View Full Version : Thoughts on .357 lever guns?

John in WI
08-19-2012, 06:29 PM
I've been looking around for months at the local gun shops to try and find a decent used .30-30. So far, I haven't seen a single one on the "used" shelf. This is probably because much of my state is shotgun only.

So it looks like if I want a lever gun, it is probably going to come down to buying a new one. That got me thinking--I love my .38, and I'm slowly squirrling away the money for a .357. In either case, I'm already set up to load .38/.357 and have molds for them.

What are people's experiences with a .357 carbine? Do they tend to work well with .38's as plinking loads? The largest game it would ever see is WI sized deer (I'd guess and average would be around 150#), and with decent shot placement, I would have to guess the .357 would be adequate for that. I've seen a couple of deer taken with .357 hand guns and with a stout load they did the job fine.

I guess what I'm looking for is a handy "do it all" type of rifle. A fun plinker that could run the same ammo as my pistol, a decent HD piece, and maybe a good brush gun for hunting deer along the power lines.

Are there any brands that you would recommend? Avoid? The problem (like normal!) is that I don't have a fortune to put into it. Just looking for a solid, reliable and handy rifle. I thought "Rossi" first thing because of the price, but it seems like the quality is hit or miss. You either get a great one, or a junker. (although I don't have any personal experience with them)

08-19-2012, 06:46 PM
I have a Marlin 1894 in 357 mag. I have not had great results at 50 yards with 38 specials. It absolutely thrives on Mihecs 360640 HP in mag cases.

I do find I handy to shoot, it just needs more shooting to smooth that action some. I wish t had a 20 or even 24 inch barrel, it would hang better for me.

They are rear guns for teaching new shooters or plinking. My daughter and I put a few rounds thru one last week and shot up a few bowling pins before she went to college. Perfect gun for that.

Alvarez Kelly
08-19-2012, 07:05 PM
I have a Taylor in 357. It's a copy of a 1873 Winchester, made by Uberti in Italy. It shoots 38 Specials all day long. Of course, it is not cheap... You might want to find a Cowboy Action shooting website. LOTS of Cowboy action shooters use 38/357 lever action rifles. Now... before anyone sends me hate mail, I'm not saying there aren't many who use 45 Colt or even 44s...

John in WI
08-19-2012, 07:15 PM
I never thought of the Cowboy action crowd. They shoot just about every Saturday at my range. I should run out there one of these weekends and ask around. Maybe someone has there starter rifle they would part with.

08-19-2012, 07:41 PM
My wife and I both shoot .38's in our 1894 Marlins for Cowboy Action Shooting. Between us we've got many thousands of rounds downrange through them. She says if we ever have to defend the homestead, she's grabbing her levergun.

Hope this helps.


08-19-2012, 08:00 PM
I think as far as pistol caliber lever guns .357 is tops IMO. I have 3, two Rossi's and a Winchester angle eject 94. The Rossi's have been trouble free over many thousands of rounds. The Winchester has taught me more about gunsmithing 94 Winnies than I ever want to know! The .357 in a rifle is more than adequate for deer and other medium game. A couple friends have Marlins in .357 and they seem to be OK but they are not newer Marlins. I'm not into cowboy action but I understand "gamers" run 73's and Marlins mainly because they can be cycled quickly to keep their times down( after they have been worked over considerably). One thing that may help when buying a new gun is to load dummy cartridges (no primers at all so the store clerks can't whine) in sammi specs with your bullets and run them through the gun before you buy it. If a store won't let you do that I wouldn't buy there. Good luck with your search.

tall grass
08-19-2012, 08:08 PM

I have a Marlin 1894c so am biased. If you can come up with a good used one what ever you pay for it you will save the difference in the cost of ammo over a 30-30 in short order. It is sure fun to shoot.


08-19-2012, 08:18 PM
I LOVE the .357 lever guns.

Bought my first one around 1970. A Winchester 92 conversion.

You will love it too.


08-19-2012, 08:40 PM
You can load down .357 Brass to .38 SPCL velocity simply...I do it all the time for my revolvers...

I can't find a .357 Mag Marlin locally for cheap, so I have taken to loading down my .35 Rem to .357 velocity and below...


John in WI
08-19-2012, 09:05 PM
Thanks for all the information. I really need to get my hands on one. I would have never thought about making up some dummy ammo to test for cycling at the store. I could even drill a hole in the side of the brass so it is absolutely obvious that there is no chance it would fire.

I'm guess there isn't much chance it would cycle wadcutters, but I'll have to look in to that and see.

08-19-2012, 09:14 PM
Marlin 1894

08-19-2012, 09:35 PM
I'm guess there isn't much chance it would cycle wadcutters, but I'll have to look in to that and see.

Dunno about .357 carbines, but my 1990 Marlin 1894S in .44 mag cycles SWC in .44 mag and spcl just fine...

Specifically the Lee TL430-240-SWC

08-19-2012, 10:37 PM
I'm guess there isn't much chance it would cycle wadcutters, but I'll have to look in to that and see.
Both my Rossi's will cycle wadcutters but only in mag brass or crimped on the middle lube groove in a .38 special case. I'm talking the button nose style H&G #50 which has a crimp groove and extends beyond the case mouth about 1/8".

08-19-2012, 11:16 PM
My Marlin will feed full wadcutters. Never seated one flush with case mouth, might need to try that.

08-19-2012, 11:42 PM
Cowboy Action shooters tend to view MARLINS as entry level guns for competition. The 1866 and 1873 guns are weaker, but faster to operate. IF winning is your main desire rather than competing with the gun you also hunt with, you upgrade from the MARLIN.

John Taffin said something to the effect "a 357 lever action rifle is your third most useful firearm...a good 22 Long Rifle pistol and rifle are first and second." I prefer the 44, but the 357 has its good points and a jillion fans.


08-20-2012, 12:15 AM
I had a 357 lever gun and it was a lot of fun. I sold it as I had picked up a 32-20 and really did not need a deer rifle as I already have about 4 of them. If I had my druthers I would chose a 30-30 as it has a edge for power and range, and is a real no-brainer to load with cast. Still if you have all the dies and molds for a 357 tht is no small thing. I am gradually building up a reloading set for my old 35 Remington. In reality either the 30-30 or the 357 are inexpensive enough with factory loads that reloading can be more work than its worth just for deer hunting loads. In a rifle I probably would go with the non hollowpoint 158 grain soft point in J bullets. Mostly it is a manner of hitting them where it counts and not a difference in power.


Four Fingers of Death
08-20-2012, 08:44 AM
I have leverguns in 25/20, 32/20, 357, 44mag, 44/40, 30/30 and 444 and not counting the 44/40 which racks up a lot of rounds in Cowboy Action shooting, it is the Rossi 357 shooting 38s that gets most of the work. Brilliant rifle! Go get one. I like the Rossi, but if you want to use telescopic sights, the Marlin is a better choice.

08-20-2012, 09:00 AM
I've had both Marlin and Rossi 357s
The only one I have kept is an older Interarms Rossi. It works well, is accurate, doesn't have that awful (for cast bullets) microgroove rifling, and is a cheap clone of the great Win. 92.
The Marlins are great guns, but there's just something about a 92 action ejecting shells from the top the way they should (for us lefties)

Four Fingers of Death
08-20-2012, 09:57 AM
The 92s are a better saddle gun as well because they are so thin. But either rifle is a great bit of gear! I haven't owned a Marlin in 38/357 (my 1894 is a 44Mag), one thing to consider is that they need the boolit seated out a little on 38s or they can fall from the side when being cycled. Not a problem unless you were determined to shoot the same load in your pistols and rifles.

08-20-2012, 11:00 AM
My Browning 92 in 357 is the last gun I'd ever part with. I've shot most everything from deer on down with it over the years with never a failure or hiccup.

08-20-2012, 02:25 PM
I feel it is my duty to warn you of the dangers of purchasing a 357 caliber rifle or carbine. I know that your intentions are innocent but you must first review the horrifying possibilities that lie in your path should you, like so many others here, succomb to this temptation.
You will begin with a Lee loader at your kitchen table with a 1# can of Unique. You might call it "Family Time". You already have a 38 mould but once you get one of these 357 beauties you will spend untold night-time hours away from your family, hunched over at the local range, Mag-lite in hand, searchin on the ground for 357 brass. This endeavour is guarranteed to give you bad posture and send your chiropractor's kids thru college at your expense. Oh the unforseen costs, hidden from the naive. When that proves to be ineffective in meeting your insatiable needs, you will make that fateful call to Star Line, and your end is just around the corner. Within a matter of months you will have raided the children's college fund for that Self Propelled Progressive Reloader. One pound cans of Unique will be replaced with 12 pound kegs. You'll become a frequent shopper at the B.F.Goodrich store where you beg shamelessly for dirty, greazzy old wheel weights. Oh the degradation. You'll be on a first name basis with Mehec and Ranch Dog where you'll find amazing moulds that you will hold fondly while you pour that addicting silver stream. And the need for targets... Why I know a man who drinks six cans of Bud each night just so he has a few targets for the weekend.
Then you'll make the mistake of having your wife use it. You'll say "give 'er a try Honey". Oh you poor man. You'll find yourself #2 on her list of true loves. She'll start running you out of ammo. I can see you checking your ammo cans and finding them all empty after a hard day at work. You ask the wife what she's been doing and she says "Oh Nuthin". Oh the deception, the down ward spiral. Come to think of it, I think it was his wife who was providing the targets.
In order to get to shoot a 357 rifle you'll have to buy another one just for yourself, and just when you think you have it set, you find your wife in the shop sawing off the stock on YOUR gun to make it fit one of the kids.
Once the youngens get at a 357 carbine .... Well you'll have to quit your job just to keep up with the reloading.
I've tried, in the past, to warn men like you. I admit that some I warned to late, but I will not take reposibility for those of you who have spurned my warnings and have run off and had countless hours of fun. So John---Don't say I didn't warn you.:bigsmyl2:
P.S. Do you happen to know of anyone who has one of them Self Propelled Progressive Reloaders for sale, slightly used, cheap . Mine just broke and I've already raided the kids college fund.[smilie=s:

08-20-2012, 06:06 PM
I bought my .357 Marlin for the same reason you've stated. While I've not killed any deer with it I have brought down a couple of pigs. It's probably the funnest gun I own and is my go-to gun.
Here's another thought. If you can't find a lever in your price range pick up an H&R Handi in .357. They'e light, accurate, and affordable. I have on in .45-70 with a synthetic stock I bought for wet weather use.

John in WI
08-20-2012, 07:29 PM
You will begin with a Lee loader at your kitchen table with a 1# can of Unique. You might call it "Family Time".

Ok--do you have a hidden camera at my house? That's EXACTLY how it panned out. A pocket full of wheel weights evolved into finding Cast Boolits in a google search evolved into buying a Lee Loader in .38 special (for a revolver I didn't even own yet), and that turned in to buying a can of Unique and an old police trade in Smith.

Within 3 months, I have a raging boolit problem. 4 molds, 300# of alloy stacked up in my basement (and hording more all the time...).

I'm definitely going to stop out at my range next Sat. fo the cowboy action shoot and see if I can find a line on any used .357. The only real gripe Im hearing about the Rossi is the sights, and if need be that can be fixed easy enough.

Any Cal.
08-20-2012, 07:48 PM
I just got the Rossi in fourty four and like it well enough. I haven't torn it apart yet, but it seems to be inexpensive rather than cheap. Trigger is OK, cycles well, no major flaws, yeah, the sights aren't very good, but many guns don't even come with any so I don't fault them too much for that. It has gotten noticeably smoother after a couple hundred rds. I would recomend them to someone else.

08-20-2012, 07:52 PM
If you are looking an purchasing a current production Marlin I suggest you head over to the Marlin Owners forum. Simply put there is a lot you have to look at before purchasing. The two biggest are stock fit and cycling. The list is to long and there are various threads about it over there.

All that said I bought a Marlin 1894C in 357 a few weeks back. It wasn't perfect but it's a field gun and I will mark it up. It also cycles everything and is a fun shooter. Now I just need to file down the new front site for the Skinner peep. Here's a poor pic I took this weekend after finishing up making the sling.

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08-20-2012, 08:52 PM
Have a M94 Win w/24" bbl, that loves 358429, over 12.5 gr. of 2400. Have never fired a special case thru it, as I have pleanty of 357 brass, and wouldn't even if I didn't have that much. In my opinion, the shorter case would probably present a carbon build up in the chambers that I could do without.

08-20-2012, 09:44 PM
I've got the Marlin 94 in .357 but I mainly shoot .38 spl out of it with no problems. I bought mine new and the only thing that it needed was a drop of blue loctite on the screws. I think a .357 carbine is one of the handiest little rifles you can have a round. They are inexpensive to plink with and you can load up for a good deer gun at reasonable ranges. Fair warning if you think your going out to shoot 10 or 20 rounds you might as well take out a whole coffee can of ammo. FB

08-20-2012, 10:55 PM
I had trouble with my Rossi middle sight so I replaced it with one of StevesGunz safety-replacing sight. I'm delighted with the sight and the rifle. So I can recommend the Rossi. Other 92 are a Browning and a Winchester. I do like the 92s.

Four Fingers of Death
08-21-2012, 01:23 AM
I haven't seen one recently,but I have never seen a safety on a Rossi 92 here.

I want to replace the sight on the 44 that I have, but want to keep it legal for cowboy shooting.

old chippy
08-30-2012, 02:30 AM
New to the forum. Thought I would chime in with something different. Have you thought about the Henry Big Boy. Nothing against the other weapons mentioned. In reading your post, it did not seem as tho you were looking for a Cow Boy shooter. Some of the imported C.A.S. rifles go for over $1000.00. (yes I would buy One if I could)! The Henry Repeating Arms Big Boy in 357 is a well made weapon, manufactured in the U.S. and sells for approx. $750.00. All tho the Big Boy is legal to use in SASS activities, it is not as fast as a 1873 with a short stroke lever job. But for pinking and hunting it is a reliable and fun weapon to shoot. I bought my Henry last October. It came drilled and tapped for a scope on the receiver and the same on the barrel for a peep sight. It weighs in at 8.68 lbs. with a 20" Octagon barrel. I have put about 200 rounds through to break it in. Not one jam or F.T.F.

08-30-2012, 08:05 AM
Ive have a Marlin 357 mag rifle for about 10 years now , it is sure fun to shoot , I personaly only use 357 mag cases reguardless of velocity and have a Aimpoint on mine and love it . In 10 years ive shot more centerfire ammo through it than all of my center fire rifles combined over the past 40 + years.

08-30-2012, 10:05 AM
In 10 years ive shot more centerfire ammo through it than all of my center fire rifles combined over the past 40 + years.
.357 rifles are addictive. I started with a Rossi single shot and now have three lever guns in that caliber. With a progressive reloader, 6 cavity molds and a Star sizer it gives me more time to "process" the brass through my guns!

08-30-2012, 10:42 AM
Well I have a few lever action rifles something like 7-8 forget the exact number as some are with me, some are loaned out, some are being built.
My 357 mag is in a new model 92 with 24 inch barrel made in Japan. It is real fun to shoot and is accurate all I care about.
As to this becoming addictive way past that in my case it is a terminal disease that will one day take total control of me.

Off topic but case in point I was looking at getting a 308 something just to have a new and different round, well that lead to looking for rifles and then ammo. Well stumbled into a good deal on ammo and then needed a rifle and it will end up being a M1A as I like that platform the best for what I am going to use this rifle for. Yea I just might get into real serious target shooting.
So as others have said beware this is a very addictive site, hobby and also it makes you think many times before doing. Well at least in most areas except reloading, purchasing items to reload with, cast with, firearms in general and of course time to enjoy them.

08-30-2012, 11:38 AM
Yep, they are addictive, cheap to shoot, shoot cast well, etc.etc.etc. Hard to say anything bad about rifles in 357!

08-30-2012, 01:30 PM
Hi John,
I shoot a Marlin 1894C 0.357 magnum. It's the finest firearm I've ever shot bare none, and a perfect match with the Ruger Blackhawk (my next purchase). I have it zeroed at 100 yards and can shoot 8-inch groups off-hand with iron sights. Set this way it will shoot about 3-inches high at 50-yards.

The 357 is an extremely versatile cartridge. According to an article in "the Truth About Guns, Lever Action Ballistics .30-30 vs .357" a hot 125 grain load will produce about the same muzzle energy of an M-16. So, fine for deer hunting, especially considering the terminal ballistics of an SWC bullet. Accuracy is good out to about 125 yards, farther with ladder sights. I typically load a 158 grain round that clocks around 1300 fps for 100-yard shooting. And, you can load mild 38s for general plinking. Best of all, I can produce ammunition for about 15-cents a shot. So, it's about the cheapest thing you can shoot.

Marlin 0.357s can be hard to find in the Milwaukee area, and Marlin doesn't always have them available. After Marlin was bought by Remington, quality has suffered. I spent about $350 bucks to have a gunsmith fine tune mine. Still, cheaper than a Winchester.

08-30-2012, 03:11 PM
After shooting this yesterday I'm completely sold on my Marlin 1894C.



I was in the process of filing down the front blade to match the new Skinner sight. So you can ignore the fact they aren't in the bullseye ;)

Late november can't get here quick enough for me so I can use this rifle for deer/bear. Plenty of time for complete load development :)

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08-30-2012, 03:40 PM

I forgot to mention how much the Skinner sight rocks!

08-30-2012, 04:25 PM

I forgot to mention how much the Skinner sight rocks!

Agree completely. Took me 8 shots to even get it on paper. It was hitting 8" low. So I kept filing and filing. I have the rear stem turned up two turns and it's now dead center. Still might file it down some more so I have adjustment for different rounds. And I still need to drift it for windage.

If you have a lever 357 I highly recommend the Skinner Signts. It makes target acquisition extremely easy and fast. I'm thinking of putting a rear peep on my shotgun just for kicks to see if it makes hitting "Flying Boards" easier :)

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Cowboy T
08-30-2012, 05:28 PM
I've been shopping for a .357M levergun for a while. Unfortunately, they fly off the shelves so fast that I cannot get a good deal in my state. So, I went for a Ruger 96/44 in .44M. Not a .357, but still does the job, in a popular--and powerful--revolver cartridge.

One of these days, I'll eventually get a good deal on a .357M levergun. It will probably be a Marlin 1894 because of the easy scopeability. Nothing against Rossi 92's. 357shooter has one and shoots smaller than dime-sized groups with his at 25 yards. I'm not discounting Ruger's 77/357, either, even though it's a bolt vs. a lever.

08-30-2012, 06:41 PM
I love the Marlin I have been thinking about buying another one. I put XS sights on mine and like them alot better than factory sights. And I'd buy one before I buy a 30/30 you know hand gun and rifle in the same cal makes buying ammo or reloading easy.

08-30-2012, 07:04 PM
The beauty of ANY rifle in straight wall pistol calibers is cheap and available brass, low cost per round, compatability with your handguns, and how fast you can crank out reloads on the DILLON (or other progressive press.)

I've got 30/30 and 45/70 MARLIN Cowboy rifles...love to shoot them....BUT the 44 and 357 Cowboy rifles get the range time because I've got DILLON 550B machines set up in those calibers. Lubing rifle cases is a PITA and volume reloading ain't gonna happen....you can speed it up with the DILLON, but it's still slow compared to pistol cartridges and carbide dies.

I prefer the 44, but there ain't no flies on the 357. You SHOULD remember what the late Skeeter Skelton said about 357 versus 44..."It's a case of a good big man beatin' the snot out of a good little man."

:redneck: :cbpour:

08-30-2012, 07:58 PM
I picked up a Rossi 1892 stainless, 357 magnum, about 15 years ago. Worked up a load with a 162 gr RCBS GC in front of 14 gr. 2400 that runs close to 1700. Shoots like a dream, had to figure out the sights. Will be a real hog buster.

08-30-2012, 08:46 PM
What is there to think aout, they are a grat addition to any gun owners collection.

My Marlin took a bit of time to find a good load for but now that I have it figured outhit is a fun gun to shoot. It may be going deer hunting this fall.

08-30-2012, 09:38 PM
The 357 levers are simply the most fun imaginable. They really are. light handy economical. hunting with them for deer.... I would try to limit them to 75 yrds but that is just my bias it is not built on experience. two friends of mine have about 5 deer shot between them with very good sucess with 158 sp.

for small game they are simply grand. but they really shine when it is just time for a walk in the woods with rifle in hand .