are few choices that are exclusively correct. I believe the expression
was "There are more ways than one to skin a cat" before political
correctness and text messaging removed it and two thirds of our cultural
vocabulary. What follows is not a suggestion regarding the choice of
sights for a firearm, but rather a recounting of a week of my life spent
selecting and changing parts and shooting, then hammering a bit and
shooting some more. As a gun geek, very exciting stuff... Really.
The project began with a Marlin 1894
Deluxe; a nifty little gun, chambered for the 44 Remington Magnum. It has just a little touch of
"fancy" in its walnut stock and deep blued finish, but not so
much as to keep it locked up in a vault. The only problem encountered
when initially shooting the rifle was looking through its traditional semi-buckhorn rear and
bead front sights with my less than eagle sharp eyes. I could feel the
sights, I just couldn't see them... particularly that one way out front.
As open sights go, the Marlin's sights are good. The
face of the front sight has a stand out brass finish, a hood protects the sight and helps
centering on target. The rear sight is adjustable for
elevation and can be adjusted for windage by drifting it left or right in its dovetail
The typical limitation with sights of this type is
that while their apparent size remains constant, the target's apparent
size decreases with distance until, eventually, a deer can hide behind the blade of some front sights.
The other shortfall is that black or dark-colored front or rear sights
tend to get lost against dark backgrounds. Since my intention was to
shoot this gun frequently, I went shopping for enhanced sights.
Dovetail Style FireSights
Williams Dovetail Style FireSights, Brownells #
962-602-170, are made to fit a wide variety of
Winchester and Marlin centerfire lever action rifles. The rear sight is
made of aluminum, the front sight insert is steel. The rear sight is
adjustable for both windage and elevation. The two dots are formed by
the ends of a "U" shaped 0.057" diameter, light gathering, green fiber
optic, also termed a light pipe or light guide. The rear sight notch is
The front sight insert is 0.312" high, measured from
the base of the dovetail to the top of the sight, 0.250" above the
surface of the front ramp. That makes it the same height as the factory
1894 front sight. The red fiber optic insert is 0.057" in diameter.
Williams front sight insert included with the set was too wide and too long for the 1894
Marlin to be a clean fit. FireSight inserts are made with a standard 3/8" dovetail in widths of
"N" (0.250"), "M" (0.340") and "W" (0.531"). The Williams Dovetail Set includes an "M" insert, however,
an "N" width is a much better for the Marlin 1894's front ramp. I could have
used the Williams insert as received or retained the factory insert, but I wanted
the pieces to fit right and the benefits of the light gathering fiber optics, so I installed an
"N" insert, Brownells # 962-564-340, 0.312" high.
As noted previously, the Dovetail FireSight is made
for use on a variety of Winchester and Marlin lever guns. There should
be the expectation that inserts may have to be juggled to accommodate
not only the mechanical fit of the insert, but to adjust the point of
impact to accommodate a particular combination of rifle and ammunition.
As an example, with the Model 1894's 16" sight radius it takes
+/- 0.009" change in front sight height to vertically shift point
of impact 1" at 50
yards. Over time I've accumulated a selection of front sight inserts for use with Winchester and Marlin rifle,
so I just change them out
as needed to accommodate the particular rifle.
This number stamped on the bottom of the
dovetail represents the last two digits of the manufacturer's part
number, which is not typically an indication of the sight height.
Ghost Ring FireSight...
a little experimentation
The WGRS-336 set, Brownells# 962-000-058 and WGRS-336,
rear sight Brownells# 962-000-019, are intended for use on the Marlin
336. Fully adjustable and supplied with a 3/8"x0.093" aperture,
listed by Williams as a ghost sight. Removing the aperture leaves a
0.178" opening, and the whole line of Williams apertures fit; 0.050" to
0.150". This sight matches the scope base hole spacing on all
modern centerfire lever action Marlins.
Model 336, compared to the Model 1895 is a bit like long action versus
short action. The Marlin 336, above top, has rear scope base mount holes
located 0.500" farther forward than the Model 1894. Additionally, where
the scope mount holes, aft and forward, are 3.250" center to center on
the Model 336, they are only 2.375" center to center on the Model 1894.
Mounting the WGRS-336 sight in the Model
1894 aft scope base location clearly is not meant to be. Even if I were
one of those guys who replaces a missing lever pivot screw with a piece
of string and would mount the sight this way, the sight would gets
in the way of the hammer. Taking a tip from my innovative MILSURP
brothers who routinely barrel mount peep sights...
I tried shooting with the WGRS-336 installed in the
forward scope base mount holes of the Model 1894, exactly 2" farther
forward than the Model 336 - 16.25" from the recoil pad rather than
14.25" and the sight picture was actually very good. In doing a little
investigating, I found the Williams peep sight set for the '96 Mauser
that mounts in place of the issue sight ends up being 22" ahead of that
gun's butt plate and is supplied with a 0.150" aperture, an
accommodation to apparent size diminishing with distance. I settled on a
0.125" aperture and found an ideal sight picture; centering, but not obstructing. The
WGRS-336 is supplied with two front sight inserts, one "M" and one "N", both
0.450" high. The increase in height over the standard 0.312" insert is
accommodate the increased height of the WGRS-336 aperture over the
factory piece. The insert height change is
generally required to get full range of elevation adjustment out of the
Foolproof receiver sights... Sounds
like a challenge
Foolproof receiver sights, Brownells #962-200-002 for
the rear sight and #962-000-059 for the FireSight type set, are micro
adjustable sights. Made of anodized aluminum, the FP series sight
features interchangeable apertures and optional oversize target
knobs. The adjustments are micrometer type, approximately 1/4 MOA per
full turn. Both elevation and windage adjustments are locked with set
screws when adjustment has been completed.
The set comes with "M" and "N" 0.312" high front sight
inserts, with the "N" being correct for the Marlin's narrow front ramp.
The Foolproof sight is very low profile, approximately 0.200" lower than
Williams' ghost ring sight so the front sight insert is about the same
as the Marlin's factory piece. The issue of mounting with this set is
the same as with the ghost sight. The Foolproof 336 is intended for the
longer action Marlin 336 rifles so there is inadequate support for the
sight when mounted to the aft scope mount holes and an offset hammer
spur will not create reasonable hammer clearance.
The sight worked out well, accuracy was
good and adjustments were precise. I had to change to a 0.125" aperture
for best results. The only other component changed was the substitution
of a radiused front sight hood from one of my early Marlins in place of
the wide hood that is supplied with current models. The current hood
tended to clip the receiver sight image to the point it was a little
distracting, My next step will be to replace the hood with a Pre- '64
Winchester Model 70 hood, Brownells #344-000-008. It is radiused and
approximately 0.250" higher than the Marlin radiused hood, which should
help form concentric rings for an improved sight picture. There is
always the option, of course, of just removing the hood when using the
Could be the Marlin, the sights...
or my 2x reading glasses
I knew, as I worked my way through the
sight sets previously noted.
that group sizes were getting progressively smaller with each change,
but I didn't know if I was getting close to the gun's potential or,
perhaps, my metallic sight shooter's limitations. It was time to install
a scope to get a better understanding what could be expected of the Marlin 1894.
XS makes a rail mount for the 1984 that
would have been a more practical choice for this rifle since it provides
many ring placement options, which means a lot more latitude when
selecting a scope with a workable tube length - Brownells# 006-000-170.
However, I have a similar system on my Guide Gun and I am always
left with the impression that I'm looking down the back of a crocodile
and the Marlin 1894 was just too pretty to turn into a quasi
lever action assault rifle... at least for now. So I went with the Warne
tools and parts pictured above.
The Warne Scope Ring Torque Wrench is a
low cost and handy solution to get to 25 in. lbs. required for scope
ring and base hardware. In checking the consistency of applied torque,
the difference between this tool and my adjustable in. lb. torque
wrench was negligible. Since most scope mounting
hardware works to the same torque spec, this is a useful bench tool. The bases
Warne Maxima symmetrical 2 piece steel, Brownells # 947-000-168. The
quick release, cross locking, medium height, 1" steel rings are
Brownells # 947-623-100.
Since no CAS members threw bricks at me while shooting at the range,
there is the suggestion that too many rules of nature weren't violated
by hanging a compact scope on the 1894.
Are those Internet or actual inches?
These fifty yard, three shot groups were
shot from a bench with handloads intended for recreational target
shooting. Regardless the sights in use, this gun made me wonder what
happened to the good old days of deer-friendly lever action rifles and
five inch fifty yard groups.
Of the metallic sights, the Foolproof
peep sight yielded the tightest group size and was the easiest aperture
sight within this group to get on target. Adjustment was precise and
predictable. The Dovetail FireSights had the best visibility of all. The
fiber optic dots pick up lots of light and standout against dark and
mottled backgrounds. The ghost sights were fine, just not exceptional in
any particular way. They shot about the same as the Dovetail FireSights
and they were slower to get on target. The compact scope really helped
the rifle's performance. Providing an offset to my eyesight
deficiencies, not only did it allow the rifle to perform well at fifty
yards, it made the Marlin, comfortably, a hundred yard rifle. Nice to
have so many good options.