I started shooting late in life, my mid-20s, and went through some growing pains acquiring guns that were right for me. I missed a couple “rights of passage” guns along the way, including a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and a Remington 870 pump. One gun I did not miss out on, though, was a lever-action rifle. In fact, I killed my very first deer, a decent buck on Anticosti Island, with a Marlin lever. As a result, I’m kind of soft for this gun, and I’m making it my next pick for a youth setup.
The 336W in particular is my choice. It meets the shorter length-of-pull requirements I look for in a youth gun at 13 ½” inches, plus I like that, as a lever-action, its overall length of 38 ¼” inches makes for a gun as maneuverable as, say, one of the Micro bolt-actions from Browning.
If the 336W is anything like the laminate-stocked stainless version I have, the lever will be smooth, and the loading into the chamber relatively easy, even for smaller hands (and you can, of course, allow your child to load only into the chamber and keep the gun a single-shot for safety purposes). I remember that getting rounds into the magazine tube was a little tight but I’m an adult—small fingers might actually have an easier time. Best of all, the tried and true .30-30 round gets the job done on whitetails to the distance most adults want to keep their kids shooting at, that being the 100- to 150-yard range.
Two versions are available, both with padded slings, but one with the addition of a 3-9X32 scope already mounted and bore-sighted. The scoped model gets an upgrade in the wood, from Maine birch to hardwood, but both have checkering at the grip and fore-end. A push-button hammer-block safety is standard, and users can safely unload the round in the chamber by activating that push-button to the SAFE position.
MSRP: Gallery of Guns, the on-line dealer linked directly from the Marlin site, has the unscoped model $483.52, while the gun with optics went for $530.18. Either way, a pretty sound deal for a gun your kids can hand down to their kids.
I took both the deer I shot on Anticosti Island with my Marlin lever-action in .30-30 using Winchester Silvertips. Back at home, in a side-by-side test, the Marlin bested a Winchester Model 94, putting some very nice 2-inch 100-yard groups on paper with the Silvertips. I’d still recommend that ammo, but Hornady’s LEVERevloution ammo has taken lever-lovers by storm.
Before this ammo was introduced, lever-action shooters were limited to roundnose, soft-tip bullets, for fear of setting off a chain-reaction of rounds being fired in the magazine, as the nose of one came into contact with the primer of the round in front of it during recoil or rough handling. Hornady’s LEVERevolution ammo, though, sports a patented FTX—Flex Tip eXpanding—that’s getting rave reviews for high ballistic coefficients and super-flat trajectories. Since the pointed tip might also make loading a little easier for young shooters, I’d absolutely give these rounds a whirl.
If you opt for the gun without the built-in scope, I think a smart pick for an optics topper would be Bushnell’s Trophy XLT 1.75-4X32mm in Realtree AP. Designed for short-range use, which means it’s perfectly appropriate to both a .30-30 and the distances kids should be attempting game at, the scope features a fast-focus eyepiece that’s a bonus to inexperienced eyes. The scope is, of course, waterproof and fogproof, it comes with flip-up scope covers, and your kids are sure to dig the Realtree camo coating it wears.
MSRP: $216.95 on the Bushnell site.
The Author Recommends:We have tons of gun detail downloads at www.GunDigesStore.com. Our Marlin Model 336 Assembly Disasembly Instructions is just one of dozens for Marlin. And it's one heck of a deal at a whopping $3.99! I'd also recommend our Scope Mounting and Boresighting for Rifles DVD as a must-have for anyone who puts glass on a gun. Shop on!