The Return of the Pistol-Caliber Carbine

Photo credit: Gordy & Sons Outfitters

Pistol-caliber carbines are popular now, once more illustrating that what’s old is new again. I have always had an affinity for pistol-caliber carbines, specifically the lever actions. Back in the 1970s, I bought a Marlin Model 1894 in .44 Mag. and set out to do some mild customizing work to meet my needs. I had a gunsmith cut the barrel and magazine tube to 16 inches and re-crown the muzzle. A ramp front sight was installed with a brass bead. Then he removed the rear sight and instead mounted a Williams Foolproof peep sight on the receiver. 

About 15 years later, I got my hands on a new Browning Model 92 carbine, also in .44 Mag. I quickly sold the Marlin to my district judge and had our local gunsmith do the same custom work on the Browning. I carried that gun all the time that I was chief deputy and later sheriff down in southwest Texas. 

Cut down, these .44-caliber carbines held nine rounds of ammunition and I favored the 240-grain JHP load from any of the top American ammo makers. I found that screwing the eye piece out of the Williams sight created a ghost-ring rear sight that made for some pretty fast shooting, should that be required. In addition, the short, thin carbines were very easy to handle and easy to get in and out of a squad car with. What else would you expect a Texas sheriff to be packing?

The old timers liked the idea of pistol-caliber carbines because it meant that they only had to carry one type of ammunition for use in rifle and pistol alike. That still holds true today. Regardless of whether people carry a revolver or a semi-auto, they can generally find a compatible carbine in the same caliber. And, in the middle of a scrap, ammo from one can be used to reload the other.

In addition, there are those who live in areas where the popular AR carbines are frowned upon, if not outright outlawed. The pistol-caliber carbine may be just the ticket. Besides, how can you get too excited about a gun that looks like the one that John Wayne used in all those good westerns?

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2 Responses to The Return of the Pistol-Caliber Carbine

  1. I have been wanting a brand new Marlin 1894C in .38SPL/.357MAG now for three years. It would be the perfect companion to my Ruger GP-161. Marlin 1894’s and 1895’s are easy to get. Used 1894’s made in North Haven at the original plant cost beaucoup bucks IF you can find one, and the new ones must be made of “unobtainium” because like unicorns, they don’t seem to exist. I want side gate loading to be able to safely top off a magazine on a loaded rifle, so a Henry is out. The Rossi version is like a kid’s toy, and has that goofy toggle safety. The Uberti and Winchester are patterned after the 1873 model, and unlike a Marlin, you can’t easily mount a scope because of the top bolt and dust cover.

    As far as the side gate loading goes and my reason for it, an acquaintance of mine thinks I am a nut. He wants to know if I have Indian trouble over at my place.

  2. Deaf Smith says:

    I use a Rossi 92 stainless 16 inch barrel .44 magnum as my ‘real’ pistol while hunting/hiking. 240 grain Winchester White Label SPs shoot very well. Got rid of the Rossi’s rear sight and put a Lyman folding rear and a bit higher front bead.

    Shoots very well and 100 percent reliable.

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