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Old 11-08-2008, 06:10 PM
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best all around 30-30

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I am looking to pick up a rifle of my own for a variety of reasons and have narrowed my options down to a 30-30 in either marlin 336 or winchester 94 trim. I have so far been lead to believe that these two models are pretty much the best in the 30-30 caliber.

despite hours of research i'm still spinning from all the contradicting facts and opinions seperating these two and am hoping for some clarity.. For fairness i am posting in the general forum rather than either 336 or 94 subgroup.

i am aware the winch 94 is slightly lighter and more compact

i am aware the marlin has a simpler and more robust bolt/ easier to disassemble

i am not concerned with mounting a scope. these are lever action rifles with effective range well within eyesight

as far as i can tell the pricing between the two remains competitive around 300. is this right or am i mislead?

The controversial statements i would like opinions on are:

winchester 94 action is weak/loose/fragile. How bad are we talking about here with the 30-30? I have been told that much of the disdain for Winchester action comes from their trying to accomodate shorter handgun rounds when the rifle was designed from the ground up to be a 30-30. so when comparing specfically the 30-30 caliber is the Winchester mechanism stout or will the lever break off in my hand/ bolt jam up.. etc.

Marlin receiver is much thicker/stronger/heavier. The marlin is heavier and this seems logical but others argue that the win model is plenty strong as well, and others go further to argue the win 94 withstands higher pressure rounds better than the marlin. any opinions here?

solid top vs open top. i have read people arguing for how easy cleaning maintenance is with the marlin while others argue that the winchester requires less of this because the design doesnt allow for dirt/etc to accumulate behind the bolt. any comments on this?

on the note of cleaning, how problematic is cleaning the win94? i consider myself mechanical and good with my hands but no one likes tiny little springs and screws flying across the room.

last but not least can anyone varify a difference in accuracy? i understand these companies use very different approaches to rifling (winchester being more old fashion) and hear many unsettled arguments about effectiveness.

i have handled and fired many guns and owned 0. i am looking to purchase my first and believe in the versatility of the 30-30 and both these rifles are appealing. looking for friendly advice from experienced gun owners/avid shooters.. not a flame war between speculating teenagers.

Thank you,
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:23 PM
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Welcome to the forum. They're both pretty good rifles and will serve you well; they would not have remained in production this long if that were not the case.

I'd suggest holding them up to your shoulder and see which one feels best. That's probably the simplest way to decide.

Prices - the Winchester prices seem to be creeping up with the demise of Winchester a while back. If you want a Winchester, I'd suggest getting it soon.

I can't imagine you'd have a problem with either.

Originally Posted by faucettb
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Old 11-08-2008, 06:33 PM
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Personally, I'd be looking at current manufacture guns. Winchester has been out of business for a couple years. Mossberg has a new lever gun that is getting excellent reviews, and of course the venerable Marlins, I own a .444 myself.

As Mike said, you really can't go wrong with a modern rifle, they are all pretty good.
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Old 11-08-2008, 07:43 PM
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I'm not a lever gun fan, but probably would give more consideration to a rifle that's still in production over a discontinued model. Another you might take a gander at is the new Mossberg 30-30. Pretty robust looking rifle and fairly nice ergonomics.

Like Mike says with the prices of the 94 rising all the time if your going to get one you need to think about doing it soon.
Bob from Idaho
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Old 11-09-2008, 01:25 AM
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I have a Marlin 336, I like it a lot.

However, if you prefer the Winchester, I wouldn't argue with you.

As an engineer of many years standing, I prefer the design of the Marlin.

Before you part with your money, check out the trigger pull of both rifles, if you are fussy, the Marlin is generally easier to modify.

All the best

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Old 11-09-2008, 02:53 AM
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Will you be doing a lot of walking while carrying the rifle, or will you be mostly going to a stand and then staying put? Weight will become a factor after a few miles. Try to find a range where you can test fire an example of each. Fit and balance are also factors. If you are able to do this try to wear what you will be wearing.
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Old 11-09-2008, 12:42 PM
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thanks for the quick replies. Is it correct to assume the marlin will be more successful than an old winchester if using higher pressure rounds (i.e. 180 or 190 gr)?

i've read a lot of good and bad on the mossberg by both reputable magazines and reputable forum members. Some say it is total crap- poorly assembled (rattles), bad wood, bad WTM gaps, rough action etc.... Others say it is sturdy, robust, no rattles, smooth action and very accurate. Regardless i am considering this rifle as well now and am interested in impressions. there are none available near me yet so i have not seen one in person.

fyi- seems the magazines like the gun while some "regulars" find it cheaply made and bad quality.. not sure why the drastic difference of opinions
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Old 11-09-2008, 01:21 PM
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I have both a Marlin 336 and a Winchester 94. The 94 is honestly 2 lbs lighter than the (scoped) Marlin. In my opinion, between the two, the Marlin is a better choice if you want a scoped gun, the Winchester a better choice if you are going to use open or receiver sights. Strength is not an issue with either if you are shooting .30-30, the Winchester design is certainly not "fragile." The Marlin is easier to strip for cleaning, but honestly, I could get away with a bore snake and never pull the bolt on the Marlin, with the Winchester, basically everything can be cleaned with the bolt open. The only (minor) problem I have with the Marlin is screws loosening, I don't remember a problem with my Winchester. My Winchester has a more generous chamber, both seem so shoot my reloads pretty well. As far as accuracy goes, I cannot shoot well enough with iron sights to compare realistically. With my Winchester, I can put three shots into about 1 1/4" at 50 yards, my Marlin will print 3 in 7/8" at 100. I don't think the rifling difference between them has any practical effect. The Marlins use "Micro Groove", more lands and grooves, but they are shallower. Some Micro Groove barrels are hard to shoot well with cast bullets, no effect on jacketed bullets, other than slightly higher velocity.
P.S. I don't know how clear I was about the rifling, a lot of people report good accuracy with Microgroove barrels and cast bullets. I like both my .30-30s, and its a great cartridge to reload.

Last edited by andy; 11-09-2008 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 11-09-2008, 01:50 PM
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I have 3 Marlins: a 1895 cowboy in 45-70, a 336 in .35 Remington, and a 1984 in .357 magnum. All are excellent rifles. The actions are a bit stiff when you first get them, but slick up beautifully with use. The 336 is just flat out reliable and more accurate than people give credit for in a levergun. If you don't like the iron sights, many (MANY) options are available for replacements. I have FP sights on my 1894 and it shoots amazingly fast and accurate. Many folks like the Marbles tang site for cowboy action shooting and Skinner is makiing some cool sights. XS makes an excellent ghost ring sight also.
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Old 11-09-2008, 05:38 PM
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I have a Winnie"94;so I'm biased in favor of them.
My long time Hunting Buddy used a marlin 36,and it was DEADLY on deer.
Don't be concerned about Winchester not making parts anymore.
There are enough in circulation to last another hundred yeas.
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Old 11-09-2008, 10:27 PM
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94, 336 or BLR.

I have 3 different lever action rifles that shoot .308" bullets and I like all 3 for different reasons.

My Winchester 94 30-30 has iron sights and is a joy to carry. It is light, jumps to the shoulder and shoots where you are looking. It is my favorite deep woods carry rifle and my choice when running dogs. It is somewhat "clickity-clackish" sounding and feeling when cycling but that can be overlooked since it has so many other virtues. The Winchester 94 just feels good, not unlike an extension of your own flesh and blood.

When the situation calls for fast, moderate to medium-range shooting, I go with the Marlin 336 30-30 with a scout mount and a 2-7x32 scout scope. For years I resisted the scout concept but after trying it, I find this set-up to be both the quickest to get on-target and the fastest on follow-up shots. And if the situation calls for longer range shots, you are good-to-go with the scout scope at higher magnification. I find the Marlin to be just a good, solid deer rifle.

The 3rd lever action rifle in this trio is the Browning BLR which is considered by some hunters to be superior to either the 94 or the 336. In 30 caliber it is chambered in .308 Winchester, 30-06, .300 WSM and .300 Win Mag. The 30-06 and the .300 Win Mag require the long action which is too heavy and cumbersome. The .300 WSM uses the short action but for the purpose of compairing it to the 30-30, it is unnecessarily powerful. That leaves the 20" barreled .308 Winchester. The BLR is more accurate than either the 94 or the 336 and the .308 Winchester is more powerful than the 30-30 but not unnecessairly so as a deer rifle. Many hunters consider the .308 Winchester the perfect deer cartridge.

If I had to choose just one, it would be the Browning BLR in .308 Winchester. It's more accurate, more powerful, better made to closer tollerences, operates as smooth as silk, and has an excellent finish both wood and metal. Mine has a Leupold VX-II 3-9x40 scope and I am ready for anything in the lower 48 up to 350 yards. If heavier quary is on the menu then I opt for my other BLR chambered in .358 Winchester.

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Old 11-10-2008, 01:53 AM
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As others have stated, you'll not go wrong with either.

Marlin build fine strong guns, which can handle stout loads. On the other hand, Winchester built the lever since 18-some-odd-date, which, some are still in use.
the W-94 is a sleek design for it's time, and one that is surely time tested.

Get both. The Marlin is a great gun, but personally,, the lines of the '94 appeal to me.

good luck in your conundrum.
Chris in NH.

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Old 11-10-2008, 03:27 AM
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I own both and they're both good as gold. The Winchester with a peep sight is fast, light, and accurate. But the Marlin mounts a scope easily and is accurate enough to bother mounting it. If you live where you're going to be climbing a lot of big hills I'd say the Winchester. Otherwise you could just flip a coin. I don't think you'll be sorry either way, so long as it's a 30-30.
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Old 11-10-2008, 05:04 AM
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Either will perform well with open sights. I have owned 3 Marlins and 2 Win. 94s. I still have the Marlins.

Used Marlins are more available and cheaper to buy. ever decide to mount a scope the Marlin is superior. The rest has been said above.

My vote is "Marlin."
"Hunt close, then get closer."
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Old 11-11-2008, 07:33 AM
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Lots of very good info here.
The Only point I'd address is on cleaning. Whereas the Marlin will commonly disassemble for cleaning from the receiver, you'll soon find it is a royal PITA. You'll probably end up bore cleaning from the muzzle IEC and I recommend a crown protector for that. Buy one or make one from a cut up, smaller caliber, MT case with the base sawed off.
Pepe Ray
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Old 11-11-2008, 09:43 AM
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How pray tell is is a royal PITA to unscrew one screw and pop out the ejector?

And if a novice is going to disassemble any further than that...Marlin is the ONLY way to go.

The original poster must go and handle and shoulder both. Buy the one that feels the best to you. I personally like the look and feel of the marlin with the pistol grip. Marlin also made some older models with straight grip which others perfer. I think most M94's are straight grip. This is a totally personal thing. Go see which one you like best and buy it and don't look back.
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:39 PM
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Depends on what you want. I've owned a couple dozen lever actions thru the years, and with the pistol cartridge chambered rifles, I prefer the Marlins. However my .30-30s have all been pre '64 Winchesters. The one I have now was made as best I can tell about '1947. (no files were keep for a few years about that time) I am not however in the least bit interested in the newer ones with the angle eject, or the big ugly safety bolts. And, I have no interest in the Marlin .30-30s; although they are fine rifles for sure. Just depends on your interests. I started hunting very early with one made in '1908, and am partial to the handling qualities of the Winchesters.
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Old 12-10-2008, 06:11 PM
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It all boils down to this!

By now after reading all the excellent posts you should be realizing it boils down to the fact that everybody should have several of each brand to cover all the bases and life would be good for everybody!
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Old 12-22-2008, 05:45 PM
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i own the marlin 30-30 336 model and i have to tell ya they have tremendous knockdown power,and are extremely accurate.i would suggest trying both guns see which feels better and groups better,also easier to lever.
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Old 12-22-2008, 06:25 PM
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No. 1 In my experience the Winchester Model 94 action will tolerate slightly higher pressures than the Marlin 336 action. This comes at a higher load level than we should be normally operating at so it does not mean much. If anyone suggests one action is significantly stronger than the other keep this thought in mind. I have pictures of at least four different Marlin 336 rifles which failed in the barrel thread area. I have one pictures of a Winchester Model 94 which failed and this is from P. O. Ackley’s book – the picture taken more than 45 years ago. So when the discussions of strength come up ask your friends to see a picture of a “Blown-up” Winchester – insert smiley face here

No. 2 See No. 1 above.

No. 3 This has never been a significant factor for me. After you have done it a few times you can strip a Model 94 Winchester down to the component parts in less than 15 minutes – something that is not often required. I shoot my rifles quite a bit and I don’t allow myself to get very carried away in the cleaning shores. The Marlin bolt does come out with one screw a factor which has not been very important to me.

No. 4 You will not have a lot of spring loaded parts flying around the room if you take the Winchester down. If you pull the bolt on your Marlin you may loose the ejector.
Get a spray cleaner and a pull through cable cleaning rod.

No. 5 Now there you can start an argument. In general these rifles will shoot around 2” at 100 yards. We all can shoot a three shot group that will get under 1.5” but I don’t think many of us can shoot very many groups like this using full power ammunition on a regular basis. Using reduced loads you can shoot some very small groups.
There are some exceptions to every rule and the 130-grain Speer bullet at full power is a very accurate bullet.

The new Marlin 308MX in 308 Marlin Express is capable of amazing accuracy and with three shot groups it will open your eyes – five shot groups will bring you back to reality. Still the Marlin 308MX is more accurate than some bolt rifles I have shot and you can easily get several owners to echo this thought.

Personally I would not let spare parts be an issue in my selection. Winchester still sells parts for these rifles.

I own both types of rifle and like them both.
On your second post you suggested you could raise the pressure of the 30-30 round. This is not the case. You can load the cartridge with heavier bullets but this does not allow higher velocity. The Lyman 311291 cast bullet will weight above 185 grains when cast about 14 BHN and you can nudge 1950 fps or maybe a little more from the 20” barrel on a hot day without sticky extraction.

I have scopes on both Winchester and Marlin rifles and find no difference in shooting them from the bench or in the field.

Last edited by William Iorg; 12-22-2008 at 06:26 PM. Reason: working with word
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