The Lever Alternative

posted on May 28, 2015
sheriff-jim-5-28-15.jpg (1)

There is no doubt that the various AR's and AK's are the most popular defensive carbines in this country. However, there are those who live in areas where owning such semi-auto carbines is frowned upon – California being a good example. And, frankly, there are those who just don't care for this type of defensive rifle. In my view, the best solution for these folks is the time-honored lever-action carbine.

The most obvious choice that comes to mind are the carbines by Marlin, Mossberg, Winchester, and probably some others, chambered for the .30-30 Win. cartridge. While some may think that the .30-30 Win. cartridge is just too old fashioned, it should be pointed out that the ballistics of this cartridge are not unlike those of the 7.62x39 mm round that is just about standard in the AK-47. Simply put, the .30-30 Win. is still around because it works for hunters and it will work for the defensive shooter, too. However, there are a number of other carbines chambered for various pistol cartridges that make into very nice defensive units. Those in .357 Mag., .41 Mag., and .44 Mag., are all quite effective for personal protection.

I suppose that my favorite are the carbines chambered for .44 Mag. I got my first one, a Marlin 1894, back in the '70s. We cut the barrel to 16 inches so that it would be easier handling in and out of a car. And we mounted a Williams Foolproof sight instead of the standard open sights. Somewhat later, I traded this gun for a Browning Model 92, same caliber, and had similar custom work done on it. Even with the barrel cut down, these carbines still held nine rounds of 240-grain hollowpoints. Shortening the barrel of these guns may, or may not, be something that the individual shooter needs. However it is an excellent idea to spring for a good set of sights of whatever style the shooter happens to prefer.

Another important accessory is a butt cuff to hold extra ammunition. Such carbines are short, handy, and quick for repeat shots once the shooter takes the time to learn his gun. Some may question the accuracy of such guns but most will get the job done out to about 150 yards when the shooter is doing his part. Some may suggest that lever-action carbines lack the precision accuracy of other rifles but mine was good enough to take care of a pack of feral dogs that were marauding our little town.

That old .44 may not have shot MOA, but it sure shot MOMB: Minute of Mercedes-Benz... but that is a story that will have to wait for another time.


Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer
Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer

First Look: Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer Shotgun

A pump-action scattergun that's compatible with Mossberg furniture.

Electronic vs. Non-Electronic Hearing Protection

Electronic protection is great, but passive ear protection never needs batteries.

Schrödinger’s Drill

Eliminate the dreaded flinch by adapting a famous thought experiment to your shooting practice.

First Look: Aridus 1301 Beretta Stock Adapter

Upgrade your Beretta tactical shotgun with a Magpul stock.

Safety Recall on Certain Tisas 1911s

Six models are affected. 

That Old Familiar Feeling

When in comes to your defensive pistol, familiarity breeds competence, not contempt.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.