Lever Actions and Me

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Joined: 06/03/2010

The Lever-Action and Me
As a boy I had my first lever action rifle when a Daisy repeater came into my possession. I sat transfixed in front of the TV watching my heroes ride off into the sunset with a lever action tucked in their scabbards and vowed I would have a Winchester someday just like they had.
My next experience with the lever action was when my older brother Larry was fortunate enough to snag an invite to a relatives hunting camp one deer season and my Dad borrowed an old Winchester “94” from an uncle for Larry to use. It was a well used octagonal barreled rifle with a Marble’s tang peep sight that popped up when you pushed on a little tab. This was “the” deer rifle of choice in Upper Michigan in those days of the late 50’s and just saying “Winchester” most often meant the 94 30-30 or 32 Special.
I was only about eleven years old at that time so I was only allowed to hold it briefly and experience how the long barreled weapon sagged terribly in my weak left hand as I tried to hold it to my shoulder and sight through that “peep”. I wouldn’t see another 94 for some time.
I was well into my teen years before I needed a rifle to hunt with, since most of my hunting was done with either the .22 or the 12 gauge pump I had purchased when I was flush with hard earned money from summer jobs. I happened on a somewhat sporterized M1903 Springfield and the price was right so that became my deer rifle. No thoughts of Winchesters entered my head at that time.   
My next experience with the lever action was when a neighbor boy that I hung around with and sometimes hunted with acquired a Savage 99 in 250-3000. I thought it was a neat little rifle, with the absence of a hammer to fool with and a nifty little counter on the side that showed how many cartridges were in the magazine, but I had my "06" and didn’t see the need to look for another rifle. I was not at the stage where I should have been collecting every gun I could lay my hands on, much to my regret today, because I could have picked up 99’s and 94’s for a song back then; they were everywhere because they were popular deer rifles. I suppose we all have regrets about guns we passed on at the time when we look back at them now.
My next experience with the lever gun was when a friend asked me to go varmint hunting and, I being rifle less for some reason at the time, he tossed his old Winchester 32 Special in my hands. He had carried that rifle for many years and if it had any blue left on it I didn’t see it and the story he told me was that the rifle came with a box of shells and was never unloaded since that time, as the box ran low on cartridges a new box replaced it. I ended up bagging a fox with that gun and it was a sweet handling little rifle.
I still did not own a lever gun for many years and was none the wiser for my sorry state. That was almost remedied when my younger brother Kevin wanted to sell me a nice Model 94 in 30-30 caliber so he could buy a new bolt action 308. Alas, before I could talk to him my older brother ended up with the Winchester and I was still lever action starved.
A few years back I was determined to get a lever action and started attending the local gun shows and keeping tabs on the used gun racks in the shops, but it seems those old Winchester 94’s had suddenly become real scarce and when they did show up they were commanding top dollar. I once came within a hair’s breadth of buying a minty 94 in 32 Special but hesitated just a bit too long and by the time I went back to get it, gone!
I had plenty of rifles to hunt with but after all the time without a lever gun of some kind I felt left out and, even though I had no real need of a lever action rifle, I was obsessed with the fact I didn’t have one. I told myself I could go without one for the rest of my life and not be under gunned but it didn’t stop me from looking for one.
My brother Larry finally came to my rescue when he decided to go shopping for a close range bear hunting rifle. He had several lever actions but he was smitten with the Marlin stainless Model 95 in 45-70 caliber. A call one afternoon informed me that there were two nice, like new, Marlins for sale at a ridiculous price, one stainless and one blue, both 45-70.  I won’t prolong the suspense, he took the stainless and I took the blued version. I now had my lever action rifle after all these years! I guess it will be with me till I’m gone because I’m not selling it for any price, it’s my only lever action rifle.
Marlin and Daisy