Friday, March 03, 2006

A Few Thoughts About Lever Guns...

...before I go see Capote this afternoon.

I've noticed on several of the gun lists an on-going controversy about lever-action rifles used as primary or secondary self-defense guns. Here's a short summary of the controversy. Yes, rifles have a place in a home defense battery for all the reasons that rifles have always had the edge — easier to shoot than handguns; more powerful than handguns; more precision than shotguns; greater range if necessary, etc. As my friend Jimmy Q. said, right after he got back from blowing stuff up in Vietnam and long before the phrase was picked up by name-brand trainers, "The function of a handgun is to get you to your rifle."

Given that, which rifle? It sorta comes down to two — the classic cowboy lever gun and the classic "everybody's got one" AR platform .223 carbine. Yeah, you can argue for an M1A (the current Springfield SOCOM II rifle is a revelation...its' also friggin' $2000!), any AK platform gun, some obscure choices, but, really, the game comes down to the two biggies.

I've got both, and I tend to come down on the side of the pistol cartridge lever gun. In my own case, the available self-defense rifle is a Winchester '94 Trapper carbine in .44 Magnum. loaded with Black Hills .240-grain JHPs. My reasons aren't exactly rocket science — I like the .44's ballistics over the .223, especially in the context of what the self-defense rifle in my situation might be used for. I don't have property, a farm, a ranch or a situation where there might be a long shot in a self-defense situation. In fact, I can't imagine taking a rifle shot longer than 50 yards (or the distance from the bedroom window to the base of the driveway, whichever comes first). Within those distances, the .44 Magnum is a proven hammer...thousands of deer and pigs can't be wrong! The Trapper wil shoot little tiny groups at 50 yards, all day long.

You can argue that the downside of the lever platform is the absence of that 20-30 round magazine. Fair point, but again, in what context might the gun be used? In my home, I'm unlikely to be facing crazed packs of Somalis or even five or six pissed-off jihadi, situations where pure firepower becomes a big big plus. Instead, I'll be looking at one or two (three on the outside) home invaders who are unlikely to storm my fortified bedroom. With nine rounds in the Winchester's tube and a 50-round box of .44 Maggies, I can lay down a steady stream of very deadly fire for a long, long time...at least, until the local cavalry arrives.

Secondly, I shoot cowboy action stuff pretty regularly, so I practice a lot with a lever gun. So does my Sweetie. That's a critical point to me. If, on the other hand, I shot three-gun regularly, I'd want my self-defense rifle to be the same platform as the rifle I practiced the most with, probably an AR (loaded with low-penetration .223s designed for SWAT cops). Just like with handguns, the "best" rifle for you is the one you practice the most with. A tool is only "best" within the context of "use."

14 comments:

Patrick Sweeney said...

Michael, the old adage "If all you have is a hammer, you treat every problem as a nail" covers it. If you were a recently-released GI or Marine back from Iraq, there is no other choice than an AR. If you're a cowboy shooter, why mess with success? Me, I wouldn't be the least bit worried about my chances at home, armed as you described.

But I'm a gunwriter, so my home defense long-gun will probably be what I happen to have next to the desk when the zombies break in.

Timmeeee said...

What I like about a lever rifle is that you can top up the mag without opening the action or removing the mag.

Michael Bane said...

ZOMBIES are the VERY REASON I requested one of the Taurus .415/.45 Colt revolvers (http://www.taurususa.com/products/product-details.cfm?model=4410TKR-2B&category=Revolver)!

I want that bad boy close at hand 24/7! Heck, I wish I could get a 20 gauge revolver...or an Ithaca Auto/Burglar with rifled tubes so it wouldn't be controlled!

mb

Anonymous said...

I agree 100 on the lever gun , while I have Bushmaster - well actually 2. i keep a lever action for home defense. Mine is a 357 though.

Cowboy Blob said...

Speaking of defense, which gun would you rather have the prosecutor show the jury if your home defense shooting goes to trial? An "Evil, Black Assault Rifle Machinegun Bullet-hose" or a familiar gun carried by childhood cowboy heroes?

Anonymous said...

Capote, eh? You'll need your pink-handled .32 along for that. Could get feisty in there.

Anonymous said...

Good choices all.

I would like to throw out two more.

1) Some form of SKS. Talk about cheap and reliable. Yes, overpenetration might be an issue, but anywhere an AR platform would be a good choice for home defense, an SKS would probably work just as well.

2)An M-1 Carbine. Hotter than a .357 magnum, this one is light, easy to shoot, and has lots of readily available 15 and even 30 round magazines. My sweetie shoots, too, and she has called our carbine the "little baby gun." Damn it's cute when she says that........

craig said...

I'm with you on the lever. But then, i like revolvers and the ammo compatabily. Also, the velocity increase from the long barrel makes the magnums pretty impressive and the 45 colt is no slouch either.

Anonymous said...

I always find different rationales for this issue interesting. I personally live in a rural and remote area, 30+ minutes from the county seat and that is where the local cavalry is likely to be coming from if I need them in the middle of the night, assuming I got to the phone and it worked. I find those 30 round mags very comforting, and my imagination can play some scenarios that last much longer than someone in an urban or suburban environment might have.

I also think about the Katrina situation. LE has disappeared for a while, maybe days, some bad actors start working in groups larger than 3 people. Again preparing for the worst case scenarios.

Anonymous said...

.30 caliber - so that cover isn't!
(API - if you can get it.)

Walt R.

Michael Bane said...

In a SHTF scenario, I'm semiauto all the way! And every magazine I've got...which is a lot...and all the ammo...which is a lot...different scenario than home invasion.

And I'd probably get a SOCOM II if I had good enough relations with Springfield to get a good price. Loved the one I shot at GUNSITE. May get a CMP Garand just to have a big .30 thumper. My Sweetie said I couldn't have a .50 BMG or a 3/4 scale Civil War cannon for the front of the house...of course, she also nixed the 10-foot-tall fiberglass velociraptor...sometimes I think she has no sense of humor! I'm on the list for a .416 Barrett, carefully following the Letter of the Law...

Well, she didn't actually say I couldn't have anything...just that I could play with my toys on the front lawn. I'm welcome to have the cannon, the dinosaur and the .50 (sounds like a hip-hop remake of "The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe," doesn't it? CS Lewis gone berserk...) in my office or the gun room.

BTW, we had a thread a year or so ago on the .30 Carbine...another rifle I really really like. A couple of really heavy hitters weighed in on the efficacy of the little round. One would go nicely with my .30 Carbine Ruger Blackhawk...nice matching fireballs!

Michael B

Wbdrey said...

I agree with the lever gun for home defense. I have a puma 92 in 357 wich is also the cowboy rifle. It is amazingly acurate out to 250 yards and at 50 yards will almost cut one hole groups. I don not feel the least bit under or out gunned with it. If there is a call for it I also have the 30 carbine with 4 mags ready to go.

Marshall said...

Michael,
First off thanks for this year Best Defense Survival you guys are doing a great job. You have posed a lot of great questions that I had not thought of, keep up the good work.

Ok my other question. I saw on one of your show were you were talking about lever guns for home defense and you showed a lever gun with a pictinny fore grip, well I have Google my brain's out trying to fine someone how makes that for grip. Can you please help.

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