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Old December 25, 2008, 09:55 PM   #1
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.357 lever vs .223 semiauto for defense?

Hi all,

I'm contemplating a .357 lever action or .223 semiauto for relatively inexpensive plinking and as an all-around, handy gun. However, I may as well get a gun that can serve at least part-time duty for self defense. Which do you think is better for this role?

I'm mainly thinking of something like an 1894-style lever action .357 carbine vs. a Mini-14 or AR-pattern carbine. Let's assume that in my living situation, over-penetration is not the most important issue. Also assume I am trying to defend myself at the length of a residential hallway.

The .357 makes a bigger hole, but the .223 autoloader may allow quicker shooting.

Have you all any views to offer?

(I suspect many of you will sensibly recommend the 12-ga pump shotgun, but I want something that a recoil-sensitive person will also enjoy shooting.)

- Sriracha
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Old December 25, 2008, 10:05 PM   #2
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i would favor the lever action if you have any revolvers chambered for that round. Also might be able to plink with 38 special, don't quote me on that though.

I don't like semi autos in general because they spit casings everywhere, but i suppose the lever action will to an extent as well.

I would say the lever action has the advantage for reliability, and you probably won't get as many dirty looks if you are seen with one as opposed to an AR.
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Old December 25, 2008, 10:11 PM   #3
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I have a Henry Big Boy in .357 and absolutely love it. I bought it in .357 mag (vs .44 mag) because I also have a 1984 Colt Trooper Mk V revolver in .357 mag. The Henry has the smoothest lever action of any others I have handled. Simply a great rifle.
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Old December 25, 2008, 10:26 PM   #4
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My SHTF gun is a Marlin 1894C in .357 Magnum. It hold 9+1 rounds of .357 or 10+1 rounds of .38-44's or .38 Specials, and can be topped-off without taking it offline. And it looks less "evil" than an AK/AR. It's very cheap to reload for.

For TEOTWAWKI, I have a Garand M1 and lots of loaded clips, but I'm also planning to get a .22 rifle soon.
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Old December 25, 2008, 10:47 PM   #5
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Either one would probably work for you.

With the .357 though, you can use .38 specials and carry one or two more rounds in the magazine too.
I would get the 1892 action instead of the 1894 since the 1892 was specifically designed for pistol cartridges.

Another benefit is that the .357 gains a lot of velocity due to the longer barrel. The .38 special also benefits from the longer barrel too.
Ammo that is very uncomfortable to shoot out of a handgun is quite manageable in the carbine.

Bullet shape is a consideration though. My 1892 carbine stutters on the sharp edged SWC designs, but is flawless with JHP or RMFP designs. I would not hesitate to use it.
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Old December 25, 2008, 10:48 PM   #6
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For defense, I'd go with the .357 levergun. IMHO it also gets the nod for versatility, reliability, general fun factor, and low profile. The .357 is a pretty decent round even in a handgun; in a rifle, it's a whole other beast, and in a good way.
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Old December 26, 2008, 11:58 AM   #7
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I have 2 357 rifles, a Browning B92 and a Interarms (Rossi) M92 w/16" barrel, and they are both great guns. My youngest took a nice sized doe at about 40 yds. with the Interarms M92. She ran 5 to 10 yards and went down and never got up.

In the worst case scenario they make good SHTF guns, along with companion handguns.
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Old December 26, 2008, 12:08 PM   #8
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In expensive plinking???

Its gonna be awful hard to find a cheaper plinking rifle the the 38/357. With cast bullets I can shoot them dern near as cheap as 22s.

I do a lot of 223 shooting but its more work, (I'm a target shooter). But for fun I cant beat my little Marlin 1894 Cowboy. Unless its my old Remington pump action in 25-20.
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Old December 26, 2008, 07:23 PM   #9
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Look guys, I really like lever guns, I even have two, ,one a 30/30 and the other a .44 magnum, but I'd get a M4 style AR if I had the money.

As long as where you are at you can own that AR, then I'd get it over any lever gun. Fact is the 5.56 delivers as much, if not more, power than the .357 Lever gun does at muzzle, and at any other range it delivers MORE!

The good make AR will be more accurate, flatter shooting, harder hitting, hold more ammo, faster to reload, and actually run for far longer before a malfuction than a lever gun. Not to mention it will be easier to clean.

And yes, I know well about Buffalo Bore .357 ammo, I post about that stuff here often.

And hey, can you get a pig sticker on the end of your levergun?
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Old December 26, 2008, 07:38 PM   #10
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.357 is a lot of fun to shoot out of a rifle and subsonic .38 special loads are nearly .22 rimfire quiet. Some Marlins will occasionally jam because more than one cartiage is trying to enter the cartriage elevator, when that happens, about the only thing you can do is unscrew the lever and clear everything. Not something you can clear real quickly like a jam in a semi-auto.
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Old December 26, 2008, 07:49 PM   #11
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Seems like the .223 would be a bit much for SD. Any round not dead on the intended target could end up in the neighbor's bedroom.

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Old December 26, 2008, 09:58 PM   #12
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Seems like the .223 would be a bit much for SD. Any round not dead on the intended target could end up in the neighbor's bedroom.
No. Fragiable .223 ammo, like 50 gr soft points, penitrate very few walls of a house. The slugs fragmentate on the sheet rock and wood. In fact, 5.56 ammo penitrates less than 9mm JHPs!

The only downside is the blast from a 5.56. But then, full .357s have a fair amount of blast to, as does 12 guage shotguns.
“To you who call yourselves ‘men of peace,’ I say, you are not safe without men of action by your side” Thucydides
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Old December 27, 2008, 12:43 AM   #13
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Either of these fine choices would be trumpted by the obvious KING .....

A 12 ga. shot gun

The lever gun is no slouch ....... I own a 94 Marlin in .357 ..... and yes, .38's work well ........

And I own a couple of AR's ........

Per hit ...... a good JHP like the Remington 125 would do wonders ..... over an AR .....

If you were barracaded away from more ammo ........... an AR with at least a 20 round mag full would certainly hold up longer than the Lever with it's 8-10 rounds .........

The pointability of a gun often gets over looked ......... ergonomically .... an AR is just about tops if you work with it ........

The lever gun is good and if you don't train much ...... it would win on being most instinctive over the AR ..........

My choice is none of the above .......... make mine a 4" 629 Mountain Gun (.44 mag) ........

....... with this I fight my way (twelve feet distant) to a large stash of long guns (rifled and smooth bore) and pick the one that best suits the particular problem at hand.

Three 44s

Last edited by Three44s; December 27, 2008 at 12:46 AM. Reason: Rome was not built in an instant!
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Old December 27, 2008, 01:29 AM   #14
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.357 or .223 for HD. IMO overkill for events that take place at 12 ft. or less. This is what pistols were made for.

My choice, S&W 9mm, 13 rds. of HydroShoks or Black Talons, double tap. Should be no problems, plenty left if there is + backup clip, another 12 rds.

I bought this pistol back when the military was going away from the 1911. The grip on the Beretta was too small, can't remember what was wrong with the Colt. The S&W fit like a glove and the 9mm is very controllable (accurate).
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Old December 27, 2008, 01:59 AM   #15
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.357 or .223 for HD. IMO overkill for events that take place at 12 ft. or less. This is what pistols were made for.
That's silly. Handguns were made for situations in which carrying a long gun would be impractical. And either caliber is hardly overkill - lots of people disparage anything less than .308.

As far as .357 vs. .223: Get whichever you like better. As long as you practice with it, it'll serve admirably.

If you're interested in which is SUPERIOR FOR SD, specifically, ponder the staggering number of police depts. and military agencies which currently issue lever guns.

A lever gun will work. A SxS shotgun will work. A flintlock, for that matter, will work. But state of the art is a semi-auto carbine. (OK, maybe full-auto is state of the art. But we can't make the guy spend $10,000.)
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Old December 27, 2008, 03:44 AM   #16
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I'd vote for the AR simply as you should be able to buy one now, no telling what next year may bring. While the Mini-14 is cheaper short term, getting good magazines is 3X expensive as AR magazines. Evens out pretty quick when you figure that you can completely rebuild an AR yourself while a Mini-14 requires you to send back to Ruger for service.

A good (Marlin) lever gun should be available as long as there are firearms.
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Old December 27, 2008, 03:57 AM   #17
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"...part-time duty for self defense..." Any rifle will do that. How well you can shoot it, when heavily stressed, is the important part. How fast isn't as big a deal if you make the first shot count.
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Old December 27, 2008, 02:35 PM   #18
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A vote for the lever gun

For several practical reasons. First, and foremost, it will do the job. Civilian self defense is a completely different situation than combat, or even most police work. Large magazine capacity semi autos are popular, especially when using your own gun for covering fire. For home defense, I don't see this as a significant issue.

You are highly unlikely to need to "fire and maneuver" in a home defense situation. Also, you are not likely to need to "recon by fire", leaving aside the legality of the tactic, this is something the semiauto military style rifles shine at, and the lever gun doesn't, by modern standards.

Forget Hollywood fantasy, holding off hordes of zombies, or whatever. As a civilian, you can only shoot when you have a clear target, and a clear need to do so, legally. Hi-cap semis encourage spray and pray, the manual repeater is not so bad in this regard.

The .223 is a high intensity round, a varmint round deigned by the powers that be as suitable for our enemies on the field of combat, and used by police, mostly because the military uses it, and they can get guns and ammo at reduced costs. Firing a shoirt barrel .223 inside a hallway without hearing protection is something you do not want to experience, if you have any other option. The guns are "cutting edge" but more "traditional" designs will still perform quite well. Also to be considered is the politcal dimension. ARs (and others) are on the top of the anti-gunners hit list. Everybody says "get one now, while you can", and it is not a bad idea, but consider how they might be banned from private hands, while the lever gun will not be, at least for a much longer period of time.

Cost is another factor. The GI style semis cost close to double what a lever gun like the marlin does. AND, if you ever do wind up in court due to justified use of the gun, the AR will have a serious PR disadvantage.

The .357 is considered a fine defense round from a handgun, and its performance from an 18" carbine is even better. While lacking the easy flat shooting range of the .223, for personal defense, 200yard shooting is not an issue. The carbine has light recoil, and a lower muzzle report than the high intensity .223, something worth considering in your hallway shooting situation. Being blinded and deafened by the first round seriously degrades your ability to deliver an accurate second or third round.

ARs are cool, they are visually striking, they are the gun everybody thinks they need to have. Your needs can be met by either, I would go with the lever gun, just my personal choice. And I do have a Marlin 1894 in .357, as well as a Mini-14, and I have owned ARs. My personal house defense long gun is a chinese coach gun, in 12ga.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old December 27, 2008, 02:54 PM   #19
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Well said 44 AMP.

A 16" levergun is slim, handy and comes to the shoulder very quickly.
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Old December 27, 2008, 03:03 PM   #20
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Which one are you better with? If you shoot both well, then which one are you more likely to train and practice with? Because the training is going to be much more important than choice of firearm here. Personally, I think the 5.56 semi-auto carbine is a better choice; but for the type of scenario you are describing, training is much more important than gear though that subject is less often discussed on gunboards.
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Old December 27, 2008, 03:11 PM   #21
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Something else to remember about a .357 carbine... While it won't reach out like the .223, if you go to the range it'll still print 100 yard groups... Will kill varmints just fine at that range, and would still put a hurting on a human if by chance you did need the range.
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Old December 27, 2008, 05:14 PM   #22
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I'll vote for the lever for a few reasons - the ammo is less hallway distances, it is more than adequate enough....if, God forbid, you DID have to use, it IS less "evil-looking" than an will also be less sensitive to ammunition variances....less likely to have magazine-related feeding issues as can have a pistol chambered for 38/357 as is usually cheaper to reload for as well......

I'm sure there are even more reasons.....

good luck with your quest!
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Old December 27, 2008, 05:39 PM   #23
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Another vote for the Lever gun

My Wifes gun of choice is a 16" Barreled 357mag Puma Lever action. She is good with it and it hits hard in a SD situation. I have a Win 94 30-30 as a truck gun. It is my always gun and I can hit with it. As a SD round the 30-30 will do it all.
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Old December 27, 2008, 06:28 PM   #24
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mostly plinkin and double duty HD.1894 Marlin or Puma '92 would work wonders.My parents have a 1894 Marlin I installed a Williams fiber optic front and reciever rear sights.It's light and easy for them to handle.also has that ammo commonality as they both have 357 revolvers for SD.
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Old December 27, 2008, 06:45 PM   #25
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go for the lever .357, you may get a pistol chambered in that later on. it will do the job. a buddy has a Marlin in .357 he loads some hot loads for and I've shot them in it. impressive, it would easy take a deer at short to medium range.
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