Marlin 1894P lever gun tuning project

  • Last Post 18 February 2010
JackG posted this 21 May 2009

I purchased the subject rifle, used, a few years back and only have recently decided to work on improving its accuracy.  It is a neat, very nice handling weapon.  My goal is to produce 2” or better groups at 100 yard.  First, some description:

44 Mag., 16.5” barrel, 1:38 twist, factory ported, 2-6x28 NcStar compact scope.

Ranch Dog 265 Gr. cast air cooled WW, sized 0.432", LBT Blue, 23 Gr. H110.  5-7” groups @ 100 yard, bullet entry stable, estimated speed 1,700 FPS.  No leading.

Lee C430-310-RF 310 Gr.,cast air cooled WW, sized 0.432", LBT Blue, 21 Gr. H110.  5-7” groups @ 100 yard, bullet entry very slightly unstable, just a smidgen, estimated speed 1,600 FPS.  No leading. I started out by slugging the barrel.  It measured 0.4316” and very tight at the muzzle.  The muzzle end has a dovetail on the bottom to hang the end of the magazine tube, the iron sight with two screw hole drilled in the top of the barrel and 14 factory drilled muzzle brake holes.  Needless to say this is a stressed area and the slugging tightness is not surprising. 

The first thing I have done is to fire lap the barrel.  10 rounds of NECO 220 grit on the 310 Gr. Lee bullet, vinyl wad, 3 Gr. Bullseye.  Then, 10 rounds of 400 grit.  Results: slug measurement 0.4317” with much less resistance at the muzzle end.  It is stll ever so slightly tight at the muzzle but I'm going to let that go for the moment.  Can do more later if need be.  Hard to reverse by adding metal.  :)  I am going to test fire this Saturday for hopefully better groups. 

In reading a bit on tuning lever guns I know the there are stresses built into the rifle at the barrel/magazine/forend interface and of course opportunities for improvement.  A number of articles that I have read refer to Accurizing the Factory Rifle by M. L. McPherson for guidance on levergun tuning.  I've enjoyed reading a number of his articles in the past, particular in “Varmint Hunting” magazine.  He is ahead of the curve ball but AFR is almost impossible to follow on the subject of lever guns, at least for me, and I'm not interested in doing some of the things he suggests at this point.   Before I start doing anything with the forend suspension of this rifle, I thought it a good idea to see if anybody has successfully made modification to the forend of their lever gun that they would share and that I might apply in this project.  I will relate data as I make the improvements step by step.



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KenK posted this 21 May 2009

Based on a total of three different Marlin rifles I have worked with; I'm of the opinion that they shoot better if the forearm and magazine tube have a little bit of “wiggle".

With my rilfes it just took a little wood scraping and de-burring the magazine tube.

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JackG posted this 21 May 2009

KenK wrote: Based on a total of three different Marlin rifles I have worked with; I'm of the opinion that they shoot better if the forearm and magazine tube have a little bit of “wiggle".

With my rilfes it just took a little wood scraping and de-burring the magazine tube. Makes sense.  What caliber and group sizes?

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KenK posted this 21 May 2009

I have one of the early 24” barrel cowboy models in .44 magnum.  It shoots 240 grain plain base cast consistantly into an inch or less at 50 yards, with peep sights.

I've done very little shooting at 100 yards with it because of my vision and lack of desire to scope it.

My 32-20 does a little better. 


I will add that I can consistantly hit a paper plate at 100 yards with my .44, offhand so it's shooting pretty good at that range cause I ain't that great of a shot.

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CB posted this 28 May 2009

JackG, you don't say if you are using the gas check with Ranch Dogs bullet. I GC mine in my Marlin and push them hard. Good accuracy and no leading to speak of.

Marlins like fat bullets , it will also make a difference for your loading based on microgroove barrel or Ballard. If the bullet is to hard it will not shoot well in the MG BBL.

I think you might get better results if you try a few of these “AS Cast", or size to .434 and it works fine for me in my rifles, I water drop my bullets so I use a fat bullet.

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JackG posted this 28 May 2009


I do use gas checks and push the bullet hard (23 gr. H110 approaching 1,700 ft/sec)  and have no leading but bad accuracy.  I'm sizing to 0.432” and have Ballard grooves.  I cast aircooled WW @ 14 BHN.

Since my last post I have 1.) fire lapped the barrel - very tight muzzle where the 2 dovetails and 14 muzzle brake holes are - now smoother (0.4316” before, and 0.4317” after), 2.) I have placed a plastic washer and only snugged the screw (with Locktite) that connects the muzzle to the magazine tube to help relieve the stress on muzzle.

I use a Lee die set and I was reading on another forum that it maybe too small in diameter for the 0.432 bullet.  I do have trouble seating sometimes with lead occasionally being scraped off the side of the bullet.  In that post, Ed Harris recommends that a Lymann M die is far superior for belling the case mouth, so I have one of those on order.  Also on that forum, Michael from Ranch Dog suggest lapping the Lee dies to open the diameter as the case may get slightly crushed with the seating die before the nose makes contact, pinching the bullet with the case mouth.  So when the M die comes in, I will perform both suggestions.

I have the luck to belong to a club that has a 100 yard, 2 port, underground big bore rifle range.  We shoot through 2 - 28 ” diameter concrete pipes with a bunker at either end in all whether and at any time.  The bad news is that when you are shooting sighters and not on target the bullets ricochet off the walls of the tube and tumble.  When I made the 2 changes list above, I went to the range and fired a dozen rounds.  It took me 7 rounds to get on target as the lapping and muzzle mods affected my aiming point significantly (didn't expect that much CHANGE - it must be the Obama effect, I guess).  It looks like I have reduced the group size from 7” to about 3", although 5 good rounds is not conclusive, it is promising.  I'll shoot some more on Saturday and see.  Then I'll test with the new seating method when the parts come in.

What kind of accuracy are you getting?

I'll keep the “as cast” in mind as a possible last step, the problem being that I would have to open the Lee dies that much more.  Thanks for the help


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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 30 May 2009

Hi.. a few years ago I played with a Rem. 788 in 44 mag;  they are basically an accurate platform for testing, so my attention was mostly in the barrel and loads.

It had a 36 twist also, I thought that was a detriment, but interestingly my most accurate cast bullet was the 300 gr Lee, sized fatboy, as is one of the basic rules.

Interesting also is that my 2nd most accurate ( up to 40 yards or so, for plinking ) was a round ball .... with very light powder charge ... try this for sure, you need a fat ball, maybe 2 grains of bullsey or so ....

A condition that I never attacked, because of collector value of that particular rifle, was that the leade was very short, so most of the bullet was launched from the case, not always the best for accuracy.  Check for a short leade/throat etc. in your rifle, it might benefit from a longer throat, either the CBA ( Tom Grey ) design or just a long tapered, say 1^ per side ... this needs some thought, as your slow twist might not let you use a long bullet in a long leade.  I loved that rifle, and did get around 4 moa ... but sold it for a ” more interesting ” rig.

Usually, the more bullet you can get lined up in the barrel before torching the powder, the better it will shoot.

Also beware of the semi-wadcutters with about half of the front of the bullet undersize... no support for half the bullet is not good. 

Just some thoughts ... sounds like fun.  ken campbell, deltawerkes

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JackG posted this 30 May 2009


Thanks for the insite.  As you may recall, the Lee 310 gr. has two canalures on it the one closest to the nose produces a SAMI length and the lower canalure  makes the OAL about 0.10” longer, which should not chamber in my rifle according to its specs, but it does.  This setting also places the bullet a hair off of the thorat.  Does not seem to make a difference in accuracy.  Semi-wadcutters don't chamber well and so I do stay away from them.  I might throat it, found a 1-1/2 deg. throater for rent but not right now.

I shot some Winchester 240 gr. jacketed bullets today which produced 5” groups.  Ho hum.  I'm really not interested in anything but big lead bullets, just did it today for ha, ha's and to see if it made much difference.  It didn't. 

I've got thoughts running in my mind to re-barrel to a faster twist and hang the magazine tube and forend in a different manner.  I read an article by Finn Aagaard who did just that with success.  I'm not there yet have some other “adjustments” lined up and I'm not in a hurry.  Bench rest shooting at CBA matches keeps me busy.  My most recent bullet/load/barrel combo is finally fine tuned and I'm getting some good success so that discipline precludes any major changes - just practice technique and practice more and more.  So, I need something to work on and this little lever gun, which is a really neat looking and great handling rifle is the selected victim.  I don't expect tack driving performance but would love to get it to 2 MOA at 100 yards.  Maybe I'm dreaming but I'm going to give it my best and enjoy every step in the journey 2 MOA or not.




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Gene posted this 25 September 2009

I have an 1894 with a 20” barrel with micro-groove rifling.  The rifle has peep sights with the target aperture.

On 09-14-09 I shot the following at 50 yds using LaserCast 240 grn LRNFP/BB sized .431 bullets:

1st 5 rds.  7.0 Unique   group 3.0 “

2nd 5 rds  6.5 Unique    group 2 7/16

My question is: at what velocity (theoretically) will the  1/38 twist stablize a 240 grn bullet???

Sidebar:  About 10 years I took my rifle to the range to sight it in with Hornady 240 jacketed SWC/HP's at 50 yds using just the factory sights (one of the few times I've ever fired jacketed ammo in the rifle) for a deer hunt with my son.  I fired only 3 rds.  After firing, I looked thru my binocs and could see only what looked like one hole.  I went and retrieved my target thinking 2 shots had completely missed the target??  There was one hole the size of a quarter with the outline of 3 bullets ??  Needless to say, I packed up and went home

The little Marlin 1894 with micro-groove rfling will shoot accurately.........


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KenK posted this 25 September 2009

Gene wrote: My question is: at what velocity (theoretically) will the  1/38 twist stablize a 240 grn bullet??? If you look at the data at you will see that one of the most accurate loads listed is 3.0 grains of Bulleseye at 600 fps.

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jhrosier posted this 25 September 2009


I found that some of my leverguns are picky about how you use the front rest. A gun that didn't shoot well when rested by the foreend on a hard sandbag, got a bunch better when I rested it on a piece of heavy foam rubber right near the receiver.


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Tazman1602 posted this 28 October 2009


Been following you post with interest, don't have a 44 mag but do have .444 and .450 Marlins I work with on CB loads. When you say “estimated speed” on your bullets are you shooting them through a chronograph or are you going from published speeds? No disrespect intended but a few years back my wife got tired of my grousing and bought me a chronograph...............and I learned some things.

Know anyone who's got a chrono you can shove five bullets through? It might be worth the frustration. I just shot a bunch of 405g hardcast GC over 31 grains of H4198 through my .450 thinking the speed would be around 1500fps because of published data. Here's what I found in fps:

<>1323 <>1233 <>1278 <>1243 <*>1252 Extreme spread: 90fps

Standard deviation: 36

Room for improvement? YOU BET! ......but not bad. Keep in mind this was AFTER I'd taken the load out and shot a 1.6” group at 100 yds right off the bat. Hell I was impressed with the load in the first place then to find out it's moving several hundred feet slower that what I thought........anyway you get the picture. Tried to attach a pic of the group but wouldn't show in preview -- sorry I'm new to this forum, hope this helps you some. I know Chrono's are a pain, I fought them for years, didn't want one, too complicated (some truth there...), expensive, but for tuning your loads they are hard to beat.


Edit: Hmmm I guess it DID attach..............

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giorgio de galleani posted this 28 October 2009

All 44 mag carbines have a very slow twist ,and their chamber is longer than the 44 mag case,much like shooting 38 special in a 357mag chamber.

They are not 6PPC stolle panda rifles.

I owned a Win 94 and two Marlin microgrooved barrels.And a Contender pistol too.

I remember I had good luck with lyman 210 gas check bullets  up to 100 meters,and less accuracy with 310 lee gc bullets.Not enough stabilization,I guess.

I'm too lazy to put again a scope on My current Marlin leveraction,I'm so happy with a fiber optic front and a Williams ghost ring rear peep.

This combo sweeps the bowling pins from the table with  great authority.

Many 250 grains bullets are made with noses compatible with revolvers cylinders and NOT compatible with leveraction carbine feeding.

I am very deadly at short range,or would surely be if them  wild pigs  would stop running for a moment. 

 Among big bore leveraction calibers,44 mag carbines are cheaper to shoot,and they are a pleasure to plink with, but for business with tough game,I use a 45/70  Marlin guide gun, very ligt weight and as efficient as the grim reaper.

I am not known as Buffalo George for nothing.

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tturner53 posted this 28 October 2009

Giorgio, I see from some old Postal Match records that you are indeed a deadly shot, not just at short range. I don't see many shooters campaigning a .375 H&H as a BR rifle these days. Any plans to shoot another Postal?

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giorgio de galleani posted this 29 October 2009

Dear TTURNER 53,

you are very right in whipping this lazy old buffalo,my longer range rifles (the standard rifle range in Italy is only 300 meters,while You are accustomed to longer long ranges in the US of A).

I have an LBT 300 grain 4 cav mold to play with,my old 375H&H CZ,I bought used in 1976 is still present,and an Uberti High Wall replica,38/55 cal is waiting for a vernier peep sight.

The Casale Monferrato 100 meters rifle range is being refurbished  in theese days,,and I'll have no more excusations ,and I'll take up again serious precision 100 yards.

I have  plugged the pot , and read your mail ,while waiting for le lead to melt,I'll add a rifle mould to the two 357 molds I was going to work with.I alternate molds while casting.  We'll have a pin shooting match at the end of november.

Handel's Water Music will accompany me in the tedious casting work.

Thank you for spurring me to join the postal matches again,I'll look for the 2010 match schedules and send my dues.

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tturner53 posted this 29 October 2009

Mr. Buffalo George, that's great news.  You guys out there sitting on the fence, now's the time to join up, let's all shoot the Mid-Bore postal match with whatever you got and show Giorgio a good time. I will personally award extra points for busting out cool guns like a CZ 375. It's going to be fun. Who's in? All you need is a rifle between .323 -.399 caliber. Great opportunity to have fun with those old Mausers too. Match is Sep. 1 deadline. There's two classes, under 10.5 lbs. and over. You can read all about the postal matches on the CBA homepage.

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Dale53 posted this 30 October 2009

JackG; Paco Kelly has a good bit of useful information on his CD available here:

Good luck! Dale53

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JackG posted this 10 February 2010

PROJECT UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have not been able to get on the CBA forum for months and kinda gave up.  However, today is my lucky day so let me bring you all up to date on my Marlin 94 project.  I decided to give up on the too slow twist, too big groove diameter stock barrel and bought a brandy new one.  It took some persistance but I found a hexagonal barrel in the Brownells catalog with a 20:1 twist, and a 0.428” groove, Nirvana... except that they were fresh out of them with no plans to reorder.  I tracked down the origional manufacturer in Flordia as I recall - special batch made to order, order cancelled, sold them to Brownells.  I started sobbing on the phone.  :(  The guy said he would look to see if there was a leftover.  Called me back - had ONE left.  Bought it.  :cool:

The hex barrel is about a pound heaver then the origional and I decided not to drill a muzzle break like the factory origional.  I also decided that one of the problems with the origional barrel (besides slow twist and large groove diameter) was the amount of intrusive machining (several dovetails for sights, magazine hangers and the multi-orificed muzzel brake) in the short 16” barrel.  Running a lead slug through the barrel was an adventure.  Kinda like ridding a wave.  I think that if I firelapped the original barrel to straightness I would have wound up shooting .45 slugs with no rifleing.

Anyway, the finished product has only one dovetail to support one hanger.  No muzzle hanger, no sights.  I put on a sc..........a sco.................... a scope - there I said it!  It is a small, cheap tatical scope that I use at 2X.  My experienced eyes no longer do well with iron sights so why booger the barrel with stupid dovetails.  I built this rifle for me and I love the way it looks and handles.  I have not worked up a load yet but will get back to you all with an accuracy report - remember my goal is 2” or better at 100 yards, and a photo or two. 

It is good to be able to gain entry to the Forum again.  Don't know what the problem was but it went way.



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JackG posted this 10 February 2010

I stamped the barrel “For Lead Bullets Only” as I don't think that factory jacketed loads would work well in the 0.428 Dia. barrel.

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RicinYakima posted this 10 February 2010

Get Jeff Bowles's email address, on the inside cover of the FS. I have had the same issue twice, and he was able to fix it. Ric

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Richard Pickering posted this 18 February 2010

I'd recommend a review of the technical sections at There is a section for the M-1894. It's a good place to pick up some tips. RP

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