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What is a Marlin 1894 short stroke conversion?

In the world of tomorrow, we antiquated humans will no longer have to cycle our antiquated lever guns. A robot will do it for us, and much faster—snickity snack—right before a look of amusement passes across its titanium alloy face and it discards the silly relic onto a pile of other rifles that it deems inedible, because lever guns aren’t made of aluminum and polymer. Too bad, it will think. Because robots love aluminum and polymer. But perhaps it will call up some lonesome cowpoke ballad from its RAM and mimic the Duke as it walks into the sunset, leaving a faint trail of 30 weight.

Before we let wood and steel, flesh and bone, be consigned to irrelevance, we at RPP have at least a few more tricks up our sleeves, one of which is the short stroke Marlin 1894. These guns are all about speed, magazine capacity, and cowboy cool. And, because they are chambered in common semi-auto pistol cartridges, they make pretty darn good home defense weapons as well. Unlike a .44 magnum, for example, a .45 ACP will not go through both an intruder and several walls to kill a neighbor.

The following is not intended to be a step by step tutorial, as our conversions require precise machining that can only be done on a mill, not to mention an advanced understanding of the Marlin action. But it will give you a look under the hood, and a better understanding of what goes into a short stroke 1894.

First, you will need to choose an appropriate cartridge. Short stroke conversions require shorter cartridges. Most of the common semi-auto rounds, like .45 ACP, .10 MM, .40 S&W and .357 SIG are good candidates. .45 Cowboy Short works fine too, if you want something more traditional. Next you need an appropriate Marlin 1894 donor rifle. A .44 or .45 model will work for the .45 ACP, while a .357 or .32-20 works for the smaller rounds.

It’s a bear to get Marlins to feed and eject these stubby, rimless rounds, but we eat bear for breakfast. Despite the fur and fat, it’s worth it. To get to the fun part, here's what has to happen:

  1. The bump stop on the carrier (cartridge lifter) must be moved forward to match the abbreviated COL.

  2. Carrier timing must be adjusted to lift sooner on opening so that the carrier nose blocks entry of the next cartridge before it can emerge from the magazine.

  3. The "wings" and cartridge ramp of the carrier must be modified to properly present the cartridge to the chamber mouth, depending on conversion.

  4. The ejector must be repositioned forward in the receiver to eject the case at the rear of the bolt's shorter travel. This requires precise machining to the receiver that can only be done on a mill. On our rifles, there is no external evidence of this change.

  5. The ejector must be modified and tuned to work with short rimless cases, or FTE's are the order of the day. This is a surprisingly sticky aspect that took time to work out.

  6. The bolt face tabs must be partially machined to allow for smooth feeding of stubby rimless cases.

  7. The extractor gets a lot of attention, and is heavily modified to both feed smoothly and eject reliably.

  8. The control blade of the lever gets a channel machined into it that becomes the new lift profile for the carrier. Again, precise work with a mill is the only way. This was one of the more interesting problems to solve.

  9. Normally, the lever stops against a ramp near the back of the carrier at full open. With the shortened stroke, the lever never gets near this ramp. While the lever's travel will be arrested by the carrier pawl dropping into its new channel, the pawl would not last long in that role, so we create a new lever stop on the trigger plate.

  10. All of this is in addition to any barrel and chamber work that must take place.

Is it worth it? We think so. These “strokers” aren’t just for Cowboy action. They’re great for hunting, self defense, and survival. And if it comes to it, you might take pleasure in dumping a dozen rounds fast into a smirking computer. Heck, as long as you’re at home and not the office, you don’t even have to wait for the robots to arrive.

Giddy Up,


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