Marlin Model 1894 in .44 Magnum

‘Chubby Chasers’ Rejoice!
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The 1894 carbine is one good looking, accurate gun. You won’t have
to give the shirt off your back to get one. Have your local shop give Ruger a call.

Lever loonies are rejoicing over the wonderful job Ruger is doing with the Marlin line of lever guns. Overall, these rifles are slimmer, smoother and more accurate than their New Haven brethren. I was particularly excited, with a twist, for the new 1894! This is because of Ruger’s attention to detail, namely changing the barrel’s rate of twist for the .44 Magnum 1894.

Traditionally, .44 Magnum lever guns have a slow 1:38″ rate of twist. For the chubby chaser guys loving fat, heavy bullets — and you know who you are — this just doesn’t cut the mustard. We want our heavy bullets stable, so a faster 1:20″ twist rate is perfect for doing so. This twist rate is fast enough to stabilize the heaviest of heavy .44 caliber bullets, which we all know how well they penetrate out of proportion on game.

The Slugs

One of my favorites and first MP Molds I ever ordered is their 300-grain radiused hollow-point design sporting three crimp grooves. This makes it useful for .444 Marlin loads in the deepest groove, while the top two crimp grooves can be used for .44 Special or Magnum loads, depending on cartridge overall-length limitations. There’s no denying its usefulness, or versatility, especially since it sports a gas check, which is good for high pressure, high velocity loads.

The next mold is also a favorite. From Lee Precision, their 310-grain radiused flat-nose profile sports two crimp grooves and gas check design. Besides being bargain-priced, it is a well-designed mold dropping wonderfully hard hitting, accurate slugs.

I also have an old LBT mold dropping 320-grain bullets. It’s a dual-crimp groove, radiused flat-nose, gas check design. As you can see, there’s a few redundancies in my choice of molds. Weight, 300+ grains, flat nose to transfer as much energy as possible, and a gas check at the base of the bullet make accurate load development easier in the long run.

Plus, gas-check slugs allow you to shoot longer without worrying about bore leading.

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A close-up of the cast bullets used and factory ammunition.
Left to right, Buffalo Bore 305-grain factory load, Lee 310-grain,
MP Mold 300-grain and LBT 320 slug.

The Loads

I’ve learned over the years when it comes to shooting heavy .44 caliber bullets in Marlin 1894 rifles, you get the bonus of free velocity from the longer barrel, approximately 400 +/- FPS. The Ruger Marlin sports a 20 ¼” barrel and boy does it make a difference.

Powder wise, I stuck with the old standby of Hodgdon H110, sparked with a CCI 350 magnum pistol primer. I used my standard charge of 21.5 grains of H110 for all three bullets.

The LBT 320-grain dual-crimp gas checked slug clocks out at almost 1,750 FPS. The Lee 310-grain radiused flat-nose gas check slug almost reached 1,800 FPS. Lastly, the MP Molds 300-grain HP flat-nose gas check with 3-crimp grooves made it to 1,800 FPS.

Besides handloads, I used some Buffalo Bore 305-grain cast loads for a factory offering. The Buffalo Bore load went over 1,800 FPS when clocked with my chronograph.

Accuracy

Accuracy was as good as I could hold at 50 yards with all loads. The Skinner Sights peep with white-lined “bear buster” front sight is a great asset for accurate shooting. My smallest groups went under an inch for 3 shots, with most groups going 1″ to 1.2″. It didn’t matter which load I was shooting, as they all shot about the same. Bottom line, this gun is a shooter!

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Typical 50-yard groups from the 1894. The bluing, wood fit/finish, checkering make the 1894 a classic for lever gun lovers.

The Gun

Ruger continues their excellent work on the Marlin line since purchasing them. I was ecstatic when I heard my favorite gun manufacturer was purchasing my second favorite manufacturer. It’s a match made in heaven in my eyes.

Wood-to-metal fit is excellent, sporting nice checkering on the wrist and forearm with a diamond pattern. Weight of the gun runs 6.4 lbs. and overall length is 37.75″ with a 20.25″ cold hammer-forged barrel having 6- groove rifling in a 1:20″ RH twist. Magazine capacity is 10 rounds for Magnum loads and 11 rounds for .44 Special loads.

The American black walnut stock sports a red bullseye near the sling swivel proudly showing it is a Ruger-made Marlin. The 1894 has always been a favorite of mine as they share the same calibers since our revolvers for the “one box feeds both guns” convenience.

Carrying the 1894 slung over your shoulder with a sling is both comforting and comfortable. Anytime you can sling 300+ grain slugs at 1,800 FPS with 10 rounds at the ready, you definitely have the means to handle just about anything in the woods.

I like this gun a lot, especially with the 1-20″ rate of twist. The gun will be staying with me. Looks like I wrote another article for free, since my paycheck will be going to Ruger. I’m still coming out ahead, and you will too, with this latest addition by Ruger/Marlin.

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