Believe it or not, not every prepper or survivalist is totally enamored with the quintessential semi-auto rifle platform. Though the AR-15s and AK-47s among other similar rifle types are highly touted as the ideal prepper weapon, some folks just don’t like them. Well, not like them or don’t trust them or the cartridges in their chambers.
by Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author
Many alternatives from these militaristic rifle forms exist and among the most popular is the classic Marlin 336 lever action rifle. Mainly chambered for the also classic 30-30 Winchester round or if lucky enough to find one in a .35 Remington, then you would have a handy dandy ready to go to work prepper rifle.
Handy Dandy Indeed
The Marlin 336 rifle comes in a more or less rarefied “Y” version. The “Y” is really a youth model, but configured just like its father figure, the full sized rifle. It is the perfect balance in a shorter length, and lighter weight, but still quite fitting for an adult shooter. Its features and functions are just like the regular rifle version. I say rarefied because the youth models can be a little more challenging to find on a gun dealer’s shelf. It may have to be ordered.
Also Read: 6 Prepper Calibers That Are Under The Radar
Also chambered for the 30-30, it is a good alternative to other rifle forms. The 30-30 is fully capable of self-defense and its reputation in the hunting field is legendary. It still holds the record for having dispatched more white-tailed deer than any other rifle cartridge. For history buffs, the 30-30 was also the first round commercially loaded with smokeless powder in 1894.
The Firefield Close Combat Optic
Certainly there is no reason at all not to use the 336Y with its supplied factory open sights for close range work in hunting or otherwise. The 30-30 is after all a rather short range affair anyway, reliable out to 100 yards, and 150 in a pinch. Adding an optical sight is just a nice touch and provides an extra measure of shooting precision.
While traditional glass rifle scopes are a common accessory for the Marlin 336 lever action, this time around the option went to a Firefield Close Combat, 1-4×24 scope that has an illuminated Mil-Dot reticle. This scope’s lighted feature can be turned on to either red or green with brightness controls or levels from 0-5 power.
The power comes from a disk CR 2032 battery that is housed in a screw tight compartment on the illumination brightness control knob on the left side of the scope body. There are “OFF” positions that can be rotated to at the end of each color brightness level to save power. Battery life is listed at 80-150 hours. The scope comes with two batteries.
The Firefield riflescope has a 1-4 power range with the 24mm objective front lens. The riflescope is constructed of aluminum and weighs only 14.2 ounces. The tube diameter is 30mm for additional light gathering capability. The lenses are fully coated. The eyepiece diameter is 36mm and is adjustable for focus. This is a nice feature if you wear eyeglasses or contacts. The scope is listed as weather proof, shock proof, and fog proof. It comes with mount rings, and a lens cleaning cloth. This optic retails for about $100, inexpensive, but well-made and fully serviceable.
Mounting the Firefield
Mounting this optic is a traditional process. First, acquire a mount base. I picked the Leupold base made of aircraft grade aluminum for this project. There are three cross slots to easily accommodate the scope rings.
To prepare the mount the factory scope mount hole screws are removed. I wipe down the top of the receiver and the mount with alcohol to clean it from factory grease. I also clean the mount screws, but I add a screw adhesive to each one. These mount screws should be tightened well, but not over tightened for fear of stripping them off. You don’t want to do that.
Once the scope base is in place, then mount the factory supplied mount rings. The bolt nut ring mount should not be over tightened either. The Firefield rings have four each top ring mounting screws. These should be cleaned and screw glue can be added if desired. I did not.
With the top of the rings removed, set the scope into the rings and replace the top rings. Now comes the fun part, aligning the scope’s reticle square to the rifle bore. There are devices made to help with this, otherwise it is a trial and error affair of checking, mounting the rifle, then rechecking.
Before completely tightening the scope rings down, check the scope eye relief (front to rear) with your shooting eye as the rifle is held to your shoulder in a shooting position. Also square up the reticle as this time. Slowly tighten the scope ring tops, alternating from screw to screw in a crisscross fashion. Keep the space gap between the upper and lower ring sections as equal as possible. Continue to check the reticle square as you fully tighten the scope rings.
This can be a tedious process especially if you are as anal retentive as I am. I tend to want this process perfect and that is not easy. If you have a better process for squaring a scope’s reticle, pass it on.
Of course, the scope can then be boresighted to give you an edge before an actual range sight-in. Do not rely on boresighting though, as it is only intended to get your rifle printing on target paper first. Precise target sighting can only be accomplished at a fixed firing range ideally off a bench rest.
Most ballistics charts for the standard 150 grain bullets in the 30-30 suggest a -0- zero at 100 yards. This will set you up for all general shooting with this rifle and cartridge. Just so you know for reference, this would print the bullet 7-8 inches low at 200 yards.
The Marlin 336Y in 30-30 makes a neat, easy carry, and quick to action rifle for hunting, prepper and survival work. It can be mastered easily by female and young shooters alike. Whatever other rifles you may have for survival, this lever action can be a first rate primary rifle or a qualified back up as well.
Wife has a Winchester 94 in 30-30 that we bought from a pawn shop. Open sights only. I would not care to be down range if I was the intended recipient. Oh yes, it is very good for deer and coyote.
Look, 30-30 lever action has distinct advantages; it hits harder than AK-47 and substantially harder than 223/5.56; ammunition is widely available, if you know what you’re doing it can be very, very quick for 2nd and subsequent shots, and is widely available on used market; not just Winchester and Marlin brands but a lot of store brands, i.e, Sears Roebuck (Ted Williams) and others at extraordinarily reasonable prices. And it is ‘legally friendly’ , it simply does not carry the public baggage that one of your military style/Black rifle types do. It is relatively short range as the author notes but certainly much longer range than shotgun or handgun.
I am the proud owner of a very slightly and lightly used 336. I had “extra” 7.62X39 ammo during the Great Ammo Drought, and a close friend wanted to do the swap. I agreed. Looking hard at the scope, even though I prefer the sights I have on the rifle now. I have made it my politically expedient cowboy assault rifle, for road trips when traveling through communista states. I think the Firefield scope might make it all the more bestest to use.
My brother in law has a M-336. It was new with less than 500 rounds through it when the leaver pivot pin sheared off while he was trying for a follow up shot on a 12 point buck. If I were to consider a survival only pack gun I think I’d go with a “Topper” type single shot. One action many barrels. Simple and almost no moving parts to break.