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Marlin 1894CS in .357 Magnum caliber

Marlin 1894CS

The Marlin Model 1894CS chambered for .357 Magnum (also uses 38 Spl) is a great little rifle and cartridge combination, especially if you already own a .357 Magnum or 38 Special revolver. It has an 18.5" barrel with deep-cut Ballard-type rifling, adjustable iron sights, sling swivel studs and a checkered American black walnut straight-grip stock. It is a compact little hunting rifle, weighing 6 pounds with a lot more punch than most people give it credit for.  With the right loads, this rifle is quite capable of taking deer out to 100 yards.

The 1894CS is the small frame version of Marlin's classic lever action hunting rifle. The "C" indicates it has a carbine length barrel and the "S" indicates it is the more modern version with the cross bolt safety which has been around since 1983/84. Some do not like the safety but others do.

Marlin 1894CS In .357 MagnumThere are very few rifles chambered in .357 Magnum, but I have always liked guns and calibers that are a little different.  I like the popular old 30'06 about as much as the Texas Aggies - not much.  That being said, I have been on the prowl for a .357 rifle for several months.  I first saw the Ruger 77/357 at a Ducks Unlimited event and went out the next day get one, only to find out it is almost impossible to find. I did manage to find a used one and had it shipped from New Hampshire to Georgia to my local gun shop, only to discover that UPS managed to rip open the box and loose the bolt.  My next move was to look at the lever action guns by Marlin, Rossi and Henry. Finally found the Marlin in the photo above and I am very happy with the gun so far.  It is lightweight, has good balance, and shoots very well with most ammo. It functions very well with 38's or .357's so you can shoot either in the 1894, making it equally well suited for hunting or target shooting.

I know some people say a scope on a lever action carbine looks pretty lame but my eyes are not the best any more so I thought I would put a low power scope on it to see what kind of accuracy I could get with .357's and 38's. For testing I added an old 3X weaver.  I like the looks of the old scope on this rifle and it made 50 yard testing easy (my 100 range is closed at this time). It is a challenge to find the right scope mount for the rifle. Weaver makes a couple of long mounts that conflict with the iron sites.  I ordered the one that works with Leupold dovetail rings but I would have had to take the rear site off the gun to use it. Did not want to do that so I finally found a two-piece Weaver mount that uses Weaver type rings made for a Marlin 336 that worked.  A one-piece mount for a Marlin 336 will not match the screw holes in the 1894 frame.

After getting the scope on the .357, I loaded up several different 38 Special and .357 Magnum loads with 158 and 125 grain lead and jacketed bullets for testing. Along with the hand loads, I had three factory .357 Magnum loads I wanted to chronograph.  All of the loads shot well in the rifle but velocities varied depending on the powder used in the hand loads or the brand of factory ammo. Factory .357 loads ranged from 1500 fps up to 2000 feet per second depending on the brand of ammo. Remington 125's were slow, Winchester 158's did very well and some old CCI Lawman 140 grain ammo broke 2000 fps.  Wow..that's great...let me run out and get more of that Lawman guested it...that ammo has been discontinued.

Marlin 1894CS In .357 Never fear, I have a loading press and when you have a rifle that shoots pistol ammo, hand loading makes this combo shine. Maximum loads of Hodgdon Lil' Gun powder pushes Hornady 158 grain bullets at over 2100 fps. My goal was to get 2000 fps using a 158 grain bullet, so I backed off a full grain of powder to 18.0 grains of Lil' Gun pushing the 158's to a tad over 2000 fps. I do not really want to shoot loads in the rifle that are not safe in a revolver. After all, I will be using the same .357 ammo in my revolver as the rifle. For accuracy, Winchester 296 really did great, producing 1800 fps velocity with 158 grain bullets. This is probably the most accurate load I have found so far. 

There is one drawback to the rifle.  .357 Magnum revolver shooters usually shoot 38 Specials in their guns for practice to save money and wear and tear on the guns and bodies. This doesn't work too well with the  .357 rifle because the point of impact between 38's and hot .357 Magnum loads is about 6-8" different at 50 yards. And the difference is not just elevation.  As power goes up, point of impact moves up and to the right. So unless you have a scope or rear peep sight with target type adjustment knobs, you are stuck with shooting one caliber or the other.  Since I want to hunt with my rifle more than use it for target shooting, I zeroed it for hand loaded .357 Magnums and put the 38's back on the shelf.   When deer season is over, I can adjust the scope back to 38's.

Below is a table with some of the tested loads.  Remember - Never try to load .357's for rifle hotter than a revolver. Be safe. Loads below may not be safe in your gun. Start lower and work up to max loads for your particular gun.

.357 Remington Magnum in 18.5" Marlin 1894 Carbine













Lil' Gun


Fed MP


Marlin 1894





Win 296


Fed MP


Marlin 1894












CCI Lawman













Fed MP


Marlin 1894


38 Special Loads in 18.5" Marlin 1894 Carbine


Cast Lead









If you are wondering what type of trajectory and power the Hornady 158 JHP has, I ran the numbers on the Hornady Ballistic Calculator.  The results below were better than I expected.  It shoots pretty flat and enough power for deer out to a 100 yards or so. A .357 bullet fired from a carbine has more energy at 150 yards  than the same round has from a revolver at the muzzle!

.357 mag ballistics in marlin carbine


.357 Magnum chronographing

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