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Discussion Starter #1
From the introduction of the Henry repeater all the way through the early 1900s the levergun could have been rightly considered the assault rifle of its times. (Particulary, the Henry, Winchester 73/92/94/95, and Marlin 94s)

My question is, how dependable have the different variations of the levergun been as COMBAT weapons when fighting both two and four footed foes? In other words, were they (are they) tools you could rely on when your life depends on it?
 

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I'd take many well built levers over the m16 in certain conditions.  The .223 caliber ain't a knocker-downer, and the m16 makes a horribly frail club with all that plastic.  A big ol' 1886, with a full length mag would be dandy at close range.  No 300 meter threat, for sure.  Assault rifles are designed to fulfill a variety of conditions.  While not really a master of any one task, a levergun would have to be clip fed, and have a capacity of 30 rnds.  Might get in the way of the lever.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How about the reliabilty of the action? Short stroking jams, magazine detonations, parts failures, resiatance to dirt and muck, action strength, user induced failures? This question is a spinoff from a dangerous game discussion we're having in the 'General" forum.
 

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I once busted the stock clean off an m16 by falling on it wrong.  I know 'bout jams, unseated clips, dirt, dirt, the seating assist bar.  Never known a tube mag to blow up usin' the right bullets and loadin' techniques.  'Sides, the model 95, the BLR and other designs would be more appropriate "assault" rifles cause they handle spitzers.  Elongate the clip on a BLR to 20 or 30 rounds and there you go.  I heard that some cops prefer short barreled lever guns to riot shotguns.
 

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The comparison of a lever action to an "assault rifle" is a comparison of apples and oranges.  The warfare techniques of the 19th century (and early 20th) were based upon a rifleman firing a single round at a target.  The BAR and the Thompson began a different thinking, which was slow in developing as evidenced by the fact that most Marines invading Guadalcanal in August, 1942 were equipped with Springfield bolt action rifles.  The idea of "fire-power" was developed finally in the Korean War against the human waves.  The idea today that a rifleman can fire a single round at a single enemy soldier is only being explored by the military, except with snipers.  It requires too much training and not enough technology.

The lever action, while used only on a very limited basis in several wars and "actions" proved to be effective for the well trained soldiers, but not better than other rifles for the untrained.  The problems (short stroking, etc.) were identified only after WWI and eliminated with the adoption of auto-loading rifles.

In a hunting situation, where most levers have been used for the most years, they have been use most effectively in North America.  Few have been used in Africa or Asia.  Those places relied upon the "double rifle" or the bolt.  The reputation of the lever for big bear is tops; consider the .450 Alaskan in a Model 71 (no prejudice on my part) and the fact that it is still considered very effective 50 years after its introduction as a wildcat.  I am unaware of any adverse press from any reliable source on that combination.

Part of the issue here is, of course, one of training and comfort with the design.  The lever has been around for about 8 generations, some of which it was "state of the art" and the "best thing going" in the eyes of the users.  It was adopted by public in droves and used by all generations as the standard of the industry.  That gives a strong basis for opinion.

Besides, Hilter coined the term "assault rifle" so it is too late to be applied to levers, really.

(Flame proof underware in place, and, posting&#33<!--emo&;)--><img src="http://beartoothbullets.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif" border="0" valign="absmiddle" alt=';)'><!--endemo-->

dclark
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks!

I know that no comparison can be made to the "assault rifle" per se. I only meant that these were the rapid fire repeaters of the late 19th century that were used when fighting indians, outlaws and wild animals (and occassionaly in combat as in the Win 1895 in the Spanish-American war and the military version ordered by the Czar's army.)

Part of the dangerous game discussion meandered into a question of the leverguns dependability when the going got sticky, as in... stopping a charge by lion or buff.

So again the question is, can you bet your life on the dependability of the lever action today and could you back then?
 

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Hi Jack,

It seems I've read that the old Mod. 94 was a favorite in Alaska early on because of it's inherent reliability in dirty and cold conditions.  Does someone out there more knowledgable know if this is true?  I have obsessive compulsive disorder and have always kept mine fanatically clean, so I've never put it to the serious test with mud and ice.  It's interesting to look at the firearms history of Texas and Arizona Rangers ca. 1870's-1930's though.  The Winchester/Marlin and Colt were considered proven designs by these men and were relied on because of their reliability and firepower(mod's 1873-95). They were stock items to these fellows because they KNEW they were to be relied on....they lived with them constantly...knew them to be accurate and held alot of bullets for the time.  They were definitely the "assault guns" of the period in my opinion though maybe that is just a term we have conjured up which has little meaning in the long run.  Wasn't the Matchlock an "assault rifle" of the time, the Brown Bess, the Colt Rifle, the Spencer?  
Men like Texas Ranger Frank Hammer made the natural progression from the Mod. 94 to later guns like the Mod. 8 Rem. .35 autoloader(with modified 20 shot mag)...with which he dispatched Bonnie Parker.  It was all about reliability, accuracy and firepower to them(it must have been hard being a sentimental when you were going up against a BAR or a Thompson&#33<!--emo&;)--><img src="http://beartoothbullets.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif" border="0" valign="absmiddle" alt=';)'><!--endemo-->  No doubt levers have provided good service even in the era of auto and semi-auto weapons.   So, in a sense, I think the lever guns fit the criteria of reliability, accuracy and firepower quite nicely for the time period of 1870's-1900+and you see that same line of thought in the design of later weapons.  Levers still serve that purpose well in my opinion....just have to be a better shot!  Just two bits from a simple mind.  Good question posed here. I don't favor the term "assault weapon" as it just doesn't describe much.  Maybe some of the stuff out there today should be described as they were in times past...."Auto, Semi-Auto or in some cases just plain Junk." Every gun is a potential assault weapon, but I see your line of thought Jack...the old levers and modern "Assault Rifles" seek to serve the same purpose.  Good point.
 

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Jack,

Just thought of the old Winchester 1886 in 50-110.  Weren't they called "Cat Guns"  at the time because they were used extensively on the dangerous Cat critters is Africa and/or India? Do I have the wrong gun here? Again, maybe someone more knowledgable can answer.  Bet those puppies were considered RELIABLE if people went after big critters in the brush with them.  Just another two bits.    Take Care and again, great question.
 

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CD,
       You do have the correct gun here, although I don't recall the term "cat gun". I once owned an 1886 cal. 50-110 EX, nickle steel barrel, with British proofs, and barrel inscribed, Baker and Co, Ltd, Madras. This could have definitely been used  to dispatch Tigers. Regrettably it went away in trade a long time ago. At least the 45-90 I ended up with is still with me. Lever action rifles have always been known as fast and reliable repeaters. Wasn't the Henry known as "That damned Yankee rifle that loaded on Sunday and shot all week"? Excepting autos, only a double has a faster second shot. Levers carry on from there.
              Best Regards, mike
 

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dclark is right on this one.

Prior to WWII, rifles were largely defensive weapons, supporting static "fortress" defense schemes.  The "assault rifle" was developed by the Germans and Russians as part of an offensive doctrine created and reliant upon mobility - rapid troop movement.  Squad and heavy MGs are the emphasis for defense.

The only period military doctrine that I can think of that had similar shock tactics are the cavalry and mounted troops.  

During the Civil War they were equipped with all kinds of repeaters, but it seems that the army did not find them acceptable afterward, since they standardized on the trapdoor carbine until the Krag carbine came along.  If you want the answer, you'd need to study the cavalry arms trials and see what they found.  My guess is ruggedness, logistics (same cartridge) and cost are the reasons they chose the trapdoor.

Charlie
 

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Hello to all-

Good points guys.  Here is a couple more of my hairbrained ideas that I wanted to offer up.  Isn't Blitzgrieg type warfare have to do more with the swift movement of troops than a type of gun?  You could have pulled it off with older, slower firing arms I think(accurate lever actions with high capacity mags?)....not sure. God forbid I link our levers to such an evil machine, so won't go too far with that.   Much addo is made about full Auto Firing.  Often it is just a waste of ammunition, but does have a psychological impact.  The Army realized this with the M16A2...went to the 3 round burst, but mainly has emphasized single shot placement for individual rifleman.  At least that was the case when I was in during the 80's.  American Riflemen since at least the French and Indian War have had to close offensively on large bodies of enemy troops.  The earlier guns didn't lend much to this type of warfare...the technology did not exist but men did the best they could and eventually during an assault may have had to go to bayonets, using the butt as a club or in some cases rocks and the like.   They still had to storm defensive works and do the best they could with what they had....the faster firing musket was obviously the best type pre-civil War(but the Hall Breechloaders were in action before this...reliable enough and fast firing for the Mexican War era).  I am not trying to lump the lever into the "assault rifle" catagory, as I don't believe the term describes much.   I am just thinking that we have always had a recognized need for the fastest firing, most reliable arms and levers were an outgrowth of this.  As you guys noted...there was definite resistence to the mainstreaming of these guns with Military and Political officials.  Men during the Civil War bought Spencers and Henry's out of their own pockets to attain them...espcecially in the Atlanta Campaign.  The Henry was definitely the @#$~!!  Yankee Rifle that you loaded on Sunday and fired all week.  One thing is for sure, I can't engage targets with my open sighted Model 94 at 300 meters like I could my M16 and I probably couldn't fire it 30,000+ times before something snapped off.  You are getting into Apples and Oranges here in that respect.  But, the two rifles were based on the same thought processes which make rifles effective.....firepower, accuracy and reliability(at least the best that could be managed for the time).   With practice, a good man with a lever could still do pretty well I believe in most situations.  I don't have the experience of most persons on this list in terms of levers....I have always been a little poor and felt lucky to have one.  So, maybe someone else can add something in terms of the reliability of original Winchesters/Marlins during that era and the bulk of those produced today.  One thing I do feel qualified to say with certainty from my experiences....."Fear the man/woman with one gun!".  He or she probably knows it well enough to pull off whatever they want to do with it.  Again...just couple of thoughts and I do respect the opinions of all.  Thank you for the comments.
 

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####, the man with one gun may be a better shot and deserve some respect, but "fear" comes from any woman with ANY gun.  A friend of mine, the first time he met my parents, showed a new FN rifle to my dad, uncle and grandfather.  As he was about to leave the room with the rifle my mother ask to see the rifle.  Thinking she would comment that it was "pretty" or something, he handed it to her.  She threw it to her shoulder (as she had done since a mere child) and commented that it "handled nice".  Real shock for a couple of boys from Massachusetts!

The real issue behind "assault" rifles or any military shooting is the attitude of the man behind the rifle.  We learn to shoot one round at a time until somebody decides that "spray and pray" or "where there is lead in the air, there is danger" is the best philosophy.  

First, few people can shoot at another human.  Targets may be okay, but not a person.  Shooting a lot of rounds may cause damage, but nobody is really to blame.  Snipers are a different breed, and not the norm.  "Firepower" is a new term to describe what happens in war without blame for any individual.  That has not really changed in the past several hundred years, in my opinion.  Shooting in war has changed with technology, but not the man behind the rifle.

Second, trying to compensate for mass attacks required a different evaluation of tactics.  That is what the German designers did when designing the "assault rifle" and those thereafter.  "What are we really doing?"  "Shooting at 300 meters and in."  At multiple targets.

Today, we are trying to find a better way to have soldiers actually shoot at other people, just as we were in the Civil War.  People don't change much, and very slowly.

Only my opinion.

dclark
 

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CD,

Yea, blitzkreig was based on mobility (as are nearly all current tactics & strategy); they were the first to organize it into a broad doctrine.  And, yes, they did it with a less-than-appropriate infantry rifle.  To match the doctrine, they did start developing the Kurz rounds and their original "assault" rifles.  By the time they reached production, however, they were on the defensive, so they weren't needed as badly and they had a lot of other, bigger materiel problems.  

The Russians picked up the idea quickly, as they were now on the offensive, and came up with their various tommy guns and eventually the AK.

The Garand is a great study in a transition arm.  Greater firepower, but it's really a musket with a large cartridge.  It well represents the limited mobility doctrine of the '30s US Army.

The levergun in cavalry (or mounted troop) hands was the closest situation that that weapon comes to the modern assault weapon's.  You have the mobility and a relatively small, offensive force, which required the greater firepower to compensate (along with "shock").  Grading it's effectiveness in that role gives you roughly an apples to apples comparison.
 
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