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Marlin .444 project #13472282 01/20/19
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pabucktail Offline OP
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Trying this thread again now that I've got the picture thing figured out......

Years ago I bought a Marlin 30TK .30-30, a relatively rare model of the 336 made for Kmart from 1988-90. Basically they're a .30-30 guide gun with an 18.5" barrel and 3/4 magazine. Wonderfully trim and handy, they seem to have developed a bit of a cult following among Marlin fans. I really liked mine. These rifles were made with lighter barrels and thinner forends than seems to be typical for most variations of the 336. The problem was power, I needed more! I've long enjoyed Marlin lever actions but could never find one which really filled the bill. 1895/guide gun .45-70s were too fat in both barrel and forend for my tastes. The little TK handled great and was a joy to carry but a .30-30 isn't exactly the cartridge I want to count on when hiking salmon streams or blowing a deer call around here. Prior experience with JES reboring made me decide this TK needed sent down to Cottage Grove for re-education to something more suitable.

Research indicated the .444 was a the cartridge for me as it would allow the most bullet diameter out of that svelte barrel contour. Brass and bullets are readily available. When loaded with heavy bullets you get suitable power and have better trajectory than with the .45-70. The conversion involves more than just a rebore/rechamber. Modifications are required to ensure reliable feeding and ejection. The extra work raises the price from his normal $250 to $325. I also specified a 1/20 twist since I plan to shoot bullets no lighter than 300 grains. I sent the rifle off in early December. A mere 17 days later I had it back, no longer a .30-30!

[Linked Image]

The next concern was wood. The TKs were made with birch stocks. Yuck! One day rummaging through a junk bin at the local gun store I came across an old Marlin forend for $5 and snatched it up. Then I obtained a semi-finished buttstock from Boyds. Fitting the butt was the first job I took on. I got it fitted easily by smoking the metal with a candle to show the contact points and then removing the wood until it fit. Come to find out, the Boyds stock was a bit lacking. Below you can see where they took off too much wood around the front of the inlet where the wood meets the receiver, which caused some gaps. Also, the hole they drilled for the tang screw was off. Oh well, part of the fun of projects like this is figuring out how to solve unexpected problems. One solution to this would've been drilling the hole out to 3/8"s, gluing in a dowel section and then re-drilling the hole. As it turned out however, once I drilled the hole to 3/8" the tang screw was able to line up with the bottom hole just fine. Then I glassed the entire inlet for strength and to fill in the gaps.

[Linked Image]

Now that I've figured out how to post pics if there's interest I'll keep this thread running with how things progressed.

Barrett Fieldcraft™ - Hunting Rifle of the Year!

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13472298 01/20/19
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KenMi Online Content
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And you got away from the factory 1 in 38" twist.

I did hear they might switch to 20" on the new 444

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13472319 01/20/19
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elkhunternm Offline
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When will you be able to shoot it?


Take your responsibilites seriously,never yourself-Ken Howell


Ken
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13472360 01/20/19
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pabucktail Offline OP
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I had to get the new wood fitted. I bloodied it a few days ago.

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: KenMi] #13472398 01/20/19
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Landrum Offline
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Originally Posted by KenMi
And you got away from the factory 1 in 38" twist.

I did hear they might switch to 20" on the new 444


Back in the late 90s Marlin started making the 444 SS with Ballard rifling instead of microgroove and sped the twist up to 1-20", if I remember correctly.

Alpha

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13472732 01/20/19
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moosemike Online Content
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Good choice. I've had the Marlin in 45-70 and 450 Marlin and they're both down the road now. If I feel the need for another it will be a 444.


Just as we can see little reason for the 410 gauge to be used afield, so can we see little reason for a big husky man to carry a little 20 or 16 bore when he has the strength to handle the 12 perfectly. -Elmer Keith
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13472877 01/20/19
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Tyrone Offline
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Dude, that is too sweet. I'd like to see some full-length pics when you get it done.
Nothing like having exactly what you want.


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Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13473169 01/20/19
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Originally Posted by pabucktail
I had to get the new wood fitted. I bloodied it a few days ago.

Congrats! What did you shot?


Take your responsibilites seriously,never yourself-Ken Howell


Ken
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475600 01/20/19
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pabucktail Offline OP
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After getting the butt stock fitted it was time to do the forend. This was a special concern for this rifle. There seems to be consensus amongst people smarter than I that the recoil generated by big bore Marlins is just too much for the single screw banded style forend. I found tales of bent screws and split wood. I believed this since the big bores come from the factory with cap style forends rather than bands, and upon disassembly I found the single screw on my rifle had been bent by .30-30 recoil. The remedy was to fit a tenon in the barrel and shape the forend for a cap. I ordered the tenon and cap from Brownells.

Cutting a dovetail is simple and straight forward. The internet is full of helpful videos of how to do it. Regardless, hacking into a perfectly good barrel I just paid good money to have customized was scary! I used a dremel to buzz away the teeth from one side of a triangle file in order to make a safe side. After eyeballing it alot and thinking if over I decided upon a relatively short forend. It turned out it was to be centered on the half round groove the factory put there as a relief for the original forend screw to pass through. I marked out the length of the cut based on the width of the tenon and then filed until the depth down to that of the groove the factory put there. Here it is half way done.

[Linked Image]

After getting the depth right I used the safe side file to relieve the sides, making sure the work progressed evenly on each side. Once the work progressed enough that the tenon went about half in I set it with a mallet and it was done. Relief!

[Linked Image]

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475656 01/20/19
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Next up was hacking some wood. First I cut the old forend to length

[Linked Image]

Then I had to relieve the wood in order to shape the section which fits under the cap. It was easier for me to do this as a bigger piece than smaller and I wanted to leave myself plenty to work with. I carefully laid out the area of wood to be removed and then made a preliminary cut with a coping saw around the forend. Then I used a rasp to relieve it down to the dimension it would have to be for the section of wood that would be under the cap.The pencil line in this pic shows the thickness I took it down to.

[Linked Image]

Once this was done I cut off most of what was thinned out in order to begin fitting the cap. This allowed the forend to slip into place and I began fitting the cap to the wood by using the same color transfer method as with the butt stock. This part was boring and seemed to take five lifetimes to accomplish.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Bravo

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475715 01/20/19
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Here's the forend nearly in. You can see the holes in the cap don't quite yet line up with the holes in the tenon. You get the idea. Two more lifetimes of color transfer and chiseling and it was fitted.
[Linked Image]

Next came thinning that chubby thing down. I don't know who out there enjoys these giant forends Marlin put on their wares, but it's not me. It's remarkable how much difference in feel you can accomplish by taking off an eighth of an inch here or a sixteenth there. The first part of this process was determining exactly how much thinner I wanted it and then rasping the bottom down to a level flat in order to create a known. Once that was done I rasped the top of the forend, next to the barrel channel down to its final thickness. Then I rasped another parallel flat on either side of the bottom flat. Only then did I begin rasping the entire forend, rounding things off to join the flats and take them from flat to round. Important! Be sure to leave a smidge of extra wood in order to account for final sanding. You can also see the black acraglas in the wood under the cap. I had to glass bed the barrel channel because the TK barrel is skinnier than the barrel this forend was originally used with. In the process I gunked some epoxy all over the end cap inlet and just went with it.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475836 01/20/19
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powdr Online Content
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Come on Bucktail...don't leave us hanging. powdr

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475866 01/20/19
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By now the end, and killing something with this thing was tangible. In short order I had the final sanding and whiskering done. Normally I would choose an oil finish but in this case I had to get things done and get hunting before the close of the season. After using Art's walnut stain and filler and started finishing with Tru-oil. I'm sure it will serve decently enough. The rifle felt good in hand and the weight was ideal for what I wanted.

[Linked Image]

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13475923 01/20/19
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pabucktail Offline OP
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To me, a rifle such as this one is at its best equipped with good iron sights. In its former life as a .30-30 I'd equipped the rifle with a vintage Redfield peep and XS front featuring a white stripe. It works well and I couldn't see fit to change things. The only suitable bullets on hand were 300gr Beartooth WFNs and Hornady 300gr XTPs. I'd already researched loads and had ammo loaded. Off to the range! Range day was a mixed bag. Good news: The rifle is accurate with various loads. I shot it at 75 and four shot groups were close to touching with both bullets. Bad news: I couldn't get the chrony to read. Velocity is surely over 2000fps but beyond that I cannot say until I get to the range again.The newest issue of Handloader had a Pet Loads write up by Brian Pearce. Based on his data I settled on H322 for the 300 grainers. Later this year I will try some heavy cast bullets and 300gr A-frames.

I'm suspicious that 2000+ fps will be a bit much for the Hornady to have great penetration. Therefore, when I went sneaking through the woods a few days ago the WFNs were standing by. I got into some great sign at about 200 feet of elevation above the beach and slowed down. After a bit a big bodied deer stood up out of its bed at 15 yards, ran out to 30, and then turned around to see what got his attention. Bad for him, he stopped with enough of his chest exposed for me to get a bullet into him at a pretty steep quartering away angle. With one jump he was out of sight. Let me tell you, a WFN at this velocity leaves a blood trail. I found him piled up about forty yards away. The bullet drove through a very full stomach, holed the lungs and took off the top of the heart. The exit wound was easily 1.5". As he fell.........Capital I say!

[Linked Image]

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476174 01/21/19
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Enjoyed following your project wriite up progress with a great ending....congrats on the buck.

Last edited by doctor_Encore; 01/21/19.
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476190 01/21/19
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elkhunternm Offline
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Thanks for write up Pabucktail.


Take your responsibilites seriously,never yourself-Ken Howell


Ken
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476199 01/21/19
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moosemike Online Content
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Excellent work!


Just as we can see little reason for the 410 gauge to be used afield, so can we see little reason for a big husky man to carry a little 20 or 16 bore when he has the strength to handle the 12 perfectly. -Elmer Keith
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476206 01/21/19
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beretzs Offline
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Great rifle build. The 444 is a good one. Yours looks perfect for carrying.


Semper Fi
Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476371 01/21/19
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I like it!

Re: Marlin .444 project [Re: pabucktail] #13476388 01/21/19
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Justahunter Online Content
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Yep... pretty awesome!

Todd

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