Tuning the Marlin 1894 for Cowboy Action Shooting
Lionel Roach, aka JONAH
These instructions came from
Lionel Roach, aka JONAH so no photos are
available. Since this is not my article I accept no
liability or responsibility for its content. However, I
have used these procedures with success on all of my Marlin
rifles. My notes are in red.
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This article is for entertainment only and is not to
be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.
Please defer all firearms work to a qualified
gunsmith. Any loads
mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have
been carefully worked up using established guidelines and
special tools. The
author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of
these loads, or use or misuse of this article.
Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith,
just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a
article explains work that I performed to my guns without
the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.
Some procedures described in this article require
special tools and cannot/should not be performed without
Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may
void the warranty. I
claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.
Again, this article is for entertainment purposes
and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark
of their respective manufacturers.
involved in Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) have never had it so
good when it comes to firearms and related equipment. While
some manufacturers were slow to climb aboard the bandwagon,
others listened to what shooters wanted and responded. Marlin
Firearms worked with shooters and gave us the Model 1894 in
it's many guises. An
informal count of the number of Marlin Model 1894's at any CAS
shoot will show how popular the Marlin has become. At our
club, Tin Star Texans, at least fifty to sixty percent of the
rifles being used will be Marlins.
A sideline industry has emerged to tune and modify the
firearms used in CAS, but individual owners can perform many
of the tune up procedures. There are some parts that are best
left to the professionals or at least advanced amateurs such
as sears and hammer notches. However, with a little bit of
time and minor tools, the average owner can do a good job of
smoothing up the action.
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
Before you attempt to do any work on your rifle, get a good
set of gunsmith screwdrivers. Do not try to use your hardware
store special screwdrivers. Burred screw heads will result
from use of standard screwdrivers. Gunsmith screwdrivers are
available from Lyman, Chapman and others. If not available
locally, gunsmith screwdrivers can be ordered from Midway,
Brownell's and others.
equipment required will consist of a sheet each of 400 and 600
grit wet or dry paper. Nice to have would be a few small
hones, but the wet or dry paper will get you by. When we begin
to work on the hammer, a belt sander or bench grinder will be
required for part of the procedure.
Before beginning with the actual tune up, cycle the action
slowly and try to determine where in the cycle roughness is
felt. The areas to pay attention to are the lever plunger that
holds the lever up, the carrier lifting up, the bolt sliding
in the receiver and the bolt passing over the hammer. All of
these areas will most likely require attention and will be
addressed during the tune up.
you have been shooting your rifle a great deal, I recommend
that you cycle the lever several hundred times prior to
beginning any work. This will accomplish two things. First, it
may smooth out any burrs that are there. Second, it will leave
burnish marks on the areas that are in contact so you can
identify those areas needing work. Before disassembly, slowly
open the action and observe the point at which the hammer
comes to full cock. On my Marlin, the bolt depressed the
hammer another 3/32" after reaching full cock. I have
observed the same amount of over travel on other Marlins. We
will address this when we work on the hammer.
Begin disassembly by opening the action about half way and
remove the lever screw, the lever, the bolt and the ejector.
the rear tang screw and slide the stock of the rear off the
the hammer by depressing the trigger safety block. Hold the
hammer under the thumb, depress the trigger and let the hammer
go forward against the frame. Remove the hammer spring by
sliding the hammer spring plate to the left side and then
remove the hammer spring. Remove the hammer pivot screw and
remove the hammer through the clearance slot by rotating it
the rifle over and remove the trigger guard plate support
screw from the left side of the action. Then remove the
trigger guard plate screw from the bottom. This is the screw
just in front of the carrier leg slot. Note that this screw is
longer than the previous screw. Lift up on the lower tang and
remove the trigger guard plate. Remove the locking bolt from
the bottom of the action.
the carrier screw from the right side of the action. The
carrier will now fall out of the bottom of the action. There
is no need to remove the loading gate screw. The action is now
dissembled as far as required for the tune up.
Inspect the lever for any burrs on the end where it bears on
the carrier and bolt. Burnish marks on the end will show where
it is in contact with the carrier and bolt. Lay a 2" by
2" piece of 400 grit wet or dry paper on a flat surface
near the edge of your workbench. Place one side of the
flat on the paper and polish the side. Then flip it over and
polish the other side. Polish off any burrs found on the two
narrow edges. Stay clear of any of the areas that will be
outside of the action so that you don't remove any bluing.
This is a polish only operation. Do not remove metal or change
the shape of the end of the lever.
finger lever plunger will need to be polished and the spring
tension reduced. With a small punch or nail with the end
ground flat, remove the plunger pin. The plunger is under
tension, so be careful and don't let the plunger and spring
jump out and get lost. Hold a finger over the plunger end or
put a small rag over it to contain it. Using the 400 and
600-grit paper, polish the two bevels on the end of the
plunger. Check the shank of the plunger and remove any burrs
you may find. Place the spring back on the plunger and insert
it into the hole in the lever. While looking through the pin
hole, push the plunger in until the hole is clear.
pushing in the plunger until it is flush or nearly so. This
will give you a good idea of the amount of the spring that can
be removed. In my rifle, I removed two coils by cutting them
off with a good pair of side cutters. I recommend that you
only cut one coil at a time and then try the plunger in the
lever for tension. The plunger must have enough tension to
fully extend and lock the lever in the closed position.
TRIGGER GUARD ASSEMBLY
Unless you are experienced in working on sear surfaces, I
recommend that you leave the trigger and sear alone.
to my article
the Marlin Lever-Action Rifle Sear) Take
the trigger plate in your hand and look down into it from the
top side. You will see the trigger block safety spring. This
spring also bears on the rear of the trigger. Using a small
screwdriver under the short leg, the one bearing on top of the
trigger safety block, pry up on the spring approximately
1/8". You want to bend this leg upward enough to relieve
tension on the trigger safety block. Don't try to get all the
bend in one try, but bend it up a little, try the trigger
block safety for tension by pushing it up from the bottom
behind the trigger. Continue bending and trying until you can
easily move the safety block up with your finger. Leave enough
tension so that the safety block always returns to it's down
look at the long leg of the spring where it bears on the rear
of the trigger. Pry it up a little at a time to relieve some
tension on the trigger. Be careful and don't kink the spring.
You are only trying to relieve some of the tension. It is
better to error on the safe side rather than having to buy a
Check for any burrs and polish the sides and any burnished
areas. Do not remove any metal or change the shape.
Place the bolt back in the action and slowly slide it back and
forth. It should move smoothly throughout its length. Check
for any burrs on the bolt and in the receiver and polish
them out if you find any. Carefully polish the cam on the
bottom of the bolt where it rides over the hammer nose. Do
not reduce the height of the cam. Polish it only.
(I narrowed the width of this cam to about 1/16" using a
flat jeweler's file. This helped to lighten the
HAMMER, HAMMER SPRING
Remove 3/4 of a coil from each end of the hammer spring. If
you use a grinder to do this, do not let the spring become too
hot to hold. Go slowly and grind the cut off end flat like it
was done at the factory. If you do not have a grinder, use a
triangular file to file a groove in the coil and break the end
off. Then file it flat. A Dremel tool with a cutoff blade will
also work to remove the 3/4 coil. In all three cases, do not
nick the adjacent coil as this will set up a weak spot for
(No matter what I did I couldn't get
this modified spring to work in my Marlin. I purchased
an after-market spring from
which has worked perfectly.)
the wet or dry paper, polish the hammer strut on both sides
and both edges. Check and remove any burrs from the hammer
pivot hole. Polish the hammer screw where the hammer pivots.
the 3/32" hammer over travel referred to above? Some of
this can be removed by grinding the nose of the hammer down
using a belt sander or fine grinding wheel. If you feel uneasy
about removing metal from the hammer, skip this step. You need
to remove approximately 1/32" (.031"). Filing the
hammer nose is not practical due to radius and the requirement
to maintain the exact contour. Carefully grind and polish the
hammer nose. I do not recommend removing more than 1/32"
(.031"). This will assure that the hammer is sufficiently
depressed to be held at full cock. Scribe lines on both sides
of the hammer nose following the same contour and remove metal
to this line. A better method of assuring that you don't
remove too much is to use a vernier caliper and measure from
the flat on the bottom of the hammer to the nose. Go slowly,
measure often and then polish the nose. Be advised that
altering the hammer may void the manufacturer's warranty.
Leave the sides alone. Polish the burnished areas where the
lever acts on the carrier. Check the screw hole for burrs and
remove. Polish the screw where the carrier pivots.
Check for burrs and polish as required. Polish the cam area
where the bolt pushes the ejector down into its slot in the
Remove the magazine tube plug and remove the 10 shot plastic
plug from the spring. Replace the magazine tube plug and you
can now load 13 rounds in the magazine. I don't recommend that
you remove any coils from the magazine spring unless it is
hard to load rounds into the magazine. If you do decide to
remove any coils, proceed slowly and try often for proper
feeding. Be safe, leave this spring alone.
(There needs to be enough spring tension to push the last
round from the magazine tube onto the carrier. Test
this by loading only one or two rounds into the magazine
Everyone complains about the safety. However, it does have a
couple of good traits. One, it allows you to safely cycle
rounds through the action to unload the magazine without the
danger of an accidental discharge. Two, you can dry fire
occasionally without danger of breaking a firing pin. [Five]
things can be done to the safety.
it alone and use it when desired.
it with an after market dummy safety that fills the hole
and appears as a bolt.
in the safety set screw enough to freeze the safety in the
off position so that it won't get applied
off the left end of the safety so that it is flush with
the left side of the receiver when it is in the off
position. The safety can still be applied if desired by
pushing it on with the end of a pencil.
Put a rubber 'O' ring over the
safety. This will prevent it from being engaged
accidentally, but with a little extra finger pressure, it
can still be engaged. This method does not require any
modification to the rifle.
Reassemble the rifle in the reverse steps to disassembly. Put
a light coat of oil on all parts prior to reassembly. Do not
tighten any screw all the way until everything is back
together. Then snug up all screws. Cycle the action several
times to assure everything is working smoothly. On my Marlin,
if the trigger guard plate support screw is too tight, the
action will appear sluggish. If this occurs on your rifle,
back the screw off very slightly.
Every Marlin I have observed suffers from screws loosening up
during heavy shooting. The most common is the carrier screw,
but the hammer screw and the trigger guard plate support screw
also may loosen. Keep a screwdriver close by when shooting and
retighten the screws as required. A better solution is to
apply a SMALL drop of blue Loctite to the threads of these
screws. Loctite can be easily applied to the threads on the
left side of the receiver using a toothpick. DO NOT USE RED
Loctite or you may never take it apart again.
have now tuned up your Marlin and are ready to enjoy the great
rifle that it is.
Because I shoot light, target loads the brass cartridge case
doesn't expand to seal the chamber so I get a lot of soot.
This soot gets into the magazine tube and will jam the
follower, and will also absorb moisture and cause rust.
Part of my cleaning routine after a match is to clean and
oil the magazine tube and spring.