It’s 1991: Nirvana is blowing up on the radio, people are flocking to see Terminator 2 and Independence Day and you are looking for a new general-purpose rifle. You head down to the local gun store and see a pump action carbine in 357 Mag on the rack.
It’s the Timber Wolf carbine from Israeli Military Industries (IMI), the coolest rifle you have never heard of. There is not a ton of specific information out there on the Timber Wolf but it was imported by Action Arms in 357/38 and later by Springfield Armory in both 357 and 44 Mag. Approximately 500 were brought into the US before IMI halted production; most people suspect that it was due to slow sales.
The rifle featured an 18-inch barrel, 10 round tubular magazine, a weaver rail was integral to the receiver, and the stock could be removed without tools for compact storage, all weighing only 6.1 pounds. In the early nineties, they sold for about $300. Around 2011 you could find them for $500-600. Currently, the 357s go for close to $2000 and the 44s tend to sell for $3500 and up.
People that own or have shot a Timber Wolf love them. Light, fast, accurate, low recoiling, and simple. The trigger and lifter design is very similar to a Remington 870 shotgun but scaled down for the pistol cartridges. The rifle included a basic set of notch and post-iron sights with a rear that is adjustable for various ranges.
I can run a pump rifle a lot faster than I can run a lever gun. I suspect most people are the same. But to most gun owners in the US, pumps are simply not as cool or as stylish as a lever action. I think that is part of the reason for the Timber Wolf’s demise. But I put a lot more emphasis on function vs. form so I prefer the pump action for speed.
Three key features set the Timber Wolf apart from other rifles of its era. First is the stock. On the left side of the receiver is a large thumbscrew with a slot for a quarter. Loosen the screw and you can pull the stock off the rifle for easy storage in a backpack or small bag. The screw is also retained by the receiver so it won’t fall out and get lost. The mounting interface of the stock also allows you to alter how much it drops. This great feature lets you get a proper cheek weld when using an optic without the need for a cheek riser.
Unlike takedown lever action rifles, you can leave the mag tube on the Timber Wolf loaded when removing the stock and it will fire with the stock removed. This puts it light years ahead of a takedown lever action for quick deployment from a backpack.
The last key feature is the receiver itself. Machined into the top of the receiver is a weaver rail. No clunky clamp on the rail or set screws that can loosen, it is part of the receiver itself. Weaver rails are pretty old school these days but you can use Picatinny rings and mounts on a Weaver rail so it is still relevant today.
The tube mag limits you to flat-nosed bullet shapes for the most part. But the Timber Wolf performs amazingly well with Horandy’s LEVERevolution ammo. The bullets use a rubbery tip that won’t set off primers in the tube. The pointy bullet shape gives you much slipperier bullets with higher BCs (Ballistic Coefficient) which allow you to shoot farther. The 140gr FTX ammo chronoed at 1800 fps using a Labradar. That is a hell of a lot more energy than you can get from a typical 147gr 9mm round, 973 ft-lbs at the muzzle for the 357 vs. 308 ft-lbs for a typical 147gr 9mm fired from an 8-inch barrel. The slippery FTX bullets stay supersonic to 215 yards and drop less than 20 inches at 200 yards with a 50-yard zero.
I was able to hit a 10-inch diamond steel target about 75% of the time using an older Aimpoint Comp XD with a 10 MOA dot. With that kind of accuracy, shooting a 2 or 4-legged predator inside 100 yards is simple and is still very doable at 200 yards. Though I prefer a red dot for most rifles inside 200 yards the Timber Wolf is an ideal host for a 1-4 LPVO optic. With a 1-4 it routinely produces 3 shot groups at 100 yards under 2 MOA.
What is the Timber Wolf good for these days? It is perfect for a truck/ranch gun; it’s a good lightweight hunting rifle for appropriately sized game; it’s also a great plinker that can use cheaper 38 special ammo. It also has a wide range of uses as a defensive rifle. It has more power and range than a 9mm pistol or PCC and it is also more accurate.
The one use that many will overlook is a rifle for travel in non-free states such as California. It is made of walnut and blue steel, has no scary features like a bayonet lug, no detachable magazine, and it’s manually operated, so it should be legal in even the most restrictive states. Keep in mind that this is not legal advice; you should still consult local laws and do your own research, or better yet, consult a lawyer.
The ability to quickly remove or install the stock for compact carry is another great feature for a defensive rifle.
Today, tactical lever guns are all the rage, which makes the Timber Wolf more relevant than ever. I would really like to see some gun company make an updated version. The patents and other IPs should all be expired meaning anyone can copy it. I’m looking at you Ruger, Mossberg, Henry, and Savage. Keep the 357 and 44 but also add 9mm and 10mm options. Update the Weaver rail to a Picatinny rail and thread the barrel for use with a suppressor. Sell it for under $1000 and in my opinion, you will have a winner.
Would you buy a modern Timber Wolf?
I sure would!
IMI Timber Wolf Specs:
Caliber .357 Magnum/.38 Special or .44 Magnum
Capacity 10 rounds for all calibers
Length 37 inches
Length without stock 24.5 inches
Weight 6.1 pounds
Barrel 18 inches
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My most awesome fun gun. Makes 357 hit very hard. With a slide action you never have to lift off target, just keep slamming and firing. Tip, this gun does not like being babied, it ejects best if you work it moderately hard, not gentle. It also has a very very thick target style barrel that is very accurate. Annie Oakley would have loved this rifle.
I own a 357 version and love it. Hope to find a 44 mag too. Great little gun, loads of fun to shoot.
I got lucky in the 90’s and picked up a bunch of them. They are better than anyone realizes. My research shows many more than 500 sold. As I understand it the 38/357 numbers were in the several thousand range, while the 44 was in the 500-1000 range. One 44 I have is NIB. I topped a couple with period-correct Aimpoint 5000 2x which makes for a fantastic brush gun and plinker. I grew up on slide/pump action everything (.22 Winchester pump, Ithaca Model 37 Pump, Rem 760 Pump). Never had a feeding or mechanical issue with any, but one weak point was the wrist of the stock. they were not as sturdy as I’d like. Found a bunch of stocks and other parts years ago just in case. I agree – if someone (Henry!!) came out with an updated version with the options you listed, I’d buy without hesitation. Accurate and quick handling. An OG PCC for sure. Great article. Thanks for writing about them!!
Yes in 44 Mag or 45 LC. Have looked for one for years.
I definitely would buy one for deer, coyotes and self defense. .44 Mag would be ideal for both. And not “scary” looking!
Yes I might very well buy one. I have a Rossi lever action in 38/357 that is so much fun (and Cheap!) to shoot. You are right on the speed of a pump. I have to single load my 38 and 357 double based wadcutters because they don’t feed and I am sure this would be the same with this rifle. (I have to use up older ammo this way.) Everything else feeds fine.
Having a quick firing 357 with a 10 rounds makes it a potent home defense weapon. Especially if you handload as you can really load some loads that make pistol rounds look mild. (Using safe loading practices of course!)
Let me know when they start making them again.
Reading the comments make me wonder though????
Might as well adapt it to take Desert eagle mags.
Have the stock hold a couple of those mags.
Pump shot guns do it and Desert eagles aren’t known for “jamming”.
I own both the 357 and the 44, and I love them both equally well. I hunt and plink with both, and ill never part ways with either one.
I sold mine in 38/357 because it just would never feed correctly. 110gr , 125 and 158, in both solid and hollow points all hung up more than they fed.
Would much rather have a pump .357 over the lever action I as m now using. Yes a pump is faster than a lever .
I would love a stainless pump gun in 44 mag (or better yet .454 Casul) with a 16.25 inch barrel. Would make a great back country defensive rifle and would fit nicely in a scabbard on horseback. I can’t see a reason why any manufacturer currently making a pump .410 shotgun couldn’t come up with a modern take on the Timberwolf.
Awesome concept. I have a Taurus Lightning in .357. It is definitely superior to a lever action. I used it for Cowboy Action Shooting a couple times (It is legal for CAS). The purists did not like it at all, but one shooter asked where she could get one. They were discontinued by then. Regarding the Timberwolf, I do not need the integral scope mount. I do not need the takedown feature. What I’m trying to say is that a good quality pump rifle could be reasonably priced without those features. Where is Henry? Where is Taurus and Rossi? Where is Remington (I know. They’re still in disarray right now.)? Your 30-06 M760s you paid $500 for are going for over $1,000 now. Want a .308 or .243 pump? Probably $2,000 if you can find one. The market is ripe for pump rifles. Stay safe.
I have owned 2 – 357’s and 1 – 44. I sold them all because I found them not to be as sturdy as my Marlin lever guns. I also found them harder to load at the loading gate than the Marlins. They are an interesting firearm but not superior in usefulness to the lever guns of similar caliber.
These were originally intended as ‘patrol rifles’ to be paired with the revolvers carried by police at the time. And then came the era of the wonder nines and the Timber Wolf’s fate was sealed. Authors numbers on imports are incomplete, there were nearly 10K import in total. Most were 38/357 with about 1,500 in 44/44Mag of which there were approx 500 44/44M in stainless steel. I know of no 38/357 in SS. The rear sight ladder is calibrated for 158gr 357M with each step equal to 50 meters distance. I don’t know about the 44 steps. Differences between 357 and 44 are bore and mag tube inner diameter, bolt face and roll marks. Barrel length and outer diameter are the same for both.
I have two(2) of the 357 models, one with all the original paperwork, owners manual and box. (not for sale)
Pretty cool outfit.
One suggestion though would be to offer it with a threaded muzzle from the factory.
Also, looks more like a $600 or so rifle to me.
I knew these were special but it seems they are far more ‘special’ than I knew. I happen to own one of each.
Im a sucker for slide action rifles. I have them , Remington’s in 22 to 30-06. Back in the mid ’90’s I had a Timber Wolf in my greasy little hands but put it back on the rack as I was into Ruger “boat paddle” rifles at the time. Ahhh…..regrets.
I had one ( wish I had kept it , if only for better resale price ). I WANTED to like it. But, it wasn’t very accurate , the stock had too much wiggle/sideplay (even with aluminum tape shimming). I also heard , one of the reasons it was stopped from import, was the takedown stock. Feds banned it’s import.
Couldn’t afford one when they were available Eventually bought lever rifles in 357 and 45 Colt . Recently wrote to Mr. Imperato of Henry Rifles , asking him to look into production of a pump action in 357 , 44 , 45 and 350 Legend .
If you build it , we will come …
I believe the western style pumps with long barrels ( Lightning ?) are being made by Italian makers.
JD If Mr. Imperato builds them, with their 22 pump already in service I would have all 22, 357 and 44 mag. Would say they might even have twins of each one in the safe. Have 2 of everything and your good to do!
$3,500?! I had the opportunity to pick one of these up in 44 mag back in the mid 90’s. Great. Something else to regret.
The gun that comes to mind that is similar is the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 in .40 S&W. with that longer barrel it has greater energy at 50 yards than a .357 magnum has the muzzle of a revolver.