On a recent post (Winter Ramble Firearms) on this forum, we discussed various options for off-season rambling rifles, including compact level-action rifles like the Winchester M94 Trapper and the Marlin 1894C.
Today, one of the most common custom variations on such handy lever guns is the size of the lever. There’s the standard lever, custom mid-sized levers and what is commonly referred to as Big Loops. Everyone seems to have an opinion as to which loop size is better on a lever-action rifle.
<span style="color: #990000">I’m curious what those of you who have experience with lever guns prefer – standard levers, mid-sized levers or Big Loops – and WHY?</span>
The history of Big Loops on the Winchester Model 94 is interesting. The first modern factory Model 94 Big Loop I can find appeared on the John Wayne Commemorative Model 94 Carbine offered by Winchester in 1982 (I have every Winchester catalog from 1960 to 2008 and have used those catalogs as my source). Here’s the cover of the 1982 Winchester catalog depicting that special Big Loop rifle.
That 1982 John Wayne rifle featured a pewter-plated receiver, Old-West engraving, 18.5-inch barrel and a distinctive Big Loop. The 1982 catalog copy said of the rifle, “A unique feature is the oversized bow on the lever, introduced by John Wayne in the movie ‘Stagecoach’ and popularized in all of his Western movies.” The catalog went on to say that the John Wayne Commemorative is being offered “in a limited edition of fifty thousand” rifles.
The very next year, 1983, Winchester offered the first Wrangler Model 94, which was essentially a Trapper model with a Big Loop. While both the Trapper Model 94 and the Wrangler Model 94 sported 16-inch barrels, only the Wranglers ever had a factory Big Loop. The Trapper model was sold through its entire run (1980 to 2006) with a standard-size loop. As far as I can tell, if it had a factory Big Loop it was a Wrangler.
In 1983, the first year of the Wrangler with its distinctive Big Loop, the rifle was offered in .32 Special only. In 1984 and 1985, the Wrangler was offered only in .38-55 Winchester. Then, suddenly, the Wrangler was temporarily discontinued. Between 1986 and 1991, no Wrangler models were offered by Winchester.
In 1992, the Wrangler and its Big Loop was re-introduced and offered in .30-30 Winchester and 44 Magnum until 1998. This photo showing both the Trapper and the Wrangler models is from the 1993 Winchester catalog.
In 1999, the Wrangler was offered in .30-30, 44 Magnum and 45 Colt. In 2000, the Wrangler and its distinctive Big Loop was again discontinued and never offered again.
All that means that Winchester offered a Wrangler Big Loop Model 94 just 11 model years, plus the original 1982 John Wayne Commemorative offering. And yet, those offerings apparently sparked considerable and ongoing interest in levers of various sizes and shapes for a wide variety of Winchester and Marlin lever-action rifles.
In the recent Kifaru post I mentioned above are two examples of that continued loop-size interest. In that post, Nake indicated that he added a Big Loop to his otherwise standard .30-30 Winchester Model 94. And OzarkRambler switched out the factory lever on his Marlin Model 336 for a David Clay mid-sized lever.
OK you two guys, <span style="color: #990000">why did each of you make that lever change to your rifle? </span>
I’ve been shooting Winchester lever-action rifles on and off for over 40 years. At age 12, I shot my very first deer with a borrowed Winchester Model 1892 in .32-20, and have owned a used various Winchester Model 94s ever since. But in all that time, I’ve never hunted with or really carried a lever gun with a Big Loop. I have to admit that I’m curious how the Big Loops compare to the standard loops in terms of function and carry-ability. I can see where they would work well when wearing heavy gloves, but what about bare handed? And do Big Loops make the rifle more cumbersome to carry and/or pack?
By the way, that .32-20 Winchester Model 1892 I borrowed all those years ago had an octagon barrel that seemed to me to be as long and as heavy as a fence post. One bright opening day, a Wisconsin whitetail buck stopped broadside on the edge of an alder swamp. He was just 40 yards away from my slightly-elevated perch on a fallen tree. I aimed VERY carefully at this chest and hit him square in the neck, dropping him as dead as a rock right on the spot. Best shot I ever made.
Again, <span style="color: #990000">what do the rest of you prefer on lever guns – standard levers, mid-sized levers or Big Loops – and why?</span> All opinions and discussion welcome.