Marlin-Model-336
Marlin Model 336

By Matt Alpert via wideopenspaces.com

Your grandfather’s generation was introduced to some of the finest deer hunting rifles ever made. These five classic deer rifles have a near perfect blend of form and functionality. The power and reliability of rifles like the Winchester Model 70 or the German-made Mauser M98 are hard to beat even by today’s standards. Chances are your grandpa or one of his hunting buddies used an original Marlin 336 during their deer hunting days. The 336 is one of the most reliable and accurate lever-action sporting rifles ever made. Since its introduction in 1948, more than 6 million Model 336’s have been produced . . .

Winchester-Model-70
Winchester Model 70

The rifle has seen a number of variations, but it’s most commonly chambered for .30-30 Winchester and .35 Remington cartridges. The 336 is still the go-to rifle for many whitetail hunters.

Winchester dubbed the Model 70 “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” But it’s not just the company that holds this gun in high regard – it’s been a personal favorite of hunters and sport shooters since it was first introduced back in 1936.

The original Model 70 had a Mauser-style extractor that ensured a reliable feed – a feature that’s crucial to big game hunters. Other key components of the Model 70 include a 3-way wing tip safety and seriously dead-on accuracy.

Pre-1964 Model 70’s were chambered for the .257 Roberts, a popular cartridge for whitetail hunters. It’s a timeless design that’s just as effective now in the hands of deer hunters as it was when it was first released more than 70 years ago.

Savage-Model-99
Savage Model 99

The Savage Model 99 is one of America’s most classic deer hunting rifles. It was released in 1899 and remained in production for most of the 20th Century.

This lever-action rifle had excellent long-range accuracy, form and functionality. The Model 99 was chambered for the .250/3000 Savage cartridge. It worked for your grandpa’s generation of deer hunters, and it might just continue to work for your kids as well.

Winchester-Model-1894
Winchester Model 1894

 

The Winchester Model 1894 – commonly referred to as the Model 94 – is one of the most popular deer hunting rifles of all time.

Historians have referred to it as, “The Ultimate Lever Action Gun.” This rifle was light, comfortable, fast-shooting and highly effective at short distances. While this rifle is not an ideal rifle for all deer hunters, it can still be a powerful weapon for those who pursue game in dense forests.

Mauser-Model-98
Mauser Model 98

The German-made Mauser Model 98 was a devastating bolt-action rifle on the battlefields of WWI and WWII. American soldiers who fired captured Mauser M98’s quickly realized the rifle’s accuracy and reliability translated to hunting.

This rifle could take a beating, and shoot straight in just about any condition. The Mauser M98 was adapted into “sporter” models, which are hard to come by these days. But even without the modifications for sport shooting, the Mauser M98 is a highly-effective deer rifle.

86 Responses to 5 Classic Deer Rifles Your Grandpa Used That Are Still Good Today

  1. Its not a deer rifle but I’m still using my grandpa’s old beat-up 1969 Winchester Model 1200 20g hacked off to 18.25″.

    • I have a 99 in 250 sav….my dad paid 17.00 dollars for it at a yard sale back in the 50’s. The bore looks like crap but it still punches moa holes out to 200/yards….its an awesome gun…

    • I have my grandfathers 99. He took many deer with that. He loved hunting. I suspect mostly to get away from my crazy ass grandmother.
      That and his old Colt 1911 are all I have of his. Pretty good things actually.

  2. A couple years ago, my buddy’s grandpa gave him a Savage 99. He still hasn’t shot it because it’s virtually impossible to find .250/3000 ammo anywhere.

  3. Just thought about something that kinda tripped me. The AR-15 is old enough that it could have been a “classic” used by a grandpa the site’s younger viewers.

    • I think the AR has only been a socially acceptable deer rifle for the last 10 years. They haven’t even really been “America’s rifle” for much longer, either. I think it came into prominence over the M14/M1A in CMP matches in the early 90s.

      Anyways, why no Savage 110? Much more innovative design than the 70 and 700. Barrel nut and 1st rifle to be offered left handed.

    • I’m a grandpa, have an AR-15, and used one (well, an M16) when I was 20. That should at least make it a classic, and I might have shot a deer with it (put a lot of shots down range without sticking my head out to look). I guess the real question is, were there deer in Vietnam?

    • I think the default chambering of 5.56 counts against it. I wouldn’t use it on deer with that round (now, short range hunting with a .300 blackout…)

  4. I grew up deep in the heavily wood mountains of SW Virginia. Almost all hunting was done with 00 buck shot in a 12 or 16 gauge single shot shotgun. The only rifles I ever saw were 30-30 lever action Winchesters used by people who seldom actually hit a deer.

    • I don’t know exactly why, but that image of guys hunting deer with a single-shot shotgun (break-open, I presume?) just gives me a kind of nostalgic feeling. Which is odd, because I’ve never hunted deer at all.

    • WV myself. Hunted there and eastern KY and Ohio. About half of WV was shotgun only. All of Ohio was and parts of KY. Just about all of us started with single shots and many still use them.

      I live in CA now and I have pumps and an auto. Scoped deer rifle. But I still have a couple three single pipes. My favorite bunny gun is a 20 ga. H&R single pipe.

      • WV here, too. Still hunt E. Kaintuck all the time. You are right about the shotguns, but you have to go back a ways for that, prior 1980 abouts. Pap had one of the earliest Remington pumps, we called it the “goose gun.” I grew up shooting a J. Stevens side-by-side I was given at age 11. But I think the reason those boys all used shotguns was they had no money! Haha. Rifles was expensive, a single shot was cheap, so was the shells. Everybody had guns, but nobody had a nice one! Around 1986 they gave my brother a used Marlin 336, and we thought that was the finest piece we’d ever held. He shot a swimming frog with it at 75 yards for one of the great backwoods feats of those incredible creeks and hollers.

        • I go back a little before 80. Got the white beard and bifocals to prove it. Until last year I hadn’t hunted since the early 70s.

          Used a “long tom” to shoot squirrels out of tall trees along 12 pole creek more than once. Killed groundhogs all over Easter KY and WV.

          My favorite bunny spot was an old abandoned railroad siding in Greenup County KY. Rotting old box cars and overgrown with honeysuckle. A kid with a .410 and mutt was in heaven there. Prior to gca 68 the old timer that ran the country store near there would open a box of .22s or shotgun shells and sell them per round to the local kids. We hardly ever had enough money for a full box.

      • I didn’t know I was in the presence of a mountain original! Greenup Cty is still overrun with rabbits. I’d bet you are from Cabell? I live in SE KY now, but get up to WV all the time – out of Braxton originally. The rabbit hunting is good as ever – fella at my wife’s work took over a hundred over beagles last season. I have coon hunters go up my road every other night – kids now roam the woods with their .22 rifles, mine do, and I go out of my way to make sure they don’t have very good ones. 🙂 I don’t know much about CA other than my brother moved there in the 90s and came back post haste. That place you described sounds gorgeous. You ought to just pack up and come on back.

        • Born in Cabell. Left at 17 to answer uncle’s call and have roamed since. I doubt I’ll ever live there again. It would put me too far from my grandkids.

  5. Grampa sporterized an 1891 Argentine Mauser Engineers Carbine Version, in 7.65×54 back in the day. With Norma 174gr SP rds. It’s simply a meat gathering machine and still doing so to this day. Fine rifles all. Oh, Eric, Obama, and all the others, you can’t have it, I’m never going to register it, it’s a family thing, has no papers, or bill of sale, and you can go pound sand.
    OBTW, the 212gr blue tips are still around too. When dump trucks are in season don’t ya know,.. 😉

  6. Nice article. That Savage looks like my dad’s old deer rifle, but evidently his was something different because it was a .308. Sadly, his hunting buddies took to overdoing the alcohol at the deer camp so he traded the rifle for a saddle and took up horses as a hobby.

    • Was the 300 Savage the model or caliber?
      The 99 in the picture looks exactly what my brother won in a card game many years ago and hunted deer “up north” in Wisconsin for years after.
      His was a 300.
      BTW, gambling is illegal in Wisconsin except for where it’s not.

    • The 99 was chambered in 30-30, 303 sav, 300, 250-3000(250 sav), 243 and 308. You can find a few customs in 7-08 and358

    • The Savage 99 was offered in several chamberings over the years.

      My first deer was shot with a Savage 99 in .243 Win. My father still owns it; as well as one of his father’s old deer rifle (that’s still in good functional shape) a Winches 1895 in .30-40 Krag.

  7. My father has, and I will, inhereted an 1894 from my grandfather. Very low serial number, and boy is it beautiful.

    It needed some work for the lever action, but it still works great.

  8. The only rifle handed down to me is a Springfield .22. It’s the only ammo grandpa and dad could afford.
    It’s got that brown patina…

  9. Eastern states, wooded terrain, Marlin 336 in 35 Rem.
    Western states, open country. Win. M70 in 270 cal.

    Surprised the the model 71, in 348 Win. was not mentioned.

  10. Oh yeah. The Marlin is a classic gun that I learned to hunt with. It was a really sorry day when they were sold off to Remington. Makes me wonder if the new production Marlin’s are worth anything… given just how awful Remington’s QC is.

  11. The old school calibers, 25-06, .264 Winchester, .257 Roberts, .35 Whelen, 38-40, 32-20, .222, and others can still be had at a premium and work just fine in Grandpa’s rifles.

    Good.

  12. A gun store near me has a Henry Big Boy levergun in .357 mag. It’s sweeet; but also $750. Someone talk me out of it please.

    • Pro: new gun…

      Con’s – Mad Wife/Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Significant Other/ (So buy them some flowers/chocolates/shoes/whatever they like)…

      Pro: New GUN!

      Con: Costs Money.

      Pro: NEW GUN!

      Con: – who we kidding, what else would you spend that money on? Just go buy the darned thing already — don’t forget the Flowers/Chocolates/Shoes/Whatever for your SO.

      If single – Disregard all cons. and buy the darned thing already.

      • don’t forget the Flowers/Chocolates/Shoes/Whatever for your SO.</blockquote

        My wife would rather I buy a gun than ever attempt to pick out shoes for her. She'd also prefer ammo over chocolates.

        • — My wife would rather I buy a gun than ever attempt to pick out shoes for her. She’d also prefer ammo over chocolates.—

          Then why are we having this conversation????? Buy the Gun! Buy the Ammo!

          Cons: Wife might steal gun and/or Ammo.

          Pro: Excuse to buy another gun and or more ammo cause wife stole the old!

          Con: Wife might steal that one…

          Pro: That means you then get to enjoy the original gun you bought… Why we here again?

  13. My Dad had a Winchester model 1894 with an octagon barrel in 32 Winchester Special, that was made in 1897. He bought me a model 94 carbine, also in 32 WS, in 1965 as my first deer rifle.

    The story was that the first attempt at rifling the barrel was for the 30-30 Winchester. If that did not go well, it was bored out to the .32 Winchester. Next step was to bore it out to the .35 Winchester.

  14. I don’t deer hunt, but I sure do enjoy my 1968 Marlin 336C in .30-30 for taking out stray fire extinguishers at 100 yards.

  15. No Lee-Enfields? Those are extremely popular in Canada. From deer to moose the .303 will take down almost anything.

    • Of all my rifles, my Enfield is my favorite. The one frustration is that it’s hard to find ammo for it.

      BTW, was the Marlin 336 ever made in .257 Roberts? I have a Jap gun from WWII what was converted to .257, but the Marlin in my view handles better for hunting.

  16. I love old lever guns. I have a straight stock 1963 Marlin 336 rc in .35 Rem which IMHO might be the sexiest use of blued steel and wood ever. Chambered in a near perfect North American hunting round.

    Sadly, the next generation of hunters will be passing by the classic wooden versions of hunting rifles and opting for their ugly tupperware stablemates. Just like zombies, plastic long guns have no soul.

    • Sadly you are 100% correct. At least I know my kids will inherit my beauties, some I personally restocked with the best walnut I could find. I have one plastic stocked Remington 700 VTR chambered in .308 Remington and I hunt with it more than my other rifles. Hell, who cares if you scratch up or knock a chunk of plastic; a little epoxy will fix the chunk and as for the scratches, again who cares.
      But when I go to the range at least one of my beauties goes with me. Just so the guys see something to drool about. I’ve got three of the five “classics” listed above and would love to find a good Savage 99 in .308 but the ones at the guns shows for the past few years have looked like somebody tied them to their rear bumper and drug them for a few miles.

      • This millennial begs to differ. For hunting it’s all going to be wood and steel. Nothin but milsurps, K31, Mauser, Mosin. The only two non milsurps I hunt with are a mossberg 500 and a lovely pedersoli kentucky long rifle. The ARs can stay as a CMP gun. Don’t even have one yet.

  17. Chris,
    The Lee Enfield, a bit on the heavy side for your average deer rifle. Although it did just fine in making Krauts in to sauerkraut 3/4 of a century ago.

  18. All were competent combat calibers, down to the 30-40 Krag, which were a bear to reload against stripper clips and Mausers, however as a hunting rd. was and is a meat gathering round. Moose, whitetail
    Bucks, Caribou, whatever. They still work all day.

  19. This Grandpa uses a 1950’s vintage Model 94. With the new Lever Evolution ammo, still works great on whitetails. I added a 1.5-4 Bushnell scope on offset mounts as my vision has aged (along with everything else). One of my grandsons will use it someday,

    • No offense intended, but I refuse to put a scope on my Winchester ’94. It was handed down to me by my Father and it was the first centerfire rifle I ever shot.

      I just don’t get the fascination with scoping these rifles and never have. It’s better than Minute of Deer Vitals at ranges it is ballistically suitable for.

      I like the balance and snappy feel of the un-scoped rifle. I cannot imagine messing that up with a scope.

      I understand the fading vision justification, though. At the end of the day: your rifle your choice. Just offering my (unrequested) thoughts…

  20. One grandpa didn’t hunt, the other only occasionally and I have no idea what happened to his old shotgun. My dad didn’t hunt, though he is looking into learning how. He’s almost retired. Never too late, I suppose!

  21. During the 70’s in PA , when deer hunting was still good, you always saw lots of guys toting a 760 Remington. Popular calibers were .243, 308, and of course Gods caliber, the 30.06. I did meet a guy once that had one in a 6mm if I remember correctly…great fast guns…

    • Yes. The 760, aka “The Mennonite Machine Gun” was a fast-handling gun, especially for those guys who used a pump shotgun. The 740 (the semi-auto) and 760 (pump) were pretty accurate for what they were, too.

  22. The deer rifle my Grandpa used is a Winchester 1910 chambered in .401WSL. It’s in my safe right now, along with a couple of decades-old boxes of ammo. The ammo is a bit corroded, so I haven’t ever shot it. But it’s a pretty dang cool rifle, and in good shape for being 105 years old and knocked around the woods a fair bit.

    • A guy is advertising one of those, with a scope and tip-off mount in the Eugene rag. 30-06 too. Wants $250 or offer. Yes, I thought about it.

      • My grandpa bought two of them back in the 60s. My grandpa used one and my dad the other. When I turned 12, grandpa gave me his to hunt with. it’s funny that it is in a Eugene rag because I’m from Springfield. I didn’t think there were too many of those around the area. The only negative is the barrel heats up quickly reducing accuracy. If you only need one or two shots to bring an animal down then you are fine. I do have 10 round mags for when I go home and want to waste money. I’d snag one if it’s in good condition and only $250.

  23. I’ve got a .270 mountain rifle built on a Mauser action. there are eagles holding swastikas engraved on it in a couple of places (bolt, and receiver), I get a little shiver every time I pull it out of the safe.

    • Those are known as “Waffenamt” markings. The Waffenamt was to Germany what the Ordinance Dep’t was to the War Department in WWI/WWII. Below the Waffenamt mark (the eagle carrying a swastika) should be a alphanumeric code – this was the unit of the Waffenamt inspecting the product.

  24. I recently inherited my grandfathers rifle and I believe it’s a sporterized Mauser 98. It’s got the Eagles holding the swastikas on the receiver, barrel, etc. Needs a good cleaning up to get the years worth of dust off since its been hiding in my grandmothers closet ever since my grandfather passed back in ’77. Neat looking rifle!

    • This just made me think: I have no idea what happened to my granddad’s rifles!

      I know one uncle doesn’t have them; after serving in combat he got a bit ‘off’ and didn’t ever want to see a gun again. The other uncle died . . . maybe my cousin has them.

  25. I will NEVER sell my dad’s Marlin 336 (circa 1987)… Never….. Nev…ER. NEVER.

    That gun is absolutely awesome and infuriates me to this day FG destroyed such an indestructible brand/gun as the Marlin 336.

  26. The M98 in 8mm Mauser is not a cartridge to underestimate. First you have to forget the US commercial loads as they are designed for 1888 Commission rifles the US received as war reparations after WWI.

    These loads are about .30-30 performance with poor accuracy from the undersized .318″ bullets.

    8mm Mauser is the European .30-06 so use European spec ammunition. The milsurp Turkish 8mm chronographs at 2960 fps from a 24″ barrel (154g bullet). Reworked Turk 8mm with a 170g Hornady RNSP moves at 2720fps. More than enough to knock down almost every game sized animal on earth.

  27. I’ve noticed that around here in N. Alabama, especially with younger hunters who weren’t lucky enough to inherit their peepaw’s Remington/Savage/Browning, Mosin Nagant carbines are becoming a fairly common sight out beyond the kudzu-line. My neighbor has an M44 which he’s been using to keep the local pig population in check; that thing sounds like an artillery piece echoing up from the valley.
    And when I lived out West, a couple guys in my group were using scoped & sporterized (read: Bubba’d) MN 91/30s when we’d go out hunting prairie-dog bounties for the ranchers. The 7.62x54R is definitely a cost-effective round when the shooter does his part.
    Those old Soviet-era rifles certainly are common around here now and are capable of some good work, but I don’t know if I’d ever take my own MN into the bush. Something just feels wrong to me about hunting American game with Soviet steel.

  28. Winchester Model 70’s were chambered for upwards of 18+ cartridges. Here’s what my Blue Book indicates:

    – .22 Hornet
    – .220 Swift (this is rare and valuable for collectors)
    – .243 Winchester
    – .250 Savage (.250-3000),
    – .257 Roberts (.257 Roberts +P is the nes plus ultra of quarter-bores)
    – .264 Win. Mag.
    – .270 Win.
    – 7x57mm Mauser
    – .300 Savage
    – .300 H&H Magnum
    – .300 Win. Mag.
    – .30-06 (this was the most popular chambering)
    – .308 Winchester
    – .338 Win. Mag.
    – .35 Remington
    – .358 Winchester
    – .375 H&H Magnum
    -.458 Win. Mag. (in the Super Grade “African” rifle only)

    The Win70 is, IMO, the best designed production bolt gun for hunting (as opposed to target or military use). The three-position safety was highly inspired, allowing you to cycle the action while the cocking piece was captured. The coned breech and controlled round feed meant the Win70 fed exceedingly reliably. In the earlier versions, the fit and finish was excellent.

    Savage 99’s: An excellent lever gun, with a rotary magazine that overcomes one of the big limitations of tube-fed lever action rifles: the inability to use pointed spitzer bullets. The Sav99 is one of the smoothest, fastest-handling, natural-pointing rifles out there. Unlike the Browning-designed leverguns, the 99 can handle higher-pressure cartridges, giving it superior ballistic results from the muzzle velocity to the higher Bc’s spitzer bullets afford.

    As for more classic-style leverguns: The Marlin 336 is much simpler to detail strip and re-assemble than the Win94. Both are good rifles, but the 336 is a simple, robust design. The Win94 is much more collectable, especially in pre-64 production.

    The Mauser 98 is a great rifle, produced in huge numbers. In the military configuration, however, it is a clunky rifle, heavy, chunky and suffering from a flop-over safety that is somewhat inconvenient to use with a scope, and if a 98 has the straight bolt handle, there is no way to mount a scope on it. The 1903 would be a better rifle to use in military configuration.

    The 98 is the basis for several of my own custom rifles; it is a strong action, usually made of good steel, and there is no shortage of high-end custom rifles built on old 98 actions. For making a custom rifle, the 1909 Argentine bottom metal is considered to be a good choice. Actions made by BRNO, or at Obendorf are preferred, with the BRNO actions being preferable because they’re not as highly sought after for collecting. Obendorf Mausers are very good, but in 1944, they started cutting corners to accelerate wartime production. The pre-43 Obendorf rifles are, if not a Russian capture, often quite good. Russian capture Mausers will have number(s) stamped on the stock wood, electric penciled onto the bolt and barrel, and will often have rust, sometimes severe, below the wood line on the stock. Beware. The Czech vz.24 is a great choice for customizing a Mauser action, because their steel is good, they have good bottom metal, they’re full length actions and they have little collector value at this time, so you can obtain an action for relatively little money for the quality of steel.

    While the 8×57 is no slouch as a hunting round, if you wanted one round to rule them all, the 9.3×62 Mauser is the one to do it. Merely a 8×57 necked up to a 9.3mm pill, this 110-year-old cartridge design has hunted literally everything in Europe, Africa and North America. If you have a 9.3×62, you have no need of a .338 WinMag. The .35 Whelen was to the .30-06 what the 9.3 was to the 8×57 – only about 20 years later.

  29. Mosin? There were over a million of them made by Westinghouse and Remington during WW1 that never found their way to the original buyer, and most of those were sold to the civilian market eventually, so they’ve been around in US in large quantities for literally 100 years by now.

  30. Magazine writers must be the only one that hunt with a 257 roberts. I have hunted with large groups of hunters who drive deer all my life. I have never actually seen a 257 roberts in the field. I have asked second generation gun shop owners if they have ever had a request for 257 roberts ammo. All of them said they have never had a request for ammo or even seen a rifle chambered in 257 roberts. I have hunted in all the southern states except Fl.

  31. First deer rifle I used was a Savage 99 in .300 savage. LOVE that gun. I hope it’ll be mine one day (is my father’s). I have a 1962 model 94 in .32 Winchester I got for a steal, and a Marlin 336 in 35 Remington. Many others not on that list that work just as well.

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