View Full Version : Opinions: Lever action rifle for hunting.

November 8, 2004, 11:23 AM
I have been looking at several lever action rifles for hunting over the past few weeks. I have a few options and would like some opinions. Hunting mainly Whitetail.

Marlin 336C .30-30
Marlin 336C .35 Rem
Winchester Legacy .357 Magnum
Browning Lightweight .30-06

Cost wise, the Marlin .30-30 is best "bang for the buck" and the .30-30 cartridge is fine for deer & other medium size game.

The Browning .30-06 is the better all around hunting cartridge, but at almost triple the price of the .30-30 it's a harder sell.

Ammo prices are about the same for most of these so thats kind of a non-issue.


Quickdraw Limpsalot
November 8, 2004, 12:55 PM
It depends on the type of terrain you're hunting, but for me the .35 Remington takes the cake all day long. Plenty for whitetail, piggies, or black bear. I sighted mine in yesterday and shot a 1" 5-shot group at 75 yards. No adjustment needed this year.

November 8, 2004, 02:23 PM
Mountains of SW Virginia.

November 8, 2004, 02:32 PM
Id go with the 30/06, very versatile cartridge, all you need is that one gun, so in tern you might spend more on the browning 30/06 than the others, but your getting a much better rifle and cart with the 30/06, you will never regret buying a 30/06 for big game. Hunt deer one day and then moose the next with the same cart. Good luck. Aim small hit small. RAMbo.

November 8, 2004, 07:18 PM
I have used the .35 for a long time. I wasn't sure of it at first, but have never missed with it.

gordo b.
November 8, 2004, 07:50 PM
Savage 99 in .308 = about perfect deer rifle. ;)

Dean C
November 8, 2004, 11:21 PM
The ol' 30/30 (rifle, not carbine) just keeps chugin' along. Wouldn't swap it for anything.

November 9, 2004, 09:31 AM
Matter of fact, that’s what I used this past weekend for opening day of rifle season. About the only thing I use anymore (or plan to use for hunts here in South Texas) is either my bow or my 30-30.

November 9, 2004, 09:40 AM
My deer cart is a 300 Savage Model 99, made in 1945, I have took many deer with this rifle since I was twelve years old and I bet the owner before me;) Aim small hit small. RAMbo.

November 9, 2004, 05:26 PM
I'm not an expert, but for whitetails and hogs, the .35 Rem seems darn near perfect. For whitetails ONLY, the .30-30 seems darn near perfect.

November 10, 2004, 12:19 AM
I wouldn't monkey around with the .375, but any of the other calibers mentioned are more than enough. You gotta be able to hit a pie plate at whatever range you will be hunting. Gotta be able to hit it first time, every time and you gotta KNOW you can hit it. If you think it is out of your for-sure range, don't take the shot.
As far as range goes, the 30.06 has cartridges available all over the place that you can use for mean stuff that is way too close to little-bitty things that are way over there. It will do the work of a bunch of rifles just by swapping the ammo around.
Sounds like you might be just starting out. Might want to go to your local gun shop and ask if they can hook you up with a decent used gun. Guns are like cars, new ones cost too much, used ones might have something wrong.
When you get it. Shoot it it a lot. Sight it in off a bench and then get up and walk around the bush with it. Kinda plink and aim at stuff. Get good and used to it so you don't fumble when the time comes.
That's all I got to say about that!

taa, cs :D

John Forsyth
November 10, 2004, 11:31 AM
I hunted with a Marlin in .35Rem for years. Took a lot of deer with it. Got into other hobbies and sold it, wished I hadn't done that. Now I have a Marlin 1895G in .45-70. Well made gun and very accurate. Opening day is the 20th and hopefully will break this rifle in right.

Marlins in .35Rem are just plain good rifles.

November 11, 2004, 10:46 AM
Add another vote for the .35 for me. Used one for 8 yrs so far with no probs. My bro uses the 336 also he's used a few years now in 30-30. Always heard that the 35 handled deflection a lil bit better as well. I'd be perfectly happy with either for deers.


November 11, 2004, 03:18 PM
As devil's advocate, I do have a friend who likes his Browning, which has a detachable magazine. This has one major advantage over the Marlin, in that you can shoot spire point hardnosed bullets. In the Marlin it is best to shoot flat nosed bullets or hollowpoints, or at least big old fat round nosed bullets. :)

November 11, 2004, 07:50 PM
If money is not an issue, I would go with the 30/06 and the Browning. The 30/30- would be my second choice. I don't care much for the .35 Rem cartridge.

gordo b.
November 11, 2004, 09:14 PM
The .35 Remington is a ferocious cartridge indeed ! However it is played by 150 yards like the 45-70 is.Sure I KNOW it WILL kill further but after 50 years of seeing the .35 REm in action; 150 yards is it. The 30-30 MAY be pushed another 50 yards, but it aint as devastaing as the .35 Rem. Bottom line a .300 Savage or better yet a .308 is the better lever gun. Course the .358 (and .348) ain't no slouch to 200 yards plus! ;)

November 12, 2004, 11:24 PM
I actually went with the .30-30 Marlin.

Local pawn shop had a Marlin 30AW that was in near mint condition (took my borelight and .30 boresnake with me and I swear that this gun has had less than 100 rounds run through it by looking at the bore) with a Leupold 3-9x40 scope on leupold peek through mounts. Got it for $230.

Might have gone for the more expensive Browning, but I would have been spending retail and my wife probably would have killed me if I had spent the $750 or so.

Rich Lucibella
November 13, 2004, 10:31 AM
Well you asked for opinions, so......
Why do so many people insist on putting a scope on lever gun with 100-150 yard effective range? Worse yet, a perfectly good Leupold 3X9 that could effectively sit on most 600 yard rifles in the world?

The beauty of the LA design (IMHO) is in its inherent "carry-ability". Light and compact, you can hike hill and dale for hours with it in your fist. Put a scope on it and you've gained nothing in terms of hit ratio at those ranges, while diminishing the handiness and speed of operation....not to mention the downside of trying to shoot something running at 20-30 yards with, at lowest, triple magnification.

As with most things, YMMV.

k in AR
November 13, 2004, 12:45 PM
Wyrdone, JMO but "you be a big winner",
if that Leupold was a older VXII you can sell that for 200 any day of the week (in just a few hours) in my neck of the woods. Thus, you're hunting with a 30 dollar "like new" Marlin? Deal!!! and that is not to even considering Leupold mounts! You did good ... Enjoy!

November 13, 2004, 02:50 PM
Rich, here in the Catskill Mtns of NY ranges are usually within 50 yds. So why do I have a 1x4 scope ?? That's because I know that ANY round can be deflected so there is no such thing as a "brush busting cartridge". I use the scope to find an opening in the brush so with an accurate gun and precision shooting I don't shoot brush. My lever action is a Browning 1885 in 45-70 single shot ,cut to 22" for less weight and better handling.

November 13, 2004, 05:18 PM
Why do so many people insist on putting a scope on lever gun with 100-150 yard effective range? Come back and ask that same question when you get your first set of trifocals.

Rich Lucibella
November 14, 2004, 09:12 AM
That's really threading the needle, but I can see the point (no pun intended). However, the scope creates a significantly higher mechanical offset between line of sight and bullet path than iron sights.

Point well taken, Valid reason. Thanks.

Long Path
November 14, 2004, 06:27 PM
Rich, I'm 99% in agreement with you on the scoped LA thing. Putting glass on a handy rifle just makes it less handy and far more delicate, while usually making it slower to acquire targets. I've counseled many to ditch the scopes. The best thing you can do, in my opinion, is put a decent receiver peep on your rifle (which extends your sight radius by about 1/3 or better), and give it a good trigger job and a sling. Then practice. :) (I've a friend who stumbled across a pre-'64 M'94 in .30-30 that was just worn enough. He was going to put a scope, etc on it, but took my advice and instead spent $60 on a trigger job and receiver-mounted Williams peeps. He asked me to sight it in for him while he was at work. I got not one, not two, but three groups of Hornady Custom 150g .30-30 to go under 1.25" at 100, with one group right at an inch. Sad part is, this friend of mine can't consistantly hit a paper plate at 100 yards with it from a rest. He's got one hell of a deer-stick-- now he just needs to practice!)

That said, I must say that I was VERY impressed with how handy the intermediate relief 2.3X Leupold Scout Scope can be on the excellent low-sitting AO forward mount on an 1895 Guide Gun. Lord knows that the groups shrunk to about 1/3 of their iron-sighted counterparts at 100 yards, as well. (Hey, it's nice to know a .45-70 carbine will turn in an honest 1.5" group!) There's a lot to be said, especially at dusk and dawn, for a little better view of your target. 28mm is a mite bit bigger light-gatherer than even my 33 year old pupils. Lord knows my dad's 60-sumpin' year-old pupils could use the favor!

Life is a trade-off. I'd rather have the bulk and know the shot's good than have a handy rifle and worry about a lousy shot at 120 yards, at 5 minutes 'til end of shootin' light.

November 14, 2004, 07:51 PM
However, the scope creates a significantly higher mechanical offset between line of sight and bullet path than iron sights. That is the major problem with see-through scope bases. But see-throughs do preserve an element of 'handiness', even for us visually challenged Geritol quaffers. It is more like looking through a toilet paper tube than looking at sights. :p

Rich Lucibella
November 14, 2004, 07:55 PM
The Leupold Scout Scope a light gatherer? Have you actually worked with it in low light? After hunting them exclusively for 3 years (other than iron sights) I've completely dismissed the Scout scope for all but daylight hunts due to my experience in low light.

I've come full circle to the 1.75X6 Leupold for scoped hunting. Not quite as "carry-able" as the Scout setup, but that's why I go with iron sights for all 100-150 yd guns.

Roman Knoll
November 14, 2004, 08:52 PM
I would like to add my two cents regarding use of low magnification scopes in low light.

In my experience, the main problem is thin duplex reticule found in prevailing number of scopes manufactured these days. Thin cross hair works perfect in daylight but is practically useless in low light conditions – whatever the magnification.

I once managed to shoot red stag 3 o’clock in the night using rifle equipped with 2.5x scope, only because it had a thick central post in the reticule. The snow helped me to see this stag, but without visible cross hair, 100 yard shot wouldn’t be possible.

At one other occasion, I hunted wild board in Germany, also in the night. This particular hunt was unexpected – we were supposed to shoot only during the day, so I brought a rifle with variable 3-9x40 scope. I could see approaching boar with naked eye but since I couldn’t see reticule at all, I had to pass this shot. Cranking up till full power didn’t help at all.


gordo b.
November 14, 2004, 10:42 PM
"After hunting them exclusively for 3 years (other than iron sights) I've completely dismissed the Scout scope for all but daylight hunts due to my experience in low light.

I've come full circle to the 1.75X6 Leupold for scoped hunting. Not quite as "carry-able" as the Scout setup, but that's why I go with iron sights for all 100-150 yd guns."
I thought I'd bring this truth out once again. I do have scout rifles-since 1979, but they do blow for hunting IMHO- after having sunlight from behind me block out my shot at more than one trophy. Rich being entirely correct about they suck for lowlight gathering, of course an Aimpoint is WONDERFUL mounted in the same place! However, like Rich, I BUY Leupold 1.75-6 VariX 3's(the best bar none IMHO) and the same in Burris signiture Safari model (with lighted reticule) for serious game guns! I have some Old German low power variables (can't aford $$$$ for new ones!) and some old Fixed Power K-3 and K2.5 Weaver steel Microtracks that would be excellent on that 30-30 ! A good clean 70's Weaver steel Micro Track with post is an EXCELLENT, near bullet proof optic for a 'brush gun' ;)

November 18, 2004, 12:31 PM
Any of those calibers will do the trick for you. My grandfather killed alot of moose and caribou w/ a lever action .30-.30. I killed an elk in his bed with one a few years ago. It was a 65 yard shot. Buy what you'll feel confident hunting with and then shoot it ALOT. Best of luck to ya!

cleve land
November 18, 2004, 01:01 PM
I have used a Browning Lever Rifle in 308 since the '80's. It is as handy as the 30-30's and has the advantage of the 308 round. A BLR is worth the cost IMHO

November 24, 2004, 02:46 AM
I have a guide gun in 45/70 and I agree with Rich about not scoping a lever gun. The guide gun carries so well that it would be foolish to ruin it with a scope. If you want a long rage gun, go buy a bolt action and mount a scope on it.(better yet, get both, like me)
My dad has the same problem that you mentioned, meek.
So far he has refused to get bifocals. He has to take his glasses off to read anything and there is no way he can use iron sights. It's funny now, but I have his genetics.

December 4, 2004, 08:41 PM
I have scopes on most of my lever guns these days. I like old Weavers, K2.5 or V4.5 20mm tubes, with low Weaver rings. Old eyes need the help. The V4.5 scopes are particularly good for low light, with the thick tapered post and thin cross reticle.

December 5, 2004, 01:40 AM
I need the scope when in the Catskills. The eyes ain't what they used to be. I use it pretty much as Mete suggested.

January 8, 2005, 09:15 PM
the old thutty thutty will do the trick in the bush. id recommend a low power varaible as in between 1.5-4.5 or so not that iron sights wont do it but i trust scopes more

John Y Cannuck
January 10, 2005, 06:36 AM
Come back and ask that same question when you get your first set of trifocals.

TRIFOCALS! ARRRG, Bi focals are bad enough. Thankfully, I can still use a peep sight for hunting, without the dang things. I love my '94 Winchesters, and the 30-30 is fine for deer and black bear up here.

January 10, 2005, 07:29 AM
Speaking of Lever actions I bought a Marlin 1894C the other day and was bothered by the loose trigger. Even when cocked the trigger is very, shall I say "wiggly" Is this to be of concern or is it normal.

January 10, 2005, 09:48 PM
Hard to beat something that has likely taken more deer over history than anything else.... I am always happy to see ammo for 30-30 just about every place I have been. It seems to be a nice price when I get it too.... good luck and the choice is yours......lots of good guns out there....

January 11, 2005, 07:39 PM
I know 45-70 wasn't one of the choices, but last weekend I sighted in my Marlin in 45-70. It shoots better than my 35 year old .35. (This might have something to do with the fact my .35 has had a cracked forend for the entire time I've owned it?) I shot better with it and new Remington factory loads than I was doing with my bolt action .270, though I admit I was shooting up some 3 and 4 year old Winchester ammo of mixed batches on the .270.

At 100 yards, kneeling from behind the bench I was shooting consecutive pairs of shots within 1 1/4 between centers. This was with five minutes cooldown time between pairs. Pairs were drifting about 3 inches apart because I haven't found a fully settled stance with it yet, but with the .35 earlier this year I was shooting more like 2 1/2 inch pairs with drift up to 5-6 inches.

It wasn't the ammo. I seldom shoot well with Remington core lokt ammo. It wasn't the scope either. I have a Leupold on the .270 and was using a 32 mm Bushnell Sportview on the 45-70, set at 3 power. It wasn't me, because I'm generally a crappy shot and I have a noticable tremor, so it had to be the gun.

January 30, 2005, 07:24 PM
I just got myself an old 30/30 great condition for a great price and most people have sung praises about my rifle but were always quick to quote the limitations. As for the scope issue I personally will never put a scope on a rifle like my Model 94 as I am goin to be doin most of my hunting in fairly dense bush and I am hoping to break it in hunting black bear when the season opens in April but also I am big on how the rifle looks and the model 94 just wasn't ment to look good with a scope it destroyes the lines of a beatiful rifle.