NOR ABOUT GUNS

While Cold Morning Shadow is avowedly not about cars, neither is it a book about guns. A few make their appearance, though. The one given the most space is Lionel’s Winchester model 1894 chambered for .30-30 cartridges.

Lionel puts this rifle to good use in the early chapters of the book.

The Winchester model 1894

The lever action Marlin 336 and Winchester 94 are the two best selling sporting rifles in history. The John Browning-designed Winchester model 94 lever-action rifle in .30-30 Winchester was the first commercial hunting rifle to fire a cartridge that used smokeless gunpowder. This was a huge advancement in firearms technology, but the M94 (model 94 for the year it came out, 1894) was not initially chambered in .30-30.

Originally chambered for .32-40 and .38-55 (bullets of .32 and .38 of an inch) propelled by black powder, it wasn’t until the next year, 1895, when Winchester offered the rifle with a new, stronger barrel mated with a new cartridge packed with a .30 caliber bullet propelled by 30 grains of smokeless powder, never suspecting that the name .30-30 would become the most recognizable designation for a rifle in U.S. history.

The same year, 1895, Winchester also offered a .25-35 version of the same rifle. That never caught on like the .30-30 and is a scarce collector’s item today.

The original .30-30 load pushed a 160-grain bullet at 1,970 feet per second out the muzzle. As better powders were created, velocity gradually increased until reaching today’s velocities of around 2,330 fps with a 170-grain bullet and 2,450 fps with a 150-grain projectile. Most hunting rounds in 1895 flew at 1,200 to perhaps 1,600 fps.

The .30-30 also helped introduce jacketed bullets into the marketplace. As velocities approached 2,000 fps, pure lead bullets began to peel during their ride down the barrel. This fouled bores and compromised energy. Wrapping a jacket of copper, brass, or gilding metal around the lead core fixed that. It also addressed the excessive expansion of soft lead slugs striking their targets at high velocity. Longer, heavier, and thicker jackets gradually perfected a balance between expansion and penetration.

The M94 in .30-30 has proved itself as an ideal brush rifle for deer hunting, but not for the reasons many think. A bullet from the .30-30 is no better or worse than one from any other popular deer cartridge at busting through brush to reach the target. Neither its velocity nor its flat or round nose prevents limbs and brush from deflecting it from its course. Rather, the M94 lever-action rifle is so light, quick, handy and fast to cycle another round that most users can get on target and hit quickly. The relatively mild recoil of the .30-30 prevents flinching, too. These attributes, not magical brush cutting, are the real reasons the M94 in .30-30 Winchester has sold more than eight million units and put more deer meat on the table than any other rifle/cartridge combination in history.

While it’s not mentioned in Cold Morning Shadow, it’s worth adding a few words about the Marlin model 336, just for comparison. Both are ambidextrous firearms, unlike the M16, for instance, or any bolt-action rifle. The 336 was first seen in 1948 or 1949, an upgrade from the model 36 of 1936, itself based on a lever-action design by John Marlin introduced in 1893 and also originally chambered in .32-40 and .38-55. (How long those two names, Winchester and Marlin, have been competing head-to-head, or muzzle-to-muzzle!)

When we talk about the ammo and refer to it as .30-30 Winchester, it’s true that any company can make the gun, but the ammunition is still named for the company that originated it, whether the ammo is sold by Remington or Federal or Winchester or Hornady and whether the rifle is made by Marlin or Henry or Savage or Winchester or others. Something over six million rifles have been made in Marlin’s 336 lineup (now sold in .30-30 and .35 Remington) and at least eight million units of Winchester’s model 94.

Chapters One and Two

The first two guns mentioned, however, appear one in Chapter One and in Chapter Two. While swigging Royal Crown Cola beside pickup truck parked at the curb, Cyleine and Garnette discuss the Marlin model 90 over-and-under shotgun in 16 gauge that they see hanging across the truck’s rear window. The gun in the story features two triggers, one for each barrel, and was sold in a variety of gauges.

Marlin model 90

In Chapter Two, Garnette gives herself a tour of the Comosh family’s barn. Hanging high on the wall, appearing to be stuck there by its own rusty crust, is a long buffalo gun. Garnette has no clue of its identity except that the board that it’s clinging to has “1874 Sharps” hand-lettered under the gun. The 1874 model is named for Christian Sharps who, from 1848 to 1881, designed many of the long guns that were popular in the Old West.

1874 Sharps buffalo gun, probably in .50-90 caliber as seen in the story — (reproduction manufactured by Shiloh Sharps of Big Timber, Montana)

Handguns in the book

We find out that Lionel also sometimes carried a double-action Smith & Wesson model 29 revolver with a six-inch barrel, chambered in .44-magnum, pictured here.

Lionel’s younger sister, Cyleine, we learn, owned a .22-caliber Colt Woodsman when she was young but by her late teens she had moved up to a double-action Smith & Wesson model 27 in .357-magnum, also with a six-inch barrel, pictured first, below. It strongly resembles Lionel’s revolver, for good reason, while the Colt, which is not a revolver, is better described as a pistol.

The story makes it clear that others in the family of these two siblings also own firearms, but no other details are given about those. We know only that they exist.

Two more rifles

In the second half of the book, two more rifles briefly make an appearance. Wilton, at one point, is carrying both an M16A1 and a Chinese Type 56 AK-47 at the same time. Here they are:

The American M16 (left or above) was chambered for a 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge while the Chinese-made Автома́т Кала́шникова fired 7.62x39mm ammunition. But you’ll need to read the book to discover the circumstances around Wilton’s exploits with the two automatic rifles.

In fact, you’ll have to read the book to learn how any of these firearms plays a part in the story.

Start reading the novel right away with Kindle instant preview here. (No need to own a Kindle device for this preview.)

=David A. Woodbury=

See the author’s other titles at DamnYankee.com.