View Full Version : .357 / .38 Lever action rifle compatibility question

10-06-2009, 11:05 AM
I'm getting the wheelgun bug, spurred on by my wife's recent purchase of a .38cal S&W 442 Airweight ... FUN little gun!

ANYWAY ... the idea of having a lever-action rifle appeals to me as well, and I have noticed that several are available in .357. Is it the case - as with revolvers - that .357 lever-action rifles will also chamber .38 cartridges, or is there something about the loading mechanism which makes this unreliable or just a plain "no go"?

I've been reviewing what info I can find online, and haven't found a clear answer. Any knowledgeable answers, tips or links would much appreciated.


10-06-2009, 11:07 AM
it will chamber both. i have a rossi lever gun and i have shot both without any issues.

Mssr. Eleganté
10-06-2009, 11:09 AM
Lever guns in .357 Magnum can safely shoot .38 Specials, but some people report feeding problems with the shorter .38 Specials. My girlfriend has a Rossi M92 Puma (Winchester Model 1892 clone) in .357 Magnum and it shoots both types of ammo just fine.

10-06-2009, 11:40 AM
I have a marlin 1894c .357. It will not chamber all 38 rounds smoothly- you have to rock the lever back/forth abit.

10-06-2009, 12:50 PM
The Marlin manual for the 1894c says to stay away from (full) wad cutters. As I understand it, the shoulder on the bullet can prevent smooth chambering. Semi-wad cutters seem to work fine in mine. You're also going to want to watch out for how "pointy" the bullet is. It is a tube magazine.

The other issue that arises from a steady diet of .38s is a fouling ring at the front of the chamber because of the shorter case. It doesn't hurt anything. Just means you have to spend an extra minute when cleaning.

10-06-2009, 1:02 PM
I have a Puma m92 that just won't feed .38s. It tends to flip them off the loading ramp right out of the gun, or at least stove pipes them. Perhaps a few other methods of not doing it right, but I can't remember now.

It's kind of a drag, but I'm happy enough to shoot .357s out of it, which work flawlessly. Very fun gun and quite tame even with hot .357s.

10-06-2009, 1:16 PM
Thanks for all the input.

10-07-2009, 1:03 PM
My Winchester 1894 feeds everything but full wadcutters just fine. i'd stick with SWCs or similar with a flat nose on them, just to be extra-careful because of the tubular magazine.

10-07-2009, 1:09 PM
The other issue that arises from a steady diet of .38s is a fouling ring at the front of the chamber because of the shorter case. It doesn't hurt anything. Just means you have to spend an extra minute when cleaning.

My friend's 1894 Cowboy had this problem. After shooting a steady diet of .38's, he decided to shoot .357 in it w/o first cleaning the aforementioned fouling ring. The case got stuck, and when he cycled the lever, it broke the case in half. He had to bring it to the smith to have the other half of the broken case extracted.

Not a problem if you clean and maintain it well. ;)

10-07-2009, 1:20 PM
My Marlin 1894C does not like semi-wadcutters at all in either .38 or .357. The sharp shoulder tends to hang on the high side of the chamber going in and requires some back and forth on the lever to get it home.

JSP, JHP and FMJ all feed reliably in both calibers for me.

B Strong
10-07-2009, 1:43 PM
You can run the Specials through the .357 lever rifles, but they'll probably like certain bullet types/brands over others.

You'll have to experiment with what will work best for your particular rifle.

10-07-2009, 3:45 PM
I've shot many-a .38 wadcutter through my Dad's 1894 .357 lever gun. It doesn't bother them...

10-07-2009, 4:51 PM
A lever gun that cycles both 357mag/38sp is like winning the levergun lottery. I had one that wouldn't feed 357 mag but loved 38 sp. Bottom line is that a lot of them if not most, need to be tuned to work well. The only gunsmith I know of that actually knows what he's doing is http://www.stevesgunz.com/

If you are buying a single action revolver/lever gun combo I recommend going with the 45 LC, expecially if you hand load.

10-07-2009, 4:55 PM
My Henry in .357/.38 so far doesn't like the .38. Have only tried a couple of different brands, but it's basically a no-go for me thus far. Bummer. I'm hoping it needs more breaking in.

10-07-2009, 5:00 PM
my winchester 94ae feeds .357's flaweslly but continually misfeeds any type of .38.

10-07-2009, 6:52 PM
My Winchester 94 likes any .357 magnum or .38 special I have run through it.

It is one of my favorite rifles.


10-08-2009, 4:22 PM
My marlin 1894C would feed the Value pack Walmart 38s before. They were round nose and fed flawlessly. However now when you do fond .38s at Wlly mart they are now for some reason a flat nose bullet. that makes the overall length just a tick too shot and they jam. Guess the second bullet in the mag sticks out too far and jams the carrier or somthing. Bummer cuz these were like shooting a 140 grain .22 :O).
.357s work great.