George Block

Column George Block

George Block is a sports columnist who loves the outdoors.

Old magainzes, books trumpet use of lever-action rifles

Old volumes trumpet use of lever-action rifles

February 9, 2013

Like everyone else, old George is suffering from the winter blahs. Perhaps it’s normal for January and February to find the ground covered with snow and the temperatures to be in the 20s, and maybe last winter spoiled me, but I’m still suffering.

There is always TV, but like all of the news, it is full of anti-gun people and gun owners calling each other names.

Resorting to name calling leads to angry confrontations. I have known decent people who own firearms and those who do not.

With that in mind, I tend to read books or look at old magazines.

Not only do I come to the realization that tales of adventure in far-away lands are more interesting than today’s canned hunts as shown on TV, but the ads were more attention-grabbing as well.

An ad for Winchester target rifles shows a fellow in a campaign hat holding a target rifle, aiming at a row of targets. A shotgun ad showed a hunter swinging at a covey of quail. Then there is the father figure showing a lad how to hold a .22 rifle and another artwork of a small-caliber bullet zipping through a tin can. Perhaps it was the forerunner of Andy Warhol’s art.

It’s hard to believe, but there wasn’t a single ad that showed a half-naked woman or a hairy-chested stud.

Many of the advertisements were from an era when the lever-action rifle was king. Ads showed a man clad in Woolrich plaids sneaking through the hemlocks with his trusty Winchester 94 in hand.

Today’s ad would show a man in orange clothes looking through binoculars with a heavy-barreled magnum sitting on a bipod at his side.

The reason for the lever-action rifle was that it was quick to the shoulder and fast to reload. The fact that it carried easily didn’t hurt its popularity.

While the old Model 94 - note I said old – was light and easily carried, it ejected brass through the top, making it all but impossible to equip with a scope.

But there was also the slightly heavier Marlin with a solid top that could be scoped. You paid your money and took your choice.

I know there were other small lever-action rifles that were made, such as the Mossberg, while I believe the old Noble company also made a lever rifle.

Today, I’m not sure if the new Winchester company even makes a lever-action, and Marlin has changed hands.

Probably the top lever-action rifle of this style made today is the Henry, much of which is made by Lesleh Precision of Belle Vernon.

The famous Fabrique National company of Belgium quit making the Browning Safari-grade rifle because its machinery was showing its age, and worn-out machinery spelled the end for the pre-64 Model 70 Winchester. Age of the equipment used in the manufacturing process is a factor in production.

Most of the equipment used in the manufacturing process of a Henry centerfire is up to date and as modern as it gets. I have seen the precision demanded in this process and the dedication of the workers putting these rifles out and would be proud to own one of these rifles.

Regardless of which lever-action rifle you own, it would great to attempt an old-style hunt again. Just take one day during the season, don the old wool clothes, throw on the necessary orange vest and take the lever-action 30-30 out and walk the deer cover.

It sounds like fun but there is always the problem of the moths that got into the house and carried off the wool garments. If I were to do such a hunt this year, I would have to wear clothing made of man-made materials and would be carrying a Henry rifle instead.

Why do I think of such matters at this time of year? Like many folks, I suffer from being inside too much and have looked at too many old magazines with the ads from long ago.

• One reason for opposition to background checks on all private firearms sales is never mentioned. If I were to sell a .22 rimfire for $100 and had to go through a background check, how much would it increase the cost?

Stores would hardly pay an employee to do private background checks, and the State Police wouldn’t do it for free. So it is likely that the .22 would end up costing the buyer $130 to $150.

The cost alone is a good reason for opposition to private sales background checks, yet it is never mentioned.

George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.



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