The next Tactical Lever Action Rifle

I am dead set on making another tactical lever action rifle.   I think I’ve mentioned before that I am going to use a Winchester 92 type platform and I’ve settled on the Rossi example of the breed. I’m thinking 16 inches on the barrel and a scout mount for a low set red dot.

This Caliber Conundrum has me flummoxed.  .44 Mag or .357 Mag.  I’ve been leaning to the .357 Magnum… However as of late, I am now leaning to the .44 Magnum.  Ammunition for the .44 is more expensive, but handloading for it is easy enough.  I think I’m going to do a .44 mag.  Out of a 16″ barrel .44 tends to gain all it’s going to get and past that it seems to go down hill.


25 thoughts on “The next Tactical Lever Action Rifle”

  1. It’s a shame nobody makes a 92 in .41 Mag.

    The .41 seems to enjoy a bigger boost from a longer barrel than either the .357 or .44. From an 18″ tube the 170gr Buffalo Bore load essentially duplicates the weight and velocity of a classic .30-30.

    Of course even if someone made it, Ben and I would probably be the only ones to actually buy one.

    1. Seriously, .45 Colt has no interest with me. I had a Winchester 94 in .45 Colt, and I really didn’t like it. Oh, I liked the gun… loved the gun. Just hated the caliber. It was potent at short ranges, but really dropped off quick. I want more range than what the Colt was giving me.

      1. You have to handload the .45 Colt, and you need better bullets than the standard 250 gr. LRN that’s commonly available. Go with a 300 gr. WFN design over *mumble* gr. of H-110 or W-296.

        It will outdo any .44 Mag on the market.

      2. Buffalo Bore .45Colt+P 325gr FNSP does pretty well within the limits of the Firesight I’ve got on mine.

        But I’d have gone .44 Mag too, if Puma offered one in 16″ when I was looking. I didn’t want to chop a 20″ and also deal with the lack of a recoil pad.
        The .454 I ended up getting came in 16″ with a pretty generous pad…if you can get that in .44 Mag, go for it.

        1. Norseman…you mean mine, or Ogres?

          Typo in my previous post above…load is Buffalo Bore 300 grain JFN.

  2. At the risk of “hating on Ruger”, why reinvent something that is already out there.

    The Ruger .44 mag carbine.

    It’s short (great for clearing room to room), light, accurate, smooth recoil that won’t beat up your shoulder, easy to reload, easy to maintain, very easy to unjam in the rare occaions that happens, looks just like the Rugerr 10-22 and you can mount what ever you want on it for optics.

    Now I’m not saying a lever .44 wouldn’t be nifty, but the Ruger .44 carbine has served me well since I was a kid and is an excellent brush/bush gun as well. Both my kids cut their teeth on that rifle for hunting.

    1. There are a few issues with the 44 Carbine. The tubular magazine was designed for hunting and 4 rounds in the tube isn’t really ideal for a “tactical” arm…even a revolver holds at least 5 rounds. Also the tube has also been known to cause setback under heavy spring pressure and recoil which can increase pressures. The Deerfield Carbine would’ve been a better choice only if there was a higher capacity detachable magazine instead of the 4 round rotary hunting mag…but at least one could keep extras in some pockets for faster reloads.

    2. “why reinvent something that is already out there. The Ruger .44 mag carbine.”
      Ah… because the Winchester Design was first? Once more Ruger stands upon the shoulders of Giants.

      1. Points well taken gents.

        I’ve never seen an instance of bullet setback in facctory or handloads with the three I’ve been shooting since I was 14 years old.

        Never owned nor shot a deerfield model though I did hear about those rotary clips.

      2. That’s just mean George. Not untrue, but mean. That said, I have a love of the 94’s and no rotary mag carbines around. LOL

  3. Go with the .44 mag for many of the reasons you’ve already mentioned. I have used the 16″ .44 Winchester ’94 Trapper in Cowboy Action Shooting for years. Granted, it’s a different/longer-stroke action than the ’92, but it handles fast, and tackles anything at CAS distance (25-100 yds.) Reloading’s where it shines. Big, thick-walled case. Easy. Preferred load for CAS is a pussycat 6.5 gr. WW231, 200-gr. lead round nose, 950-ish fps (CAS has a 1,000 fps ceiling), but have also fired Winchester SilverTip with great accuracy (at 50 yds.). If you put a really good set of combat sights on it, wow, it would be a great TacCarbine. I’m an AK guy, but out at our farm, the Winchester always seems to be the preferred travel buddy…

    1. Have to agree on the .44 mag over .357 mag. On big game, I’ve usually had to track the animal to where it dropped dead using the .357 mag (pistol mind you). 44. mag has stopped everything right on the spot dead in it’s tracks.

      I love the .357 round for accuracy and I still shoot them but not for hunting anymore. Got spoiled on that when I shot a buck through the lungs and top of the heart while it was running flat out full throttle perpendicular to my position about 100 feet away (this after I missed a standing still headshot from about 150 feet after it turned it’s head just as I touched off the round). I tracked it for about 75 yards only to find three Hunters with shotguns dressing out my deer. Only three small holes in that deer. One through the chest, to which I asked them if that hole was made by a 12 gage slug, the other two holes right through both ears from the first missed head shot. Perfecly round holes through both earse like they were peirced with a paper punch, like wad cutters through a paper target.

      I stopped hunting with .357 from that point on.

  4. The problem with factory loaded 45LC is that the pressures must duplicate the black powder loading according to SAAMI so to get the “true” performance out of that round is to either buy the premium boutique ammo or handload it yourself. Now on the tactical lever…you might as well go with the .44 magnum as you will want the obvious power difference but still retain the same magazine capacity. The 44 is one of the most forgiving calibers to load for and I would even suggest a Lee handheld loader and a balance beam scale to start out with. I started with the 44 personally back in Germany when I bought a Colt Anaconda and the ammo was too expensive for an E-3 to be shooting every weekend.

  5. I have to give 2 thumbs up for the .44 carbine.
    I am seriously thinking of getting a Rossi Ranch Hand and SBRing it.
    I started reloading with the .44 and honestly… my cheap Lee turret set up has paid for itself MANY times over.
    Using hard, cast its cheaper for me to shoot .44 mag and special than cheap over the counter 9mm.
    The SBR ranch hand is going to become the main weapon of one of my main characters… so this blog topic is very timely for me.
    I think you are considering the perfect choice.


  6. JesseL,

    Marlin made the 1894 in .41 Rem Mag for some years — 1894FG, if I remember correctly. They crop up fairly regularly at on-line gun auctions.


    1. Have one. Lucked into a NIB one here a couple years ago. I’ll keep it, as it admitedly shoots well, but I much prefer the slimmer lighter profile of the Winchesters over the Marlins, especially in pistol calibers.

  7. What are the comparable stats for the .357? (16″ barrel and .44mag fps, etc.)

    Are .357’s more/less/same to reload than .44? I know next to nothing about reloading.

    I think, in the end, it boils down to, “If I’m going to make this, I want it to be THIS.”

    Go with what makes you happy.

    Would it be easier to step down from 44 to 357, or up from 357 to 44, should the above statement end in unhappy?

  8. Don’t give up on the 357 magnum. I have an 1894C that turned feral pigs into barbeque for ever 15 years and it killed everyone of them just a dead as a 308 or a 30-30 did. The only reason it isn’t still doing the the same is I haven’t settled on a good load for the condor zone. I’ve never shot a person with it so I cannot testify to its, “tactical” value but if it and a 357 revolver where all I had to survive the ‘pocolypse, I suspect it would serve.

    Also I found that a DEWC loaded down to about 900 fps are pretty darned good at discouraging skunks — and quiet too.

  9. George, a couple things:

    1. Out of that length tube a 44 mag is a whole different animal than in a handgun. You can get enough going on in there to actually have substantial felt recoil. As much as I love my 357 levers, the 44 will throw a 50 percent heavier slug with 20 percent more diameter at the same speed. Whole different class of thump here.

    2. Powders. We’ll talk Saturday.

    1. 1. Very true on the felt recoil, I’ve compared it to a 20ga. throwing slugs. A little sharp with a nice push..nothing damaging, but you know when the trigger is pulled 😉

      2. When I started to reload for my .44 Carbine I was a bit disappointed that Speer #13 showed the exact loading for rifle as pistol. 22.5grs of W296 behind a 240gr SJHP is pretty stout in the SBH, but the long gun can definately benefit from something a bit slower burning. That is one thing to say about the old Ruger Carbine is that it needs the fast powders otherwise she will have cycling problems. I believe once you work up a load with some slower powders you’ll get more consistant velocities.

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