Marlin. They were in all probability already on the same wave length as we were. Whatever the situation, we are now seeing the results of exactly what we talked about. Namely, octagon barrels, straight grip stocks, long barrels, short barrels, and old time (some un-informed souls would even call them obsolete!) chamberings. The latter includes the .38-55, .40-65, .32-20, and .38-40.
New for this year from Marlin is an offering of short, handy leverguns with octagon barrels and straight grip stocks on a limited basis through one particular distributor, Davidson's, in both .41 Magnum and .45-70. Two new standard catalog items are Long Range Cowboy Leverguns from Marlin in both .30-30 and .38-55.
Everyone surely knows the .30-30 from "Mom, Apple Pie, The Flag, and .30-30" fame. The Model 1894 Winchester was chambered in .30-30, not in 1894 but one year later in 1895 as it became one of the first, if not the first, smokeless powder rifle chambering. This was at the same time that the .30-40 Krag in the Model 1895 Winchester also appeared. Interestingly enough, both rifles are still in existence. The Model 94 has been made in various calibers and chamberings with millions upon millions available, while the American home of the .30-40, the 1895 was resurrected by Winchester several years ago.
The original chamberings in the Model 1894 Winchester were the .32-40 and .38-55 both black powder cartridges. Both were dropped long before I was born. However, in recent years Winchester has used both for chamberings for their Commemorative '94 leverguns with the .32-40 finding its away into the John Wayne Commemorative and the .38-55 found in the Legendary Lawman as well as the Chief Crazy Horse Commemorative. More on this later.
Marlin's Model 336 Cowboy joins the other Marlin Cowboy offerings, the Model 1894 in .45 Colt, .44-40, .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum (Please! bring forth a .38-40!!) all of which owe their existence and great popularity to the grand shooting sport known as Cowboy Shooting. Quality leverguns are required for this and although some competitors use original leverguns, both Marlins and Winchesters, from the last century, many opt for the newer, stronger, more reliable, and less expensive modern leverguns. Probably the levergun most seen at Cowboy Shooting gatherings, at least in my area, is the Marlin 1894 Cowboy.
For those not entirely familiar with Cowboy Shooting, the sport requires a shotgun, two single action sixguns, and a levergun all pre-1900 style, that is one that was manufactured before or is of the type manufactured before the turn of the twentieth century. This means they may be examples as originally manufactured or replicas thereof. While most folks are looking forward to the twenty-first century, Cowboy Shooters are still stuck in the nineteenth century!
The leverguns for the main match MUST be chambered in a sixgun cartridge with the most popular among those more prone to authenticity being in .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20, while the those Johnny-come-lately modern cartridges, the .44 Magnum and .357 Magnum are also allowed with proper loads. The most popular sixgun cartridge for competitors is the .45 Colt with companion leverguns so chambered being used even though there were no leverguns chambered in .45 Colt prior to very recent times. It just is almighty handy to have the sixguns and leverguns chambered for the same round!
So where do the Marlin 336 Cowboys in .30-30 and .38-55 enter the picture? Two ways. Cowboy Shooting is addictive and often spills over into other areas of shooting with many of those taking part also looking to acquire and use other period firearms and chamberings. The addition of the .30-30 and .38-55 in a levergun reminiscent of long bygone days gives the Cowboy Shooter an authentically styled hunting rifle. Secondly, side matches, long range rifle side matches, are becoming increasingly popular at Cowboy Shooter gatherings. These two levergun chamberings are perfect for this aspect of Cowboy Shooting.
Unless one looks at the hole in the barrel, the two Model 336 Cowboy leverguns from Marlin are virtually identical with the more observant among us able to distinguish the slightly heavier .30-30 from the .38-55. To identify the .38-55 cartridge we can work backwards from the .30-30. The .38-55 is a relatively straight-walled case, it is slightly tapered, that was designed for black powder. With the coming of smokeless, the .38-55 was trimmed from 2.1295" to 2.039", necked down to .30 caliber and a real piece of Americana emerged as the .30 WCF, more commonly known as the .30-30.
The 336 Cowboy features a 24" full octagon barrel, straight-gripped stock with checkering on both forearm and butt stock, typical Marlin quality in both excellent wood and blue finish, and standard Marlin sights consisting of the adjustable rear on an elevator and a bead front. The front sights on both the .30-30 and .38-55 Marlin 336 Cowboys are too short for my use causing both leverguns to shoot high. For testing purposes the .30-30 was scoped. Both leverguns are now fitted with receiver sights.
Also present is the now standard cross bolt safety that our ancestors never needed. A wise man once said something to the effect of "Lord give me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference." Complaining about cross bolt safeties, or any kind of safety, on leverguns is certainly a classic example of beating a dead horse and trying to make it run. Unless society changes drastically and we go back to operating on individual responsibility instead of trying to make everything with more moving parts than a crayon idiot proof, safeties are a given.
Both Model 336 Cowboys, as all of the other 1894 Cowboy Models chambered for sixgun cartridges, carry a full magazine tube under their octagon barrels. Magazine capacity in the full length tubes found on the 336 Cowboy is eight rounds.
With its long heavy octagon barrel the 336 Cowboy, be it in .30-30 or .38-55 chambering "hangs easily" on target from the shoulder in a standing position. Short barrels make dandy brush guns but long barrels are easier to shoot at least for most of us.
The .30-30 Marlin Cowboy is exceptionally accurate. I feel the heavy stiff octagon barrel has a lot to do with this. It is almost boring shooting factory loads as everything tried grouped exceptionally well. Again full test results are in the accompanying table. For the traditional hunter who understands the .30-30 and realizes it is a much better cartridge than those that prefer the high velocity offerings will allow it to be, the Marlin .30-30 336 Cowboy is a grand choice for deer, black bear, and in the hands of one who gets close, takes his time, and places his shot carefully, even elk and moose.
MARLIN MODEL 336 .30-30 24" OCTAGON BARREL
|Federal 170 Soft Point Hi-Shok||2020||7/8"|
|Hornady 150 Round Nose||2350||5/8"|
|Hornady 170 Flat Point||2220||3/4"|
|Remington 170 Core-Lokt||2199||3/8"|
|Speer Nitrex 150 Flat Point||2310||3/4"|
|Speer 130 Flat Point/37.0 gr. H322||2667||3/4"|
|Speer 170 Flat Point/32.0 gr. H322||2203||3/8"|
|Fusilier 150 GC/20.5 gr. H4895||1365||1 3/8"|
|Fusilier 170 GC/20.5 gr. H4895||1454||1"|
|Fusilier 170 GC/28.0 gr. H4895||2060||1 5/8"|
|Bull-X 170 CSJ Moly/17.5 gr. H4895||1363||1"|
|Bull-X 170 CSJ Moly/6.5 gr. Red Dot||1244||1 3/8"|