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Old January 2, 2012, 08:54 AM   #1
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Which deer hunting rifle - lever 357 or AR15

Hey all - I've missed this last deer season because, well, I had a kid. :-) So, I've got plenty of time to get ready for the next one, and I'm trying to decide which rifle I should get. I don't have any yet. I do shoot handguns and have a few in 357. I'm also a lefty, so I'm trying to pick a rifle that is ambidexterous, so no bolt actions for me (even though I think they rock). I live in the south east with lots of small deer running around, so I have been thinking that a lever action in 357 would suit me very well and go with current collection, but I've started developing a thing for an AR15. HELP! :-) I also wouldn't mind a lever action in 30-30 as well.

Or if any of you lefties can talk me into a bolt action, that would open up lots of possibilities, but I don't want a left handed bolt since other people in my family will one day use this rifle.

Or, maybe I should just work on handgun technique this year and give it a try with a 357 handgun. :-)
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Old January 2, 2012, 09:17 AM   #2
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i dont know about deer hunting with a 357 lever. not unless you really had to. BUT, i will tell you that if your a fan of the 357 round, you will LOVE a Marlin, or even a rossi in 357. i own a marlin in both 357, and 30-30 and the 1984 357 is my all time favorite gun, hand down. i'm told over and over again it will put down a florida deer but since i dont hunt, i havent tried.
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Old January 2, 2012, 09:42 AM   #3
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Will a .357 magnum kill a deer? Sure it will.

Will a .223 kill a deer? Sure it will.

Each cartridge within its limitations and more importantly, within the limitations of the shooter, are adequate for whitetail deer. Not optimal, but certainly adequate.

A young friend of mine, a junior high-schooler, recently took her first deer with a .357 magnum Marlin lever rifle. She and her dad were hunting in a swamp forest in Louisiana. Swamp forests here are generally typified by mature trees with an understory of brush and palmetto and ranges are generally limited to 100 yards or less. Here, I'll let her dad tell you about it.

I think Rachel feels a .357 carbine is adequate for whitetail deer hunting, under 100 yds. Dec 27, Tuesday morning, she killed a 2.5 yr old 7 pt buck, live weight of 150 lbs. It is her first buck, and the first one I actually called in by grunting. We saw it grunting and chasing a doe thru the palmetto bushes, and when I grunted, the doe turned on her afterburners and left while the buck stopped and started looking for the "intruder". I grunted one more time, and the buck started easing our direction thru the brush. When he got within 40 yds, he slipped out onto the trail to get a better look, and my daughter was ready. Deer was quartering towards us, bullet hit forward on the on-side shoulder, penetrating diagonally thru the right lung, liver, stomach, and ended up just in the muscle in the upper part of the left hind quarter. Yes, nearly 3 ft of penetration from a factory Remington .357 Mag 158 gr soft-point load. I recovered the bullet when we were deboning the meat to grind.

I'd say that almost 3 feet of penetration from a factory soft-point .357 is adequate for the task at hand.
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Old January 2, 2012, 09:50 AM   #4
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While neither is an ideal choice, I would go with the AR shooting heavier, well designed bullets.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:00 AM   #5
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For an AR, I would get a 6.8SPC caliber carbine to hunt deer with. But if you load the right bullet into a 223 bore with the correct twist rate, they will work great too.

The 357 is more or less a 100 yard deer rifle. A good option is the right-handed Ruger M77/357, even if you shoot lefty.

I do 100% of my deer hunting with a Marlin lever action 336. I use both the 30-30 and the 35 Rem. Be careful shopping for new Marlins. They are now made by Remington and quite a few bad ones have slipped out the door. I now buy used.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:01 AM   #6
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In my case, I own a AR and a Marlin 336 in 30-30, I would prefer the
30-30 just in case I ran into a larger deer or oversized hog. Sure you can use the AR for deer hunting but as others said it may not be optimal. With my 30-30 I can load light for plinking or load heavy for hunting. For some unknown reason to me I am a lot better shot with the 30-30!
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:03 AM   #7
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:08 AM   #8
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Either will work (as will a .22LR) but I think that you are in the market for a Marlin 30-30. I would bet that if you shop around a bit you can find a used one for $200 or so this spring or summer.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:10 AM   #9
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I'd love to have a .357 lever gun! I'd get the .357 lever gun and, if legal, take. Revolver along as well. Buffalo bore makes some .357 rounds that hit pretty hard coming out of a rifle.
Someday I'll be good enough to know if a gun is accurate or not.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:47 AM   #10
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No experience with the 357, I have taken a dozen or so deer with .223 using neck shots, none has taken a step. Gun and shooter have to be very accurate for that or I suppose it could get ugly.
Was watching a Guns and Ammo the other day and saw that one of the manufacturers, can't remember which, has come out with an AR for you backwards guys. Might want to look into that since it would give you some options in calibers.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:50 AM   #11
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With good bullets I'd take a 223 over 357.

Being a lefty complicates things. I much prefer a bolt gun, but levers work better for lefty's, unless you buy a left handed bolt gun. FWIW my brother is lefty, has tried everything, including left handed bolt guns, and still prefers a right handed bolt rifle. He just learned how to use it from the wrong side.
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Old January 2, 2012, 10:56 AM   #12
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Neither. The Handi Rifle is available for both dexterities in a variety of much more suitable calibers, and for much le$$!

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Old January 2, 2012, 11:00 AM   #13
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I have lefty friends too and I feel for them when they try to find firearms that work for them. +
As someone else mentioned, with the right twist rate the
223 can use bullets up to 90 gr accurately so with proper bullet type and appropriate range, it is certainly as capable as the 30 30, can equal the
243 bullet size with only slightly less velocity so at the shorter ranges don't see why it would be problem. As always shot placement is the key.
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:07 AM   #14
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The .357 out of a rifle wouldn't be legal in this state---although out of a handgun it would be.

The AR in 5.56 barely is.

I'd go AR an either get a second upper in say 6.8,6.5 or 7.62x39--or just buy the rifle in one of those in the first place.
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:10 AM   #15
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I believe that Stag Arms offers 9-10 of their AR's in the left hand configuration.
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:17 AM   #16
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If you havn't already done this, I would check my hunting laws. Some states don't allow .223 for deer.

A 30/30 rifle would be a better choice and cheaper. You can find them used everywhere or sales on new ones before and during hunting season.
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:23 AM   #17
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Handi rifle reamed to .357 Maximum. Ooo...
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:38 AM   #18
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I shoot southpaw and hunt deer

The .357 is at the low end of what people use to hunt deer with and so is the 5.56 X 45. A .44 mag, 454 Casull, 30 30, or other more powerful levergun would be better suited for that task.

I used right handed bolt guns years ago and now wouldn't own one for any reason. In Oregon where I hunt the ranges animals are taken vary from long spitting distance to as far as you're willing to shoot. I prefer short handy rifles that are accurate and flat shooting enough for long ranges.

Used Rem 700 lefties can be found under $400 from time to time in .270, 3006, etc and often will shoot under 1-1/2".

If you're content to restricted rangess (under 200) then the right lever gun might suit you.

An AR is a wonderful gun to own so if you want one bad enough get a Stag lefty. I hunted with mine but never shot a deer with it.
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Old January 2, 2012, 11:44 AM   #19
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My Son, my Daughter and my Wife each took their first WT Deer with a Marlin .357. It's a great gun under 100 yards. Having said this, if I were buying a rifle for deer hunting I'd get a .30-30. This will extend the range by at least another 50 yards and is capable, with a 170 gr bullet, of taking anything up to the size of a Black Bear. I know several Left Handed Cowboy Shooters who use lever actions without any kind of problem.
If you do get a lever action try a Buck Horn Rear Sight. They are great hunting sights, very quick to pick up your target.
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Old January 2, 2012, 12:06 PM   #20
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No .223 for deer, IMO. I know many (including here) say it can and they have, doesn't mean should--especially if planning a known hunt ahead, I.e., unless as a "survival" scenario. I'd put the.30 Carbine in this same category--and am a major carbine fan but know its limitations. The.223 has more range, neither has the energy. I find the state limitation on .357 but permitting .223 very confusing. .357 is fine and similar to .30-30 up to 100 yds, maybe 125 using the right bullet/cartridge (BB etc). If there's a good chance at longer (medium) shots, the .30-30 is better choice--again especially if planning a purchase "discreetly" for a hunt,...and much better than .223, IMO. Yes, proper shot placement with "anything" will do it, but I've seen too many weekend warriors maiming game with their ARs and Mini 14s (in .223 that is). +1 on the 6.8 or even x39 if you're inclined toward those platforms. I've seen lots of maiming with other calibers/cartridges too, including .30-30, by poorly placed shots, but more with the shorter/smaller-caliber'd cartridges.
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Old January 2, 2012, 12:15 PM   #21
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The lever action in .30-30 has been Americas Deer Rifle since 1894. Dropping down to a pistol cartridge is a significant loss of power and range. Even the .30-30 isn't known for much better than 250 yards, but that does cover most shots hunting in edge woodland.

The lever is ambidextrous, but is also old school - which means it takes some workarounds to get modern performance. Leverevolution ammo improves range and flattens the trajectory a bit, making the combination work further with "point blank" aiming. Less figuring holdover means less chance of a bad shot - or not getting one.

Having hunted with the Lever the last five years, it's light, handy, won't take a good scope mount, or has much option to put it exactly where you want. The loading cycle is arbitrary, and clearing the gun after hunting means jacking all the rounds thru the chamber. That's a chance for a ND every time right there, plus bangs up the bullets unnecessarily, which lessens accuracy.

They work ok, but having used the AR for 22 years in the Reserves, it's better.

The AR is inherently more accurate, and easier to get it that way. It's just as light and handy, the flattop scope rail puts it where it needs to be. Operating it is easy for lefties, and left hand models are available. Loading and unloading it is much simpler, safer, and easier. You have more choices in cartridges than the lever - BTW, Winchester is just a name for a high grade Japanese repro now, so only old levers or Marlins are your choice anymore. There's over two dozen AR makers of repute, and more models than you can count.

If you go AR for a hunting rifle, the better option is 6.8SPC, the #1 alternate selling cartridge. You get 40% more power, and avoid the kinky impractical magazine and low performance of the 7.62x39. A fixed stock flattop 16" barreled midlength gas makes a great deer rifle.
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Old January 2, 2012, 12:36 PM   #22
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AR10 IN .308 ,it is the only rifle you will ever need .
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Old January 2, 2012, 01:08 PM   #23
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Thanks for the replies so far. The appeal of the AR is that I could get an upper in 6.8 spc and also a 22lr upper which would be a very versatile setup that would last me a long time (I don't know if that's a good thing because then I couldn't justify other rifles as easily. :-) ).

The more I think about it, I'd want to reload for this gun anyway, and even if it were a 357, I'm still probably going to need different components anyway for best performance. So, maybe trying to share a common caliber is just not worth the effort. In that case, I'd still have to decide between an AR in 6.8 spc and a lever in 30-30. My favorite currently seems to be the markin 336xlr - can't get that one out of my head, and would match my revolvers very nicely. But, that AR is still calling to me. Ah, decisions.

Would anyway suggest a season of handgun hunting first just to see if I like it before purchasing a rifle? I don't like selling guns so whatever I wind up with, I'm planning to pass down to kids.
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Old January 2, 2012, 01:10 PM   #24
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If hunting from a stand AR rifle's will give many more choices IMO, .300 AAC Blackout would top my list. The .300 with 125 grain bullets will put you in 30-30 territory for range and power out of a 16" or longer barrel. Plus there are a lot of other chamberings to be had, many already mentioned.

Now if you are out walking around I'd rather carry a lever action rifle. I would look for one in .30-30 or .35 Rem over the .357 Mag. Look to Savage or Remington for a good lefty bolt action.
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Last edited by taylorce1; January 2, 2012 at 03:24 PM.
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Old January 2, 2012, 01:14 PM   #25
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I carry my 357 Puma Levergun quite often deer hunting ...with a 16in barrel very comfortable to carry...I use 158gr. JSP... penetrate well through and through on both deer I 've taken with the 357 ...big wound channels....But you have to actually hunt 200 yd. shots with this set up...for sure...

Out of my 16in barrel I get over 1825 FPs with 158 gr. factory JSP,which makes it a dandy Deer short range carbine...

A good 30-30 is hard to beat....
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