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The tactical weapons fad might save a dinosaur from extinction.

"Tactical" evokes certain images, namely that of the AR-15 rifle and the Glock handgun. There are other styles and brands, but these are the exemplars. The lever-action rifle, considered a nostalgic relic, is being redefined as a tactical firearm.

Get real! Nobody considers the hidebound cowboy gun and its archaic chamberings in 30-30 and 45-70 to be legitimate home defense and prepper options.

Consider that the Spencer lever-action repeating rifle, developed in the late 1800s, was the original tactical military rifle. Today's media, if transported to that time, would call it an "assault rifle." As late as the American Civil War, the muzzleloading rifle was still the primary military firearm. By 1864, the Union Army used the Spencer extensively in the Western Theatre. Its stock contained a tubular magazine that held seven .56-caliber cartridges. A skilled shooter could fire 14-20 rounds per minute.

Winchester and Marlin refined and improved the design, and Savage perfected it, but modern new high-powered cartridges designed for bolt-action and semi-autos rendered the comparatively anemic cartridges endemic to leverguns obsolete. The .30-30 Winchester Center Fire -- the primary chambering for the Model 94 Winchester, Marlin Model 336 and Henry Repeating Rifles -- was designed in 1893.

The Marlin Model 1894 is chambered in .357 Remington Magnum, .44 Remington Magnum, .41 Remington Magnum and .45 Colt. Those are modern pistol cartridges that can be loaded hotter and faster for use in rifles. Still, the limited powder capacity of the cases and the round nose bullets necessary to avoid detonation in the magazine under recoil limit a levergun's effective hunting range to about 150 yards.

On the other hand, their compactness and rapid fire capability also make them effective home defense tools. The shooting industry has noticed and offers an array of tactical upgrades to modernize grandpa's old scabbard gun.

Probably because it is still in production, most accessories are made for the Marlin 336 and 94. You can replace old wooden stocks with tactical stocks, including skeletonized and collapsible versions. You can also buy barrel shrouds with Picatinny rails and Picatinny dovetail adapters to hold electronic optics, tactical laser sights, flashlights and other accessories. Some enthusiasts even attach suppressors to their leverguns.

The Marlin 336 Dark Series is factory equipped for customization and has a short, 161/4-inch barrel for easier handling in close quarters.

Tactically converted leverguns provoke strong emotions in the shooting community. Traditionalists hate them, but tinkerers enjoy customizing their leverguns as much as the "Tacticool" regulars enjoy customizing their AR-15s.

The shooting media has noticed and dedicate a fair amount of copy to customizing leverguns. Magazines even put tactical leverguns on their covers. It makes sense. We've customized the AR-15 to its limit. AR-15 and AR-10 enthusiasts have upgraded their upper units umpteen times. There are only so many accessories you can clamp on a Picatinny rail.

Of course, there's also a tactical component in the shotgun world, but adding tactical accoutrements to a shotgun actually limits its utility. Its only use is home defense. It is useless for trap, skeet, sporting clays and hunting.

The shooting industry always seeks new frontiers, and it has found it in firearms that came of age on the American frontier.

Tactical accessories make a levergun more versatile. You can hunt with it, and you can shoot targets with it. You can also use it in tactical speed-shooting games where it is also gaining popularity.

I long demanded walnut stocks and blued metal on my rifles and shotguns. The first time I saw a tactical levergun, I thought it was abominable. I've come around. Now I think they're are cool as heck. They are counterculture cool, but they are also interesting.

It's a Darwinian adaptation. Evolve or die, like the dinosaurs.


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