Lever-action rifles in pistol calibers have always held a special charm. In the days of the Wild West, they were even considered practical–lawmen and desperadoes alike felt sensibly outfitted with a “hawgleg” and a rifle that fired .38/40 or .44/40 cartridges from the same box. In more recent times, rifle and rifle-cartridge development have strayed far from this dual concept, but the charm lingers on and has been exploited by lever-action rifle makers Henry, Marlin and Winchester. Marlin’s adaptation of its Model 1894 to the .41 Remington Magnum handgun cartridge might raise eyebrows, given that the .41 Rem. Mag. has long languished in the shadow of the more potent .44 Rem. Mag. Even so, the .41 has a lot more going for it than is generally realized.
Several years ago I was a member of a White House commission appointed to recommend tactics to be used by airline pilots in the event of a hijacking. One thing our panel agreed on was that pilots should be armed, and that the best choice in handguns to arm them with would probably be a .41 Rem. Mag., because the .41 has the punch to deliver a lights-out blow yet is more manageable than heavier calibers such as the .44.
Put these features in a lightweight lever rifle with the right bullets, and you have a hard-hitting but easy-to-handle short-range hunting rifle for whitetails, black bears and boars in close cover. Since handgun ammo can be dismally inaccurate in rifles, my range tests centered on this aspect. I mounted a 6X Leupold scope with a focusing objective lens in Warne rings.
My first accuracy tests at 60 yards were disappointing; Winchester’s 175-grain Silvertip hollowpoint load scattered, literally, all over the target. But later testing with handloaded ammo proved the rifle’s potential. Sierra’s 175- and 220-grain hollowpoints, and the Speer 220 softpoint all grouped five shots under 2 inches, with most measuring closer to an inch. The big surprise, however, came when a supply of Winchester’s new 240-grain Supreme Platinum Tip Hollow Point ammo arrived. The shots clustered in tight little bunches, the smallest measuring .794 inches. (203-239-5621; www.marlinfirearms.com)
BY THE NUMBERS
Manufacturer: Marlin Model: 1894FG Type: Lever-action Caliber: .41 Rem. Mag. Magazine capacity: 10 shots Weight: 6 lb. 8 1/2 oz. Finish: Blue Stock: Walnut Barrel Length: 20 1/4 in. Rate of Twist: 1 in 20 in. Overall Length: 37 3/4 in. Length of Pull: 13 1/2 in. Drop at Heel: 2 in. Drop at Comb: 1 1/8 in. Trigger Pull: 5 lb. 14 1/2 oz. Bore finish grading (out of 5): 3 Suggested Retail: $622
HOW IT SHOT
Test Rifle: Marlin 1894FG
Bullet Weight Type Propellant/Charge Group Average* Sierra 170 gr. HP W-296/23.0 gr. 1.599 in. Sierra 210 gr. HP W-296/21.0 gr. 1.817 in. Speer 220 gr. SP W-296/20.2 gr. 1.433 in. Winchester 240 gr. Platinum Factory load 1.309 in.
*Average of five 5-shot groups at 60 yards.