Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Gunday: In Defense of Tube Feeds

I'll come right out and say it: I love tube-fed rifles, and I think they deserve better press.

Don't get me wrong; I own and enjoy several magazine-fed guns. If I was in combat, I would want a magazine-feed for fast and effective reloading. However, I hate magazines at the shooting range for one simple reason:

I never have enough of them and they take forever to load. 

If I'm shooting magazines at the range, I have two choices. The first is that I can shoot until I'm empty, and then spend precious range time reloading -- and odds are that by the time I'm finished, the range will go cold for target inspection. The second choice is for me to buy a ton of magazines, and shoot like mad until cease-fire -- and then I have to spend the cease-fire reloading all my magazines.

The upshot is that it always takes longer to load a magazine than it does to empty it, and depending on your skill it falls between "boring" and "arduous".

The tube-feed, on the other hand, is marvelous. I just take my ammunition and, depending on the weapon, either drop the bullets down the tube or shove them up into the tube. Either way, the operation is over in seconds -- longer than it takes to exchange magazines, of course, but much faster than loading a magazine.

I especially love tube-feeds on .22 rifles, because:
  1. You can fit between 12 and 18 rounds of .22LR into a tube, depending on the rifle
  2. The bullet is so light that it barely affects the forward weight of the rifle
  3. I can use a Spee-D-Loader to fill a tube about as quickly as a magazine change. Plus, it carries 120 rounds in a ridiculously compact package. 
  4. It will work with ANY tube-fed .22 rifle, whereas magazines are brand-specific.
So let's imagine we're at the range, plinking at targets. You have a Ruger 10/22, and I have my tube-feed. Whether you are using the stock 10-round Ruger mags, or the much higher capacity after-market banana mags, once they're empty, your fun stops and the drudgery of reloading begins. On the other hand, once I've emptied my tube, all I have to do is unscrew the top, pour a fresh batch of .22LR down the tube like a modern-day powder horn, replace the top and I'm ready to go. I have saved time (by not refilling magazines) and money (by not buying a ton of magazines).

And yet, every time I go to my local gun store, the clerk wants me to trade in my trusty bolt-action for a 10-round semi-auto. I keep telling him why I feel they're superior for the range, and he just cocks his head and looks at me funny like my dogs do when I try to explain why it isn't yet time for walkies.

However, I think I'm making some progress. The last time I was in there, the clerk pointed out that they had just acquired a Marlin 60C -- a .22 semi-auto, tube-fed, rifle.

I can feel my resolve already slipping.


  1. Noooooooo!

    I love my 10-22. It has easily swappable mags for fast reloads under time constraint (Appleseed this weekend) AND there is a handy mag loader thingy for it.

  2. Don't forget, though, that's not the only way tube magazines get loaded.

    The ones with the removable spring and follower will work like yours.

    Gate loaded designs are even more tedious than box magazines.  They are also fingernail shredders on most Winchester designs.

    That speed loader looks like just the thing for Granpa's old 341...

  3. I love me some big-bore lever-action Marlins.  My next purchase will probably be a Marlin 1895BL in .45-70.  Just because.

  4. I should also point out that I too have a 10-22.  There are high-capacity drums available.  Muah-hah-hah!

  5. Hey, I'm glad you like your 10/22 and I'm not going to harsh you for it. I just prefer tubes for my plinking.

  6. I don't think I've ever seen a gate-loaded tube. Link me some pictures?

    And man, I love my Spee-D-Loader. Can't go wrong for $20 and it's damn near idiot-proof (just make sure you have the bullets facing the right way).

  7. And yet I can carry twice the ammo for a third of the price...

  8. Pics are up on my blog.

  9. Clearly the superior option here is stripper clips :)
    You can have tons of stripper clips and with a fastloader you can painlessly load a stripper clip in like 10 seconds.

  10. I <3 stripper clips. I use them on my Mosin, which is why I kept it in scout configuration.

    It's also why I'd like an SKS.

  11. At that price, you might want to get another one, depending on how much you shoot the rimfires at the range.

  12. This is the finest tube-fed, bolt-action rifle you will ever find provided you can actually find one.

    I have shot three of them in my life and all three of them are genuine 150+ yard squirrel killers.  The bolt action is smooth as glass, the trigger is crisp and breaks at about 4.5 pounds, it's lightweight, well balanced and the feeding system is absolutely trouble-free.  If you clean it once a decade it will never fail to load .22LR, .22 Long or .22 Short in any combination you want.

    I learned to shoot on my grandfather's Model 34 and I finally manged to find one at a gun show a couple of years ago.  I paid way too much for it and it was totally worth it.  

    Remington only made about 163,000 between 1932 and 1935 and they're getting hard to find.  But if you like tube feds, the Model 34 is the tip top of the genre.

    I took my Model 34 to Appleseed as my backup gun but as my antique eyes really need optics and I'm hesitant to drill holes in such a good gun I stayed in the case.

    And if you ever decide to give in and buy a .22 semi-auto consider this:

    At Appleseed this weekend the Mrs. and I shot close to 700 rounds through our two Remington 597 semi-autos.  I had one malfunction, a round that didn't go off.  She had zero.  Neither gun got cleaned or lubed.  I've replaced the extractor on both guns, cost: $15.00 ea.  I put a scope on mine and Tech Sights on hers.  They both came with sling studs and I added swivels and a sling to each. I've made no other modifications to the guns and they both shoot flawlessly.  They go bang every time you pull the trigger, they have a built-in 3/8 inch scope rail, they run fine dirty, mags cost about the same as a 10/22.  

    Before you buy a 10/22, ask Sean how much he's spent on parts. ;)  Then ask Paul at how much he's spent on his 10/22 and how many failures he had at Appleseed.  If you can find one in stock, a new Remington 597 goes for between $150 and $200.  

    I'm not hating on Rugers.  My very favoritest gun is my 6-inch Security Six, my daily back up gun is an LCR and the Mrs. carries a snubby SP101 as her EDC gun.  Ruger knows how to make a quality revolver.

    But Ruger makes very complicated and fussy semi-autos.

  13. Are there decent mag loaders for your rifle magazines?  I use an Ultimate Cliploader for my 22/45 pistol.  Despite the stupid name it works amazingly well--dump about a hundred rounds of .22 in, shake, stick the magazine in and tip upright--I can load a 10 round mag in less than 5 seconds.  

  14. If I were you, I wouldn't trade in your bolt gun.  The Marlin 60 is a nice rifle (especially for the money).  I have the 795, which is the same gun only with a detachable box magazine instead of the tube, but it's either my Marlin 981T (bolt action, tube fed) or my Henry Golden Boy that usually comes to the range with me.  I just really like manually cycling the thing after every round.  It's almost meditative.  I went more into detail about it in a blog post a while back.

    Oh, if you do decide to pick up the Marlin, keep an eye out on their website.  They're not doing one right now, but they often run rebates.  I got my 795 for under $100 after rebates that way.  Oh, and there's nothing that says you can't save your pennys and have both down the road. :)

  15. Oh no. No no no no no. I never said I would trade anything. That's what the clerk wants. What I want to do -- and I should have been more clear about this -- is to acquire the Marlin in addition to my bolt-action.

  16. I like detachable box mags and tube mags each, depending on the application.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses.  Funny, I don't yet have a tube-fed rifle...

  17. Oh good.  You had me worried there for a moment. :)

  18. Yes, I should have phrased that better. I specifically wanted a bolt-action, tube-fed rifle for my "SHTF and now I have to do subsistence hunting" firearm, because bolts are less prone to breakage.

  19. Erin,

    I've got a model 60, and I love it.  It's easy as pie to clean, it points nice, and with the upgrade of a decent sling and a set of sights from Tech-Sights, it's a great plinker.

  20. If I ever get a semi-auto .22, I'm getting a tube-feed, because that's just how I roll. :D

  21. I have a Glenfield Model 60 (Old Sears Contract Marlin)  I paid $60 for it, treat it like abject shit, and with super-sonic ammo it has given me NOTHING but love.    Also it takes mere seconds to drop another 18 rounds into the tube and it takes about two seconds for me to dump all 18 into a ragged rat hole at 10 yards.   The Micro-rifling Marlin uses seems to do its job VERY well.  My POS Jennings also has micro-rifling, and while its a potmetal POS, and CONSTANTLY jams, but its SCARY accurate given what it is.

  22. Yup, because let's face it, shooting only 110 rounds of rimfire on a give range trip, is kinda like eating just one potato chip - it can be done, but oh the will power involved.

  23. I don't really have that problem, and typically call it a day after about a hundred rounds... mostly because I've been working the bolt and concentrating on making precise shots.

  24. what you need, m'dear, is a Rossi Model 92 (Winchester 1892 clone. The Win's are getting very pricey) in .357 mag. they'll also shoot .38's and are not hard on the shoulder and so very much fun. once one learns the trick of loading through the gate they reload very quickly and one begins to imagine riding off into the sunset on the trusty pony with the Stetson pulled low....

  25. Ooooh, and they make one with the wide loop like Zoe Washburn's mare's leg!

    I'd love one of these things, true, but I am poor. However, if one were to fall into my lap...   ;)

  26.  To begin with,  In addition to simply saving your fingers after reloading hundreds of rounds into magazines, it simplifies and speeds up the process immensely.  That said, I appreciate tube-fed firearms for their relative simplicity and nod to history, but in any circumstance where recharging the firearm quickly might be a necessity, I shy away from them.  For example, I am fairly certain a trained competitive shooter can drop the mag from a Saiga and rock a new one home before an equivalent competitive shooter can shove his 8 rounds in to his tube.  Course, the latter can just get one of these whacky-assed things and probably stay competitive, but we are still talking about firearm-specific accessories (like magazines).  And, on the other end, tube-feeds narrow the type of ammunition you can put in them - no pointy-ended rounds, for fear of creating a chain reaction in the tube (except Hornady's little polymer-tipped thingies).  So, yeah, I know you are mostly talking about .22 applications, but there are other concerns as well :).  Me, I just want a Volcanic Pistol.  No idea where I would get ammo any more, but damn...  

  27. Late to the party, but I'm completely with you on tube magazines.  Tube magazines and semi-auto?  Two words: Nylon 66.  Remington's most popular semi-auto, they built well over a million. 

    There's a bit of a following of these.  I usually see one at every show, but pricey compared to the newer guns.


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