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Sometimes It Really Is That Simple

Photo from when I first purchased the rifle.

Photo from when I first purchased the rifle.

I’m a sucker for classic guns. I’m probably one of the few millennials that will pick a old Sharps rifle, or a lever gun over a AR-15. Not that there is anything wrong with newer firearm designs, I just like the old stuff. I find a old trapdoor at a gun show, and I’m as happy as a 2 year old that figured out how to get to the Oreos.

That being said, it’s no surprise that when I walked into a local gun shop this past spring and my attention was immediately drawn to a lever action rifle on the shelf. This rifle, was a Marlin 1894CL chambered one 32-20. The rifle had some dings and scratches, but over all looked to be in decent shape. It came topped with a weaver 4x scope, and 4 boxes of factory ammo, and I happened to have the cash in my pocket, so it went home with me.

The scope was quickly removed, and replaced with a Skinner express rear sight. A leather Alaskan sling from my friends at Simple Rugged was added and this rifle was ready to go. Or was it?

The Excellent Skinner Express sight mounted on top of the Marlin 1894 32-20

The Excellent Skinner Express sight mounted on top of the Marlin 1894 32-20

Initial shooting found that this rifle had a feeding issue, the dreaded Marlin double feed. At first it only did it once in a great while, but after a couple boxes of ammo, it got to where it was double feeding cartridges and locking up every few rounds. There is a large scratch at the front of the loading port, which leads me to believe this problem is probably why the poor rifle ended up on the shop shelf to begin with.

The ugly scratch on the receiver ahead of the loading gate.

The ugly scratch on the receiver ahead of the loading gate.

After much frustration, I finally just put the rifle up to deal with at a latter time, since it was the middle of my work season and I simply did not have the time to mess with it. Finally, now that it’s winter, I have a little more time to deal with projects, but unfortunately by this time the Marlin has been pushed to the back burner for some other projects I had become more interested in, and the problem forgotten.

A couple days ago, I noticed the rifle hanging on the rack, and decided to take it out and fire a few rounds to check the sights, since I hadn’t shot it in awhile. About 3 rounds in I remembered why I hadn’t shot this gun in awhile, and decided it was time to fix it. Initial reading online told me the easiest fix was to just change the lifter. This would be easy enough, if there was a 32/20 lifter to be found anywhere, but alas I couldn’t locate one. Some sources say the 357 lifter will work, and others say that it won’t, and at the price they want for the part, I wasn’t willing to take the risk.

There are several ways to fix the “Marlin Jam”, everything from heating and bending the lifter, to grinding out a bit off the wear point and welding It back up. I decided to go with a method that grinds out a bit of material, and then adds some new, harder more wear resistant material to the problem area using a piece of sawzall blade.

The first step to such a project, is obviously to take the rifle apart. So I pulled the stock off, and removed the lever, and bolt, then removed the main spring, strut and hammer. All that’s left to do, is removed the bottom metal from the rifle, to access the cartridge lifter. The bottom metal is held in with two screws at this point, one on the left side of the receiver, and one on the button, all the way up front. The front screw was the final screw I was removing, and when I got to it, I noticed it was loose. Now, and this point, a million gears start turning in my head, and my mind flashes back to a article I had read where a guy had added material to the inside of the bottom plate, to make the lifter bottom out and stop the double feed issue. So, I decided to tighten that screw, and reassemble the rifle and see what happens. I got a little over a full turn out of that screw, and then put the rifle back together, making sure everything else was tight.

View of the bottom metal on the 1894 Marlin, and the problem screw all the way to the front.

View of the bottom metal on the 1894 Marlin, and the problem screw all the way to the front.

Sure enough, I cycled the action about 50 times, with various types of ammo, with not a hiccup to be found. The rifle ran flawlessly. I feel pretty foolish to not have caught that loose screw sooner, but as my Father used to say, sometimes you can’t see the forrest for the trees.