TRUE GRIT, BONANZA, AND GROWING UP IN THE SIXTIES
“Fill your hands you son of a bitch!” And with those words, a “one-eyed fat man” took on four outlaws with a Winchester lever gun and a Colt Single Action. Of course, the quote is from the 1969 movie True Grit and it is one of the most iconic scenes in John Wayne’s long career. The 2010 remake, with Jeff Bridges, was very well done and to many, is actually better than the original. My infatuation with lever guns came from a childhood where we watched Bonanza, The Rifleman, and Gunsmoke. The lever gun is the symbol of the American West and the hard men who used them.
With all of the advancements in firearms technology, it warms my heart that the lever gun is alive and well in 2023. If you don’t believe me, take a look at brands like Marlin, Winchester, Rossi, Uberti, and Chiappa. These companies offer a wide variety of models, in various calibers, to suit almost any need. In looking at the current offerings one company really caught my eye. Taylor & Company Firearms is based in, of all places, Winchester Virginia. Unlike the other companies listed, Taylor does not actually manufacture any firearms. Instead, they partner with existing companies, such as Chiappa and Uberti, to market and sell exclusive models.
THE ALASKAN TAKE-DOWN
One of the coolest models is the Alaskan take-down that is based on the Winchester 1892. The Alaskan is actually made for Taylor & Company by Chiappa Firearms. While available in .44 Magnum, I requested an Alaskan chambered in .357 Magnum. This was based on a number of reasons. First, I already had a good quantity of both .357 Magnum and .38 Special ammo in stock. Second, I really wanted a short 16” saddle carbine-size rifle. This .357 Magnum was just the ticket.
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While the action is based on the 1892 design, the Alaskan takes advantage of modern materials and manufacturing methods. Our test rifle featured a corrosion-resistant matte chrome finish and wood stock and forend that has a black rubber over mold coating. The coating protects the wood from the elements and provides a positive gripping surface in wet environments. The overall length of the Alaskan is 34.25” and it weighs 7 lbs. 5 oz.
THE ALASKAN DETAILS
The Alaskan reflects a lot of attention to the small things. There are no offending sharp edges on any part of the rifle. The action is extremely smooth and the trigger broke cleanly at 4 lbs. 2 oz. The loop on the lever is enlarged to allow for use with gloves, but not so large as to be cumbersome. The 16” octagon barrel is a nice feature but does increase the weight of the rifle.
The Alaskan features a fiber optic front sight that is paired with a Skinner peep aperture that is integrally mounted on a Weaver/Picatinny rail. The rail allows for the mounting of an extended eye relief magnified optic or a red dot. While I had a Trijicon RMR available, I selected to test the Alaskan in the factory configuration.
THE TAKE-DOWN FACTOR
Take-down rifles and shotguns have always intrigued me. The Alaskan was no exception! To take down the rifle, a retaining lever, located on the end of the magazine tube, is unlocked. This allows the magazine tube to be rotated counter-clockwise, unthreading it from the end cap of the barrel unit. With the magazine tube free from the receiver, the barrel is then rotated 90 degrees, allowing it to separate from the receiver. When broken down, the length of the stock and receiver is only 19”. This makes it ideal for transportation, or storage, in confined spaces. Taylor offers a take-down case at their website.
For those who are unfamiliar with lever guns, care must be taken concerning the selection of ammunition. Under recoil, a more pointed projectile can result in the detonation of a round in the magazine tube. Hornady makes a specific round for lever guns. Hornady LEVERevolution Ammunition is designed with a patented elastomer Flex Tip that is designed for safe use in tubular magazines. Unfortunately, this product was back ordered and was not available for this review.
I selected two .357 Magnum loads and one .38 Special +P load for this review. The two magnum loads were the Federal 158 gr. JSP and the Speer 158 gr. Gold Dot load. For situations where the magnum load may not be the best choice, I selected Speer’s .38 +P 125 gr. Gold Dot. As expected, the 16” barrel significantly enhanced the performance of all three loads. The Federal 158 gr. magnum load averaged 1,742 fps while the Gold Dot magnum averaged 1,680. The .38 +P Gold Dot averaged 1,155. All three rounds had a blunt face projectile that made it safe to shoot in the Alaskan.
ALASKAN ACCURACY TESTING
For accuracy testing, I shot from a bench using a sandbag. I found that the fiber optic front sight almost completely covered the B-8 repair center targets I was using. Even with this, my five-shot groups ranged between two and three inches. The data on the chart represents the best three of the five shots. I had forgotten how fun, and accurate, iron sights can be!
Traditionally, a rear peep sight is mounted close to the eye, giving a much wider field of view. The M-1 Garand is an example. I found the extended eye relief of the Skinner Peep sight to be an issue. The distance from my eye to the rear sight was 13”. I also had to really lower my cheek weld to center the front sight in the rear aperture. Under speed drills, I found myself losing the front sight post. I just didn’t find it fast or comfortable for me.
|Taylor Alaskan Take-Down Carbine|
|Manufacturer||Load||Average Velocity||Extreme Spread||Accuracy|
|Federal .357 Magnum||158 gr. JSP||1,742 fps||61 fps||1.54”|
|Speer . 357 Magnum||158 gr. GDHP||1,680 fps||82 fps||1.02”|
|Speer .38 +P||125 gr. GDHP||1,155 fps||29 fps||1.25”|
|Velocity measures at 10 ft/Accuracy Bench Rest from 50 Yards/Best 3 rounds|
BALLISTIC GEL RESULTS
I recently completed an article on the practical use of .22 LR and .22 WRM for personal defense. For this project, I used two blocks of ballistic-grade Clear Gel. I was interested to see the ballistic performance of the three loads we tested. To be fully transparent, these blocks still had the cavities from the .22 testing and had not been reconstituted. Because of this, I only shot one round per load. I did cover the blocks with four layers of denim. While not the perfect test, it did satisfy some of my curiosity. The results were very interesting.
|Taylor Alaskan Take-Down Carbine|
|Federal .357 Magnum||158 gr. JSP||1,740 fps||27”||.47”|
|Speer . 357 Magnum||158 gr. GDHP||1,680 fps||23.5”||.63”|
|Speer .38 +P||125 gr. GDHP||1,155 fps||13.5”||.56”|
The two magnum loads appear to be ideal for taking medium size game. For personal or home defense, I would probably select the .38 +P Gold Dot.
I was extremely impressed with the Alaskan. The quality and the finish were well worth the MSRP. As previously stated, the Skinner Peep Sight didn’t work well for me and I would prefer a more traditional rear sight. The other shortcoming I noticed was the lack of mounting points for a sling. That being said, the Alaskan is a super handy rifle that is perfect for hunting applications and personal defense, particularly in states with bans on “black rifles.”
If you enjoy classical Western firearms, check out all the options at Taylor & Company Firearms.
|Taylor & Company Alaskan Take-Down Carbine|
|Caliber Test||.357 Magnum|
|Weight||7 lbs. 5 oz.|
|Stock/Forend||Wood/Rubber Over Mold|
|Rear Sight||Skinner Peep Sight/Rail|
|Front Sight||Fiber Optic|