Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winchester Trapper in .357 Magnum

Whether considering a rifle for the bug out bag or for other purposes, I have a strong preference for short, handy carbines, and few rifles can meet that description better than the Winchester Model 1894 Trapper.  I've owned one chambered in .30-.30 in the past, but my current favorite is this one in .357 Magnum.  This is the pistol caliber carbine I mentioned in Bug Out that goes along so well with a revolver chambered for the same round.  While I would still choose a compact .22 if I could only take one firearm for wilderness survival purposes, if at all possible, this handy little levergun will go along as well. 


This slim lever-action rifle carries easily in the field, with or without a sling, and weighing only 6 lbs., it would be no great burden considering it's capabilities.  The .357 Magnum version is more than adequate for deer at reasonable ranges and can do the job for protection against dangerous animals, although I would choose the .44 Magnum or .30-.30 version if I were in big bear country.  The nice thing about the .357 Magnum is that it can also handle .38 Specials for smaller game and cheap plinking.  The only hitch with these rifles chambered in pistol caliber is that you have to experiment a bit with different brands of ammunition to find the ones that feed reliably.  This was never an issue with the .30-.30 I had. 

Here, you can see just how compact this rifle really is, with an overall length of just 34 and a quarter inches. 



Here it is compared to a Saiga AK-47 with an ACE folding stock.  Overall length is very similar, but the AK is much bulkier and heavier.  Of course they have different purposes, but there is some crossover in the utility of each.  The Winchester is more refined in every way, with regards to fit and finish and within it's effective range it is more accurate, making it more suitable for survival hunting.  I love how quick it is to handle and how it comes to the shoulder and points naturally.  The AK is more of a beast, but with a whole lot more firepower potential with its 30-round mags, of course.  The Trapper in .357 Magnum holds 9 rounds in the tube plus one in the chamber. In .30-.30, this capacity is reduced to 5 in the tube.  But, one thing nice about a lever gun is that you can top off the magazine at any time between the shooting, adding rounds as soon as they are expended.  In a modern combat role, the lever action rifle that won the West is sometimes referred to as a "CAR" (Cowboy Assault Rifle)!


The Trapper version of this Winchester is short enough to fit in some large backpacks fully assembled.  I used to carry my .30-.30 that way, with the butt down and just a couple of inches of barrel protruding from under the backpack flap on my large external frame pack.  I would simply put a nylon tent pole bag over the end and when hiking in places where I might encounter some park ranger or game warden, they would never guess I had a rifle in there.  But if you really want to make it disappear, you can remove one screw and slide the butt stock right off, as shown below.  This leaves the longest part at 24 inches.  So many of the best bug out firearms options break down to 24 inches that I would never consider a backpack that didn't have a 24-inch deep compartment to be a valid choice for a serious bug out bag.

Keep in mind that this rifle was not intended to be taken down this way and I wouldn't do it all the time.  For bugging out purposes all you would have to do is break it down once to pack it and then put it together once you're out in the boonies.  By threading the screw back into the receiver you won't lose anything and you can carefully wrap and pad the receiver with spare clothing in the bag.  This is the same concept as packing the Ruger 10/22 the way I described it in a previous post


Here is another view of the Trapper and the AK, with the Trapper broken down and the AK's stock folded and magazine removed.  The AK is still bulkier, but it has the advantage that it can be fired in the folded position if necessary. 


Now for the bad news.  Winchester stopped production on the Trapper several years ago, so what was once a $300 rifle has now soared in value as a collector's item.  I found the one pictured on Gun Broker last year in brand new condition for a reasonable price.  I've seen them going for as much as $1K, but if you look around, you might come across a used one at a gun show or in a pawn shop.  Other options that are similar and still in production are the Rossi Model 1892 and the Puma.  Marlin has also made limited runs of their lever carbines with a 16-inch barrel. 

To explore the possibilities of the lever-action rifle as an alternative to semi-automatics like the AK-47 and the AR-15, I highly recommend you visit Gabe Suarez' Warrior Talk Forums.  Although Gabe is a guru of the modern AK-47 in a combat role, there is a sub-forum on Warrior Talk called "Fighting Lever Guns" that any fan of these rifles will find of interest, as there is lots of discussion on calibers and makes, as well as applicable tactics.  Gabe is also offering classes on gunfighting with lever guns. See below:

42 comments:

  1. Thanks to the Cowboy Shooting sport, these little levers are becoming quite prolific and popular. 'Back in the day' I owned an original Marlin 94 in 32-20, and foolishly traded it for a 'more modern' .303 Brit. Now I've got the Marlin back, chambered in .357, bought from an acquaintance. Great little deer rifle but quite under-powered for more than deer, maybe a small black bear with proper shot placement: i.e. square between the front teeth as it chomps on your muzzle. (As mentioned, rifles of this kind are also available in .44mag calibers, and more- thanks again to cowboys!)Still, with the Ruger Police Six, it's my 'go-to' rifle for all things survival, along with a very portable Lee Loader and box or two of primers.
    Shy III

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  2. Very sweet shooting carbine, I have one of the latter made cross-bolt saftied models. Everything you said above is true, a VERY capable, versatile gun that is easy to feed, easy to shoot and easy to carry.

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  3. Great review...I own a S&W 586 so this rifle would make a great match...thanks for the heads up.

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  4. I have been in the Outlands of many states with big and bigger bears ( AK, WA, MT, ID, OR, UT, NV, AZ ) by myself and I carry the Marlin 1894c .38/.357. My normal load is .357mag 158g Jacketed soft point. I also carry for when the back hairs start to tingle and stand up Corbon 180g jacketed soft points. When I go to sleep I have my ruger security six loaded with the corbons and its laying on my chest. Something disturbs my sleep and demands deadly attention, 6 rounds of the mag corbons should stop it. I have a friend that hot loads me a lot of rounds that have been clocked at 2000 fps. I have Never felt under armed. In AK while helping a friend on his trap line I dropped a charging black bear. The bear came out of the brush and charged my partner, (I was about 20 ft off to the left of him, he was closer to the bear), with (2) rounds from the Marlin. My friend had layed down his 45-70 to clear the trap that had been emptied for us. Seems the bear liked us hunting for it. Its confidence with your rifle and ability to stand your ground and hit your target.

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  5. I would not say this combination is underpowered. Very comparable to the 30-30. The real advantage is if you carry a .357 handgun, makes such great sense you wonder why they aren't sold together.
    The best advantage of this gun over, say an AK47 or similar assault rifle is it doesn't attract unwanted attention. You can carry this gun slung over your shoulder in the woods and no one would look twice. I can almost guarantee you if you take your AK47 out to the the local woodsy area for a little target practice and someone sees you they will call in a supicious person with gun call to 911. The plain old lever action with iron sights is so ubiquitous that no one even takes notice of them.

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  6. I wonder if Henry has given some thought to making a few centerfire lever trappers in their line. They already even make a .357 model.

    http://tinyurl.com/2u9k5eh

    No idea what this Bad Boy weighs, but still there.

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  7. I have been searching for one of those Winchester .357s. They are hard to come by, and I hope I get the opportunity to scoop one up when it comes my way. Everyone I know that has owned one has said very good things about them... Everyone I know that has let one get away has also said they regret letting it get away...

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  8. Jack, right now, Winchesters are priced in stratosphere, investigate looking at the Rossi or other '92 copies, they might fill the bill. My brother has a Trapper Rossi .357 that is pretty awesome. My Rossi 20" carbine and it pretty much shoot neck and neck.

    Just saying is all - good luck on your hunt for one.

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  9. Hey, just noticed something - are you (Scott Williams) left handed? Saw the cartridge butt cuff on that side of stock which is why I'm asking. My Dad was left handed as well, and one reason he liked his old (early 50's) top ejecting Winchester was that the empties would not cross his line of vision when levering action.

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  10. Thanks for all the comments and sorry for the delayed response.

    Shy Wolf, those Marlins are nice too, but I've never owned one.

    Dennis, the S&W 586 would make a fine partner to this rifle.

    Outlander 777, fantastic story about your bear encounter. Like you, I don't worry when I'm armed with the .357 Mag., especially from 16" carbine barrel with the proper loads.

    Anon. 10-28, 1:59PM, yes, from a rifle the ballistics of this caliber are very similar to a 30-30, with some loss of advantage at ranges beyond 150 yds. Absolutely right on about the benign appearance of a lever-gun compared to an "assault" rifle. That's a serious advantage I mention in my book.

    Anon. 10-28, 5:08PM, Henry should make something like this. Their Youth Model .22 lever action is the closest thing you can get to a .22 caliber Trapper, and I've been tempted to buy one.

    Jack, they are hard to come by, but there are almost always some on Gun Broker. I got a great deal on mine, but many are way over-priced.

    Anon. 11-2, you're right, the Rossi models are very nice and I would have bought one if I could find one in the right caliber at the time.

    Anon. 11-4, I'm not left-handed but I shoot most rifles left-handed because I am left-eye dominant. If the rifle has a scope, I can shoot it right-handed, but I've gotten used to it now so it's not an issue. These lever guns are great for ambidextrous shooting. I haven't had an issue with the angle-eject.

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  11. Ah, durn you Scott, I was not aware of that Henry Youth model and you have me looking at it - you are right, NEAT lil thing! I have more than enough .22s, but that one looks really tempting . . .

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  12. My favorite gun in the safe is a Browning lever action. It's a handy little thing and being clip fed will take the pointy loads that tube fed levers won't. Side ejection (like Marlins) so scope mounting isn't an issue. Mine is in 308 which is a fine and versatile round. A LOT better at long ranges than the above mentioned rounds.
    It's a whole lot more fun to carry up a mountain than my other 30 cals. It also comes in a take down version.
    My other lever is a Marlin .22, also a take down and considerably better than the AR7 take down. Had 2 of those with the first one stolen. The second one is a piece of crap. Nice enough gun but the Marlin shoots rings around it. I've had the Marlin for 46 years and pumped tens of thousands of rounds through it without a problem.
    Personally, my survival gun of choice is a single shot 12 ga. Don't care about the cartridge weight issue, just want what I shoot to be hit and dead, not missed or wounded.
    As an experiment, go hungry for 3 days, then pop over to the local woods some cold and dark afternoon with a hand gun, a .22 and a shotgun. You can only eat what you shoot. Now decide what gun to take into the woods.
    Anyone who thinks handguns or .22's are a good choice for that are delusional.

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  13. No doubt the Browning lever-action is a fine firearm. Everything Browning makes is. There are a lot of fine rifles out there that are better specialized pieces for big game hunting or shooting at the range. The point of this article is the versatility and utility of a lightweight, short, and extremely handy pistol-caliber carbine. That's where the Winchester Trapper (and others like the Rossi/Puma) shines.

    No mention of the AR-7 .22 here. I've had one and used it successfully, but prefer other .22 rifles such as the Ruger 10-22 or the Henry Youth Lever mentioned in the above comments.

    I'm not a handgun hunter myself, but plenty of experts who are would not consider themselves delusional. I won't go any hungrier with a .22 rifle or carbine than I would with a shotgun. Plenty of subsistence hunters around the world have done just fine with their .22 rifles.

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  14. I recently bought a used 10/22 from a friend and besides the trigger being abysmal and the sights suck it is a nice carbine.The sights on my marlin 60 are much better and the trigger is so so.I wish that I had bought a trapper type rifle a while ago.Maybe a marlin in 444? Steve

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  15. I think with a .357, you would wake up the entire countryside as soon as you shoot it. If you don't mind being found, get the .357. If you want to remain undisturbed A .22 is much a quieter way to go and with the .22 magnum, bigger game is also possible.

    The Alaskan natives have been using the .22 magnum for years to take all kinds of game.

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/alaska/599448-any-alaskan-hunters-use-22-magnum-6.html

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  16. I went to a huge gun show today and asked every dealer if he had the .357 Winchester Trapper. Every single one said, "no I don't, but let me know if you find one!" Then as I was leaving I realized I'd missed one table and it happened to have the gun...for $1300! I did see a 30-30 there for $500, which is still a bit high if you ask me. I'll start looking for a Rossi Model 1892 or Puma. I was able to pick up some BDUs, a canvas shirt and a small knife that fits on my key chain. That leaves just the lever rifle and Leatherman to complete my BOB! I got literally everything else on the list that I didn't have already. Scott, I'd be interested if you did a write up on what to look for at gun shows etc. when purchasing the Rossi and/or Puma. Cheers!

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  17. H-Bomb, Where was the gun show? $1300 is higher than I've seen, but prices around a grand are not uncommon for the Trapper models. If that 30-30 was the Trapper model (and a Winchester) that was a deal for $500. Send me an email for more info regarding the one I have.

    I think the Rossi or Puma would be fine. They get good reviews by many owners, though I haven't owned one myself.

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  18. At last weekend's gunshow, I saw a Winnie Trapper 30-30 for $550, which for now (Winchester investement hysteria) is semi-reasonable. I wish I had bought one when they were half the price years ago.

    I saw a great .22 Magnum Trapper Winchester 94/22 (case hardened receiver to boot!), they wanted $900 for it. Schweet - but I don't have that budget

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  19. I'd love to have one of those Trappers in .22 Magnum, but that is a lot of cash.

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  20. I also desired a compact rifle that would chamber 357 magnums, since I own a Ruger Police Service Six 357 magnum, but they are hard to find. I started out looking for a Marlin 1894 c or css in 357 magnum at pawn shops but could not find either. Fortunately, a gun show was in my town and I desided to look for the rifle there. There was not a Marlin to be had but one seller had a 2006 Winchester Trapper Compact for sale (2006 was the last year of manufacter in New Haven) in 357 magnum aka 94ae. This gun is a beautiful weapon both in appearance and also in function. The condition is excellent. The asking price was $795.00 but I was able to negotiate the amount to $725.00. This is still alot of money but since they do not make them any more, the price will most likely go higher. I bit the bullet and bought the gun because I agree with Mr. Williams that it is an ideal "bug out" weapon in both size and pleanty of knock down power. I have not shot it yet because I just bought it today but in the near future I will put a box of 357 magnums through it. The reason I am sharing my experience is because I believe that it is best to be prepared.

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  21. Anonymous, You did good at that price if it is in excellent condition. The value can only go up.

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  22. My basic "shooter" recently is the 94AE Trapper in .357. Mine is a cross-bolt safety but is a nice gun. I agree, together with a good .357 revolver they serve well in the woods, tent or cabin. Tried to sell my Trapper to a family friend awhile back but he wanted an older gun. Glad I was able to hang onto it, especially since I've been shooting it lately. Can't beat the ability to run .38 fodder through a 94.

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  23. Off topic a mite, but I found a really good foraging firearm this weekend, a vintage 24C Camper made by Savage. Single shot .22lr over 20 gauge, I didn't have the money at the time, but believe I will return this weekend and snap it up, if still available. I can't count the times, I've wished I had a shotgun or rimfire when the opposite game shows up with the inappropriate firearm. This one gives you both choices simultaneously.

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  24. Yes, a combination .22LR over a 20 gauge shotgun sounds about perfect. Much better than the usual .22/.410 combos. I don't blame you, I'd snap that one up too.

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  25. Does anyone know about the Henry Big Boy 357? I was thinking about picking up that because the Winchester is too hard to find. I have a Henry 22 that is a great little rifle. Seems to look a lot like the Winchester. I also have a SW 357 8 round revolver.

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  26. I lucked out - the 24 was still there. But not anymore - its in my safe now, hopefully to get some shooting done real soon.

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  27. Great article,I have a Trapper in 30/30 winchester it is a great shooter.I am also a reloader and have various dies and molds for casting and loading ammunition.I traded for the Trapper a few years ago and I am suprised how much the Trapper is worth now.

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  28. Thanks trailblaster, I miss the 30/30 version I had but the .357 Magnum model is fine too. They are all worth a lot of money now.

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  29. I just got a Win/Miroku 92 Trapper takedown in 357, waited 10 months for delivery ( to Norway) the cost really hurt at USD 2200, but what a rifle! American design and Japanese quality.

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  30. That is costly, but yes it is a fine, high quality rifle.

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  31. from florida
    I think it best to have 1 ammo for hand and long guns I have 22cal 22mag 9mm 357 45longcolt
    also have 223 3030
    the one I have in bob is the 22mag in the bob in my truck the others are in the bob we have at home all of my family members have there bob with one of the others in it ready to go when we need to

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  32. At the Gun show in Tucson today and saw a 357 Win. Trapper for $700.00. I talked him down to $675 but he wouldn't budge after that. I went ahead and walked but a few rows down, I bought a NIB Winchester Trapper 94AE 30-30 NIB for $500.00. I hope I got a good deal. The rifle is immaculate and brand new. Do I kick myself for passing on the .357 though?

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  33. I think either one of those is a fair price. You got a good deal on that NIB Trapper in 30-30. I had one of those before I got my .357 and would like to find another one.

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  34. I have a Henry Lever Action in 357/38 along with a S&W 686 in my B.O.B. I had the barrel shortened and crowned at 16.5 inches, shaved the stock down and installed a recoil pad. Based on an article I recently read I am going to drill some holes in the bottom of the stock to hold extra ammo. I thought about getting it converted to a takedown model (as in have a professional make the modifications) but that seems to cost $1,000 or more. I do remember seeing a lever action that already had a 16 inch barrel and was an original take down Trapper/Guide model, but the owner wanted $2,500 for it. Much too expensive for my income. I would love to have some company produce such a rifle at a reasonable price to work as a truck gun or a B.O.B. stow-away rifle. I do keep a Henry AR-7 and a Ruger Mark II in the B.O.B. as well to keep the noise down when needed.

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  35. I know what you mean about the cost. Even in stock form at around $700, my .357 Magnum Trapper is too expensive to risk keeping in the truck all the time as an everyday truck gun. It would be nice to have a less expensive option, but hard to find in a lever action carbine.

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  36. Back in about 1961, the Australian Martini .310 cadet rifles were being re-cut to .357 Mag, and selling pretty cheap, and at the time I picked up three of these. Being a single shot with no safety, my wife and I never carried a round in the chamber, but they were the ideal rifle for hunting squirrels with 2.5 grains of bullseye and the 148 grain wadcutter. in .38 spec. brass. Then in about 1963 I picked up a Winchester 92 that was originally a 25/20 Rifle with 26" barrel, but was cut to an octigon 18" barrel, why they cut it down so short, I don't know, but it had been re-cut to .357 mag. This was my deer rifle for many years, but my wife stayed with her Martini, and still has it! She resently bought me a Rossi stainless model 92 in .45 Colt, so I gave up my 92 Winchester .357 to my grandson. I also aquired a Winchester 94 trapper in .45 colt years ago, and I seem to prefer the .45 for the 100 grains more lead. The one problem I alway had with the 92 Winchester, was when they re-cut it to .357, they didn't bush the firing pin, so with heavy loads, the pistol primer would splash back around the firing pin and was sometimes hard to eject. So I started using rifle primers in my heavy loads. I never could afford the .357 mag brass, so I was hot loading .38 specials with .2400 powder and the 160 grain SWC hard cast, and I don't think a deer ever knew that he wasn't killed by a .357 case. But I did color the primers red so I didn't shoot these hot loads in the .38 special pistols. I believe any of the above mentioned .357 magnum lever action rifles are a good survival choice, even though I now have gone to the .45 colt for a little more "horsepower"! But never underestimate the power of a .38 special case if loaded properly. That gives you a couple more rounds in the tube, when that counts.

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  37. Just found your site tonight while reading through ModernSurvivalOnline. I've been a prepper for about 18 months now and I've put considerable time and resources into survival related research and equipment. I recently purchased a Ruger 10/22 Takedown. I put it with my other "Survival" guns: AR-7 and Savage 24J .22LR/.20GA. I wanted a more powerful rifle, one that was portable and compact like the Henry and the Ruger. I looked at bolt action .357s and lever action .45 Long Colts. They were over $700.00. So, I ended up buying a Rossi Circuit Judge, which shoots both .45LC and .410GA. I am still intrigued by the .357 carbines. Your article rekindled my desire. Thanks!

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    1. My first gun purchase was a .410/.45 circuit judge that I recently traded at a gun show for the Ruger 77/357 bolt action. I had several reasons for making the switch. First off, I really liked the concept of the circuit judge, but I found it less than ideal for anything other than beside my bed and backpacking. I've become very fond of reloading and the .357/.38 combination of rounds are more versatile on both the high and low end of the spectrum, especially because the circuit judge is not suitable for use with.454 casull at this time. Also, the bolt or lever action prevents power loss due to cylinder gap. This handicap was especially noticeable when I was attempting to develop low recoil plinking rounds in the.45. I don't have a dedicated gun safe, so while the hammerlock on the Rossi is nice, I much prefer the ease of removing the bolt and mag from my Ruger and slipping them into my file safe when I leave my abode. For long term survival, reloading the .357/.38 will reduce stores of lead and powder less quickly. For reduced detection, small game can be taken at short range with 200+ grain lead with reduced powder at sound levels equivalent to or better than a non-suppressed .22lr. I do miss my shot gun capability, but the only time I ever used it for clearing varmints off my grandparents land, I found it less than ideal at what I consider to be the ideal conditions for the .410 to shine. I will likely opt for a 20 gauge with field and slug barrels if I ever find the need for a shotgun again as this will provide my family with a second long gun capable of harvesting deer should my wife ever want to go with me. That about wraps up my story, one last thing you all should check out is the .357 magnum automatic Coonan... Just don't go crazy buying them up at outrageous prices until I've had a chance to acquire one myself. Thanks for reading my ramblings! Peace.

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  38. For anyone that may be thinking about a .357 mag lever gun- I just bought a Rossi M92, 20".357 mag this week. Brand new, out the door, $429 from Champion Firearms in College Station, TX. championfirearms.com

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  39. Great article, I really like the traditional leverguns. I noticed a couple Winnie 94's in 30-30, on gunbroker, starting in the $500+ range, some .45&.44's in the $650+ range, but no .357's.

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  40. My current lever action handgun combos consist of marlin 94's in .357 and .44 mag. Paired with S&W model 27's, 29, and a colt new frontier. My favorite though is a Winnie 94 trapper in 45 colt with beautiful checkered stock, case colored receiver paired with either colt saa's, new frontier, or S&W 625 mountain gun. Can you have too many lever actions and revolvers? No way!

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  41. Good post and follow-up comments. I think that the lever-actions are fine guns to meet the overall needs for defense, survival-hunting, a non-threatening appearance, etc. I also find them probably useful in a variety of locations from city urban to suburban to rural.

    I've been looking for a good quality .357 lever-action for many months (new or used) to match up with my Ruger SP101 .357 and Ruger LCR in .357 magnum. New Marlins in.357 are poor quality and older ones difficult to find. New Winchester '94s are pricey and not available in .357 magnum.

    Last week, at my lgs, I lucked out. I found a used Winchester model '94 Trails End (made in 2004) chambered for .357 in near mint condition. The gun is the cowboy action shooter style. It looks essentially perfect and I doubt it has ever been fired. The 20" barrel is octagon and it has the steel crescent curved butt. I believe it holds 11 rounds. I paid $600 for it! I'm a very happy man.

    Aharon

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