Last year the state changed its regulations as to what firearms could be used in the Lower Pen. Long restricted as the “shotgun zone” it was instructed by a vote of the state legislature to allow some rifles as long as they met requirements. Let us look at some that do.
In the last legislative session, Rep. Matt Lori reintroduced a bill that had often seen the session but never passed– one that allowed an expansion of guns that were allowed in the lower zone of the state for deer hunting. You see the
Natural Resources Commission’s Wildlife Conservation Order divides the State into two zones. In the northern zone, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula and the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, a sportsman can use a rifle for deer, while in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula, designated as the “shotgun, handgun, black powder firearms only area,” they could not.
Well Lori’s bill, HB 4283 passed by a 106-0 vote and took effect this season.
This legislation was a big topic on our forums last year.
The language of the bill, enacted into law, allows “A .35 caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-walled cartridges with a minimum case length of 1.16 inches and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches,” to be utilized in the so-called “shotgun zone.”
Well, this very narrow ruling would only allow 357 Magnums, .41 Specials and Magnums, .44 Specials and Magnums, the old .44-40 Winchester of long ago, .454 Casull, 460 XVR, and the .500 Smith and Wesson loadings to be used.
With that understanding on the table, let us look at some of the (current) offerings in these calibers.
Marlin Model 1894
One of the most classic of cowboy guns, and one of the first solid-top models, which allowed the use of a scope that wasn’t offset to the side, the Marlin M1894 series, has been made by JM Marlin for generations. Currently made by Remington, who bought out and redesigned Marlin’s line around 2009, the ’94 comes in 45 Long Colt, 357 Mag. / 38 Spl. and 44 Mag. / 44Spl. which gives you any number of options. A straight-stocked gun with a 10-shot tubular magazine, these guns just ooze Old West styling– or new Michigan deer hunting! Marlin makes a ton of other lever action great deer rifles such as the M444, the .30-.30 caliber Model 336 and the heavy duty M1895– but they are too powerful for the DNR regs. Street price on the M1894, depending on sub variant, starts at about $600 and moves up from there.
Henry Firearms has a 150-year legacy going back to the time of the U.S. Civil War. They are one of the biggest players in authentic reproduction lever action guns in the country– most others come from Brazil, Spain, or Italy. Their classic “Original” rifle is a 13+1 shot chambered in .44-40 WCF, which meets the exemption requirements. The downside? These guns MSRP for $2300.
Speaking of made overseas, the Brazilian firm of Rossi, currently owned by pistol maker Taurus, has no less than 27 different versions of their lever action rifles in 357, 41, 44, 454, and 45LC with varying barrel lengths and finishes. These guns are the “value” entry into the field and run anywhere from $375-$600 depending on which model and which sale you run across.
One thing that Rossi doesn’t offer is a nice stainless steel gun with a synthetic stock. Well I guess Italian-based Chiappa Firearms figured that out and both of their entries into the lever-gun arena make up for this. One, the 1886 Kodiak, only comes in .45-70, which rules it out. However, their 1892 Alaskan is chambered in .357, .44, and .45 in both 16 and 20-inch barrel options. Costs run about twice what the Rossi’s do though.
Remember the Henry mentioned above? Well the Italian uber-Cowboy gun maker Uberti produces both an 1860 Henry and an 1866 Yellow Boy in acceptable calibers to include .44-40 (hey, don’t laugh, its really making a comeback), .45LC, and .44. Like The domestically made originals, they aren’t cheap. MSRP is $1400+
Designed to be the ultimate brush guns for use hunting moose and other giant critters in the dense swamps and brush of Northern Maine and the Alaskan wild, T/C’s Encore Pro Hunter Katahdin Carbines are typically chambered in .45-70 (stop me if you have heard that before). However, they have two models, the 3996 and 3998 respectively, that are chambered for the positively brutal .460 and 500 S&W Magnum. These single shot stainless/synthetic rifles have a 20-inch barrel, adjustable rear peep sight, and fiber-optic front sight for quick target acquisition. MSRP is $852.
No matter which rifle you pick, get out there, and enjoy this great new season.