Sunday, August 9, 2009

Praxis: L. Neil Smith's Choice for the Optimum "Urban Assault Rifle"


Libertarian and science fiction writer L. Neil Smith responded to my Praxis question with the email below. You can find Neil's work at The Webley Page:; The Libertarian Enterprise:; LNS at Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and Big Head Press:



I have always considered my M94 Marlin in .44 Magnum to be my "urban assault rifle" since Jeff Cooper invented the term. Ten rounds in the magazine, one in the chamber, can be re-fed without being incapacitated. Much stronger and more durable than the Winchester. I own several "black guns" -- tell your henpecked friend to practice saying "sport-utility rifle" -- but for this retired gunsmith, it's the Marlin 94, or its big brother the 1895CB (ony nine rounds in the magazine, alas) in .47-70.

That one I keep beside the bed, just beneath the shelf for the Glock 20.


"It's not your mother. It's just a big rock." -- L. Neil Smith

Now I've never liked buckhorn/leaf sights, I've always preferred peep sights. As my eyes have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate the ghost ring. So if it was me, I'd put one of these on it:


This sight fits the Model 1894 Marlin lever action rifle. The sight is designed to mount using the pre-drilled and tapped holes on the top of the receiver. It is adjustable for windage and elevation and adjustments are locked in place with set screws. This sight is precision manufactured to close tolerances and can be ordered in Blued steel or Brass. The removable .096" aperture allows the marksman to use a fine aperture or a much larger ghost ring. The sight can be ordered with a custom aperture size at no additional charge. Mounting screws and set screw wrench are included. Price: $54 which includes shipping and handling.

However, that brings us to another problem with the original question. Price. The factory MSRP of a Model 1894 is $590.64. Tack on the shipping (if any) taxes and the peep/ghost ring sight and you are now out of the "cheap zone."

Well, there are no free lunches. -- MBV.


drjim said...

I've got one in 357, and I love it. Nicely made, goes to aim fast, easy to shoot well, easy to take down and clean, and so far very reliable. Even with the supplied sights I get all "9 ring or better", usually in the red, at the maximum range the indoor range I go to has.
The Marlin Forums group is very active, and has a great bunch of people more than willing to help you with any questions you might have.
Plus, it doesn't look like an Evil Black Gun, and doesn't scare the neighbors.

Shy Wolf said...

Mike, I have long wanted a Marlin '94 in either .357 or .44 for such use- short, quick handling, fast and accurate. This spring a reader called and asked if I was serious about wanting one- now I, too, am the proud owner of a Marlin '94 in .357 and love it. Of course, it's getting a tweak job to make it even more formidable. Thus far, accuracy off-hand is about three inches at 50 yards. Fine enough for a close-quarters rifle. Now, I'm off to get the bayonet mount on...
(kidding about the bay'nit. maybe.)

ParaPacem said...

BTW - don't know how readers feel about the 30-30 round BUT I have seen special sales at Academy Sports and Dick's in the last year, with Marlins for 229.00 - 299.00. You just have to watch for the ads.

ScottJ said...

I'll echo you on the ghost ring. It's a great setup.

I need to call XS Sights back about the taller front blade for my Win. 94 they were supposed to ship back around Easter.

I know the gun market has bee crazy but I think they've had ample time.

I haven't pressed because it's a free exchange for the shorter blade that comes in the sight kit.

John Richardson said...

Another option for sights would be the XS Sights Ghost Ring sights.

They are a bit more expensive at $90.

As for finding the rifle at a good price, my suggestion is a pawn shop AFTER hunting season.

Some Guy said...

Marlin lever guns never go for MSRP. I got an 1895 22" in .45-70 for about $400 new. XS ghost rings with the full rail (for either scout or conventional scope) was $100-something, and gives a nice option if you have something more powerful than a pistol cartridge.

As someone else noted, you can buy Marlin lever guns for sub-$300 all day long at pawn shops after hunting season.

Anonymous said...

I don’t see a thing wrong with a lever action especially if its in a pistol caliber like 357.

I would suggest that the people that want a lever action also get handguns in the same caliber

There’s nothing worse than having 10 guns all using a different caliber and then having a wife or family member getting the ammo mixed up.

Let me explain there’s a lot of women and non-gun owning men that don’t understand the difference in ammo.

I always suggest having one type of rifle that uses the same ammo same thing with handguns.

P.S. I suggest you try and arm every member of your family down to 12 yrs of age as soon as possible with minimum 1000rds ammo

Boston T. Party/Kenneth W. Royce said...

I have both Marlins: the .44 Mag 1984 and the .45/70 1895 (with which I've twice hunted Africa, as described in my 2008 book "Safari Dreams").

Ghost-ring XS Sights are the way to go, if not an XS Scout mount (for the .45/70).

Due to the 100yd practical range of the .44 Mag Marlin, it's not my choice for an "urban assault rifle". (I.e., why limit oneself to a pistol caliber in a rifle?)

A takedown Browning BLR Scout in .308 (for greater range and precision) makes more sense to me, if a lever-action is desired. It will also pack in a very small case, which would be handy for discreet urban transport.

Finally, a "weapons mechanic" or "armorer" is what many of us are, but I do wish that LNS would cease referring to himself as a "retired gunsmith" unless he was a graduate of an bona-fide gunsmithing school with actual work experience in that field.

Installing a new 1911 firing pin from Brownells is one thing; however, making one on a lathe, heat-treating and bluing it, is another. Let's be as accurate with our self-descriptions as we try to be on the range, shall we?

Good shooting,

Boston T. Party (not a "gunsmith")

j said...

gun·smith (-smit̸h′)
a person who designs, makes, or repairs small guns

Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2005 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio.
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

<< I must have missed the part of the definition that mentioned the requirement of attending a school. >>
But it WAS nice for Mr. Royce to stop by to promote his book.

Anonymous said...

I offer another vote for the 336 Marlin.

In the interest of getting my favorite nephew to purchase an “urban battle rifle” I sent him the following email:

Fearing incipient social unrest, a mutual friend of ours is considering the purchase of a semiautomatic Main Battle Rifle (chambered for .30-06 or 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester.) However, its cost is considerable and at the present time, the availability is spotty. I recommended an alternate route to him so as to attain the same ends. Evaluate the following at your own leisure so as to give yourself enough time to follow the included links.

It will first be necessary to read this article (scroll down page) so as to "get up to speed".
Copyright 1999, Gabriel Suarez
All Rights Reserved

The correspondence is now as follows:

If you were strapped for cash and could only afford to have one good centerfire utility rifle, I think this set-up would be a satisfactory choice:

1.) Marlin 336 .30/30 rifle w/Wild West Guns' "Happy
Trigger" (strictly optional, the Marlin's trigger is easily tuned)
2.) Weaver 1-3X20 scope (read these reviews!):
3.) Hornady LEVERevolution 160 gr. cartridges(averaged 1.5
MOA in 20" Marlin and Winchester test rifles!)

With a 3" high zero at 100 yards, the Hornady cartridge will
shoot to point of aim at 200 yards. Testing in ballistic
medium shows dramatic expansion at that range, which is assuredly not the case where traditional .30/30 jacketed bullets are concerned. Furthermore, conventional reloading components for this cartridge are dirt cheap and ubiquitous.

The .30/30 was originally designed to be used with black powder, so you could substitute with no ill effects and the shallow rifling of the Marlin lends itself well to this application. Unlike the Winchester model 1894, the 336 takes down readily so as to permit cleaning black powder residue out of your barrel by scrubbing from the breech end.

We have already discussed the suitability of lever-action
rifles for CQB antipersonnel use [see Suarez article above].
Equipped with the recommended Weaver scope, you have a sniper rifle capable of being used to the practical trajectory limits of the cartridge, as well.

Where small game hunting is concerned, the .30/30 performs
well with cast lead bullets, although you have to be careful
about which molds to use, given the Micro groove rifling.
(Ed Harris has written extensively on this latter topic.)
Consequently, this means you can press your .30/30 into service as an inexpensive plinker/trainer.

The only possible shortcoming I can envision with this set-up is the difficulty of using a lever-action repeater from the prone position. However, unless you are planning to ambush a fire team, one well placed shot from prone should suffice for most of your needs. [END]

Please let me know what you think of the analysis.



Boston T. Party/Kenneth W. Royce said...

While I do know actual gunsmiths without formal schooling, they apprenticed under a master. Training and competence are the hallmarks of a true gunsmith.

j3maccabee, if you're comfortable taking your rebarreling job to a guy who proudly points to Webster's New World College Dictionary as his credentials -- help yourself. He's replaced grip panels and extractors, so he's a "gunsmith", yep. Just don't confound the guy by asking him what a NO-GO gauge is . . .

Anonymous, good points about the .30-30, though its tubular magazine isn't the choice for any tactical rifle. Ding it hard, and you've trouble. Marlins are nice rifles, but circa-1890s actions are difficult to clear malfunctions. Moral: they will serve OK, but don't expect too much from them.

Good shooting,

ScottJ said...

You folks had to go and mention the .45-70.

I really have no need for one but as a hand loader (and hopefully soon to be bullet caster) it fascinates me.

Boston T. Party/Kenneth W. Royce said...

ScottJ, do give the .45/70 a try. Fun (though not efficient), it's a very capable caliber within, say, 200yds. Probably the ultimate brush hunting gun, especially with an 18" barrel.

I like the 300gr Barnes TSX and the 350gr Swift A-Frame (which knocked my eland bull down as if hit by a locomotive). The powder of choice is 4198 (Hogdon or IMR, it doesn't really matter).

The .45/70 doesn't fill any real need, quite frankly, but the thing is just so enjoyable on a non-bolt-action, non-.30-06 level that I can't seem to help returning to Africa with it (despite the extra weight and paperwork). The allure of the thing is strong, and folks over there swarm around it as levers are nearly unheard of.

I'm keen to swat an American Bison with my 1895, if only for the symmetry.

As an "Urban Assault Rifle", .45/70 is not my favorite lever caliber. Unless a .308 BLR or Savage 99, I'd rather the .44 Mag for greater handiness and efficiency.

Good shooting,

ScottJ said...

Thanks, BTP.

So many guns, so little money.

Also on my wish list is a .44 Mag rifle since that's the first caliber I reloaded for and still my favorite pistol (tied with the .45 ACP now though).

I'm still working on the multiple launchers per caliber thing.

The pistol ammo I have the most of is .45 ACP and the one gun I have for it (1911) has been down for a few weeks with a bad spring (finally shipped to me today).