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Want to enjoy the true cowboy experience? Then you have to get your hands on a lever action rifle. If you have to have a lever action rifle, you might as well get the best lever action rifle you can get for the money.
What is a lever action rifle?
A lever action rifle is a repeating firearm with a lever mechanism to load and eject cartridges.
It has a long history, dating back to the American Civil War when it was first used.
However, today, it is primarily used for hunting and as a home defense option.
Lever action rifles have a classic Western look and feel and are known for their simple operation, elegant look, and tough build.
The advantages of using a lever action rifle include its compact size and versatility in handling a wide range of cartridges, while its disadvantages include limited magazine capacity and slower reloading time compared to other types of firearms.
Best Lever Action Rifle of 2023
Henry Repeating Arms Model X
The Henry Repeating Arms X Models of lever-action rifles are a modern take on a classic design.
These rifles feature smooth actions, high-quality construction, and modern features such as black synthetic stocks, fiber optic sights, and pre-threaded barrels for suppressors.
They also have picatinny and M-Lok accessory slots and a 7+1 capacity.
The Henry rifles are highly accurate, reliable, and easy to use. They have been tested and reviewed by experts and enthusiasts, receiving accolades such as the NRA’s Golden Bullseye Award.
With their combination of classic design and modern features, the Henry Repeating Arms X Models are a top contender for the best lever action rifle of 2023.
Not all lever actions have to be a big bore, in fact, my favorite lever action is Browning BL-22. This high-quality 22LR lever action rifle shines for quality and overall shooting enjoyment.
The BL-22 has a wicked smooth action and has a 16-round tubular magazine that makes this gun-crazy fun for plinking and squirrel hunting.
The Browning BL-22 is so nice it’s hard to imagine my gun collection without the BL-22 in the mix.
Marlin Model 336
The Marlin Model 336 is a modern lever-action rifle designed for hunters and available in classic calibers like .30-30 and .35 Remington.
Its updated features include an open ejection port, chrome-plated breech bolt, and an improved extractor.
The rifle is easy to disassemble and clean from the breech. It has a 20-inch barrel, walnut grip stock, and full-length tube magazine.
The rifle’s accuracy is impressive, and the gun is a lot of fun to shoot.
It has a micro-grooved barrel, adjustable semi-buckhorn folding rear sight, and brass bead front sight with a wide-scan hood.
The Marlin Model 336 is reliable, with no failures to chamber, fire, or extract with every type of ammo used. Its dependable performance and accuracy make it a top contender to add to your lever action rifle collection.
Marlin Model 1894
The Marlin Model 1894 is a classic lever-action rifle designed by one of the most well-known American lever-action gunmakers.
Marlin is now a part of Strum Ruger & Co. and this gun is slated to be re-released by them in the Summer of 2023.
It will be available in .44 Remington/.44 S&W Special or .45 Colt, with a 10+1 capacity in the tubular magazine.
The rifle features a 20-inch barrel with a 1:38 rate of twist, a blued finish, and a walnut stock and forend.
The open sights are standard, but the receiver is tapped for a scope. The Marlin Model 1894 is a solid short-range deer gun for brushy areas, and it is the first flat-topped, side-ejecting receiver on the market for lever-action guns.
The Marlin Model 1894 is a tribute to the past with a touch of modernity.
Henry All-Weather Lever Action Side Gate
The Henry Repeating Arms All-Weather Lever Action Side Gate is a versatile and durable rifle that is built for the elements.
With a hard-chrome finish and black-stained hardwood stock, this rifle can withstand wear, tear, and scratches.
The all-weather model gets its name from the coating that seals out moisture. The sights are adjustable and it has excellent accuracy, making it easy to handle.
The rifle can be loaded either through the side gate on the receiver or by dropping rounds into the tubular magazine.
With a 4+1 capacity and an oversized lever loop, it is equally at home in bear country or in a deer stand overlooking a food plot. Durability, ease of use, and accuracy make it one of the best lever action rifles.
Winchester Model 1892
The Winchester Model 1892 is a classic firearm designed by John Moses Browning, known for its rich history and popularity among gun enthusiasts.
It has been used by some of the biggest names in history and on screen, including John Wayne, Chuck Connors, and Annie Oakley.
This rifle is one of the lighter classic guns on the list and has low recoil, making it easy to handle.
It is available in several pistol calibers and six different styles, making it versatile and adaptable to various uses.
The Model 1892 has a classic look, with a polished blue octagon barrel, a case-colored receiver, and a satin-finished high-grade walnut stock.
This rifle is built for both style and function, making it a favorite among traditional design enthusiasts.
The Winchester 1892 is primarily known for its recurring role in Western movies and television, and while it served farmers, ranchers, and lawmen, it is primarily known for its use in Westerns.
The modern versions of the Winchester 1892 are still popular among gun enthusiasts and are available at various retailers.
Big Horn Armory Model 89
The Big Horn Armory Model 89 is a top contender for unique features and impressive performance in the field.
This semi-custom lever-action rifle combines design elements of the classic Winchester 1886 and 1892, and it can be chambered in .500 S&W Magnum, making it one of the most powerful production lever guns on earth.
The Model 89’s steel receiver is CNC-machined, and it offers various options, including barrel lengths of 16, 18, and 22 inches, standard or fancy walnut or laminate stocks, and scout-style and red dot scope mounts.
The rifle’s magazine capacity is 7+1, and it comes standard with a Skinner aperture sight. The Big Horn Armory Model 89 is built in the USA.
Despite its high price point, this lever gun is built to be different and continues the rich legacy of American firearms design and development.
Henry Repeating Arms Big Boy
The Henry Repeating Arms Big Boy Steel is a lever-action rifle that combines classic design with modern updates.
It features a wood stock and forend with a matte-finish blued steel frame, which looks rugged and attractive.
The rifle has adjustable Western sights and comes with sling swivel studs for off-hand carrying.
It’s available in calibers such as .41 Mag, .44 Mag, .45 Colt, and .357 Mag, this gun is a great choice for hunting or target shooting.
The rifle is lightweight, reliable, and has a fast and smooth operation. It’s accurate, fun to shoot, and can be used as a brush gun or short-range big game rifle.
While it has a slow reload time and low ammunition capacity, the Henry Big Boy Steel Carbine Special Side Gate’s solid features make it one of the lever-action guns that you must have in your arsenal.
Marlin 1895 SBL
The Marlin 1895 SBL has become an absolute favorite because it’s a heavy mix of modern design and classic function.
The overall look and feel of this gun are great and has features that make it extremely easy to accessorize.
While it may be hard to put your hands on one availability is increasing as Ruger ramps up the Marlin production lines.
Rossi Rio Bravo
The Rossi Rio Bravo is a great plinking lever gun.
It has a suggested retail price that is much lower compared to other options, making it one of the most affordable lever-action rifles available in the market.
The rifle is designed for plinking and hunting small game.
It has a large magazine capacity of 16 rounds, with 15 in the tube magazine and 1 in the chamber, making it a great choice for those who prefer to shoot for longer periods without reloading.
The Rio Bravo is lightweight, weighing only about 5.5 pounds, and includes a shorter 18-inch barrel that makes it easy to handle and maneuver.
Although it is not as accurate at longer ranges and is not suitable for hunting deer, the Rio Bravo is a reliable and versatile rifle that is perfect for any gun enthusiast.
What to consider when buying a lever action rifle?
Performance and Accuracy
Performance and accuracy are crucial factors to consider when you are buying any firearm.
Lever action rifles are commonly used for hunting, making accuracy a top priority. The reliability of accuracy is affected by factors such as the barrel length, rifling, and sights.
A longer barrel typically provides better accuracy, while rifling helps stabilize the bullet’s trajectory.
Additionally, adjustable sights allow for more precise aiming. It’s also important to consider the caliber of the rifle and its intended use.
Typically lever-action rifles are limited to a few hundred yards, so choosing the appropriate caliber for your needs is essential.
Overall, a reliable and accurate lever action rifle should have a quality barrel and the right caliber for your application.
Weight and Length
Weight and length are important factors to consider.
The weight of the rifle can impact the shooter’s accuracy and comfort during extended use.
A heavier rifle can be more stable and absorb recoil better but can also be more tiring to hold for extended periods.
The length of the rifle also affects its maneuverability and ease of use in different shooting scenarios.
Longer barrels may provide more accuracy and range, but they can also be more cumbersome and difficult to handle in tight spaces.
On the other hand, shorter barrels are lighter and easier to handle but may sacrifice some accuracy and range.
It’s crucial to find a balance between weight and length that suits the shooter’s needs and the intended use of the rifle.
Rate of Fire
Compared to bolt action rifles, lever action rifles but that’s apples to oranges.
Lever action rifles aren’t known for their rate of fire but what they are known for is having good accuracy but a slightly higher rate of fire than a bolt action rifle.
So while the rate of fire is important if you are looking for big calibers and high rates of fire you likely need to head over to the best AR-10 list.
Choosing the right ammunition for your lever action rifle depends on several factors, including the type of hunting or shooting you’ll be doing, and the distance of your shots.
When it comes to the type of bullet, hollow point rounds are designed for expansion upon impact, making them a good choice for hunting.
Soft point rounds also expand but retain more of their weight, making them more suitable for larger game.
Full metal jacket rounds are typically used for target shooting and practice, as they do not expand upon impact.
These rounds are specifically designed for lever action rifles and offer good accuracy and terminal performance at reasonable distances.
It’s important to choose ammunition that is appropriate for your rifle’s caliber and to practice with your chosen rounds to ensure accuracy and proficiency.
Sights and optics
When selecting sights and optics for your lever action rifle, consider the type of shooting you will be doing and the range at which you will be shooting.
For hunting, open sights or aperture sights may be suitable for shorter ranges, while scope optics may be needed for longer ranges.
For target shooting, it’s really up to you and your preference.
For self-defense, open sights or aperture sights may be preferred for quick target acquisition at close ranges.
When choosing mounting options, look for rifles with Weaver or Picatinny rails for easy installation of optics.
It is also important to ensure compatibility between your specific rifle model and the sights or optics you plan to use. Research the lever action upgrades you wish to add and see what weapons they work with to avoid compatibility issues.
The advantages of open sights include quick target acquisition and a wide field of view.
Scope optics provide magnification and can improve accuracy at longer ranges.
Disadvantages of open sights include difficulty in low-light conditions, while aperture sights and scope optics may be more expensive and require additional mounting hardware.
Overall, choose sights and optics based on your shooting needs and preferences, and ensure compatibility with your specific rifle model.
One important mechanism to consider is the half-cock position which prevents accidental discharge if the trigger is pulled.
Another mechanism is the transfer bar safety which ensures that the hammer cannot strike the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled.
Lastly, the rebounding hammer is an important safety feature that prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin twice in case of a misfire.
These mechanisms contribute to the safe handling and operation of the rifle and should not be overlooked.
It is important to always prioritize safety when handling firearms to prevent accidents and injuries.
When it comes to choosing the best lever action rifle, ergonomics play a crucial role in the shooter’s comfort and accuracy.
The design of the rifle should allow for a comfortable grip and natural point of aim, which can greatly impact the shooter’s accuracy.
The placement of the trigger, the length of pull, and the shape of the stock all contribute to the ergonomics of the rifle.
A lightweight aluminum receiver can make the rifle easier to handle, reducing fatigue during extended shooting sessions.
Overall, choosing a lever action rifle with good ergonomics can make a significant difference in the shooter’s comfort and accuracy, making it important to consider when selecting a rifle for hunting or other outdoor activities.
8. Lever Action Rifle: Stock and fore-end
The stock is part of the rifle that rests against the shooter’s shoulder, while the fore-end is the section that assists in holding and stabilizing the rifle.
The materials used for the stock and fore-end can significantly impact the rifle’s overall performance and feel.
Wood is a traditional material used for the stock and fore-end of lever action rifles. It offers a classic look and feel, but it can be affected by changes in humidity and temperature.
Alternatively, synthetic materials such as fiberglass and polymer are lightweight, durable, and resistant to weather changes. They are also less expensive than wood.
The choice of material depends on the user’s preference, but it is crucial to consider the intended use of the rifle.
If the rifle is for hunting, a lightweight synthetic material may be ideal for long treks in the wilderness
However, if the rifle is for display or shooting at the range, classic wood stock and fore-end may be more suitable.
Overall, the stock and fore-end play a significant role in the performance and feel of the lever action rifle and should be chosen carefully.
Trigger and Lever Action
A good trigger should be smooth, with a consistent pull weight and minimal creep.
The action should be reliable, with a smooth lever that is easy to operate and doesn’t require excessive force.
A quality lever action rifle should have a trigger and action that work together seamlessly, allowing for quick and accurate shots.
Overall, a good trigger and action are essential for a lever action rifle that is easy to use, reliable, and accurate.
Most lever-action rifles hold fewer than ten rounds, which may be sufficient for most situations but could be limiting in serious defensive situations.
The advantage of a higher magazine capacity is that it allows for more rounds to be fired before reloading, which can be useful in certain situations.
However, it also adds weight to the rifle and may affect its balance. It is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different magazine capacities before making a decision.
Keep in mind lever action rifles don’t use typically magazines but rather magazine tubes that run below the barrel.
You can load these with either a side gate or an opening near the muzzle that you slide the rounds into.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about lever action rifles.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of lever action rifles?
Lever action rifles have several advantages and disadvantages.
One advantage is that they are faster than bolt guns, and they chamber powerful rounds which are great for hunting.
Lever action rifles are also easy to use, even when a cartridge gets jammed, and they are durable, tough, and built of solid steel.
They have only moderate recoil and allow for quick follow-up shots without moving the rifle from the shoulder.
However, lever action rifles have some disadvantages as well. They can be expensive, and some models are difficult to find.
They also have limited ammo choices and magazine capacities are limited.
What calibers are available for lever action rifles?
- Lever-action rifles were originally sold in small-caliber offerings to cater to the American cowboy’s need for a rifle that used a cartridge that could also be used in his handgun.
- Modern cowboy action shooting and competition shooting led to the production of rifles and chambered ammunition like the 45 Colt Long, 357 Magnum, or 44 Magnum rounds.
- Today, lever-action rifles can be obtained in no less than fourteen different high-intensity centerfire varmint and big-game cartridges, ranging from the 22 Long Rife rimfire to the massive 300 Winchester Magnum.
- Cartridges available for lever-action rifles include 30-30 Winchester, 30-06, and 45-70 Government, among others.
- The lever-action rifle has few major drawbacks and can handle heavy cartridges, making it a versatile firearm for hunting and competition.
What is the difference between a lever action rifle and a bolt action rifle?
A lever action rifle and a bolt action rifle are two very different types of firearms.
The lever action rifle allows for faster rates of fire, making it easier to shoot from the shoulder or hip.
On the other hand, a bolt action rifle is generally more accurate and precise.
Historically, lever action rifles are known for their use in the American West and are often associated with cowboy culture, while bolt action rifles are commonly used for hunting and military purposes.
What are the differences between a Marlin and Winchester lever action rifle?
Marlin and Winchester are both renowned for their lever-action rifles, with each brand having its unique features and designs.
In terms of design, Marlin rifles typically have a solid top receiver and side ejection, while Winchester rifles have a top ejection and an exposed hammer.
Performance-wise, Marlin rifles are known for their accuracy and smooth action, while Winchester rifles are favored for their reliability and durability.
In terms of price, both brands offer rifles at a range of prices, with Marlin rifles generally being slightly more affordable.
Ultimately, the choice between Marlin and Winchester comes down to personal preference and intended use.