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Mossberg 464 Lever Action Carbine

By Randy D. Smith

Mossberg 464
Illustration courtesy of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.

In case you havenít been paying attention, one firearms company has been engaged in dramatic product expansion during the last five years while so many others have been swallowed up and spit out by the competition. The O.F. Mossberg Company is one of the leading pump shotgun manufacturers in the world. Literally millions of Model 500 shotgun variations have been sold by the company. Mossberg has been around for a long time and has been known for reasonably priced, quality firearms. Some of you may not know that thousands of inexpensive bolt action shotguns, .22 rifles of all configurations and for a brief time in the 1970ís, a number of lever and bolt action center fire rifles were produced and sold by Mossberg. Many were branded for mass market merchandisers such as Montgomery Wardís (Westernfield) and Western Auto (Revelation). Many of my generation had a Mossberg for a first firearm.

My first shotgun was Dadís hand-me-down, bolt action 20 gauge, when he moved up to a Model 500. The first new rifle I ever bought with extra money from bucking hay bales was a Mossberg Palomino lever action .22. My first centerfire rifle was a .30-30 Mossberg Model 472 lever action carbine. Iíve carried it for nearly thirty-five years and it has harvested a wider variety of game in a broader range of hunting conditions than any firearm Iíve ever owned. It has never failed to deliver the goods.

In recent years, Mossberg reentered the centerfire rifle market with the economical, and I believe ground breaking, 100 ATR bolt action rifle. The 100 ATR is a push feed, blind box magazine rifle with a simple stock design and free floating button rifled barrel. It was initially offered in .30-06 and .270 calibers then a short action model in .308 and .243 came along a year later. I bought my .30-06 brand new for the princely sum of $260 and it remains one of the most accurate rifles Iíve ever owned. I later got a .243 100 ATR and it was responsible for more coyotes last season than all my other rifles combined. A lot of that was luck and a lot of it was because I simply preferred hunting with the simple, rugged and very accurate 100 ATR.

Mossberg recently expanded its bolt action centerfire rifle line with the addition of the 4X4, a detachable box feed, long action rifle with a unique stock design and the same bolt and trigger mechanism as the 100 ATR. I have an accurate 4X4 chambered in .25-06.

I was busy with these models and really didnít expect much else from Mossberg for a while when I caught word that the company was introducing a .30-30 lever action carbine. Visions of my old Model 472 came to mind, but I was wrong. Instead of resembling a Marlin 336 like my original, the Model 464 is far more reminiscent of the discontinued Winchester Model 94 AE Ranger. Like the inexpensive Model 94 Ranger, the 464 comes with a blued barreled action, 20" barrel and a walnut-finished hardwood stock.

I was able to get hold of one of the first Model 464ís. It arrived on my 60th birthday and I couldnít have been more pleased than if it was my 10th. I immediately changed my spring and fall hunting plans to include this rifle. Iím sure this begs questions from some of you. Why would a guy my age be so eager to hunt with a new .30-30 lever action carbine? Perhaps more to the point, why would a company even consider producing a new .30-30 lever action carbine in the face of modern day shooting trends toward bolt action and para military style semi-auto rifles?

The answer can be summed up in one innovation: Hornady LeverEvolution cartridges. These new loads have given a whole new life to tube feed lever action rifles because they use spitzer style, polymer tipped bullets and new powders to add an immediate point blank range increase of about fifty yards to most traditional lever action rounds. Iíve been testing LeverEvolution cartridges in my .45-70 Marlin Guide Gun and my Mossberg and Marlin 30-30 carbines. I also bought a Marlin 308 MX in .308 Marlin Express, a new round created specifically to give new life and flexibility to the traditional tube feed rifle. The LeverEvolution cartridge concept has revolutionized the capabilities of all of these rifles.

Hornady and Marlin came out with these rounds around the time Winchester announced plans to end production of the Model 94, which left Marlin temporarily alone in this market. To try to illustrate how much the LeverEvolution round has changed the buying habits of many shooters, I would like to cite the example of a local shootersí supply store where I do a lot of business. On any given day that store will have well over 100 used rifles on its rack. For years one section was devoted to lever action centerfire rifles and there were normally a number of .30-30ís gathering dust. Since the introduction of the LeverEvolution round that same store has never had more than a single .30-30 present when Iíve visited it and normally none at all. If you want a new lever action rifle, you are sometimes asked to wait for the next shipment. I waited several months for my Marlin .308 MX. This is not mere coincidence.

The traditional tube feed lever action carbine has always had a lot going for it. The rifle is light and handy. Recoil is minimal and people shoot it better. An open sight lever action .30-30 is nearly indestructible and a great wilderness rifle. The .30-30 cartridge is very accurate. The only factor that was pulling a lot of hunters away from the traditional lever action rifle was the .30-30 Winchesterís range and perceived power and Hornady's LeverEvolution ammunition is the answer.

Iíve been intrigued with the concept of a Scout (bolt action) rifle and the new .308 Marlin Express lever action will do everything a .308 Scout will do in a quicker firing, more compact and better balanced design. Really, all the Scout rifle could ever hope to do was duplicate the performance of a long range, compact, lever action rifle. Winchester isnít making the Model 94 anymore. Why wouldnít Mossberg jump to get in this market?

The Mossberg 464 is balanced nearly identically to the Model 94. It has a 20Ē round barrel and nearly identical stock dimensions. It has four traits that I believe are superior to the original Model 94. The ejection bolt is round with enough sidewall milled away to allow for side ejection. This round bolt handles the chambering and ejection of cartridges smoothly and quickly without the pause of the Model 94 or the slight delay that has always been present in the Browning BLR rack and pinion design. In other words, the 464 is as smooth as a Marlin with the balance of a Winchester.

Secondly, the Model 464 has a Mossberg shotgun style, tang mounted safety and single phase hammer design. It is quicker to access than the Marlin and easier to see. The safety can be quickly engaged with the thumb to empty the rifle or to take the rifle off safety without shifting the trigger finger. The mechanism still works but the safety blocks a rebounding hammer from fully engaging with the firing pin.

Thirdly, the trigger on my Mossberg is better than any tube feed lever action Iíve ever fired. Breakover is crisp and clean. This trait combines with the fourth feature to make this rifle extremely accurate.

The fourth is the open sights. Way back when I bought my original 472, one of the big reasons I preferred it over the Model 94 was its sights. The rear sight had a white diamond centered below the rear semi-buckhorn and a nicely sized ball mounted on the front blade. These were much better than the Winchesterís Spartan buckhorn and blade arrangement. They were so good that I was never tempted to replace them with aperture or scope sight systems. The Model 464 sights are nearly identical, except that the front sight ball is even more definitive than my original Mossberg. These are the best open sights for woods and brush country hunting conditions that I have ever used.

My 464 is very accurate. This is due to a combination of the trigger pull, sight configuration and overall solid features of the rifle. Using standard Federal 150 grain flat point loads, I can easily manage sub-two-inch groups at 100 yards from a rest. Thatís good performance from any rifle.

I decided to include the 464 on a spring Texas feral hog hunt. The .30-30 lever action is a nearly perfect feral hog rifle, especially in the thick brush of South Texas. Shots are often fleeting and at close range. Since I also took the 4X4 .25-06 for long range tower shooting, I sighted the 464 in for standard 150-grain Federal .30-30 rounds. I have several boxes and didnít feel the need to use LeverEvolution rounds for this hunt. My shooting distance in the thick mesquite is seldom over 50 yards.

The .30-30 lever action carbine is an excellent choice for hunting, camp and home defense, truck gunning, predator control and all-purpose ranch rifle duties. Ammunition is cheap, plentiful and powerful. Recoil is moderate and new the LeverEvolution rounds have only increased the .30-30ís versatility. If you are in the market for a lever action .30-30, I suggest that you look at the new Mossberg. From what Iíve seen so far it is a fine rifle and it carries an attractive price tag.

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Copyright 2008 by Randy D. Smith. All rights reserved.