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The little gun that can - Gun Review at Cabela's

The little gun that can - Gun Review

Author: Dan Carlson

In the world of guns, sometimes really good things do come in small packages.

The 1895G is an instinctive pointer, and that's what it was designed for.
I normally don't borrow guns when I go hunting. I prefer to use my own rifles that I've spent considerable time practicing with and have been able to develop good hand loads for. I did make an exception a couple of years ago during Black Hills deer season; however, and I was so impressed that I immediately starting pinching pennies until I had enough saved to get one of my own. Never before had I seen a rifle shot physically lift a good sized standing deer completely off the ground and slam it to the ground like an NBA star dunking with authority. That deer was stone dead before it hit the ground and the bullet that finished it was a 300-grain Remington .45/70 hollowpoint fired at a distance of 75 yards, from a Marlin 1895G Guide Gun.

There's a lot to like about Marlin's 1895G. The first thing that grabs your attention is how small this little powerhouse is. It sports an 18.5 inch ported barrel and weighs in at only seven pounds. That makes it a compact, highly maneuverable lever gun that you can carry all day in the woods and hardly notice it. The tubular magazine under the barrel holds four rounds and the action feeds both factory and hand loaded ammunition crisply and reliably.

The 1895G is an instinctive pointer, and that's what it was designed for. This firearm is not intended for the open spaces of the western South Dakota prairie, but for close quarter engagements where the hunter has but a moment to snap off a shot in the thick woods or brush country. A friend in Alaska tells me that the Guide Gun is showing up in increasing numbers among hunters and guides alike up there. Bush pilots like the power it provides in a compact package, and even some professional hunters in Africa are toting the 1895G for backing up clients pursuing dangerous game.

In spite of all it has going for it, there are still a few who scoff at the notion of using a cartridge that was originally adopted by the U.S. Army in 1873, at a time when there are so many newer modern cartridges that don't suffer the trajectory challenges of the .45/70. Make no mistake, the .45/70 is a round that takes some study and research to master. The reason is that there are four different kinds of rifles chambered for the .45/70 and you just can't drop a round made for one into another without risking serious injury.

Bulk .45-70 Ammunition
Back before the invention of smokeless gunpowder .45/70 meant a .45 caliber bullet seated atop 70 grains of black powder. The old trapdoor single-shot rifles of the 1800s shot this load and today's off-the-shelf box of .45/70 ammo uses smokeless powder that won't exceed the pressures those old actions are capable of withstanding. Modern lever action guns like the 1895G, and newer bolt action guns and single shots like those made by Ruger are capable of withstanding much more powerful .45/70 loads but most ammunition makers load their cartridges down to the trapdoor level so that they won't get sued. That makes sense, but it also means that the owner of a gun with a stronger action like the 1895G will need to hand load to maximize the gun's potential. Should one of these hopped up loads find it's way into an old style trapdoor gun, however, the results could be disastrous.

The weaker off-the-shelf .45/70 loads have a trajectory like a golf ball shot out of a slingshot. I researched several ballistics charts on the Internet and came up with different results from every one of them, but the gist of the matter is that a .45/70 sighted in to shoot about three inches high at 50 yards will be close to dead on around 100 yards and hit anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 FEET low at 200 yards. We're talking serious bullet drop here. Compare that to some hand loads I found for more modern lever and single shot guns, which claim to boost the cartridge potential to shoot about three inches high at 100 yards, zero dead-on at 150 and hit just under a foot low at 200. You can see the difference hand loading makes. There are shooters capable of exceptional long-range marksmanship with the .45/70, and there are even competitions for such shooters, but for the average big game hunter the .45/70 is probably going to be a 100-yard gun. That's OK because the vast majority of big game in North America is taken at ranges inside 100 yards. Believe me, a charging bear or wild boar coming hard and 40 yards out will never know the difference between ANY .45/70 load and a .458 Win. Mag., and that's the main point behind the 1895G Guide Gun. Big game with a bad attitude is going down to a really big bullet no questions asked.

Marlin's 1895G
I installed an after market peep sight on my Guide Gun before I went boar hunting in Texas last winter, so I'd have super fast target acquisition in case I had to track a boar into some really thick cover. That situation never developed, but the 1895G does inspire a certain amount of confidence when hunting dangerous game at close range, because you know it will stop any land dwelling creature on the continent that breathes oxygen. My dangerous game load for the gun is a 400-grain flat-nose jacketed soft-point bullet leaving the barrel at about 1900 fps and I sight it in to shoot just a bit high at 25 yards, which makes it dead on around 75 yards out.

What about recoil you ask? Shooting juiced up .45/70 loads from a light rifle would normally be like asking Mike Tyson to punch your shoulder, but Marlin's porting system on the barrel, combined with a ventilated rubber recoil pad on the rifle butt make shooting the 1895G no big deal. I'd compare the recoil of standard factory loads with that of my 20-gauge shotgun, and shooting the more powerful hand loads is about like shooting three-inch magnums out of a 12 gauge. It's not something you'd like to do all day, but not really that bothersome either. I was also surprised that the ported barrel wasn't noisier. I used to have a Browning 7mm Remington magnum rifle with the BOSS system and the noise from that gun with a muzzle break was actually deafening. Ear protection is still a good idea when you're sighting in the Guide Gun and taking several shots, but for one or two shots on a deer hunt, the gun really isn't any harder on the ears than any other deer rifle.

Do I recommend the Marlin 1895G Guide Gun? Well, there are better choices for deer and antelope in open country, but if you do most of your hunting in the timber where the shots are shorter and there's a chance of a moose, black bear, or boar hunt in your future, then the Guide Gun would make an excellent addition to your collection. For those still leery of the .45/70 cartridge, versions of the gun are also available in .444 and .450 Marlin calibers.

The Marlin 1895G is not available online, but you may purchase one at any of our retails stores. For information on current used firearms in our extensive collection, please consult our online gun library.
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