Brush Guns: Model 94 vs the AR Platform

Since the Model 94 is no longer in production and…

Since the Model 94 is no longer in production and the interest in AR-style rifles is on the rise, the Model 94’s reign as the premiere brush gun could be over. The author believes the AR is the rifle for the next generation.

In regards to rifles, I grew up in a transitional time period. I recall seeing Westerns on the big screen with heroes like John Wayne and later Sam Elliott toting Winchester Model 94s. The rifles were always handy, riding snugly in a weathered scabbard on a trusted saddle horse. When situations demanded the 94’s nimble frame allowed it to be pulled easily from the scabbard and put to good use instantaneously. The large capacity magazine and quick cycling of the Winchester created a formidable defense when called to action.

In reality the Model 94 also played a large role in my youth. When I was finally old enough to tag along on hunts for wily mountain whitetails the experience played out in South Dakota’s famous Black Hills. Despite my father not being a diehard hunter, he still followed tradition and purchased a gun to handle the mismanaged, dense timber of the “Hills.” My grandfather influenced his choice.

What was their rifle of choice? It was without question the time-tested Model 94. The short, light rifle equipped with open sights allowed any hunter to track the speedy escape of a whitetail in the overgrown ponderosa canopy. As an aspiring hunter, I longed to tote around a lever action to bag my first whitetail.

As much as I yearned to be a Winchester-toting cowboy, in blaze orange or a 10-gallon hat, I was also drawn to another rifle on the big screen. A few years later Vietnam war movies began filling theatres. It was in this real-time theatre of war that the M-16 automatic rifle saw its first indisputable test. In the beginning U.S. soldiers hated the new “plastic” rifle, but with care and upgrades soldiers began to embrace its simple qualities and rugged character. Rambo movies and Chuck Norris’ character in the Missing In Action flicks portrayed the firepower possible with an M-16 and an ample cache of magazines.
Short and nimble, the M-16 was at home in the dense jungles of Southeast Asia. In an instant it could be brought to the shoulder, aimed and engage the enemy during a close-range firefight, or precisely pick off guerrillas hidden across a muggy glade. It’s no wonder that this rifle has endured decades of deployment and its ancestors continue service to this day, more than eight million at last count.

Today there’s a huge change brewing in deer camps around the country. With the end of production for the Model 94 in 2006 and the rising interest in AR-style rifles, could the reign of the Model 94 as the premiere brush gun be over? I’ve got to believe it might be for the next generation. It might be impossible to persuade traditionalists, especially those of the baby boomer era, to put down their lever-action brush guns. But for Generation Y, an AR rifle has all the qualities to overcome point-blank shooting conditions. It’s short, sleek and available in a range of brush-busting calibers. Rail systems allow you to equip an AR with a variety of optics and accessories, and swap them out with a moment’s notice. An AR rifle might just be your next brush gun.

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  • Brad

    The Model 94 in 30-30 is a favorite of mine.
    As a kid I used my father’s Remington Model 600 in .243 and other bolt action rifles in our arsenal. My first centerfire purchase was the Model 94. It was post-64 but was a beauty to carry and shoot. Nearly perfect balance.
    As time went on I aquired a couple of pre-64 Model 94’s in great working condition.
    I’m not a fan of the .223 caliber, especially on medium sized game. I just like a heavier, bigger bullet. The 30-30 in 170G for deer will bring them down fast with a nice clean shot.
    Black bear as well.
    And if it’s a concern in this politically correct world, carrying an old lever action in the bush will get you less of a stare from the flower picking nature hiker than packing an AR-15 will.

  • Jeff

    I took my first elk and mule deer with a model 94 .30-30 with a 180 grain round nose soft point. There is no way I would even attempt that with an AR platform in .308. Maybe the mule deer but he was a large bodied 6×5 that went down with one shot while on the move. I just don’t see it. I own a Remington 700 in .308 and while accurate and can handle 170 grain bullets, I just don’t think it would have the same stopping power for elk. Whitetail? OK. But smaller caliber guns in brush and you’re asking for trouble. Give me the 94.