The never-ending quest for the “perfect” rifle round, or: Grant is lusting for another lever action!

Posted by:


Courtesy of Sierra Bullets


I got a surprising amount of email on last week’s lever action article. Seems I’m not the only one with a fondness for the simpler things in life — nor for getting a new rifle just so I can have a different round to shoot!
That article also got me to thinking about a particular interest of my own: .35 caliber rifle cartridges. I’ve often opined about the utility of the lever action in .357 Magnum; properly loaded, it’s suitable for everything from small game to self defense to deer hunting. It’s easy to handload, there are lots of bullets and powders that work, and the cases have good life expectancy.

If I were allowed to grab only one single gun to suffice me for everything I might do in the rest of my life, the lever action .357 would probably be the one I’d choose.

That’s not the only .35 caliber available in lever actions, however, but it is the only one I’ve owned. That hasn’t stopped me from appreciating and in fact lusting after the others! Like the .260 Remington, another cartridge I’ve never owned, I appreciate their unique performance characteristics!

In the Browning BLR you can get the under-appreciated but superbly capable .358 Winchester. If I did a lot of larger game hunting (the bigger elk, moose, and the dangerous bears) the .358 might very well move to the top of my “must buy” list. The fact that it’s available in the superb Karl Lewis-designed BLR is just icing on the cake! The BLR has a rotating multi-lug bolt, not terribly dissimilar in conception to the AR-15 bolt, which enables it to handle high-performance rounds that other lever actions just can’t touch and do so with superb accuracy. The .358 Winchester and the BLR are a perfect match.

Then there is the almost forgotten .356 Winchester. This is a unique semi-rimmed case derived from the .307 Winchester, which was designed specifically for the Winchester 94 XTR lever action. (The .356 was also, for a short time, available in the Marlin 336.) The .356 almost brings the ballistics of the .358 Winchester to the rest of the lever action world. I say “almost” because the .356 won’t handle the heaviest & fastest loads that the .358 is capable of, but it’s close enough that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It never proved to be very popular so ammunition isn’t easy to find, nor is empty brass. Top loads are said to be hard on guns, as they push the limits of what most lever actions are capable of handling.

Finally we get to a round that’s very much overlooked today despite its long history as one of the most popular deer cartridges in the country: the .35 Remington. This venerable cartridge was introduced way back in 1908 and has been continuously loaded by ammo companies and chambered by gun companies ever since (though Marlin is just about the only company still making .35 Remington guns.) It’s a mild cartridge by today’s standards, pushing a 200 grain bullet at perhaps 2,100 fps. Still, older and wiser deer hunters swear by it; it’s been argued whether the .35 Remington or the .30-30 Winchester has killed more deer, and you’ll find vocal defenders of both in hunting camps!

I’ve owned and hunted with the .30-30 Winchester since I was a kid, but never the .35 Remington. Out here in the West the .35 Remington was always the “other” cartridge, the one which that odd uncle from the other side of the family might use. More popular east of the Rockies than west, it’s a little unusual to see a .35 in this neck of the woods. Like the .30-30, however, it is a superb cartridge for hunting in woods and thickets, and has seen something of a resurgence as a round for hunting feral hogs — an animal fast becoming a major nuisance in many states and almost a plague in some.

The .35 does have one major advantage over the .30-30 in that it will use heavier bullets. While the .30-30 can, in the hands of a good shot, be pressed into use for elk the .35 Remington is likely a better choice as an “all around” round.

I started out talking about last week’s article, and some of the emails, blog comments, and social media talk about that article has lead me to reconsider picking up a gun in .35 Remington. Of course it would have to be a lever action, because the .35 Remington and the lever action just seem to go together. Marlin 336s in .35 Remington are pretty easily found, even here in the West, and because they’re not as popular as the .30-30 they tend to be a little more reasonably priced.

The .35 Remington would be a natural companion to my .357 lever actions, as it can be loaded with pistol bullets for lighter loads and stuffed with 200 or 220 grain rifle bullets for heavier work. I think it would be hard to find a better “all around” gun!

A fast-handling carbine-length repeater pushing out 220 grain bullets might be a handy little item, don’t you think? I can hardly wait for the next gun show!

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
  Related Posts
  • No related posts found.