Maybe the most exciting news out of the 2018 SHOT Show (for me) was the Marlin 1894 CST. This is a new edition of the classic Marlin lever action chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum that sports a 16.5 inch threaded barrel, black finished wood furniture, XS ghost ring sights, big loop lever and a a brushed stainless finish.
While I think this particular model is extremely cool the real reason I am so excited is that it signifies a return to manufacture of the 1894 in the .38/.357 cartridge. Since the Remington takeover (ruination?) of Marlin the pistol caliber carbines have been nearly as hard to find as honest politicians and carbines chambered in .38/.357 have been even more rare than that. Hopefully, this means a return to production for all the models in this line.
For around $300 less than the $1154 MSRP of the CST I would probably buy the plain Jane 1894C with the longer (20 inch) barrel.
What it lacks in “tacticool,” if that can ever be applied to a lever gun, of the CST you get an extra four rounds of capacity and the $300 savings can go into better sights and more ammo. Now if I were to find a particularly good deal on the CST…that might be a different story.
Last weekend was our annual “guys weekend” hunting trip to North Texas and I wanted to share a few thoughts and observations…
The Ruger American Predator in .308 is a great rifle (for me).
The rifle is nice an light. Unlike some other rifles I have used, carrying it through the woods, mud and brush all day on was no problem. No wrist or shoulder pain like I have had carrying some other rifles. The “Claw” sling from Quake did a great job keeping the rifle in place so I didn’t have to worry and hold it in place all day.
Accuracy, as long as I did my part, was dead on and the Vortex Crossfire II 2×7 scope was perfect for both the the tighter shooting needs on a stalk through thick brush as well as longer ranges from a stand in an open field.
The first pig I took was in an open field but I had to stalk through some heavy brush to get to the field. The light weight and short length of the rifle made it much easier to make it close enough to take the shot without making enough noise to spook the pigs. We happened upon a small group of pigs while tagging along with my grandson and his dad while they were squirrel hunting. The light weight means I didn’t leave it back at camp and again the small size made it easier to sneak through the brush for an easier shot. The power of the .308 put the piggy down even with a less than stellar shot on my part. The third hog was across an open field from an elevated stand. The stationary, elevated position allowed for an easy and clean head shot even over the longer distance.
There is very little that can top a perfectly seasoned 16 ounce ribeye cooked over an oak fire with potatoes and onions on the side…
Fellowship with my son, grand son and son-in-law.
It was a great time and we were able to spend some quality time together without TV, Internet, iPads or any of the other distractions of modern life to interrupt. My grandson got to learn more about hunting and cleaning animals. He know where his meat comes from and what goes into killing and preparing it. He spent a lot of time practicing with his new .22 and is getting pretty good with it. I have a standing offer to him that if he can hit a soda can at 50 yards with open sights in five shots or less I’ll give him $20. He almost took it from me this trip.
Nikon scopes with exposed turret adjustments.
My son was adjusting the green light mounted on his AR and the light mount twisted on his scope turning the elevation turret an unknown number of clicks. I may be missing something but turret adjustments should not be exposed like that on a rifle, especially one that is used outside of the controlled space of a range. We were able to re-zero the next day but that burned hunting time and ammo.
Forgetful old men.
Between the repairs to the house, work, the holidays and everything else we have going on this old man forgot several things this weekend…including ammo for his rifle. If you’re going hunting, remember to bring ammo. It was thirty plus miles to town for ammo which also ate into our hunting time although we did find a good burger place.
Most of my shoes were lost in the flood including the boots I wear when hunting. I picked up a new pair just in time for the trip but didn’t have time to break them in. No blusters, but not very comfy either. The right one also squeaked when I walked making it tough to stalk quietly.
The hog I shot on the last night, from the stand, looked good in the scope and under the green hog light but once we retrieved her we knew something was wrong. A pig that size should have weighed in around 150 to 175 but I doubt she even made 100 pounds. Even in the dark we could see her ribs. No idea what was wrong with her but we took no risks and disposed of the carcass without bothering to get the little meat she had on her. On the good side maybe whatever she was suffering from won’t be passed along to any other hogs or deer.
No church or Sunday school this week. We were attending the birth of a wonderful blessing from God; a new grand baby. Wednesday night bible study did not happen either as I was tied up at work and with stuff for the house. Prayer time was OK. I will be out of town next weekend on a hunting trip to north Texas so I will miss again next week too.
Made another trip back to the range and burned through around a hundred rounds of .308 in the Ruger American Predator. My groups at 25 and 50 yards are spot on and pretty tightly grouped. The jump to 100 yards though turns that group into a pattern (3-4 inches). I am not sure what the issue is but I am pretty sure it is me and not the rifle. I think I may be cranking the magnification up too high (7x on a 2×7) and that is causing me issues. On the last few shots of the day I left the magnification all the way down and although the groups didn’t tighten up much I was able to acquire the target and shoot more quickly. The sight picture is much more stable so there is less desire to jerk the trigger. It could also be related to the scope height.
I also tested several brands of ammunition both full metal jacket (FMJ) practice rounds and hunting rounds and they all performed about the same. Which is a good thing. The Federal Fusion 180 grain rounds consistently hit higher than the other rounds tested (all 145-150 grain) and ididn’t group any better than the less expensive rounds. So, I will be sticking with the cheaper stuff although they have a lighter option as well and I may try that at some point.
The range I went too goes out to around 330 yards and I was pleasantly surprised that I could hit the 220 yard steel target almost at will and the 330 yard target at least half the time. Prior to this trip have only made one shot at that kind of distance before. A 200 yard shot on a deer with a loaner rifle that was sighted to be dead on at that distance so I was pretty happy about that.
I was also able to pick up a ton of brass in .308 (mostly my own) and 5.56 as well as a few odds and ends that I can reload as well.
I purchased another set of low rings. The scope rings on the .308 are mids and the lows on the 7.62×39 seem to fit me better and allow a better cheek weld. I will swap those once I get back from my hunting trip this coming weekend.
Restocked the first aid kid in my EDC bag. We’ve had a lot of little cuts and scrapes to deal with of late. I am being very careful with even small scratches picked up around the house due to the flooding.
We are having to drain down the savings to continue making repairs. Although this is why we saved (a rainy day) it’s still tough seeing the balances we worked so hard to build up getting smaller.
I NEED TO FOCUS HERE!
That’s it for me. That’s what I prepped this week. How about you? What did you Prep this week?
As the weather starts to cool off a little along the Texas Gulf Coast the outdoor rifle ranges are starting to get pretty busy. A lot of guys are getting ready for deer season and the rest are just taking advantage of those rare times when you can get outside without suffering heatstroke. Although I probably won’t make it out to bag any deer this year, we will still probably make our annual hunting trip to north Texas to bag a few hogs. It looks like that will be in January or February again this year but it is never too early to start getting ready, especially when you will be carrying a new rifle into the fields.
The Ruger American Predator in .308 Winchester will be my “go to” rifle this year and last time out I ran into a bit of an issue. Ruger, by design or oversight, didn’t use any thread locker on the scope rail and under recoil from the .308 the screws backed out leaving my scope on less that solid footing and my shots were all over the paper.
With the rail re-attached (with a generous application of thread locker on each screw) I wanted to see how she would do.
A few shots at 50 yards showed I was at least on paper so then it was time to head to the 100 yard line (100-125 yards is about the outside distance for me when hunting). I was having some issues with consistency at first which had be rechecking the scope rail but after a bit I was able to settle down and she should be about zeroed in.
I spent quite a bit of time practicing with the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 7.62×39. To be honest I really prefer the “short .30 caliber” to the .308 as the recoil is significantly less and the ammo is cheaper. Which was the plan after all, since other than caliber and color the rifles are identical.
One of the things I wanted to do was test some ammo other than the Brown Bear and see what the difference would be in reliability, point of impact and the groupings. My AR in 7.62×39 is very sensitive to different ammunition brands and types. There can be several inches difference in point of impact at 100 yards and significant differences in the accuracy of each round with that rifle and I wanted to see if that was still the case with the Ruger.
I tested super cheap TulAmmo, my standard Brown Bear, Fiocchi brass cased ammo, Hornady 7.62X39 123 gr SST® Steel Case and some reloads. The little Ruger hand no issues feeding or firing any of them. Picky, it is not and it was very consistent too. There was very little, if any, difference in the point of impact regardless of the ammo. The group did tend to spread out with the cheap TulAmmo resulting in groupings of around 2-3 inches instead of the 1-2 inches I could get with the other types of ammunition. I continue to be impressed with this little rifle.
Since the Ruger has no issues with the brass cased Fiocchi or my reloads that means I can use it at indoor rifle ranges as well which opens up a lot more of the year for practicing with a rifle. As much as I love shooting, outdoor ranges when it is almost 100 degrees outside with almost 100% humidity are a lot less enjoyable than sitting in air conditioned comfort…
I can’t wait to make it out into the field with one (or the other) in a few months time and back to the range sooner than that.
We’re not sure how we are going to cover all the costs of repairing our home and replacing the stuff we lost in the flood and I bought a new rifle. I could not resist the temptation and I purchased a Ruger American Rifle Ranch Model in 7.62×39 (Darn It Ruger, Why Now?). Then I broke down and ordered a Vortex 2×7 scope for it along with a set of rings. Oh, and I also ordered two extra magazines and they should be in shortly…
Yes, I feel a little guilty about buying a new rifle…
However, I do plan on selling another rifle I have had for a while and that should cover the cost of the rifle, scope and magazines. There might even be a little left over.
First, a quick refresher on this rifle. Bolt action rifle based on the budget “American” series of rifles from Ruger. The Ranch variants all sport short, medium weight barrels. The barrels are cold hammer forged and threaded for suppressors or the muzzle device of choice. The 7.62×39 feed from standard Ruger Mini-30 magazines. These rifles also come with a scope rail already installed and the actions are set in lightweight polymer stocks.
How do I like it?
Well, let’s start with the bad.
The action on the 7.62×39 is nowhere near as smooth as on its .308 counterpart. I don’t know if this is a function of feeding from a magazine designed for a semi-auto or if it is because I bought one of the first ones manufactured or what. I will say that as more rounds went down range the action did get much smoother but still not up to the standards of its bigger brother.
I also had some feeding issues. There were times that the rounds didn’t feed properly. That could have been operator error as I tend to tilt bolt action rifles a bit when cycling the action. It was definitely operator error when it failed to feed an entire magazine of ammo, each one jamming up before it entered the chamber. That was because there was already a round in the chamber…Doh!
The action seems to work best when worked quickly and with some force (you are chambering a Russian designed round after all).
I tested a couple of rounds of dirt cheap TulAmmo and it seemed to feed and run fine but I would need to run more rounds through the rifle to really determine how well it works in the little Ruger. I didn’t test any American made ammunition either although I am sure it will work fine. I sent almost 100 rounds of Brown Bear (Barnaul) 123 Grain soft point down range today and there were no issues with feeding or extraction.
This is a good thing because I like this ammunition. It seems to be very consistent, accurate and reliable. In side by side testing it has been just as reliable and accurate as American made ammunition but with significantly more punch. The manufacturer loads this round close to the maximum specifications for the cartridge. Plus it runs less than a quarter of the price of American manufactured 7.62×39 ammunition!
How about accuracy?
I used a laser boresight to “get me on paper” before my trip to the range so I wasn’t expecting much from my few first shots. I started out at the 25 yards line to get started and to my surprise the fist shot was on the upper edge of the bullseye. Thinking it was a fluke I dropped four more shots into the target and ended up with a single ragged hole. I am not a great shot with rifles and, to be honest, this was one of the best groups I have ever shot at this distance.
Next up 50 yards:
Again, this little rifle was right on target.
How about 100 yards?
Again, I am not a great rifle shooter and 100 yards is a long shot for me but again this rifle helped my put together on of the best groups I have ever shot at that distance. So, yeah, I think the accuracy is there.
All in all I like this rifle. The action could be smoother but I can live with that. The accuracy is there, It is lightweight, around six pounds including the scope. Since it uses the same magazines as the Mini-30 I have the option of 5, 10 or 20 rounds magazines and although they are not as cheap as AR or AK magazines they aren’t super expensive either. It would be a fine rifle for hunting deer or pigs, especially in the East Texas Piney Woods where shots would rarely be more than 100 yards and would more likely be less than half that. At around $400 it could serve as a truck gun for whatever needs a medicinal dose of lead applied around the property.
For me, this rifle will probably spend most of its life at the range. It is essentially identical to the Ruger American Predator I plan to hunt with this year but the ammo costs are a fraction of what .308 costs. It’s already topped with the same scope as I have on the .308 and the trigger is identical. So this will be my go to practice rifle allowing me to get a lot more range time at a lower cost.
So about that Ruger American Predator…
I did a quick range report on this rifle back in June (link). The action is very smooth and at 25 yards I was able to do pretty well but at longer distance I was really having trouble with it. My groups were a bit more like patterns, although still better then the Marlin 336 I used to hunt with. To be honest I was getting pretty frustrated with it once I moved over to the 100 yard line.
After a fair amount of frustration, I noticed that there was a tiny bit of play in the scope. Upon further investigation I finally discovered that the scope rail (attached at the factory by Ruger) was loose. I didn’t have the tools with me needed to remove the scope at the range so I packed it away after only about 10 or 12 rounds.
Once I got it home and took the scope off I found that all four screws holding the scope rail to the rifle had backed out. It didn’t appear that any sort of thread locker had been applied at the factory and the screws had backed out under recoil (which is pretty stout in such a light rifle). Needless to say they are now secured by Loctite now and I doubt they will back out again and I can’t wait to check the accuracy now that the scope is mounted solidly.
Apparently while my world was under water (OK, only partially underwater) Ruger made an announcement; they released a Ruger American Rifle Ranch Model (say that three times fast) chambered in 7.62×39 (link).
Like the other Ranch Models it features a picatinny rail and a short (16 inch) barrel that comes threaded from the factory for mounting either a suppressor or muzzle device. Like the other Ruger American rifles it features a polymer stock and free floated barrel. For the really cool part, this rifle uses the same magazines as Ruger’s Mini-30 so magazines can be had in 5, 10 and 20 rounds sizes.
I’m looking at tens of thousands of dollars for repairs on the house but I really want one of these little rifles!