Lever Actions – Survival FAQ’s

Lever actions have always been my all time favorite firearm. I’ve come across several very good articles on modifications to (1887 shottie’s, Win 94, Marlins), maintenance, loading, calibres, history, work shop manuals/parts diagrams and spare parts to keep and thought I’d post them all in one place so they would be easier to locate.�

1887 Lever Action Modifications�

(Updated, January 2nd. 2008) – – We have made changes to the text on a lot of the problems and those changes are TYPED in RED. There is a new change to the “Two Shot Feeding System” of the IAC M-87w-20 and our own M-87wcse-18, called a “Top Gun Action”. These changes were originally SASS approved, but because the factory changed the SASS approved specifications for the “Two Shot Feeding” system, in an attempt to prevent a possible warranty situation (from buyers that did not understand why the carrier would stop at the 3/4 down position), we have been forced to return to the original specifications and we call this change, (which is actually a major internal improvement from factory) a “Top Gun Action”, which is a return to what was originally approved by SASS, so that each M-87 would operate to it’s maximum capabilities.�

There are some new problems found on ejection of the last shell on the “Standard” 1887w-20. Please scroll down to problem #7 and the cure for the problem. �

New 87 buyers planning on using the “Holy Black”, please contact us about opening up your chamber from 12 ga. to 11-7/8 ga. prior to shipping the shotgun out to you. In testing, we have experienced some extraction/ejection problems using Black Powder in plastic hulls and 65gr. ffg.�

The problems listed below have mostly appeared in the early ’05 guns and now some “06’s” as well. We’ve yet to find very many major issues with the CC-06 special editions, Sorry for the delays, but we have to go through every gun for quality control from Chinese assembly. This takes about 5-1/2 time per gun. �

1887 Standard Model, Lever Action Problems: To date, (02 Jan 08.) I have found (35) separate problems in these new guns that need to be corrected. Some more difficult to cure than others, so please be patient and work slowly when applying a cure. �

1. Inspection of frame construction: look for blue blotches in a reddish colored frame. If the blotches are close to the lever pivot pin area, and you have already purchased the gun, my suggestion is to take the gun to metal working shop that can perform die penetrate or x-ray inspection to look for cracks in the casting.�

Cure: if the casting is cracked, you will need to replace the frame.�

2. Take off the butt stock and inspect for lever lock spring contact in the underside of the tang inletting. The stock shop supervisor inletted the stocks to “87” specs, forgetting I had the lock mechanism from the “01” modified to fit an “87” – – thus the lever locking spring contacts the bottom of the wood.�

Cure: re-inlet the tang grove so the spring cannot contact the wood anymore.�

3. The lever lock spring screw is loose, as long as you have the stock off, you may as well modify the spring to relieve some of the locking pressure and tighten the screw. This screw has been loose on over 800 M-87’s we have inspected to date.�

4. The triggers on EVERY new “87” where incorrectly manufactured for the new pivoting lever. They do not slide in the lever groove to prevent an out-of-battery hammer drop. (not a dangerous situation, as the “87” has a radius bolt design as compared to an in-line bolt design of a “97” pump, and as such, the firing pin of the “87” is never in alignment with the primer until the bolt is over 90% closed). Not a real problem, just annoying if someone could get the trigger to pull before the lock-up clicks shut.�

Cure: Bend the base of the trigger down and the tip to the trigger up. Problem goes away.(New note). When you bend the front tip of the trigger, it is not necessary to take the trigger out of the gun. Simply open the lever till the hammer and sear are no longer visible, but still supporting the base of the trigger. Place the barrel on a carpet, (muzzle down), and use a fairly heavy hammer to simply tap the underside of the trigger at the “hook” and the trigger will bend upwards very easily. The trigger will also now clear the straps of the leather lever wrap.�

While on the trigger subject, notice the small screw on the top of the tang, (in front of the serial numbers). This screw is the trigger spring screw, and I found that it can also adjust the trigger pull and not work loose. If you want a 5lb. (factory) trigger, tighten the screw down. To adjust the trigger to about 2-1/2 to 3 lbs., simply turn the screw counter-clockwise about 1/3 to 1/2 of a turn and try the trigger again – – (nice, isn’t it?)�

5. The pivoting lever is incorrectly manufactured on a great many of the new “87’s”, and because of the loose tolerances of the two parts, when the action is operated, the loose parts can pinch your finger very badly – – badly enough to take a huge chunk out of the inside of your middle finger or the underside of you trigger finger (depending if you operate the lever with your finger inside the lever or outside the lever), the result will draw some blood. �

Cure: Install leather covers (correctly) over the pivoting levers exposed parts and pivot pin, and do this as a safety addition. (See #6 note below)�

6. The leather lever wraps are incorrectly installed on EVERY new “87” (from the factory). The leather wraps when incorrectly installed, are nothing more than cosmetic and almost useless. The leather lever wraps where brought to China from Wisconsin, to show the Chinese exactly what I wanted, AND WHY! �

Cure: The leather wraps have to be installed around the pivot area, to protect your fingers (and help prevent the lever pin from coming out under use) and this requires the two long tails (straps) to go through the trigger guard and under the trigger, necessitating the trigger to be modified to clear the leather straps. (see problem #4 and cure). The leather straps now clear the trigger.�

7. Check over each gun to be assured the left and right extractors are not installed incorrectly and the firing pin is protruding through the bolt, holding the rim from flipping and thus not releasing from the left and right extractors. This will cause stove piping, and failure to eject. New problem found.�

The left side of the carrier, (knockdown plate contact area), has been ground away too far on several guns, and this problem will cause the last round to stovepipe.�

Cure: The left side of the carrier needs to either be replaced, or the portion that the bolt knockdown plate contacts, has to be (low-amp) wire feed welded, back to blueprint specifications. The reason is because the left side of the carrier helps in the ejection of the last round. This is what causes the last round to pitch to the right and over your shoulder, (for right handed shooters), and has to be modified for left handed shooters, (to pitch the spent hull to the left, instead of the right).�

If this is not done, a spent hull can hit you between the eyes (against your safety glasses).�

The following is a continuation of the “stove piping problem of the last round ejection.�

Cure: The Left extractor has one flat area that mates up with the spring and plunger. That flat area should be angled slightly inwards, so to put more pressure on the left extractor. The bottom 1/2 of that extractor “hook”, should be removed, so as to release the rim of the spent hull at about the 1/2 way of bolt arc travel (radius bolt).�

Cure: The Right extractor needs to move up and down VERY easily, almost 1/2 inch, in an arc movement to grab the spent hull at the 1/2 way mark and continue the extraction. Then at the end of travel, the right extractor has to release the spent hull (every time), and to do this, you need to remove 1/2 the bottom area of the rim hook and cut (about) 1-1/2 coils off the spring, then make sure the V channel that the extractor glides in, does not have a ridge left in it from the factory milling machine operator. The right extractor needs to have two flat areas where the plunger can flip the extractor up and down very easily and a small channel needs to be cut into the base area where the extractor plunger glides over the two flat surfaces. The plunger also needs to be rounded and smooth so it can glide from one flat spot to the other, without restriction.�

Lots and lots of high polishing is needed on all parts in this area and keep the extractors well oiled.�

8. A great many of these guns have too much metal taken off the bottom of the left side carrier ejector cam, causing poor ejection of the last round fired, resulting in a another stove piping condition.�

Cure: Open the action, remove both the left and right carrier screws, then reach inside and pull out the carriers. The left side cam is the problem. The cam is the part that sticks into an oval slot in the right side of the carrier. When you look closely at the cam itself, it also is supposed to be oval in shape. The problem was caused by an assembly worker, not understanding why the new two shot feeding system ejector, does not work well, and thought that the ejector cam was the problem, when in fact, the failure of the extractors to release the last round (spent hull) is most likely the real cause and not the ejector cam.�

This problem can only be cured by replacing the filed off metal of the cam, by low-amp wire feed welding. This process may require taking the carrier in and out several times in order to get the cam shape correct. I have found the majority of the problems to almost always be on the bottom 1/2 of the ejector cam.�

9. The right carrier pivot screw hole, countersunk too far. Tightening the right screw down, will lock-up the action, or at least cause the cycling of the action to become very stiff, if this condition is evident. The reason, because the screw threads go through the frame and contact the pivot hole of the carrier, and tightening the screw down, causes the threads to push the carrier inward and will make the action very stiff to cycle.�

Cure: take out the right side carrier and countersink the pivot hole to compensate for the factory countersinking the hole too far. I saw the cause at the factory, when the person doing the hole drilling into the frame, (using a jig), would first drill the left hole and countersink it, then not blow out the shavings. The frame was then turned over to drill and countersink the right side hole, and the metal shavings would fall under the frame, and raise it up on the jig, thus causing the countersink hole to become too deep and when putting the screw into the gun and tightening them down, the threads would contact the carrier and lock the gun up. Because so many of the frames were countersunk too far, the “06” models (should) have the carriers already countersunk, so those of you with “06” models should not experience this problem.�

One other problem in this area is the amount of “lock-Tite” used to secure the screws. We have found some screws so tight we could not get them out. The reason was soon found to be the threads were stripped and then the screw was epoxied into place, so the gun could not be taken apart. This problem turned out to be fairly serious and I actually got a little angry about it, because I had to drill and tap a new hole and machine a pivot screw to fit – – which would render the gun operable, but no longer of a factory standard issue and the gun would have to be sold at a discount or donated to a SASS club.�

10. The left carrier (second shell stop cam), incorrectly angled. This problem can be identified when the second round on the carrier, flies out of the gun along with the ejected first round.�

Cure: Take out the carriers and the bolt, then while on your work-bench, align the carrier halves on each side of the bolt and observe the tip of the left carrier. It is supposed to have a cam angle on it, to match a cam angle at the top (left side) of the bolt radius. Check the bolt first to see if there is a burr in the cam area, as we have found this to be the main problem. Mate the two areas, so that when the lever is cycled fully open, those two cam angles will cause the left side of the carrier to pitch to the right and stop the second shell from coming out with the spent hull of the first round.�

This is part of the timing system, and unless you are pretty sure of what you are doing, best leave this for one of the cowboy gunsmiths, or someone VERY familiar with the timing of an 87 lever action. The reason is that there are several timing areas on the lever and carriers, and all of these need to work together for the gun to operate successfully, without a problem.�

11. The bolt (left side, under the left extractor) to carrier knock-down plate usually has a loose screw causing a jammed action. This problem can be identified by looking closely at the left side of the bolt, with the action 1/2 way closed, there is a flat plate under the left extractor, that is loose and not contacting the left side of the carrier correctly, to knock it down. That small plate will go either inside or outside of the left side carrier, causing a jam and locking the action up.�

Cure: Remove the carrier and bolt, tighten the screw and then peen it down, so it cannot come loose or come out again. There is no reason to remove the knock-down plate for cleaning, etc.�

12. The magazine tube and follower are sometimes machining incorrectly, and not holding the carrier fully up. (This problem is very similar in nature to the AWA (Lightning) carrier dropping down as soon as the bolt is moved forward, the carrier drops). This problem can be seen by opening the action fully, and observing the carrier (with the lever held firmly, full forward). The carrier should be tight. Because it is held by the right side lever cam screw. As soon as you take the forward pressure off of the lever, the carrier drops down just enough to cause the next round, not to chamber, (because the carrier is too low). The carrier then goes loose and can move up and down at least a 1/4″. The mag tube follower is supposed to hold the carrier up to feed ammo, while the action is closing.�

Cure: Either get the follower to go into the frame deeper, by machining the follower stop ring (deeper) on the inside of the frame, which allows the follower to go in farther, or simply use a low amp wire feed welder to add two spot welds to the bottom front of the right side carrier.�

13. Coming soon – – “Two Shot Feeding System” incorrectly installed from the factory. Workers “flattened” the nose of the longer ejector, so each gun would work normally. The nose and underside of each ejector needs to be modified to become operable.�

Cure: Using a Dremel tool, with a round diamond cutting wheel, trim the left and right corners of the ejector to fit better in the mag tube follower ‘hole”. Be sure to bevel the underside, so that the ejector will release itself from the follower, when empty of ammo, or when closing the action with one round.�

TOP GUN ACTION to the 87 lever action�

I have a new modification to IMPROVE my patented and SASS APPROVED “Two Shot Feeding System” that I now call the “TOP GUN” ACTION, which is pretty difficult to explain in writing, suffice to say, the change is one that puts back into each gun, that what was approved by SASS. The “Top Gun Action” allows the shooter the opportunity to no longer have to be so gentle when reloading the gun with two shells, (one on top of the other). For more information, please call in (507) 685-4511 �

14. Follower is very rough, causing carrier to stick up or down, however, if the gun ejects the last round very well, leave the follower rough so the carrier can come up very suddenly. If not, then see cure below..�

Cure: Take the follower out of the mag tube, put the follower onto a wooden dowel to hold the follower and allow it to spin on a belt sander and polishing wheels.�

15. Ejector nose is too flat, holding the top shell too high.�

Cure: remove the carriers and using a Dremel diamond cutting tool; angle the nose of the ejector slightly, to allow the ejector to drop down just a bit more, so the round will not be too high.�

16. Bottom of the frame opening incorrectly cut to hold carrier to feed the mag tube.�

Cure: completely disassemble the shotgun, so you have access to the frame opening from the bottom. Using a flat faced (fine) file, file away the frame material, until the carrier drops all the way down in the frame, without contact. �

17. Carrier stop screw cut-out on carrier too deep, allowing carrier to go too high.�

Cure: you will need to low-amp wire feed weld the carrier cut-out notch for the stop screw, then grind and hone the cut-out notch to hold the carrier at the correct height.�

18. Right extractor cam screw and right extractor, not mating properly, causing a hic-cup when closing the action with or without shells in the gun.�

Cure: Take the small forward cam screw out of the frame and watch the right extractor as it comes into view in the hole, then using a small tipped magic marker, put the tip into the hole so to make a mark on the extractor where it is hitting the screw head. Then take the gun apart, take out the bolt and modify the underside (cam portion) of the left extractor to create a “ramp” when the extractor contacts the cam screw – – – hic-cup goes away!�

19. Left extractor catching inside of chamber, jamming gun when empty (bad bolt milling).�

Cure: take out the left extractor, and put a very small spot weld on the backside of the extractor. Then hone down that spot weld, until the left extractor stays outside the extractor slot in the chamber. Keep in mind, the amount of welding and honing determines the shell rim holding of the extractor, so you may have to take the gun apart and put it together again, several times before you get it right.�

20. Right cartridge guide screw (two shot system) too long, or drilled and tapped too deep.�

Cure: grind off the bottom of the screw end to clear the bolt better and then (while installed) taper the leading edge of the screw, so a cartridge crimp cannot get hung up on the screw, but will guide the shell into the chamber. This is the reason for the screw in the first place.�

21. #3 front sight bead incorrectly installed – – most of the time, leaning off to the right.�

Cure: two cures actually. �

(1). Cut and recrown the barrel just behind the front bead. Drill and tap for a #4 (large brass bead).�

(2). take the #3 bead out, weld the hole shut. Grind and polish the area smooth, then drill and tap for a #4 large brass bead, grind off the bead threads left in muzzle, then cold blue where needed. �

22. Left extractor not going over the rim properly, jamming the bolt as the extractor tries to go between the left side of the frame and the rim of the cartridge.�

Cure: Dremel out the left inside of the frame to get the extractor to clear the frame. Cold blue area. �

23. Carrier contacting the front of the frame, causing very stiff closure and release of the lock-up.�

Cure: Enlarge the right side carrier pivot hole on the forward portion of the hole, thus allowing the carrier enough clearance on the front of the frame. (This will not effect the cycling of the carrier; only relieve the binding problem caused by poor attention to tolerances and quality control).�

24. Incorrectly threaded magazine tube threads in the frame, causing pressure on forearm wood, resulting in small cracks developing in the forearm wood, after several rounds are fired. A good indication this problem exists on your shotgun, can be noticed when the forearm moves forward after firing, and tightening the forearm screws down more, does not help. (May even crack the wood, if tightened too much, so be careful)�

Cure: the only way I have been able to cure this condition is to replace the whole magazine tube with a new magazine tube. You, however, can cure this with simple plumbers tape around the threads and larger screws to close out the looseness in the notches cut into the bottom of the barrel and the notches cut into the magazine tube.�

25. Action will not lock-up properly, or lever becomes very tight on final closing, even without ammo in it..�

Cure: This one has proven to be so difficult, even the most experienced cowboy gunsmiths, think long and hard about this one, and then they send the gun to me to cure the problem.�

26. Cartridges not coming out of the mag tube fully (when two shot feeding only). Does not happen when single loading.�

Cure: once again, this is a problem that needs to be seen to by an M-87 competent gunsmith, as the problem has been found to be very difficult to diagnose, and cure, because of loose frame tolerances.�

27. Cartridges dragging on the inside of the lever, slowing down feeding.�

Cure: Take the bolt/lever out of the gun and notice the rounded inside of the bolt/lever. This is the area where the rim of the shell slides against as the action is closed. You need to clean up the burrs in this area and do some polishing to the radius.�

28. Headspace problems, causing action to close very hard when feeding ammo. The problem is in the radius of the lever, combined with the barrel being installed to deeply in the frame.�

Cure: this is a gunsmithing problem, do not attempt to cure this using simple tools.�

29. Ejector contacting the hammer, causing misfire.�

Cure: using a dremel tool, grind away just enough metal from the tail of the ejector to clear.�

30. Metal shavings behind the firing pin, eventually coming loose and blocking pin movement.�

Cure: obviously, you are going to want to take out the bolt/lever and take out the firing pin, by driving the holding pin out, then remove the firing pin and spring. Using a dremel tool, clean out any burrs that you might find up inside the firing pin hole – – – be careful not to make the hole larger, or the firing pin may possibly stick down and cause a hic-up when closing the action.�

31. When using high base or magnum loads in a “standard” M-87w, extraction from the chamber is difficult and the lever opening is very stiff.�

Cure: check the chamber for rough chambering from the factory, caused by failure to clean up tooling metal shavings from the chambering reamer and forcing cone cutter. The Chinese did not clean their cutting tools each time they were used, resulting in deep gouges in the chamber.�

These rough chambers grip the hulls of spent magnum loads.�

Using a VERY rough and coarse sand paper, wrapped around a slotted wooden dowel and an electric drill, hone out the chamber, using enough drill speed to do the job quickly.�

The reason is because the metallurgy of the Chinese barrels is so hard, you will wear out a break hone and frustrate yourself trying to get the job done. Using a very coarse sand paper, followed closely by progressively finer and finer sand paper, and that electric drill, will hone out the chamber nicely.�

32. When using spent hulls, or even dummy shells for practicing, the lever is very difficult to open the action once the hammer has been let down – – like for dry firing, using snap caps. The cause of the problem has proven to be in the tolerances of the hammer to bolt pivot pin slot and also, some very sloppy clean up of inside metal burrs.�

Cure: take the carrier, hammer and bolt/lever assembly out of the gun, and using a small rat tailed file, clean up the hammer and bolt/lever pivot pin slotted hole. Do not take off hardly any metal at all, just clean up the burrs. Then clean up the burrs on the inside walls of the bolt and lever assembly, right at the pivot pin area.�

Look for metal to metal contact marks on the top side of the bolt/lever (pivot pin area), and grind off those marks and polish the grindings smooth. Then look for contact marks on the top of the pivot pin area of the hammer, grind and polish those contact marks away also.�

Cold blue all the filing, grinding and polishing areas. your hard opening problem is now cure.�

33. Ejector installed too high in the carrier, causing timing problem.�

Cure: replace the right side of the carrier – – as the old one is yet another defective part sent out from China, instead of scrapping or throwing it away.�

34. Hammer not in correct alignment with the lever/bolt, caused by burrs in the pivot slot of the carrier.�

Cure: completely disassemble the whole gun and clean out the burrs from the inside of the slots.�

35. Carrier rubbing up against one side of the other of the frame, causing a stiff action and can be seen more clearly by the marks left by the primers against the face of the bolt. You will notice the firing pin is off center.�

Cure: pivot pin cross-frame hole was drilled at an angle, rendering the frame as useless. The gun needs to be replaced under warranty.�

Cleaning up the action of a Winchester Model 94 Trapper �

By: �

The Mohave Gambler �

Disclaimer: This is written as a guideline for those who are skilled enough to complete this work. These modifications are advisory in nature and I assume no liability for the outcome on your guns. Make sure that any gun you work on is unloaded and check it each time you work with it. Nobody ever planned an accident. You have the last word on any modifications, especially the removal of any safety devices that might be a part of your firearm. �

Background on the Winchester 1894 Trapper �

The 1894 Winchester lever action rifle was specifically designed by John Moses Browning as the first lever action rifle to be marketed for use with the new smokeless powders. The 94 has been in nearly continuous production since 1894, which makes it one of the most successful products in history. This gun makes a fine entry level Cowboy Action lever gun and new owners of these successful rifles will want to know how to slick them up so they shoot better. Unfortunately, the current design of this stout rifle does not lend itself to being turned into a finely tuned shooter without some major modifications that are beyond the scope of this article. �

Figure 1. Here is a picture of the Winchester New Model 94 Trapper that I use for competition. This was taken after the modifications were complete. �
The Winchester was originally designed for the longer casings of more traditional rifle ammunition and many argue that its linage prevents the action from being optimal for the shorter cartridges of the newer models. The design and manufacturing methods have have evolved to make it more attractive in a competitive market, a cross-bolt safety was added that can cause problems, and the trigger and hammer assembly were modified from the original design. The Winchester model 94 in this tutorial is a nine-shot Trapper in .44 Magnum caliber. It has been used in Cowboy Action Shooting with mixed results and improvements were warranted. The trigger was a little heavy and the action was somewhat stiff. �

I selected the Winchester 94 Trapper because the price was attractive, it had a long history, and there was no significant advantage to buying a longer gun in the state of California. I looked at other models, but California law defined any rifle with a magazine in front of the trigger and a capacity of more than nine rounds as an illegal assault weapon. With a felony of putting more than nine in the tube, I went with the Trapper. That law was changed in 2002 to allow tube feed magazines to exceed the nine round limit. The change in the law allows me to increase the capacity of the Trapper if it is possible. �

Although the Winchester 94 has been in production since 1896, they made significant changes to the gun at serial number 4,580,000, which appears to be the point when they changed from a leaf hammer spring to a coil hammer spring. I understand that additional changes were made at around serial number 6,000,000, which appears to be the change to a rebounding hammer and the the addition of the cross-bolt safety. �
Winchester 1894 Trapper Project Statement �

To clean up the action on a modern 94 Trapper so it shoots better for Cowboy Action Shooting. This will be done using simple tools and techniques. I will also see if it is possible to correct the overall problem of the basic design of the hammer and trigger assembly and will see if it is possible to modify the magazine to allow the storage of ten rounds. �

Figure 2. The Winchester 94 trigger and hammer assembly. Note the coiled mainspring and the fork with its two hammer contact points that create a cradling effect that forces the hammer back away from the firing pin when it is at rest. Click on the picture to enlarge it. �
Understanding this Gun �

There are many people who claim the 94 cannot be cleaned up and turned into a good rifle. I feel this is an inappropriate argument, because the most common use for this rifle is Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) and hunting. Let’s face some CAS facts. The 94 does have design limits that prevent it from being a premier action rifle, however, most CAS shooters are not top contenders. Most people are in the sport for fun and can benefit from having a reasonably priced and reliable gun that is also very strong. �

To better understand the trigger and hammer function of the modern 94, please click on the thumbnail in figure 2. Study the lower tang assembly. Note the hammer spring guide rod with a two prong fork on the forward end (left) retains the coil mainspring. Note the two indentations on the rear of the hammer. The two prongs of the hammer spring guide rod ride in those two indentations. When the hammer is cocked, the pivoting action of the hammer causes only the top prong of the hammer spring guide rod to engage the hammer. The distance (leverage) from the hinge pin to drive the hammer forward is sufficient to drive the hammer forward and strike the firing pin. When the hammer is cocked, the pressure on the upper part of the hammer is much like that of any hammer and spring combination. Cocking the hammer also engages the sear, which holds the hammer in the full cock position until the trigger is pulled. There is no half-cock notch on this rifle and there is no need for one as long as we do not modify the design of the trigger and hammer. �

It is important to understand that the hammer and trigger sears do not come in contact with each other on the New Model 94. There is a lever safety that protrudes through the lower tang and must be depressed by the lever in order to release the hammer. Essentially, the trigger engages the lever safety and the lever safety engages the hammer sear. This is the cause of one of the biggest problems with the New Model 94, which causes the trigger to have over a half inch of travel before engaging anything. Do not tamper with this safety feature because it prevents the gun from firing before the bolt is securely locked in place. �
I think of the New Model 94 as having three hammer positions: resting, striking, and cocked. In the resting position, both the upper and lower prongs of the hammer spring guide rod are in contact with the appropriate recesses in the hammer. A balance between the two cause the hammer to remain centered and away from the firing pin. This is needed to allow the cross-bolt safety to be engaged without being obstructed by the hammer. When the hammer has been pushed or pulled to the rear and is engaging the sear, it is in the cocked position. Pulling the trigger moves the hammer forward to momentarily strike the firing pin. I call this the striking position. �
When the hammer is cocked and the trigger pulled, the hammer is released and pushed forward by the energy of the coil spring exerting pressure on the upper part of the hammer through the upper prong of the hammer spring guide rod. The hammer accelerates forward until it reaches the rest position and the lower prong of the hammer spring guide rod engages the lower notch in the hammer. The lower notch is slightly below the hammer pivot bushing so it exerts a slight force to slow the hammer as the hammer moves forward. As the lower prong engages the lower slot, the upper prong of the hammer spring guide rod disengages and stops providing any more forward energy. Between the resting and striking positions, the hammer is moving forward only from its own forward inertia and there is a very slight slowing action from the lower prong in its notch. The hammer strikes the firing pin and the cartridge is fired. �
What does all of this mean? It means there are a lot of parts moving around in that trigger assembly and a lot of mass and inertia needed. It means that the Winchester New Model 94 will shoot safely and reliably in a variety of weather conditions for hunting. It also means it is not the most suitable design for CAS, but it is certainly good enough for most cowboy action shooters. �
Is this simply not the right gun for CAS competition? That depends on your point of view. The top shooters will use expensive toggle-bolt rifles that have been slicked by the best smiths in the country, so this is not a gun for them. I think this is a good gun for the rest of us who are content with having a fun day. For us, the difference between a Winchester 94 and a perfect rifle will be only a second or two in total stage time, which does not matter to most of us. The good news is that this gun can be improved a little in just a few hours. I have determined that it is possible to custom build a new trigger and hammer for the gun, but the effort would be so great that it’s probably better to simply buy a different gun and use the 94 as a backup if the perfect trigger is needed. I may create a project to illustrate how to make these changes, but they are probably not warranted. �
Making the modifications �

There are several places where the Winchester 94 can be improved. Improvements are simple and can be made in the sear, the hammer spring, the magazine spring, and the cross-bolt safety. Begin by removing the stock from the tang. This is done by removing the tang screw from the upper tang and pulling the stock to the rear to remove it. This will expose the upper and lower tangs and you will note the lower tang is loose and held only by the hammer pivot screw. Remove the hammer pivot screw from the left side of the receiver and the entire lower tang assembly can be removed out the bottom by carefully lowering the assembly to the rear. It may take a little experimentation with the hammer position to remove it, but it will come out. �
The hammer is held in position by the bushing that runs through the hammer pivot hole. Cock the hammer back to expose a hole in the hammer spring guide rod and place a small pin or nail into the hole. This will hold the spring in place until you need to remove it. Drift the hammer pivot bushing out with a drift punch, but it should only require a little pressure since it is not a press fit. Remove the hammer and you will find the sear and ramp on the bottom. Using a stone or some 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper on a flat surface, polish any machine marks down to reduce friction. It is not necessary to create a mirror finish, but removing rough spots will help. It may also help to lightly polish the sides of the hammer where they contact the receiver. Don’t forget to lightly polish any roughness on the receiver where the hammer is in contact. �

Figure 3. The hammer sear after it has been polished. This improves the feel of the hammer as it is pulled with the thumb or the bolt. �
Take some wet or dry sandpaper and gently polish the outside surface of the hammer pivot bushing and the inside of the hammer pivot hole. I wrap the 600 grit paper around a drift punch and use the drift punch to polish the inside of the hole. It only takes a few strokes to remove the rough spots, but you do not want to remove enough material to increase the play of the bushing. �
It’s now time to make a decision. You can stop and coat all of the friction surfaces with action grease, or you can take the parts further apart and do more polishing. I took mine completely apart and polished each part where they contact another part, but there is so little movement in the parts that I would probably just use grease and move on if I had it to do again. It is up to you. �
Now for an important step. Carefully compress the hammer spring, remove the retaining pin, and remove the hammer spring guide rod and the hammer spring. Note the orientation of the hammer spring guide rod because it’s easy to reassemble it upside down. I am not aware of any spring kits for the 94 so I removed four coils from the coil mainspring on the advice of some people who have done it. I also polished the hammer spring guide rod so the spring would not tend to bind on any rough spots. There were some rough points on the prongs that contact the hammer so I lightly polished those with 600 grit sandpaper. Reassemble the parts back into the lower tang assembly and lube with an appropriate low-drag grease. I used Brownell’s Action Magic Lube Plus. �
After installing the lower tang assembly and reinstalling the buttstock, I lubricated the gun as I normally would and cycled the action. Reducing the spring tension reduced the force needed to cock the hammer on the down stroke of the lever. The grease and slight polishing seemed to make the trigger feel better and smoother. Testing the gun with empty, but primed cases, told me that there was still enough mainspring force to reliably detonate the primers. We will now turn our attention to the magazine. �

Figure 4. The magazine spring, the follower, the magazine tube cap, and a cartridge in the proper orientation. �
I find the Winchester 94 to be a bit difficult to load, because there is simply too much tension on the magazine spring to get the last cartridges to feed easily. I removed some of the tension by removing the magazine plug from the end of the barrel by removing the small screw under the magazine tube about a quarter of an inch from the muzzle end of the tube. Be sure to apply some inward pressure to the magazine plug, because the magazine plug is under tension from the magazine spring and it may damage the threads or cause the magazine plug and spring to be launched across the room. I cut four coils off the magazine spring and reinstalled it. �

My last modification was to remove the cross-bolt safety. It was not difficult, but it is a personal decision that must be made by each owner. I resisted this change for the first year I owned the gun, but finally decided to remove it after loosing four shots in a match because the safety was on. Laying a 94 on its side at the loading table often activates the safety, which may not be noticed until it fails to shoot while on the clock. �
Figure 5. The view looking down into the area between the firing pin and the hammer while the hammer is in the cocked position. That flat platform with the little hole is the safety bar. �
I finally removed the safety from the gun to prevent any future problems. Click on the photo in figure 5 to see a close-up view of the cross-bolt safety and the release hole. The bright metal on the left of the image is the breech bolt with the firing pin. The flat piece of steel in the middle with a tiny hole is the safety. The large hole just above the small hole is the access hole for getting the special tool into the small hole in the safety so you can depress the spring loaded detent and remove the safety bar. �
If you are going to remove the safety, push the safety into the safe position. This should align the little access hole with the larger hole that gives you access to the access hole. You will need a special tool that will fit into the access hole. I found a standard paper clip to be a good fit. Using the paper clip, or any suitable tool, press down into the hole and depress the detent and the detent spring. While holding the detent down a little, push the safety on through from the left side of the frame (from shooting position) and out the right side. Once the safety bar moves about an eighth of an inch, it may hit a machining mark and need a slightly more aggressive drifting out. Proceed carefully! Remove the spring and detent, and save them for installation at a later date. �
Some people advocate modifying the safety so it does not work and then putting it back into the frame to plug the holes . I feel it is dangerous to use the rifle outside of CAS without the safety installed and it might be carried with a round in the chamber. Cowboy Action Shooting does not allow cartridges in the chamber except when the gun is ready to fire. I feel it is worse to have a safety in place that does not work. �
The Winchester New Model 94 has a reputation for parts failures and for actions that jam during shooting stages. I have had quite a few problems, but most of them have been of my own doing or something other than the gun. A common problem that has led to the reputation of this gun is the fact that many people do not cycle the lever forcefully enough. This action was designed to be worked with deliberation and a timid operation of the action can cause problems. Treat it with respect and don’t abuse it, but operate the action with some authority and it will be more reliable. �
These modifications to my Winchester 94 Trapper have smoothed the action on the gun and made it a lot easier to shoot in competition. There are a lot more things that can be done, but this represents the total amount of work I have done to mine. I am planning to make and install a brass buckhorn rear sight. I am also planning to make a filler for the hole left by the removal of the safety. I will add any additional modifications to this article as they are completed. �
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Marlin 1894 �

by Glen E. Fryxell �

At one point, the “2 guns chambered for the same cartridge” sales pitch had some real merit. After all, a cowboy riding herd in the late 1800s needed to be completely autonomous, he needed to be armed and he probably wouldn’t get into town for at least a couple of months. His saddle bags had very limited room for “kit”, so he needed to be able to cast and load for both his scabbard-gun and his sixgun with a single set of tools. Today’s shooter may be just as independence-minded as the cowboy of long ago, but most likely leads a more modern existence, with readily available ammunition and components, and if he does reload his own ammunition, it’s probably on bench-mounted presses and not with a tong tool over a campfire to a coyote serenade. We have easy access to sporting goods stores and mail order supply houses, with a far better availability of accessories, ammunition and components with which to feed our guns than shooters did a century ago. We have a multitude of cartridges available today, with something ideally suited for whatever task a shooter may have. As a result, shooters today generally own more than one gun, and these guns are chambered for more than one cartridge. So I guess we can pretty much throw out the “combo cartridge” sales pitch. Where does that leave the value of a lever action carbine chambered for revolver cartridges? Second to none, because ballistically speaking these are exceptional lever-gun rounds! �

Marlin 1894 carbines in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. �

I have a confession to make: I’ve always been partial to the Marlin lever action design. While some may favor it for the closed top, allowing easy scope mounting (I prefer iron sights on lever-guns), I appreciate the solidly designed receiver and the fact that the top and bottom of the action are closed and protected from “stuff”. When still-hunting on a snowy day, have you ever fired a shot from behind a tree, only to be cascaded with snow from the branches above? An action that “exposes itself” during cycling allows snow, pine needles, tree bark, cigar ashes, etc. into the guts of the action, and personally I’d rather just have oil and ammo down there. The Winchester lever-guns are clearly one of the most proven, time-honored designs in firearms history, it’s just that my favor tends to fall on the Marlin side of the fence as a result of their keeping their private parts, well, private. However, the Winchester 94 captures all the benefits of the revolver rounds just as well as the Marlin 1894. �

These attributes include: �

Short, light, easily handled carbines — valuable traits for a home defense gun or for a “workin’ gun”, i.e. one that will be there always as ranch work, farm work, or whatever work is being done and is always there when it’s needed, either defensively, or for targets of opportunity. �

Modest recoil — while many won’t admit it, a significant number of shooters have trouble handling the recoil of the .44 Magnum cartridge in a revolver, but in a carbine, it’s comfortable to shoot. �

Excellent ballistics — these aren’t long range lasers, but 125 yard thumpers with the ability to shoot through pretty much anything if properly loaded, and this range covers most targets of opportunity (and defensive situations). As a general rule of thumb, you can get about another 300 fps over what a given load will deliver from a revolver. �

Magazine capacity — before the time of high capacity magazines, the lightweight lever-action carbines created the capability “to load on Sunday and shoot all week”, these guns also provided the advantage of being able to top off the magazine without opening or deactivating the action (a valuable character trait for certain law enforcement or home defense situations). �

Cast bullets — these rifles and rounds are extremely well served by cast bullets, a trait long admired by the frugal and independent-minded. �

Lever-guns can be finicky about cartridge OAL and bullet profile, and so a wide variety of bullet weights, profiles and designs were run through these three Marlin carbines in order to see what works and what doesn’t. All testing was done with the factory buckhorn sights, with unmodified guns right out of the box (i.e. no modifications to carrier, chamber or throat). Unless otherwise noted, all groups are 5-shots at 50 yards. �

.357 Magnum. �

The Marlin .357 carbine was made with a 1 in 16″ twist, so heavyweights were expected to shoot just fine. This characteristic may have something to do with why the .357 Magnum fired from a lever gun has been likened to the .30-30 Winchester — heavier bullets at the higher velocities possible from a rifle have considerably more thump than can be achieved from a revolver. I’ve been on this handgun kick for about a decade or so now. This little Marlin re-introduced me to how much fun a plinking rifle can be. A .30 cal ammo can full of .38 ammo and this little Marlin makes for one very fun afternoon! �

The .357 seems to be a little more finicky about smooth feeding than the other two rifles. The .357 also seems to be somewhat more finicky about which loads it shoots well. It shoots (and feeds) very well indeed with the right loads, but not all loads are up to its discerning tastes. On top of this, this gun has the distinct tendency to print different loads to different points of impact. �

Obvious cast bullet choices for this lever-gun are the round-nosed flat-pointed bullet popular in cowboy action shooting. Both the Lyman and the Lee Cowboy bullets cycle and feed flawlessly when loaded into .38 Special cases, and the Lee bullet also feeds very nicely when loaded into Magnum cases. The Lyman Cowboy bullet is short enough to feed from the magazine when loaded into Magnum cases, but doesn’t make the transition from carrier to chamber very smoothly at this OAL. The LBT 200 LFN likewise is short enough to make the magazine-carrier transition, but also doesn’t make it cleanly into the chamber when loaded into .357 brass. The Lyman 358429/358439 Keith SWC and HP are simply too long to make it out of the magazine when loaded in .357 Magnum cases. The 200 grain Lyman 35875 RN-FP is also much too long for Magnum brass. The LBT 180 WFN is not only too long for the longer cartridge case, it also has too much bearing surface forward of the crimp groove to even chamber when loaded into .357 cases. However, all five of these bullets (the LBT 200 LFN, the Keith SWC and HP, the Lyman 35875 and the LBT 180 WFN) cycle, feed and chamber very smoothly when loaded into .38 Special brass. �

Some of the bullets that worked well in the .357 Marlin when loaded into .38 Special cases: the Lyman 358439, the Lee 358-158-RF, the Lyman 358665, the Lyman 358429, the LBT 200 LFN and the Lyman 35875 200 grain RNFP. �

The Lee cowboy bullet over 4.5 grains of Bullseye in .38 Special cases gave fine accuracy (1 1/2″ 5-shot groups at 50 yards) with an average (and very consistent) velocity of 1128 fps. When loaded over 14.0 grains of 2400 in .357 Magnum brass, this bullet fed quite smoothly, and delivered an impressive 1678 fps, but could only muster 4″ groups at 50 yards. In general, the PB bullets shot better at more modest velocities out of the .357 Marlin. �

In contrast, the Marlin .357 carbine did very nicely with the GC 358156 HP over 14.0 grains of 2400. 5-shot groups at 50 yards ran just under 2″ and average velocity was 1721 fps. Expansion of this HP at this velocity is dramatic, to say the least — this load is a rodent buzz-saw! This constitutes a very versatile and personal favorite, load for this gun. The 358156 GC-SWC over the same powder charge delivered 1764 fps and even better accuracy. Both of these bullets feed flawlessly in the Marlin when loaded in .357 cases. �

Another excellent performer was found in the LBT 160 grain WFN-GC. Again, 14.0 grain charges of 2400 provided excellent accuracy at 1674 fps. These loads fed and chambered without the slightest hiccup. Conveniently, this load printed to the same point as the 358156 HP discussed above (the 358156 SWC was another 1 1/2″ to the right at 50 yards, go figure). �

Bullets that worked well in the .357 Marlin when loaded in .357 Magnum cases: the 358156 SWC, the 358156 HP, and the LBT 160 GC-SWC. �

In contrast, the LBT 180 grain WFN-GC is too long to chamber when loaded into magnum brass, but it cycles, feeds and chambers just fine when loaded into .38 Special cases. When paired with 12.0 grains of 2400 in the shorter cases, this bullet provided so-so accuracy (with a tendency towards vertical stringing) at 1510 fps. A little fine-tuning of this load might correct this tendency however. �

When the Lyman Cowboy bullet (#358665) was tried out in .357 Magnum brass over 14.0 grains of 2400, it shot just fine, and while it was short enough to feed from the magazine, it didn’t generally cycle very smoothly. Groups ran 2″ at 50 yards and velocities hovered right at 1780 fps. This was the only PB bullet tested that grouped well at full-throttle magnum velocities, but rough cycling dulled the appeal of this combination (perhaps it would cycle more smoothly if cases were trimmed back another 0.010″ or so). When this bullet was loaded into .38 Special cases and powered with 6.5 grains of HS-6, it cycled beautifully and printed nice round 1 1/2″ groups (1100 fps). �

The Keith SWC and HP (358429 and 358439, respectively) are too long to make it out of the Marlin’s magazine when loaded in Magnum cases, but if a shooter wants to use these bullets they function perfectly when loaded into .38 Special brass. For example, the 358429 SWC loaded over 12.0 grains of 2400 in .38 Special brass cycles effortlessly, and delivers 1556 fps and decent accuracy at 50 yards (this load should only be used in .357 Magnum firearms). Likewise, the Lyman 358439 154 grain HP loaded over 8.5 grains of HS-7 in .38 Special brass cycled just fine and shot beautifully. Velocities (1258 fps) were particularly consistent with this favorite load. Expansion of this bullet at this velocity is positive and dramatic when it’s cast at a BHN of about 11 or so. �

For whatever reason, this gun didn’t seem to like the 358477, either in .38 Special or Magnum brass. In both cases it cycled just fine, it’s just that accuracy wasn’t quite up to snuff with this lighter plain-based bullet. In .357 cases over 14.0 grains 2400, accuracy ran about 3-4″ at about 35 yards, and the HP version of same over 15.0 grains of 2400 generated 1970 fps and 3+” groups at 50 yards. The Lyman 358477 when loaded into .38 Special cases with 4.5 grains of Bullseye also gave 3+” groups at 50 yards, and 1149 fps. This short little bullet just doesn’t seem to have enough bearing surface for this rifle’s tastes. �

Taking a look at heavier bullets, the 200 grain Lyman 35875 was called into action. This plain-based RN-FP was originally designed for the old black powder cartridges like the .38-45 Stevens (muzzle velocity of 1420 fps) and I thought that it might be right at home in the Marlin lever-gun. Because of the long nose found on this bullet, it could not be loaded into magnum brass, but it turns out that when loaded into .38 Special cases so it could be crimped in the top lube groove, the OAL is just about ideal to feed in the Marlin (1.580″). Loaded on top of 10.5 grains of 2400 and sparked with a CCI 550 primer, this bullet flew from the muzzle at 1319 fps and printed 3″ groups. There were no signs of excessive pressure, but I believe that reducing this load slightly might lead to better accuracy. The LBT 200 grain LFN gave excellent accuracy on a very windy day when launched with 10.0 grains of 2400 at 1301 fps. These magnum level loads were also assembled using .38 Special cases since this bullet doesn’t feed cleanly at the Magnum OAL. �

As an interesting side note, .38 wadcutters feed just fine in the little Marlin. When the classic .38 wadcutter Lyman 358495 over 3.0 grains of Bullseye was test fired, it printed a 1 1/8″ 5-shot group at 25 yards at 894 fps, and cycled just fine. Basically, every bullet tested in .38 Special cases fed just fine (it’s only with magnum brass that things get touchy). So much for needing round-nosed bullets to feed through a lever-gun… �

Loaded with suitable ammo (e.g. Cor-Bon, Federal 125s, or even the FBI .38 load) the Marlin carbine is arguably THE definitive home-defense gun. Loaded with .38 Special ammo, there is no argument about it, the Marlin 1894 .357 IS the definitive plinking gun! The best plinking bullet is the Lee cowboy bullet, and a 6-cavity mould allows the caster the ability to make a lot of plinking ammo in a hurry! The best accuracy with PB bullets was generally found at 1300 fps and under, at full throttle magnum velocities this gun shows a definite preference for GC bullets. The best all-round bullets are the Lyman 358156 SWC/HP, and the LBT 160 WFN-GC. In my gun, the 358156 HP and the LBT 160 WFN both print to the exact same spot, so that’s how the sights are set. Jack rabbits anyone? �

.44 Magnum �

The 1 in 38″ twist that the Marlin 1894 .44 Magnum was graced with often raises questions as to how well this gun might handle heavier bullets, so a wide spectrum was evaluated. Starting with the standard weight bullets, superb accuracy was obtained with the Lyman 429244, in both SWC and HP form, over 23.5 grains of W296 for about 1724 (265 grain SWC) and 1748 fps (253 grain HP). Both bullets cycle and feed just fine. The 300 grain GC-SWC’s from both RCBS and Lyman (#429650) also feed just fine in my gun. When powered with 21.5 grains of W296, these bullets leave the little Marlin at 1708 fps and deliver decent accuracy. Lots of questions get asked about how well the SWC’s feed from the magazine on a lever-gun, and while some folks have reported trouble with them in the past, this particular carbine doesn’t seem to mind these four bullets (the Lyman 429421 has a slightly longer nose and does not cycle quite as smoothly in this gun). �

A more traditional shape for the lever-gun is the round-nose flat-point. Such an ogive is found on the solid (i.e. non-HP version) of the Lyman 429640, which weighs about 290 grains when cast with WW alloy. Not surprisingly, this bullet cycles from the magazine well, and is quite accurate when launched with 22.0 grains of W296 for 1617 fps. The HP version of the 429640 also shoots quite accurately, but the fragile mouth of the Devastator HP tends to get dented and hang up if the action is cycled vigorously. A very similar profile is found on the LBT 300 grain LFN bullet, which feeds just as smoothly as the solid 429640. The 300 grain LBT LFN delivers 1711 fps and fine accuracy when powered by 21.5 grain of W296. �

A somewhat more curvaceous RNFP is made by Saeco. On this 300 grainer, the meplat is slightly smaller and the ogive somewhat more curved, so it’s no surprise that this bullet glides from the magazine like an enthusiastic Lab puppy on a freshly waxed floor. Once again, 21.5 grains of W296 provides good accuracy and 1679 fps. An even more voluptuous profile is found on the LBT 280 grain WFN. Loaded on top of 22.0 grains of W296 the LBT WFN is quite accurate and generates 1683 fps, but unfortunately this fine hunting bullet feeds poorly in my gun. �

The 320 grain SSK FP is too long to cycle through the Marlin’s action when seated to crimp in the crimp groove (although it shoots very nicely single-loaded). The expander ball on my Dillon die set runs .4275″ and I size these bullets .430″ With a bullet that has as much bearing surface as the SSK bullet, throat tension provides sufficient bullet pull to prevent recoil from shoving the bullet deeper into the case while the round is “waiting in line” in the magazine. I loaded this bullet up to an OAL of 1.638″ and placed a hearty roll crimp over the forward driving band. Seating a bullet deeper into the case requires that the load be reduced accordingly. Case volume measurements revealed that case capacity had been reduced a little over 16%, so these loads were assembled using 17.5 grains of W296. This ammo cycled and fed beautifully in the little Marlin. Accuracy was excellent and velocity was 1414 fps. There were no indications of excessive pressure. This bullet is available from Lynn Halsted at Dry Creek Bullet Works (http://www.creeker.net). �

Loads were tried with various 330, 340, 350 and 365 grain cast bullets and all were problematic. Either they would not feed smoothly, they would not chamber or they would not stabilize and were keyholing at 50 yards. The 330 grain GC version of the SSK bullet will not cycle when crimped in the crimp groove and I see no advantage to trying to seat it deeper as was done with the 320 grain PB version. The 320 will do anything the 330 GC version will do and do it better in this little gun. The Lyman 429649 340 grain RNFP feeds just fine from the magazine, but will not chamber due to the extended bearing surface on the nose of this blunt bullet. The 350s (LBT WLN and SSK) don’t stabilize with the 1 in 38″ twist. The take-home lesson here is that the 320 grain SSK is pretty much as heavy as you can go with the .44 Magnum Marlin. �

Bullets that work well in the .44 Magnum Marlin 1894: the Lyman 429244 SWC, the Lyman 429244 HP, the Lyman 429640, the LBT 300 LFN, the Saeco 300 RNFP, the RCBS 44-300 GC-SWC and the 320 grain SSK (loaded short). �

As an all-round working load for this gun, my first choice would probably be to go with the 285 grain Lyman 429640 GC-FP over 22.0 grains of W296 for (1617 fps), with a close runner-up being the 265 grain Lyman 429244 GC-SWC over 23.5 grains of W296 (1724 fps). My “hands down” first choice specifically for deer-sized game would be the 253 grain Lyman 429244 HP over 23.5 grains W296 (1748 fps). This combination is superbly accurate and hits like a sledgehammer. For larger stuff like elk, I would go with one of the heavier bullets, specifically the solid 429640, one of the 300 grainers (LBT, Lyman, RCBS, or Saeco), or the SSK 320 FP and not think twice about it. �

The .44 Magnum in the Marlin 1894 is a somewhat more limited gun than is the .45 Colt, in that it seems to be choosier about which bullets it cycles cleanly with and in terms of bullets that will adequately stabilize with the lethargic 1 in 38″ twist. It’s an excellent little gun, and functions well with bullets in the 250 to 320 grain range. �

.45 Colt �

The .45 Colt chambering of the Marlin 1894 is blessed with a 1 in 16″ twist. As a result it is capable of handling a wider range of bullet weights than is its .44 caliber little brother. Also, if my gun is representative, it seems that the fatter chamber opening is more forgiving in terms which bullet profiles cycle and feed properly through the action. Virtually everything tried fed slick as a whistle (the only feeding problem encountered was with a 265 grain NEI SWC, a variation on .451-275-PB, #317, a bullet with the forward portion very similar to the 452423; a very thick forward driving band, coupled with a very short nose, a tough combination for a lever-gun). �

Testing was started off with the Keith SWC (Lyman 454424) loaded over 8.0 grains of HP-38. Excellent accuracy was obtained (5 shots into 1 1/4″ at 50 yards) and an average velocity of 1186 fps was recorded. In today’s age of magnum pressures and magnum velocities, is load may not sound all that impressive, but it will handle most situations with ample authority. In its own quiet way, the .45 Colt continues to deliver superb performance in the field when loaded to moderate pressures, just as it has for over 130 years. �

When loaded to Ruger Blackhawk pressures (25,000-30,000 psi), the .45 Colt Marlin mirrors the performance of the .44 Magnum. A favorite deer load for my Blackhawks is the Keith HP (Lyman 454424 HP) loaded over 26.0 grains of W296, sparked with a CCI 350 primer. This brisk load generates 1345 fps from a 7 1/2″ Blackhawk and 1731 fps from the Marlin. Superb accuracy is delivered from both guns and expansion is positive. �

Dave Scovill of Handloader magazine designed a 280 grain SWC for the .45 Colt, inspired by Elmer Keith’s original design criteria. The result was the RCBS 45-270-SAA, one of the finest all-round .45 bullets ever conceived. This bullet drops from my mould blocks at 282 grains when cast with WW alloy. Loaded on top of 13.0 grains of HS-6, this bullet delivers good accuracy and 1293 fps from the Marlin carbine. It’s hard to argue with a 280+ grain .45 caliber bullet at 1300 fps. As a side note, I’ve found that HS-6 performs quite nicely with heavier bullets in .45 Colt (i.e. 280-320 grains), but with lighter bullets (e.g. 250 grains) and standard primers, I’ve commonly obtained erratic velocities. �

NEI makes a lovely 310 grain FP bullet (listed on their website as cherry #322C, the PB version of .452-325-BB) that looks as though it was made specifically to feed through a lever-gun, and feed smoothly it does. With 12.0 grains of HS-6 to provide motivation, this shapely slug works up 1215 fps and groups to about 1 1/2″ at 50 yards. With 21.5 grains of W296 the groups open up slightly, and velocity climbs to 1471 fps. A very similar profile is found on the gas-checked Lyman 452629 (the bullet that Lyman made for Freedom Arms and the 454 Casull). The Lyman 452629 over 21.5 grains of W296 generates 1482 fps and also gives satisfying accuracy. �

The 315 grain WFN cycles just fine from the magazine, but unfortunately this fine hunting bullet won’t chamber with the factory throat in the Marlin. �

NEI also makes a beautiful 330 grain Keith-style SWC (cherry # 320, .451-310-PB). In spite of its blocky appearance, this monolithic sledgehammer cycles, feeds and chambers fluidly in the Marlin. Paired with 20.5 grain doses of W296, this massive SWC delivers 1442 fps and 2″ groups at 50 yards. This combination makes a very comforting companion in bear country. For those that don’t cast their own, a very similar, and finely made, bullet is available from Dry Creek Bullet Works (http://www.creeker.net/). �

J. D. Jones of SSK Industries designed a series of bullets for the handgun hunter back in the 1980s (the moulds were made by NEI). These bullets are characterized by being large, heavy and blunt. They serve the lever-gun hunter just as well as they serve the sixgunner. The 335 grain SSK bullet for the .45 Colt is one of the most accurate bullets I’ve shot out of my 7 1/2″ Ruger Bisley (NEI lists this as cherry #320A, .451-325-PB). When loaded on top of 21.0 grains of W296, this bullet leaves the Marlin carbine at 1484 fps, and accuracy is reasonable. The truncated cone ogive allows this bullet to feed flawlessly in the Marlin carbine. �

Bullets that worked well in the .45 Colt Marlin 1894: the Lyman 452424, the 454424 HP, the RCBS 45-270-SAA, the Lyman 452629, the NEI 310 FP, the NEI 330 SWC, the SSK 335, and the SSK 368 (both made by NEI). �

One of my favorite hunting bullets for both the .45 Colt and the 454 Casull is the 350 grain SSK FP (NEI lists this bullet design as cherry #320B, .451-345-PB). When powered by 19.0 grains of W296, the Marlin carbine spits this bone-crusher out at just over 1330 fps, with fine accuracy (2″ at 50 yards). This load cycles and feeds like water through a funnel. This bullet is also available with an added bevel base to add a little more weight. With the bevel-base contour it weighs 368 grains when cast of WW alloy. This heavier version performs well loaded over 17.8 grains of W296, delivering 1276 fps and superb accuracy. The ogive and meplat are identical to the lighter 350 grain version, so it’s no surprise that it cycles and feeds just as smoothly. Any of these SSK sledgehammers also make bear country a little less onerous, whether carried in sixgun or saddlegun, they are accurate, reliable, heavy and blunt — precisely what the situation requires. �

Note that the original .45-70 loads that earned it such a reputation as a “stopper” consisted of a 405 grain .45 caliber lead bullet at 1300 fps from the single-shot Trapdoor Springfield. The .45 Colt Marlin carries 10 rounds of the SSK 350 or 368 grain loads at roughly 1300 fps in a light easily handled 5 � lb carbine. This is a powerful and versatile combination. �

The bottom-line for cast bullets that function well in the Marlin 1894 .45 Colt is that there are lots of excellent choices! They pretty much all seem to feed well and group well. For all-round usage, my first choices would likely include the NEI 310 grain RNFP, the Lyman 452629 GC-RNFP, or the RCBS 45-270-SAA. For hunting deer/antelope sized critters, I would opt for a cast hollow point, in particular the fine HP designed by Elmer Keith (454424 HP). For larger stuff like elk and moose, the choice is easy, the NEI 330 grain SWC or the SSK 350 grain FP, two of my all-time favorites. �

While there may not be any need for the two guns/one cartridge sales pitch these days, the value of that concept is just as valid today as it was almost 110 years ago when the Marlin 1894 was drawn up, and that value is directly attributable to the outstanding performance of these cartridges. The straight case pistol cartridges employed in these light, fast-handling carbines carry a surprising amount of thump, and are very well-served by cast bullets. The .357 Magnum digests a wide variety of bullet designs when ammo is assembled using .38 Special cases, and the Lyman 358156 HP/SWC or the LBT 160 GC-WFN loaded in .357 Magnum cases deliver 1700 fps and excellent accuracy. The .357 Magnum is a fine little working gun, serving well for coyotes and other vermin, and properly loaded might make a handy little carbine for woods hunting deer. The .44 Magnum is best served by bullets in the 265-300 grain range, and cannot handle anything heavier than the 320 grain SSK bullet. While limited in terms of bullet weights, this carbine delivers bullets in the 265-300 grain weight range at 1600-1700 fps, providing the hunter excellent overall utility in the field. However, the bottom line is that the .45 Colt Marlin 1894 is a more versatile gun than is the .44 Magnum carbine; the .45 seems to smoothly feed almost any bullet you can stuff into a .45 Colt case, and the 1 in 16″ twist stabilized every bullet weight tested, from 240 grains to 368 grains. Bullets lighter than about 310 grains all shot to pretty much the same point of impact at 50 yards, and the 330-350 grain bullets dropped down about 3″ below that, and the 368s were about halfway in between. The .45 Colt Marlin is a remarkably egalitarian little carbine. Yup, the Marlin 1894 is a keeper, which might explain why Marlin reintroduced this Model in 1969 and has made so many since then.�

Someone asked me which to choose between the three straight walled pistol calibre’s available, these were my thoughts out of the 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum, 45Long Colt and 30-30 Bottle neck case. Just my opinion – Budda.�

“The 44 Magnum if in the north of the country where there are crocs and lots of pigs. For the hitting power, if for no other reason or unless your not planning on getting a revolver to pair with it and not reloading, as there are good production loads available. �

The 45 Long Colt only if planning to reload ammunition, factory loads are too light for practical use, other than for competitions and expensive to purchase. The cases aren’t as strong as a 44, having thinner wall and rim dimensions and you don’t get as many reloads out of each case, or if contemplating casting prodgies and loading with black powder at a later stage, when smokeless powders become hard to obtain. I just like the idea of owning a firearm with a big enough hole in the end that will fit my finger. Look’s real cool. Loaded with 300 grainers travelling at 1200fps will drop anything it hits with out the recoil of a magnum unless loading to the hilt, but not the trajectory, rainbow like at least when compared to the other two calibres. �

The 357 is easier to find, cheaper to purchase factory ammo and has a flatter trajectory because of using lighter faster bullets. One packet contains 50 instead of 20 like the other two and be combined with a 357 revolver. If reloading, then more cases can be loaded compared to the 44 and 45 with the same amount of powder and lead. Far less recoil, with full power loads. �

My idea is a 357 for the primary lever to couple with a revolver then a 45 Long Colt to load with black powder and cast projectiles if it should ever come to that. But like I said, I just like the look of the big hole and into that nostalgia thing.�
The 30-30 if wanting more range than a pistol cartridge and the easiest out of the four calibres to find ammunition for in out of the way places, but not as much speed of cycling as the other three using the longer action.�
Making a choice between the three most popular brands; Winchester, Marlin or Rossi. All are of good quality in newer models, in terms of timber, finishes and internal parts. The Rossi’s are a top eject and of no use if wanting to mount a scope, but cycle well and very smooth using the older 92 action. Marlin are a better choice if primarily using for competitions as the actions can be worked and the lifters are less likely to break as in the other brands when being thrashed as in a comp, when rapid firing. Winchesters have always been my favourite for hunting, preferring the thicker barrel profiles and chunkier magazine tubes.”�
44 Magnum VS 45 Long Colt�
Rifling twist rates can be a consideration when choosing between a 44 or a 45. A 44 has a 1 in 38 twist and a 45 has a 1 in 16 twist. If using 200 to 280 grain projectiles then its better to use a 1 in 38 twist but if wanting to use 300 to 350 grain projectiles then its better to choose a 45 in order to stabilize the heavier weights. �
Both cases walls measure .0013” …approx 2mm in from the case mouth. 44Mag-V-45 Colt.45 is the shiny one on the right. A picture is worth a thousand something’s….- Easy Rollins�

Spare Part Kits and maintenance for Marlins�

After 2 years and between 20,000 and 30,000 rounds, the ol’ Marlin Cowboy started breaking. I had spares for everything, so no long term down time existed. I would suggest you have the following spares at least, and if the gun’s getting up in rounds, replace the * parts (part numbers are for .45 Colt Marlin Cowboy Limited. #s may vary with caliber and model):�
Extractor with spring -514569 (the spring will break *314695)�
Firing pin, front -*414299 �
Firing pin spring-*401295 �
If you use the new one piece firing pins, all firing pin spares may be dispensed with.�
Ejector with spring-514268 (Spring had sprung, and was ejecting in front of gun. Now hits me on right shoulder (left-handed shooting). For a right hander would mean putting brass behind shooter to right instead of out of bounds.�
Ejector spring – *401294 �
As a spare you’ll want the ejector with spring. But you can just replace the spring. Takes more time, not something you’d want to do at the unloading table.�
Carrier Assembly-514961 — when it fails, send it to Marlin for a rebuild, gratis. But keep a spare. Replacing it and the * parts annually before a big match is probably not a bad idea. Coyote Cap has a modified carrier assembly with innards that can be rebuilt. When he does action jobs on Marlins (very reasonable by the way) he modifies the carrier assembly to eliminate a rare malfunction as well. If you’re a serious competitor, sending him your Marlin is probably a good idea.�
Note that this is after a lot of rounds. The Marlin is the class of the field regardless of price, I think. Just keep the gun clean, the screws tight and go over the above parts every 10,000 rounds or so.�
After shooting, remove lever and bolt. REMOVE AND KEEP SAFE THE EJECTOR! You won’t believe how many shooters have gotten to the line and realized they didn’t have an ejector in the gun the hard way!�
Clean the bore from the chamber. I use a Bore Snake. Since I shoot Clean Shot, I spray Break Free CLP on the Bore Snake. Usually one pass is enough with Clean Shot. I’ll spray out the chamber with Windex/Vinegar (not ammonia.) Then I’ll air-dry with compressed air. If things look dirty, I’ll spray Gun Scrubber or Brake Cleaner. Dry with compressed air or hair dryer. If you’re using real BP use Ballistol./water (10/90%). Make sure you have it thoroughly dry. I stopped using Ballistol because of a lever rusted shut and considerable internal rust. This doesn’t happen with Break Free, and Clean Shot doesn’t REQUIRE Ballistol like real BP does. Reassemble. Test cycling with dummy ammunition! This prevents the “forgotten extractor” embarrassment.�
Then, using an appropriate gunsmith’s screwdriver for each screw, tighten every screw on the weapon. Wipe rag over exterior using Ballistol (smokey), or Break Free (smokeless). You can also spray with Sheath. The weapon should have a light coat of oil. �
As Needed:�
No longer than 1,000 round intervals: Disassemble weapon. (Leave Carrier Assembly assembled. Bolt sometimes needs to be disassembled to clean out extractor hole and to check and clean extractor.) Clean the parts of the action completely. They develop a “gunk” coating. The magazine spring has a tendency to rust. I coat it with a light coat of RIG grease. Clean out the mag spring tube using patches. Oil everything lightly with your magic oil of choice. Reassemble. Test cycling with dummy ammunition. Tighten the srews. Coat weapon with light coat of oil.�
For Winter Range�
The dirt is so bad there you want as dry a weapon as you can get away with. Keep it covered with a gun sock of some sort when not shooting.�
I found a set of instructions that sound as good as you’re going to get for home gunsmithing. If you’re not going to send it to Coyote Cap, this is as tuned as you’ll get. I haven’t done all of it, and mine’s smooth, but it has thousands of rounds through it.�

Spare Parts Kits for Common Survivalist Firearms….�
http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum … 506367/pg1�

Colt 1911 type pistols: �
Magazine, extractor, sear, firing pin, disconnector, sear spring, ejector, barrel link pin. grip screw(s), firing pin spring, recoil spring. Nice to have a spare hammer, bushing, maybe a complete pin and spring kit. Wolf’s spring kit is very nice value for the money. Maybe you look at replacing your magazine followers with arredondo or pachmayr followers, and put a recoil buffer in your slide system. Give some consideration to a Ciener .22LR conversion unit as they are affordable and make a great training aid and extend usefulness greatly. �

Ruger Mk II pistols: �
Firing pin, extractor, recoil spring assembly. Nice to improve on factory parts with Volquartson or other aftermarket makers like Clark etc. Good to have spare springs and pins. Good to have a diagram for disassembly etc if you don’t have your Ruger manual. �

Ruger 10/22 semi-auto rifle: �
Firing pin, FP return spring; extractor w/plunger & spring, magazine. �
This rifle is capable of being tuned to extraordinary accuracy. Volquartson and others make a wide variety of accessory parts. Nice to have the extended bolt lock and magazine release levers. A picatinny rail gives interchangability to your scope system with other rifles. An aftermarket barrel and stock kit add much to potential accuracy. Very handy with short, heavy barrel and plastic or laminated stock. �

Smith & Wesson revolvers: �
Hammer nose & rivet, hammer spring, cylinder stop & spring, grip screw, sideplate screw spares, hand & sping. Wolf and other tune-up kits from Cylinder & Slide are very nice and easy to install. Kuhnhausen’s manual is especially worthwhile for these handguns because so much of their interanals are/were hand fitted for functioning and there are many tricks to tune and assemble them correctly. S&W at one time sold parts direct. �

Marlin 39 lever action .22 rifles: �
Firing pin, extractor, ejector & spring, magazine tube complete. �

Remington 870 pump shotgun: �
Firing pin & return spring; extractor w/plunger & spring, R&L shell stop. �
Greatly accessorized, these shotguns have pin sets, spring sets and tuned parts available readily. Ejector assembly and other parts reportedly have very rare incidents of breakage yet maybe you want a spare and the rivets needed to install it? �

Winchester 94 lever action rifle: �
Firing pin, hammer spring, sear spring, extractor. �
Marlin 336 etc: �
Firing pin, FP striker & spring; ejector & spring, extractor. �

M1a semi-auto rifle: �
Firing pin; extractor, spring & plunger; ejector & spring, recoil spring, gas piston; gas valve spring, spindle & pin. Spare magazines. �

Ruger Mini-14: �
Firing pin; extractor, spring & plunger; ejector & spring, recoil spring, hammer spring, magazine latch spring, trigger guard, gas piston. Spare magazines. �

Remington 700 and other bolt rifles: �
Firing pin and spring assembly with barrel shroud (for ease of installation), spare set of action screws, magazine spring, extractor with rivet (or extractor w/spring & pin if mauser type bolt). Spare screws for scope base mounts, spare sling swivel studs and qd swivels. �

AR-10 & AR-15 rifles: �
Firing Pin, bolt takedown pin, spare assembled bolt or entire bolt carrier assy unit, carrier key screws; extractor, o-ring, spring and pin; ejector, spring & pin; gas tube & pin, gas ring set or McFarland ring for AR-10, Pin plunger and spring set for lower receiver, spare recoil spring, buffer and tube w/stock extension if use A2 or other full length stock. Spare gas block or A2 front sight assy (w/sight parts) also a good idea for long functioning potential. Roll pin can cup pin punches are worth investing in for dissembling gas assy parts.�

Lee Enfield Parts by Pugs�
Spare parts for the Lee-Enfield No4 Mk1 �
Extractor spring & claw . * 7.62& 303cal have a different claw but the 303type can be used in a pinch.�

Firing pin 303 & 7.62 are the same�
Bolt heads No,s 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 these are used to adjust the headspace to keep the rifle in a safe and shootable cond .�
example , the older & more use the gun gets the more likely the headspace will need a bigger bolt head hence the No.s 1 is the smallest and 4 is the biggest , But they are measured in the thou of an inch…7.62 & 303 are the same.�

Not much else goes wrong on these old war horses but it never hurts to obtain complete bolts as they’re usually cheaper than buying all the bits separately.�
Often rifles can be picked up at very cheap prices and are worth stripping for bits and handing in the bare receiver.�

The No4 Mk1 and Mk2 are different from the No1 MkIII* �
The most obvious is that the No4 has a flat reciever on the RHS of the action and the No1 is rounded.�

Also the No4 has its serial no stamped on this flat edge or the RHS of the butt socket where the No1 is stamped on the LHS of the Butt socket and is found by lifting the bolt handle.�

No4 and No1 parts are NOT interchangeable and doing so could be FATAL ( No BULLSHIT)�
one way is with a set of headspace guages , they come in a set of 2 called “Go & NoGo guages and look very similar to a snapcap or cartridge for that paticular firearm.�

Headspace is measured with a set of two headspace gauges; a “go” gauge, and a “no-go” gauge. Modern headspace gauges resemble the cartridges for the chambers they are designed to headspace, and are typically made of heat-treated tool steel. Both a “go” and a “no-go” gauge are required to headspace a firearm properly.�

Headspace gauges are typically used by inserting the gauge into the firearm chamber. The bolt should close and lock on a “go” gauge, and not close on a “no-go” gauge, indicating that the chamber headspace of a firearm is within safe minimum and maximum dimensions, respectively. The force that is applied to the bolt on a bolt-action firearm when making these assessments should only be at normal levels of force; otherwise, an incorrect assessment of headspace may result if the bolt is forced into a position with excessive pressure.�

For current or former military calibers, a “field” gauge can also be used. The “field” gauge is designed to take the place of the “no-go” gauge in military firearms, and functions in the same way. Military firearms are designed to withstand higher pressures. As such, a greater tolerance in the firearm’s headspace is acceptable, and the “field” gauge takes into account this greater tolerance. “Field” gauges should be used only on military firearms, and not on commercial firearms. Headspacing a commercial firearm with a “field” gauge can create an unsafe condition.�

As the “field” gauge takes the place of a “no-go” gauge, any military-surplus gun that locks on a “field” gauge is unsafe to fire, and should be checked by a trained gunsmith.�

Guns that fail to lock on the “go” gauge may simply need cleaning, especially at the bolt face, as build-up may occur on this surface and this buildup can cause problems in chambering a round without stressing the brass.�

Headspace gauges are designed to indicate simply whether a firearm’s chamber is in tolerance. �

**REMEMBER*** If in doubt DONT fire the gun and have it checked by a qualified gunsmith*****�

This is the easiest way to do this type of check and guages are fairly easy to obtain through various gun dealers or even better these days via the net from the states…�

by Duane Thomas�
(Handguns Magazine / November 1994) �
Probably the most commonly heard complaints about the 1911 .45 auto are, “It doesn’t work out of the box.” “It jams all the time.” “You’ve got to put hundreds of dollars into customizing it…..and it still doesn’t work!” There’s a certain amount of truth to these criticisms. Every time I go to a high-level handgun training class, there’s at least one other class attendee shooting a customized 1911. I have yet to see such a shooter complete a full day’s training without his or her gun choking numerous times. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen more jams — and experienced them myself — with the 1911 than with all other types of handguns combined. Why is that? In this article, I’ll try to address what I consider the half dozen or so most common reasons why your 1911 auto won’t work. �

Before we start, let me make one thing very clear: I love the 1911. I’ve carried Colt Government Models and Combat Commanders for years, and I’m morally certain I’ll carry them again. Some folks have the attitude that the 1911 is perfect — no weak points, no improvements possible. What a nonsensical attitude! Only with a mature appreciation of the design’s strong and weak points and a knowledge of the most common mistakes and pitfalls waiting to trap a 1911 user will you be able to get the most from these guns. �

Now, why might your 1911 auto not work? I can think of six reasons. These are, in no particular order: (1) incompetent customization, (2) inappropriate ammunition, (3) lack of lubrication, (4) cheap magazines, (5) flaws in the basic design and (6) a propensity toward small-parts breakage. �

Gunwriters love penning articles about their heavily customized .45 autos (and God knows I’ve written my fair share of them over the years). This seems to have imbued the gunbuying public with the belief that a certain amount of customization is absolutely mandatory on a 1911. Well, that isn’t necessarily so. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on customizing 1911s. In the process of doing so, I’ve discovered that most of the things you can have done to the gun are simply a waste of money. The more I’ve learned about the 1911, the less I like to tinker with it. I do feel there are a few things (none of which is extremely complicated or expensive) that can be done to make the 1911 a better gun, but in general I think you’re better off leaving the piece alone. �

Let’s assume you’ve just gotta have your 1911 customized. How do you choose a pistolsmith? Here’s how I look at it: Let only the very best people touch your gun. Conventional wisdom has it you should choose a pistolsmith close to you geographically, so if anything goes wrong with his work, you can take the gun back for correction without having to send it out of state, wait weeks or months for its return and go through the hassle of shipping the gun through an FFL dealer coming and going. I profoundly disagree with this. There simply aren’t that many good pistolsmiths out there (although there are a lot of people who think they’re good pistolsmiths), and the chances of finding someone truly excellent close to you are very slim. Yeah, it’s more hassle to send your gun away to one of the top .45 shops and you’ll have to wait longer to get it back, but when you do get it back, it’ll probably work, which is not something you can say when you hand it over to the local hack-‘n’-slash artist. �

At one time, customizing a 1911 made a lot more sense than it does today. Until about a decade ago, the guns available from the factories were set up to feed hardball only. Sights were horribly tiny. Trigger pulls might or might not be extremely stiff and heavy. If you’re buying a straight GI gun today, perhaps that might still be the case. If you go for a top-of-the-line gun like an Enhanced Model Colt, however, today’s 1911 will come out of the box with a hollow point-compatible ramp and throat job; decent, high visibility sights; a beavertail grip safety; a beveled mag well; and a lowered and faired ejection port. The trigger pulls on recent-production Colts I’ve tried have been in the acceptable to excellent class. What more do you want? �

One of the areas where you want to be especially careful about modifying your 1911 is in the area of trigger pull. Ever seen the hammer follow on a 1911? You’re firing the gun, the slide cycles and recocks the hammer, but instead of staying cocked so you can fire the next shot, the hammer follows the slide down and falls to half cock. The same thing can happen when dropping the slide while loading the gun. I’ve seen both these things happen and have had them happen to me. �

You almost never see this happen on a stock gun. You’ll see it most commonly with guns on which some enterprising pistolsmith has lessened the hammer/sear engagement and fitted a heavy steel trigger and added a heavy recoil spring. When the slide slams forward on the gun, the gun moves forward, but the heavy steel trigger wants to stay in one place (it’s called inertia, folks), so it actually moves back slightly in its track. If the hammer/sear engagement has been compromised, either through taking off too much metal or changing the angle of the hammer hooks, the trigger can actually bounce far enough back to jostle the hammer hooks and sear out of engagement, causing the hammer to fall to half cock. �

You also see this happen with guns on which old mil-spec parts have been substituted for the stock Colt parts. Stock Colt parts and most of the quality aftermarket hammers and sears (like Brown, Wilson, Cylinder & Slide, etc.) are heat-treated and hardened all the way through. The old mil-spec parts, on the other hand, are only surface-hardened, and when a smith takes metal off these parts to do a trigger job, he exposes the soft steel beneath the hard “skin.” Under use, these soft surfaces begin to peen each other. Typically, with this problem you start out with a decent trigger pull weight: say 4 1/2 pounds. As you use the gun, however, the trigger pull starts dropping in weight – four pounds, 3 1/2 pounds, three pounds – as the hammer hooks and sear round off, and suddenly your hammer starts following. �

Can you get around this problem simply by lowering the slide gently to chamber a round? Well, no. The 1911 was designed to chamber a round with the slide moving at full speed. Easing the slide forward will quite often result in a failure to feed. Also, never loading the gun except by easing forward the slide kind of rules out ever doing (or practicing) a speed reload from slidelock, doesn’t it? And if you keep the gun for home defense in Condition Three (hammer down on an empty chamber, full magazine in place), I suggest a lot of practice swiftly racking the slide to chamber a round. �

Some shooters (and many pistolsmiths) recommend squeezing the 1911’s trigger and holding it to the rear while dropping the slide during loading, as well as when doing a speed reload from slidelock. This prevents trigger bounce and also activates the weapon’s disconnector, preventing the hammer hooks and sear from pounding each other. I consider this a very dangerous practice. �

For one thing, under the stress of a violent encounter (or even while shooting on the range, with or without match pressure) many shooters experience a phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance,” which basically means that stress negatively affects the mind’s perceptions and clearness of thought. One of the most common results of cognitive dissonance is that you lose your short-term memory. (This is why it’s almost impossible for shooters to count their rounds during a gunfight.) If you’re doing something that requires you to perform actions in a certain sequence, there’s a very real tendency to screw up the order in which you do them. Thus, under stress, “squeeze the trigger, hit the slide stop” becomes “hit the slide stop, squeeze the trigger, ” and you’ve just accidentally fired your gun, probably hitting something you weren’t supposed to, possibly even killing an innocent person. �

Besides, holding the trigger to the rear while loading the gun is a crutch for an incompetent trigger job. You have two ways around this problem: (1) Leave the gun stock or (2) let only the best people work on your gun. (Where have I heard that before?) Some pistolsmiths will tell you that even a good trigger job will allow the hammer to follow occasionally unless you press the trigger before dropping the slide. When I was discussing this matter with nationally famous pistolsmith Bill Laughridge of the Cylinder & Slide Shop (Dept. GAH, 245 E. 4th Street, P.0.Box 937, Fremont, NE 68025, phone: 402/721-4277), he told me that, in his opinion, a pistolsmith who gave a shooter a trigger job that allowed the hammer to follow for any reason hadn’t done his job very well. The Cylinder & Slide Shop is one of the few places of which I’m aware that can give you a trigger job resulting in an excellent trigger pull while leaving the gun as durable as an unmodified version. �

I hope it goes without saying that modifications that predictably adversely affect reliability-like tightening the slide to frame fit-are a bad idea. �

The bottom line on customization, as far as I’m concerned, is this: Leave the gun alone. If you must customize, do so with extreme moderation and let only the best people touch your gun. You’ll be amazed at how much better the piece works when you haven’t paid some incompetent person to ruin it. �

Shooters want to stuff everything imaginable into their 1911s, and then they seem amazed when much of it doesn’t feed reliably. Let’s try to avoid as much of the wishful thinking here as possible, shall we? The 1911 is not as tolerant as some of the more modern designs in terms of the range of different bullet profiles it will reliably feed. The fact is that the 1911 was designed to feed hardball, and no matter what you do to it there’s really no way around that. Now, I’m not one of those people who says you should only carry hardball in your 1911, but I will say that the farther your.45 load departs from a hardball profile, the more you’re asking for trouble. �

At one time Colt, Springfield, etc., produced all their .45 autos with feed ramps and barrel throats set up exclusively for hardball; hollow points need not apply. In the past decade or so this has changed. Now you can have a 1911 .45 straight from the factory with a decent ramp and throat job, and the guns will reliably feed hollow points. However, I still believe you’re better off if you make feed reliability a main priority when choosing your.45 ammo. �

Hollow points that feature a rounded, hardball-type ogive are far more feed-reliable than bullets that have flat-nose, truncated-cone or semi-wadcutter shapes. The.45 ACP is a short, fat, wide cartridge, which is not the most feed-reliable cartridge profile in the world to start with. Aggravate that problem by getting too far from the reliable hardball shape in a gun that was designed from the ground up to feed hardball, and you’re just begging for jams. �

Some folks argue that your primary consideration in load selection should be stopping power. I disagree: The primary consideration should be feed reliability. Even if a particular .45 load does have deeper penetration (or lack thereof), more expansion (or lack thereof), a “one-shot stop” rating a few percentage points higher than other loads or any other traits you deem desirable, all that does you no good if you can’t fire the gun because your “wonder bullet” is hung up on the feed ramp. �

If stopping power is the name of the game, the good news for .45 lovers is that the .45 seems to be very forgiving in terms of load selection. If it’s a good hollow-point load that’ll fit into the chamber of a .45, it should give you a usable amount of stopping power. That being the case, you’re free to place the emphasis back where it belongs on feed reliability. �

There are a number of effective hollow-point loads out there that feed extremely well in modern 1911s. Hollow-points that exhibit excellent feed reliability are Winchester 185-grain Silvertip JHPs, Remington 185-grain JHPs and 230-grain Golden Saber JHPs, Federal’s 230-grain JHP load and Black Hills’185-grain and 230-grain JHPs. Winchester’s 230-grain Black Talon JHP load (now sadly unavailable to civilians) was also a very feed-reliable load. �

Hollow-point loads for the.45 ACP that, in my experience are testy feeders include the Federal 185-grain JHPs and 230-grain Hydra-Shoks, the Hornady 230-grain JFPs and the CCI-Speer 200-grain JHP “flying ashtrays.” �

All handguns require lubrication to work their best. My experience and the experiences of the top-flight pistolsmiths whose brains I’ve picked on this subject lead me to conclude that this is even more true for the 1911 than with most other firearms. Whenever you start feeling smug about mankind’s technological progress, remind yourself of this: We have not yet progressed to the point where our handguns will function unless we smear them with dinosaur grease. �

How long has it been since you last lubricated your 1911? If it has been more than about three days, the piece is probably bone-dry. Oil evaporates; if you carry the gun muzzle down in a holster, gravity pulls the oil down the slide rails, around the bushing and out of the gun. Some folks tout the various teflon-based lubricants as the cure for this. In my experience, they don’t last one bit longer than the natural products. �

Every few days, take a minute or so to lube your 1911. Unload the gun; lock the slide to rear. Put a small drop of oil on each slide rail and let it run into the gun. If you have a Colt with the firing pin lock, you might want to take this opportunity to put a small drop of oil on the firing pin lock plunger in the slide. Lightly rub a thin coat of oil on the exposed barrel where it rides the bushing when the gun is cycling. Let the slide go forward and put one small drop of oil on the front of the barrel hood where it meets the front of the ejection port. Cycle the gun’s action a few times, and you’re in business. Frankly, I like to do a more leisurely job of lubing my 1911s in which I actually field strip the piece, but the quick-‘n’-easy method I’ve just described will be sufficient. �

Also, while you’re lubricating your 1911, don’t overdo it. You don’t want to oil your gun like you would oil your salad. Excess lube, especially on the breechface, can attack primers and turn your chambered round into a dud. �

I haven’t quite figured this out yet, but it seems there are a lot of folks quite willing to pay five or six hundred dollars for a quality 1911 and invest a small fortune in customizing it, but when it comes time to buy magazines to feed the beast, they suddenly try to save a few bucks by buying EL Cheapo-brand mags. Suffice it to say, the magazine is one of the most important parts of the firearm, and buying trash instead of top-quality mags is kind of like wimping out and putting Brand-X retreads on a Porsche. �

I don’t much care for the eight-round mags with their folded metal followers that Colt provides with their guns (except the 1991A1s, which come with a seven-rounder featuring the traditional split metal follower). If you shoot a lot, sooner or later the folded metal follower in the eight-rounder is going to pop over the slide stop inside the gun, failing to lock the action open when the gun is empty and necessitating manually ripping the magazine out of the gun. The split metal follower in the seven-rounder will do the same thing. This is the sort of thing that can get you killed. �

I don’t like any eight-round .45 mags. In general, they cause more problems than they’re worth, such as difficulty to loading to full capacity, failure to feed the top round off the magazine, extreme difficulty snapping the mag into the gun and failure to lock the slide open on an empty magazine. Eight-round magazines were designed for competition use to feed extremely long bullets like the H&G #68 semi- wadcutters. Shorter rounds, like most hollow points, won’t feed reliably out of these magazines. �

There is a bewildering array of aftermarket 1911 magazines out there. I’ve tried most of them, so let me make this easy for you. If you want good mags that will work, I suggest the stainless steel Wilson-Rogers seven-rounders. These are available from Wilson Combat (Dept. GAH, Route 3, POBox 578, Berryville, AR 72616; phone 501/545-3618). The Wilson-Rogers follower design is excellent, and you won’t have to worry about it popping over the slide stop inside the gun. There are other decent seven-rounders out there, but remember, I’m making things simple for you, and when you buy the Wilson mags, you can pretty much bet the farm they’ll work. �

The Wilson-Rogers design comes standard with a thick-plastic slam pad. If that bulky floorplate protruding from the butt of your gun adds too much length to the grip for your taste (vis-a-vis, concealment), Wilson’s also sells thin, concealment-oriented replacement floorplates for their mags that are more subtle. An even more low-key approach is to pull the spring and follower out of a Wilson-Rogers and stick it in a stock Colt magazine. This gives you a magazine that doesn’t protrude from the gun at all, but still has the great Wilson-Rogers follower design. When I carry a 1911, I’ve got a hybrid Wilson/stock Colt seven-rounder in the gun and two more Wilson mags behind my left hip in a spare mag pouch. �

Now, here’s where I may get in trouble with a few folks. Some people seem to regard the basic 1911 design with an uncritical awe. To their minds, the 1911 represents handgun perfection; it is without flaws — without flaws, you hear me? Any criticism of the gun threatens their perceptions of the universe. Meanwhile, back in reality, the basic 1911 is an antiquated design and it is far from perfect (sacrilege, I know). Come on, folks, if John Browning was alive today, do you really think he’d be designing guns like the 1911? Hell no, (Actually, Browning had moved far beyond the 1911 by the time he died in 1926. In his prototype for the Browning Hi-Power, already completed at the time of his death, he did away with many of the flaws of the basic 1911 design.) �

Without trying too hard, I can think of four flaws in the basic 1911 design that range from moderate to serious. Several areas of the gun are prone to small-parts breakage; In some cases, when these small parts let go, the gun is totally disabled and it’ll take a pistolsmith to get it back up and running. �

A portion of the slide stop projects into the mag well for the purpose of engaging the magazine’s follower and locking open the action when the gun is empty. Unfortunately, this also puts the slide stop almost in the path of a cartridge coming out of the magazine. Since the slide stop is only lightly spring-loaded into the down position, if a round of ammo nudges this part during the feeding cycle, it can pop up into the slide stop notch, locking the slide back with rounds still in the gun. This can get you killed. This malfunction usually occurs, if it occurs at all, when firing the gun with hardball and less commonly with shorter hollow-point rounds. If this hasn’t happened to your gun, you probably have nothing to worry about; it’s only a problem on certain guns. If you do have this problem, a good pistolsmith can dimple the slide stop where it touches the spring-loaded plunger. If the work is done to perfection, the slide stop will never pop up on you, but will still operate perfectly to lock open the empty gun. �

The amount of pressure a 1911’s extractor places on a cartridge casing’s rim is regulated by the curvature of the part in its channel through the slide. This is a crude system. Too much curvature means too much pressure, and the extractor will not allow a cartridge casing to slip up into place, resulting in a failure to feed. Not enough curvature means insufficient extractor tension, resulting in failures to fully extract and/or eject. Most modern firearms use spring-loaded extractors, a far more durable and reliable system. This is a major improvement in firearms design that seems to have passed by the 1911. �

The tension of a 1911’s extractor can weaken with use. One sure way to screw up your extractor is to drop a round into the chamber with the slide open then drop the slide on the chambered cartridge. This will force the extractor to bend back and around the case rim, eventually abusing the extractor so much that it will lose its tension or even break off in extreme cases. �

The barrel bushing/recoil spring plug is a high-stress area of the gun. Not only does the barrel whack around in the bushing every time you fire the piece, but the full force of the recoil spring also bears upon the bushing via the recoil spring plug. If the barrel bushing gives way, your recoil spring and recoil spring plug will depart the front of the gun at high speed. Effectively, the gun is disabled. Now, this doesn’t happen very often, but I have had it happen to me while firing a Combat Commander. The bushing shattered, losing the semicircular piece that holds the recoil spring plug in the gun. My recoil system was somewhere down range, my gun out of action. I believe this occured because the slide of my gun came from the factory slightly shorter in front than it should have been. There was a fingernail-size gap between the barrel bushing’s flange and the slide; you could move the bushing back and forth with your fingertips. This being the case, of course, the bushing took a hellacious pounding as it jacked itself back and forth every time the gun was fired, and finally it gave up the ghost. You should check your gun to ensure that the bushing fits snugly into the slide. �

The exact same problem can occur from a different cause: The recoil spring plug may give way. This is common with hard use of the compact Officer’s ACP guns. Most compact 1911s slavishly copy the Officer’s ACP’s recoil system, so this problem is not limited to Colts. On the Officer’s ACP, the only thing holding the recoil spring plug in the gun is a tiny tab that hooks into a slot in the slide. If that small tab gives way (and it often does), your gun is hors de combat by virtue of a missing recoil system. I’m a big fan of the aftermarket recoil spring plugs for Officer’s ACP-size guns that use a ring of metal at the rear of the plug to hold it inside the slide. There’s no way such a part can come out of the gun. �

The plunger tube that runs between the slide stop and thumb safety is a notorious weak spot in the basic 1911 design. This tube contains two little plungers and a spring, the power of which serves both to hold the slide stop in the down position until operated by the follower of the empty magazine as well as to hold the thumb safety lever in the safe or fire position. This is a high-stress area of the gun; every time you flip your thumb safety on or off, you apply force to the plunger tube. Unfortunately, the plunger tube is held to the side of the gun only by two small studs that pass through holes in the frame. It is not at all unusual for one of these studs (almost invariably the rear one) to snap off. I’ve had this happen myself while shooting, and I’ve seen it happen to other shooters. When this happens, your thumb-safety lever will wind up in a half-on/half-off position. In an emergency, it would be possible to physically hold the safety lever down in the fire position and still shoot the piece. However, for all practical purposes, the gun is disabled until the plunger tube is replaced. �

There’s really nothing you can do about this problem except to keep a close eye on your gun’s plunger tube for signs of looseness. Some folks say that if your plunger tube is loose, you should simply have it restaked. I don’t know about that. If the plunger tube has been loose for any amount of time, that rear stud has probably been abused enough that I’d probably feel better myself simply replacing the tube with a new part. �

So, there’s a lot to know about the ol’ 1911, huh? It’s not exactly the simplest or most maintenance-free design out there. The trick here is to enjoy the 1911 design for its strengths, but at the same time don’t deny its weaknesses. Let me summarize my advice to maximize your 1911 auto’s reliability: Load it with good hollow-point ammunition featuring a feed profile as close to hardball as possible. Use only top-quality magazines. Keep the gun clean and well lubricated. Check your bushing’s fit in the slide. Regularly check your extractor tension and the plunger tube staked to the side of the gun for any looseness. If either of these areas shows problems, move instantly to rectify them. �

Modifications? Leave the gun as stock as possible. If you must customize, do so with extreme moderation. Either leave your hammer/sear alone or, if you must have a trigger job, let only a shop that knows what it’s doing modify this critical area. If your slide stop is popping up, have the slide stop dimpled by a competent pistolsmith. On the small, Officer’s ACP-size guns, replace the stock bushing with an aftermarket bushing designed to stay in the piece. Let only the best pistolsmiths touch your gun. I like to put my preferred sights on a 1911, but that’s a matter of personal preference and not an absolute necessity. And that’s about it. �

You in the front row….yeah, you with your hand up. You have a question? �

“So, you’re saying that you’ve got to know the 1911 inside out to get the best out of it? You’ve got to know what ammo to feed it, buy good mags for it, know how the various parts work and know where the weak points are in the design so you can have advanced warning if anything’s about to let go. Is the gun really worth all this effort?” �

Emphatically, yes; the 1911 is worth it. The 1911’s overwhelming virtue is how easy it is to shoot. Quite simply, the 1911 design gives us the shortest, most controllable trigger pull of any handgun. In this area, all other one-hand guns must take a back seat to the grand old design. In my recent article on the easiest handguns to shoot, the Colt Government Model outshot several of the more modern designs, placing third out of five guns I tested. I believe it might have placed even higher, but I was determined that all the guns in my shootout be as stock as possible, so before testing the Government Model I replaced the excellent wooden Spegel grips the piece normally wore with the rubber wraparound grips that had come stock on the gun. The rubber wraparounds really bulked up the grip, changing a gun that had fit my hand wonderfully well into a gun that didn’t fit my hand at all. The fact that I was still able to fire the piece well is, I feel, a tribute to the Government Model’s inherent shootability. �

Another thing I like very much about the 1911 is that it’s the only serious, heavy-duty combat handgun out there that can be totally detail stripped without tools. Not to get too Zen here, but when I know I can totally disassemble my carry gun and put it back together again using nothing but my own hands, it gives me a wonderful sense of being one with the gun. �

No, the 1911 is not a gun for the casually interested. However, for the dedicated shooter who’s willing to take the time to get to know the design intimately, the 1911 is still a superior choice in a defensive handgun. Unlike most things in life, the 1911 has strengths that more than compensate for its flaws. If it’s not perfect, well, what is??

Spare mainspring, hammer (frizzen) spring, hammer, spare flints, mainspring vise.

http://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/ … vergun.htm

On Line Firearms Manuals�
http://survival.stx.nl:7001/Survival-pr … s/Weapons/ �




Suggested Spare Parts �

From the book “Survival Gunsmithing” �
Basic Parts Kit �
*Firing Pin �
*firing pin return spring �
*extractor �
*extractor plunger �
*extractor spring �
*right shell stop �
*left shell stop �
Complete Parts Kit �
*includes basic parts plus �
*ejector �
*ejector spring �
*ejector rivets (2) �
*carrier assembly �
*trigger housing pins �
*magazine spring �
*magazine spring retainer �
*trigger housing pin spring retainer clips �
*trigger assembly �
*bolt �
**complete trigger housing would easier to install than carrying all the individual parts �