The home defense lever action carbine is an animal that few have considered. Long thought to be used just for hunting and plinking, these rifles are also a little thought of tool for home defense.
Why a pistol caliber carbine
For the defense of your home from invasion by criminals intent to victimize, the weapon of choice has usually been the firearm. In the world of these firearms for defense, the primary duty has fallen to the handgun. However, in many cases, the handgun isn't fully acceptable. Many states have strict handgun laws, which void the use of these firearms. On occasion, firearms owners are affected by arthritis, carpal tunnel, or repetitive stress injuries and are unable to manipulate a handgun. Often, in these days of harsh economic realities and recession, only one gun can be afforded.
It's these reasons that a pistol caliber carbine, a short rifle that uses that same bullets as many common handguns, makes sense. Ammunition for these guns is available in hollow-point loads specifically for defense. Target ammo is cheap. These guns have mild recoil, fast reload, and do not look like 'an assault weapon', which depending on the state you are in, may be illegal.
Marlin has been in the business of making these for centuries.
Perhaps one of the most popular lever action rifles of all time is the Model 1894 Marlin. These guns have always been chambered in short handgun cartridges, holding as many as ten rounds in an under barrel tube. While they have been made in over a half dozen calibers over the past 120 years, the most common and serviceable ones are 38/357, .41 Magnum, and .44 Special/Magnum.
In continuous production since 1894 (hence the model number) there have been warehouses of these carbines produced. In fact, more than one million of these pistol caliber carbines are floating around out there. Pre-1995 guns have the 12-groove micro groove barrel while newer guns have a 6-groove Ballard rifling, but both are serviceable. On Gunbroker, they seem to hover about $500 and up. Sometimes you can find better deals in local pawnbrokers and gunshops as they often tend to price lever action guns in the $300 realm without bothering to do the research on these sought after rifles.
When fitted with a reddot or reflex action sight, the Marlin 1894 can become a formidable home defense tool.
Current Remlin production is of the .44 caliber only version with a 20-inch barrel. Holding ten rounds in its tubular magazine and one in the chamber, this crisp little lever is only 37.5-inches long and weighs in at just 6.5-pounds. Davidson's Gallery of Guns, Marlin's retailer, lists it for $707.95 when in stock but your local guy may be able to beat that.
Long a .30-.30 Winchester caliber staple, the Model 336 was also made in other chamberings including handgun bores. The 336 was made briefly in .44SPL/MAG in the 1960s. Looking almost to be a dead ringer for the 1894 with a strait lever and English style stock rather that the curved lever and pistol grip stock of the 30/336, these guns are often available for about $300 and besides their appeal as a pistol caliber carbine, may be very collectable in another decade or so. In short, if you find one of these, grab it for multiple reasons. They will be marked 336T (Texan) or 336-44 on the barrel.
If you need a single handy rifle that can be used for target shooting, home defense, and hunting of most medium sized game, you would be hard pressed to find a better option than a Marlin.