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MARLIN 32-20


Marlin a number of years ago marlin produced a 32-20 levergun. Along with the roundís sisters, the 218 and the 25-20.. Both on the 32-20 case. How many of us now wish we had grabbed one of each.. I know I do.

So when I found a 32-20 marlin octagon barreled rifle, on the used rack at my favorite gun store... I didnít let it get away this time.....

Friend Jim Taylor was smarter than I was back when Marlin first offered them, and purchased a 32-20. One of the bullets I suggested to him was any of the softnose jacketed spire points made for the 7,62x39 bore. They are .311+caliber. But you must cut the nose so you have a small flat and they can be stacked in the loading tube. 

I think it was a telephone line that Jim had to run thru a inside wall to the outside of his home. But didnít have the drill bit length that would do the job. Given the very intelligent mind he has, he just shot a hole thru the wall with the 32-20 and the 7.62 bullet. 

Now I have two 32-20s from the late 1890s and early 1900s in Marlin and Winchester. But they are old and I needed one that would take much higher pressures than what I would ever put thru those two old gentlemen.

I also gave Jim's daughter a Winchester 32-20 from circa 1920 or so. She used it to take javelina in Arizona. But again Jim kept the pressure down. I donít know the load. In the older 32-20s from Winchester it is usually the firing pin hole that is too big and when even slightly higher pressures and pistol primers are used, stuck cases result.. Or worse a clogged firing pin hole with brass from the primer. Iíve re-bushed a number of them in the past.

I was about ready to build one on a Ď92 action when I found this Marlin. One of the facts about the Marlin 32-20s is the extended case length in the chamber. Back in the early days of the cartridge, many question gun history but it still is 1882 for the 32-20.. Marlin and Winchester had a thing going... Winchester brought out the 32-20, Marlin brought out the 32-21. One mm longer than Winchester. You could fire the Winchester ammo in both guns.. But not the Marlin ammo in the Winchester 92s.

Jim T. called me one day a while after getting his Marlin 32-20 (so marked on the barrels) telling me about the bad case life of the 32-20 cases. And I explained to him to load them with 2 grains of bullseye and a cast bullet hard touching the rifling so the firing pin wonít drive the case forward. And fire forming, straight up if possible. Once the case is fire formed try not to push the shoulder back in reloading.

Starline brass is strong in the 32-20 so is Remington nickel cases. I use them both but for different reasons... The rest.... Rem/brass and Winchester brass cases are just plain weak.

Not to long ago someone chided me for firing a 22 magnum rimfire round straight up during an arrest of a young dope dealer... Had to get the attention of the covering agents and it was also a loud suggestion that the teenage dealer drop the knife he was holding. He did and I didnít have to shoot him, and the agents came quickly. 

The gentleman that suggested that the bullets would go somewhere and hurt someone, of course was wrong... Bullets that go straight up or nearly straight up... Do not come down at the same velocity and are harmless. .. If they are fairly light. Iím sure a 45-70 slug of 400 grains or some such, would raise a bruise. Anyway fire form your 32-20 cases in the marlin leverguns and their life is extended.

The water capacity in a Remington nickel case is 21+ grains and about 17 useful grains of powder capacity. Though few loads use seventeen grains of any powder in the little case.

This Marlin has a bead front sight and the usual buck horn back sights... And most know how I feel about buck horn sights. At least for me they are dismal... It takes too long to get fine accuracy with them. And when hunting rarely do we get the time they take to be useful. So itís always a peep sight of some kind. Ghost sights are great.

Years ago I was standing in the machine shop of our home way out in the county surrounding Tucson. My middle daughter at the time was about seven or eight. And she had the nicest little kitten a girl her age could want. But we had a bullheaded male cat in the area, he would steal her food, take her favors and beat her up. Finally I was tired of stitching up the rips in her, and seeing my daughter cry.

I kept the older Marlin with the 24 inch octo barrel very close. And this day in the machine shop which was a good bit darker than the noon day sun outside.. Along comes olíbullhead. He was in the high chaparral about 50 yards across from the open door.

I picked up a 32-20 case drop a few grains of probably bullseye in it, and squeezed a round ball into the mouth and chamber it. As I have said before I aimed for the middle of the brown sort of, and touched it off. Mr. Cat left suddenly, like the proverbial scalded etc. Etc... Several days later I found his body. I was very surprised that little ball went thru the middle and up thru a lung. 

And the kitten lived happily for many years and gave a few litters, which gave my daughter pleasure helping to deliver her kittens... And when the kittens were ready... Giving them to her friends.... 

I have memories of the finest rifle I ever owned back in 1961. It was an original 32-20 Winchester mod. 92, built by the Winchester custom shop in the mid 1930s. A friendís son committed suicide with it. And he asked if he could trade me a rifle of some kind, any kind for it. The Winchester held awful memories for him. I took him to the local gun store and told him to pick what ever he wanted. He choose a 243 Winchester mod. 70. 

The 32-20 was stocked in French black walnut with more figure than a Victoria Secret model. With a 24 inch tapered octagon barrel and full length loading tube. It easily took reloads that sent cast bullets out at outlandish velocities for such a little case. And I hunted all around southern Texas with it back then. Even taking the small white tails in the area. I help fed a lot of military guys that worked for me at the time... But the rifles future was star crossed. It and a number of other guns burned up in a car fire. They were locked in the trunk.

And their were many more 32-20s in my life. In handguns as well as leverguns. So when I found the little Marlin I was very pleased....

It has a rifle fore end cap, though it has a 20 inch carbine length octagon barrel. Deep midnight blue/black, and probably produced in the late 1980s. Very straight walnut stocked... And fitted very well. Without all the extra wood marlin usually has on itís fore ends.....thankfully. A perfect bore, the little rifle looks like it was stored more than used.

I have not gotten back sights for it yet but will. Though even with the buck horns off the bench, and my load of a hard cast 100 grain bullets over 14 grains of 2400 and a hard cast Keith shaped (NEI mold) 125 grain bullet over 13 grains of 2400... It groups at 75 yards lingering around 1Ĺ inches. With a small scope mounted and using 123 grain bullets, soft nosed and jacketed over 12 of 296 they go into the same 1Ĺ inches at 100 yards. It is a shooter... I have not had the chance to check velocities but that comes next. And it is just what i was looking for without the expense of building one...

old3220s.jpg (45497 bytes)

PACO 11/05








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