the years, firearms manufactures have offered any number of
special editions and special models. Perhaps none have enjoyed
the success of Winchesterís short barrel rifle, the Trapper.
The Trapper is basically a 16 inch barrel Winchester
Model 94. It is standard in most other areas except that the
barrel is the shortest allowable legal length. While the most
popular caliber by far for the Model 94 has been the .30-30
Winchester Center Fire, there have also been a number of
Trapper rifles produced in .44 Magnum. It is interesting to
compare the two. I realize that folks who like the .30-30 love
and the same goes for .44 fans. But if the chance comes to
obtain one of these hard to find rifles, perhaps an
understanding of the two types will be helpful.
we have to ask: why a Trapper at all? A rifle with a shorter
barrel is not as ballistically efficient. The powder does not
burn as completely, often producing not only less velocity, but
also a tremendous muzzle blast as powder burns outside the
barrel. The shorter sight radius limits accuracy. What is the
advantage? The rifle is shorter, lighter, and considerably
easier to handle quickly. A Trapper may be carried slung across
the chest on a well made sling. The lever action rifle is short,
light, flat and friendly to either left or right hand use. The
Trapper models build upon this lightness and improve upon this
attribute even more. In short these are darned efficient little
the ranges at which the Trapper will be used are predictably
short, the loss of velocity from the short barrel doesnít mean
much. The .30-30 loses as much as two hundred feet per second
from the shorter barrel. The .44 Magnum gains considerably as
compared to a handgun. The .30-30 remains the long range
cartridge. Even though the barrel is shorter than the standard
20 inch rifle, the Trapper is still darned accurate to 100
yards. It is no mean feat to fire a three shot group that
averages four inches or so. This is with my favorite .30-30
load, the Winchester 150 gr. Power Point. The .44 Magnum won't
equal that standard. Six
inches at 100 yards is what we may expect from the .44 caliber
Trapper. Winchesterís 250 grain Silvertip is a first class
load that gives good effect on game per my research. As for
power, that is a good question. The .30-30 has more range. In my
experience, which includes dropping a 280 grain boar hog on its
butt with a single 240 grain JHP, while the .44 Magnum has more
knock down power to 25 yards or a little further. The Winchester
240 grain JHP breaks well over 1600 fps from the Winchester
Trapper. Thatís power. Frankly, if you are looking to be
shooting at ranges greatly exceeding one hundred yards, you
donít need a Trapper; you need a rifle with a 20-inch barrel.
this point, the sad fact is that both Trapper calibers are hard
to find. The .30-30 is the most common. I occasionally see a
short barrel Marlin of the Trapper length but they are also a
rarity. The Marlin has the tighter action. Correspondents in
Alaska tell me the Winchester is praised for its greater
reliability, and its open action as compared to the Marlin is
responsible for this. But the Marlin is the more accurate, and
we can prove that at the range.
I have been able to test, fire, and handle two good Trapper
rifles. The fact is either will put all of their shots into the
same hole at 25 yards or so. When the distance gets to fifty
yards more concentration is needed. In the brush or woods 50
yards may be a long shot. The Winchester lever action rifle is
fast into action and very slick in handling. It is true that the
pistol caliber lever action rifles have more leverage and that
faster manipulation is possible. These include the various
.357s, .44s and the .454 & .480 Ruger
Puma. But no one has ever accused the Winchester Model 94 in
.30-30 of being slow into action!
think that if I had the choice I would choose the .44 Magnum
trapper. The slightly greater speed due to the greater leverage
is one factor, but I simply like the .44 Magnum cartridge. I
have lots of brass and a Super
Blackhawk revolver. I have seen what the .44 Magnum will do.
But there is nothing wrong with the short .30-30.
Winchester doesnít have a feed ramp. The cartridge is spoon
fed into the chamber by means of a shell carrier. But just
because the lever action is feed reliable, you cannot be sloppy.
Both calibers demand care. The .30-30 rounds must be full length
resized. Neck sizing is not viable. In .44 Magnum a heavy crimp
is demanded. A medium or roll crimp that works with some
revolvers will not necessary feed in the Winchester. Care in
loading is needed. I donít think the 180 to 200 grain bullets
are best. I have used the Magnus cast 240 grain SWC for
practice, loaded to about 1,000 fps in the .44 Special case.
This would be a fine small game load. For serious use, the
Hornady 240 grain XTP is ideal. In .30-30 the 150 grain is the
ideal bullet. I use a good charge of IMR 3031 and all of my
loads are put up on RCBS dies.
short, the Trapper rifles are great rifles well worth your time
to appraise. While they are currently out of production like
other good Winchester lever action rifles occasionally we strike
gold and find a good used version. Good luck and good shooting.
Legacy Puma is a copy of the Winchester 92, but with modern
metallurgy. The Puma is chambered in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum,
and the mighty .454 Casull and .480 Ruger calibers. They are not
true Trappers, and they are not as slick as the Winchester. But
sometimes they are what we have. The Puma is a bit hard to sight
in properly, but this is true of pistol caliber carbines in
general at ranges of 100 yards or more. The .454 version is
brilliantly accurate with Cor Bonís DPX loading.
you want to keep shooting, support the NRA and the Second
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