Marlin 1894C: Discreet Urban Carbine

| November 9, 2014 | 7 Comments

In the 1800’s 2 firearms chambered for the same round had a lot of merit. Today with the onslaught of black rifles (AR-15’s) from just about every firearm manufacturer the lever action carbine has lost most of it’s popularity. If you do a simple search for home defense rifle, SHTF rifle almost all results will lead you to some sort of black rifle. Though I love my AR15’s and have become very familiar with them over the past 20 years, gaining most of my knowledge while serving in the United States Marine Corps I still appreciate the benefits of the pistol caliber lever action carbine or what I often refer to as the Discreet Urban Carbine.



The Marlin 1894C Carbine in the right hands is still a very formidable opponent for home defense and SHTF situations. In the right hands simply means like any rifle, shotgun or pistol you must train with it and become proficient with it. I would argue the Marlin Lever action requires less training time than an AR15 or at least it did for my family. I showed my daughter the loading gate the working of the action and she was off and running, with a big smile on her face.

Other benefits of the Marlin Carbine are: Short, maneuverable and easy to handle, these traits are very valuable in home defense, ranch work, and SHTF type situations. The 357 Magnum in this little carbine provides great ballistics out to 100 yards. With a magazine capacity of 9+1, citizens of the 1800’s coined the phrase “load on Sunday and shoot all week”. The feed tube/magazine can be topped off without disabling or opening the action. The Marlin is well known for its strong side eject, drilled and tapped receiver and is a trait I truly admire.This allows those that wish to easily mount optics on their lever action the capability to ring out every bit of accuracy possible. I myself prefer the traditional look of the lever action. This look is what makes it so discreet and non-menacing in an urban SHTF like scenario and I believe this becomes important during those times. It took many trips to the range for me to realize this. Though there are so many AR15’s on the range they still attract a lot of attention. People want to come over and see how you have dressed your AR15 even though they all look alike to me. But with my old lever action no one ever comes over to see what I have going on. It has even drawn a couple of laughs, smirks and snide comments from the younger generation “look at the old man with his old western gun” I have heard while on the range.

To keep my discreet look yet gain a bit more accuracy out of my Marlin Carbine I decided the original barrel mounted buckhorn sights had to be removed and replaced. I chose skinner sights ( as a replacement. I ordered the rear peep sight, barrel blank, additional peep inserts along with the taller front sight. All the parts were really easy to install with the appropriate brass punch and if you don’t have that Skinner can provide you with everything needed for the install.



The Skinner rear sight is made of quality steal, is also adjustable for windage and elevation. The tools necessary for making these adjustments are provided with the rear sight.

The replacement barrel blank is also very handy as it is capable of carrying an additional peep insert. Additional Peep inserts are simple to change by unscrewing and screwing in your preferred aperture opening.


Because you are raising the rear sight by moving it back to the top of the receiver a taller front sight is needed. I was also able to get my front sight from Skinner. The front sight can be ordered in different heights, I ordered mine in .500. This sight did require some minor fitting but the Skinner triangular file and set of flat files I already own made easy work of the job. After getting the front sight installed I quickly realized the front sight was to tall for the original hood to go back on. The range test also proved the front sight was too tall as my rifle was shooting low. This would have been easily fixed by filing down the top of the front sight, if you are worried about appearance Skinner also has a nice cold bluing solution.

Having fell in love with my original front sight with the gold bead dot, I decided I would replace my Skinner front sight with a Williams front sight model WGB-406N which was the perfect height. This is not a demerit against the Skinner front sight it’s just my eye’s prefer the gold bead dot.

At 50 yards standing slow fire with 158gr 357 magnum ammunition I was able to produce acceptable accuracy.


I then went on to fire 5 additional shots at 50 yards working the lever as fast as I could for the defense style situation.


Skinner has a great product line which accommodates more than just the Marlin brand. Skinner would be the first after market sight producer I would chose for any lever action I owned. His products are not only functional but they are very pleasing to the eye but also retains the historic lever action look. Having been introduced to the Skinner product by me, my long time shooting buddy Darrel also ordered a set of Skinner sights for his Marlin Golden Model 39AS. The Skinner sights really popped on this lever action with it’s gold accent which matched the trigger and writing on the model 39AS.

Skinner gets a 5 star rating for quality, functionality and eloquent look of his products.

During a time of crisis and chaos a lever action carbine such as this Marlin 1894C with Skinner sights could be just what you need. During such chaos it would be my intent to avoid any threat, but if you do happen to stumble across an adversary the old western look of a lever action may draw less attention yet?still provide you with enough firepower as you make your way to a safe haven. For those looking for something a little less complex a joy to plink with on the range yet posses serious firepower for that horrible situation take a hard look at a lever action.

Proceed to page 2 for 357 Magnum Ballistics out of this fabulous little carbine.

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7 Comments on "Marlin 1894C: Discreet Urban Carbine"

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  1. Steve Hart says:

    I have the same rifle, including the exact same sight set up. Of all of my rifles it is by far my favorite. Accurate, easy to operate, easy to reload for.

    I cast my own bullets and it makes for a great day at the range with low velocity loads for kids all the way to “hammer’ loads for deer and hogs.

    Great write-up, thank you.

  2. SD3 says:

    “Discreet Urban Carbine”. The original “DUC of Death”…
    I bought a Rossi 92 in .357 with a 16” barrel as a companion rifle for my 686*. Absolutely love it. Runs all .357 & .38s flawlessly.

  3. jimmie says:

    I would love one, but good luck finding one.

  4. nate says:

    Not to nitpick, but the quote about “load on Sunday and shoot all week” actually referred to the Henry 1860, which had a 16 shot capacity.

    Also, in a SHTF situation, does it really matter how “discreet” your gun looks?

  5. robert says:

    The marlin 1894 in 357 mag., needs a longer barrel same as the model 1894 in caliber 44mag. The gun would hold better on the target, and look better to.

    I rather like the marlin in 357 mag, but I like the looks of the 44 mag with it’s longer barrel a lot better.

  6. SoNH shooter says:

    @Robert – While I did originally think like you did I then found several ballistic sites that showed 16 to 18 inch barrels producing the better velocities for .357 rounds. After 17/18 inches the velocities began to slow a bit indicating that 20 inch barrels (while looking better) might not produce ballistic excellence for the .357.
    I did not do the research and testing myself by relied on some of the more read websites and ammo manufacturers. If I was buying today I’d go no longer than an 18inch barrel.

  7. Jim says:

    Coming a bit late to this discussion but will throw in my two cent just for chuckles.

    I’ve been shooting this carbine for decades and have only two complaints about it.

    One: the ‘famous Marlin jam’. This occurs when the cartridge carrier hangs up when loading. Not every carbine has this problem, yet it’s easy to resolve. Cowboy shooters remove the carrier assembly and solder or glue on a piece of jigsaw blade (hardened steel) to the underside, file to final shape and reinstall the carrier assembly.

    My next complaint has to do with the barrel. Regardless the length, the barrel seems to be made of softer steel than a military barrel, as well as being thinner. As with all thin barrels, it tends to heat after a dozen rounds or so, at which time the POI devolves to a shotgun pattern. Of course, I’ve seen this occur with many rifles so is inherent with all barrels. Just let it cool down and happiness reappears.

    All in all, this is, as the author noted, a very fine rifle for cowboy shooting, small game,deer hunting– within range limits– and an excellent plinker and training rifle for newcomers.

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