I’ve probably said it too often, but my family was a shotgunning family. In about 1963, the first rifled longarm to enter a Boddington household since the Civil War was a Winchester Model 1894. I still have Dad’s ’94 (and my own as well). Millions of riflemen all across the country have at least one tubular-magazine saddlegun.
When Winchester ceased manufacturing in its New Haven plant a couple of years ago, much was made of the loss of the Model 70 bolt action. Yes, this was a blow, although I see it as more of a blow to our national pride than the actual availability of good bolt-action rifles. There are many good bolt guns, and, as we know, the Model 70 is now back in production.
I personally think the loss of the Model 94 was more serious, although certainly mitigated by the continuing availability of Marlins. For more than a century there have been some who prefer Marlins and some who prefer Winchesters, but it cannot be argued that a tubular-magazine lever action is a piece of Americana. Also, the slab-sided saddle gun was, is and shall always remain an extremely useful hunting rifle for so many applications. It’s light, short, handy, a joy to carry and a joy to shoot. It’s also fast, and while nobody is going to win at Camp Perry with a tubular-magazine lever gun, this type of rifle is plenty accurate for a great deal of the hunting that millions of Americans do. And its classic cartridge, the .30-30 Winchester, is plenty of gun for any deer that walks, provided ranges are short to medium. It’s also enough gun for other animals typically taken at short range such as black bear and wild hogs. This type of rifle has also been very affordable, a perfectly good “starter” deer rifle for millions of young hunters,and one that many seasoned hands, including me, often come back to.
So I see Mossberg’s Model 464 lever action as a most important new product, almost a landmark,and certainly a statement: American hunters need simple, traditional lever-action .30-30s, and now they have a new one.
At first glance the Model 464 looks very much like the Winchester 94. It has a 20-inch barrel and similar weight (6.7 pounds) and handling qualities, with a similar straight pistol grip and finger lever. Operation is identical, but there are significant differences. The 464 has a round bolt, although with the same rear lockup (which is plenty strong for the mild .30-30). There is also a sliding thumb safety on the tang. There’s no point in arguing the genuine utility for this; in these days of product-liability paranoia a manual safety is a political necessity. Since it has to be there, I really like the shotgun-style tang safety. It’s fast and positive, and for guys like me who grew up using rifles of this type without a manual safety, it’s much easier to remember than a crossbolt safety.
The action is smooth and certain and very familiar, as are the handling qualities. A couple of new wrinkles that I like very much: The Model 464 has a thin rubber buttpad. Today I don’t think of the .30-30 as being a heavy-recoiling cartridge, but I remember when I was 11 years old: It kicked. The rubber pad will help less experienced shooters, and for all of us it offers a much better non-slip surface than the hard buttplate more traditional on this kind of rifle. The right-hand top of the receiver is dropped a bit for side ejection, and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
In our scope era these features are clearly essential, and for many applications the .30-30 is more effective with a low-powered scope (just like everything else). However, there are some of us who prefer to use this type of lever-action with open sights, and there are some suitable hunting applications, such as hound hunting, where a scope isn’t required and may even be a detriment.
Which brings up the only complaint I have about the Mossberg Model 464. Its iron sights as supplied are not the best I’ve ever seen. The front is a blade with a gold bead, and it looks plenty sturdy. The rear is adjustable for windage and elevation, but it does not appear as sturdy as I would like. Also, properly nestling the gold-bead front in the small U-notch of the rear sight was a challenge for my middle-aged eyes. This problem is not unique with Mossberg; the majority of factory iron sights supplied today are flimsy affairs that seem more intended for decoration than actual use.
Perhaps most of us will scope this rifle. If so, this is a non-problem. But if you prefer to use iron sights you might consider a replacement rear sight, either an aperture or a more sturdy and visible rear sight. Reinforcing my theory that relatively few iron sights are intended to be used, out of the box my test sample printed two feet high at 50 yards. Windage, however, was perfect, so it was a simple matter to loosen a screw and move down the U-notch. Once done that was, accuracy was just fine, certainly plenty good enough for deer at any range that such sights could actually be used and, of course, for very close work. In short, I really like the 464, and I am really pleased that Mossberg stepped into what I believe to be a most serious void in American hunting rifles.