Best Lever Action

June 8, 2022  
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Lever guns. What’s not to love? There is rarely a firearm that has such an incredible and tactile feel to its operation. Lever guns are simple but effective, powerful, and made for everyone. I wanted to look at the best lever action rifles but realized in doing so. I was failing. Lever guns aren’t just rifles these days. They’re also shotguns, handguns, and firearms. With that in mind, I didn’t gather the best lever action rifles, but the best lever action gun(s), period.

The Best For Hunting Dinosaurs – Model 1895 SBL

Yep, that’s right, hunting dinosaurs! Well, at least that’s what Jurassic World star and dreamboat Chris Pratt used. I mean, it honestly makes some sense. If you were facing dinosaurs, a lever-action .45-70 makes a lot more sense than an AR-15. Sure, it might not stop a T-Rex, but it is dinosaur medicine for most of those bloody reptiles.

Side profile of the 1895 SPL lever action rifle.

The 1895 SPL is dinosaur ready. As when hunting cryptids, going after dinosaurs requires careful weapon selection.

He might’ve made it to the sequel if Muldoon used this instead of the known-to-fail SPAS 12. Once Remington went belly up, Marlin got bought by Ruger. Only recently have they begun producing new firearms, and the first they began producing was the Model 1895 SBL. Don’t let the name 1895 fool you.

Scene from Jurassic World, Chris Pratt holds a lever action rifle. Vegetation and small brook in the background.

His trigger discipline could use some work.

Sure, it’s a classic design, but it’s modernized with an optic rail, a stainless steel finish, a high viz front sight, and a rear peep sight. The Marlin 1895 SBL lever gun will take care of dinosaurs, deer, hogs, and most North American big game from this era or the Jurassic.

The Best Budget-Friendly – Mossberg 464

Good ole classic American company Mossberg is mainly known for their shotguns, but they also make some seriously awesome rifles. The Mossberg 464 is their entry into the world of lever-action rifles. It’s one of the few found for less than 500 dollars. The Mossberg 464 is a classic American .30-30 lever gun that is as simple as it is affordable.

Side view of the Mossberg 464 shotgun.

It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

You get no bells and don’t even ask about whistles. It’s a wood stock, wood handguard lever gun that holds five rounds. It’s a side ejector and side loader. It puts those .30-30 caliber pounds right where you want them and doesn’t do much more than that.

Side view of the Mossberg 464 lever gun.

I even like this one, kind of. It’s kind of a pre-made tactical lever-action rifle. A few AR-15 parts take it to a new level.

What it really excels at is being affordable, American-made, and accurate. When you need to climb a deer hunting stand, stalk through a swamp, or embrace your inner cowboy without breaking the bank, the Mossberg 464 lever gun is for you.

The Best Firearm – Henry Axe

You nerds know I love anything, even vaguely, shotgun. You might not know that I love lever action shotguns too, and I’m not too fond of the NFA. Benjamin Tyler Henry invented the first practical, lever-action repeating rifle patented in 1860. So, I jumped on it when Henry Repeating Arms released the Henry Axe, a .410 caliber ‘firearm’ with a short barrel length and pistol grip-only configuration.

Side view of the Henry Axe, .410 caliber firearm.

It’s a .410 Firearm, not a shotgun, not a handgun, not a rifle.

The Axe is light, short, and sweet. It’s designed as a fun gun, and oh boy, it delivers. This little pest weighs almost six pounds and absorbs recoil without issue. It handles like a champ and has virtually no recoil. Blasting away at balloons, steel gongs, soda cans, and more is fun.

Close up of the Henry Axe.

and my Axe…

Sure, it’s a fun gun, but Henry didn’t hold back in the quality department. It’s just as well made as their more useful fair. The Axe isn’t cheap, but quality doesn’t cost. It pays.

The Best Shotgun – Taylor and Company 1887

Lever-action shotguns are somewhat rare, at least compared to pistols. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. John Browning created the first lever-action Winchester model shotgun in 1887, and its legacy continues with the Taylor and Company 1887. The lever-action shotgun hasn’t changed much, and Taylor and Company have a genuinely exquisite model.

Side view of the Taylor and Company 1887 lever action shotgun.

Good lord Taylor and Company makes a nice gun.

It’s smooth handling, fast firing, and hell even comes with an interchangeable choke system you wouldn’t have seen in 1887. The 1887 lever gun is a 12 gauge, and Taylor makes numerous models. My favorite is the case-hardened model with the 22-inch barrel length. They also make a full-length model and a Terminator 2 style variant with an 18.5-inch barrel length and a pistol grip.

Scene from Terminator 2, Arnold on a motorcycle firing a 1887.

You can get replicas of Arnold’s gun too.

The actions feel long and bulky, but they are smooth and surprisingly lovely. Loading the gun is pretty awkward but can be done with practice quickly. These are pretty pricey, but they are very well made.

The Best Pistol – Henry Mare’s Leg

Lever action handguns? Sure, why not? The original Volcano pistol existed before any modern lever-action rifle. The Mare’s Leg Henry produces harkens to the Steve McQueen old west TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen’s character carried a sawn-off lever gun, and now you can too.

Side view of the Henry Mare's Leg lever action handgun.

The Mare’s Leg gives you a lever-action handgun.

The Mare’s Leg brings you centerfire and rimfire options in the form of .22LR .22 Magnum, 357 Magnum, 45 Colt, and 44 Magnum. I’m a .357 Magnum fan because it’s a good compromise of power and ammo cost. These are fun guns, but they could be relatively useful for handgun hunters.

Steve McQueen holding a Mare's Leg lever action.

Steve McQueen is the king of cool, so the Mare’s Leg has to be cool.

Like every Henry, the action’s slick and satisfying. The designs are simple and harken back to the golden age of lever guns. These guns stick with the Henry Repeating Arms design of loading from the front, and you don’t get a side gate. If you can deal with that, then blast away at your heart’s convenience.

Lever Gun Commando – Henry X Series

I know, it’s another Henry, but they are the kings of lever guns in the current gun marketplace. The Henry X Series is Henry Repeating Arms attempt to modernize their famed lever-action rifles. These new rifles feature all sorts of fun stuff, including the addition of a side-loading gate. That makes topping them off faster and easier.

Side view of the Henry X series tactical rifle.

The Henry X gives you a modern tactical rifle.

Other than that, you get polymer furniture. The handguard features M-LOK slots and a Picatinny mount for a light or laser, or kitchen sink. The sights are highly visibility fiber optics for quick and accurate shots, and the large loop makes running the gun quick and easy. Tossing on optics is simple as well. The gun comes in .410, 45-70, and numerous revolver cartridges.

Side view of the Henry X series 410 gauge.

They make one in 410 gauge too.

While these are thoroughly modern, they stick to the Henry classic design. They work exceptionally well, cycle smoothly, and fire straight. The Henry X Series is about as modern as lever guns get.

The WildCard – Southern Gun Company 9mm Under Lever

This has got to be the coolest lever gun on the market. It’s also the hardest to obtain because it is a custom gun from a UK gun shop that wants to make ARs accessible on that side of the pond. The Southern Gun Company is an AR-style rifle that uses Glock magazines and a lever-action to work the gun.

Side view of the Southern Gun Company 9mm Under Lever rifle

It’s not a semi-auto, so it doesn’t run afoul of the English laws. As far as I know, anyway. I’m not an expert. Like any AR-style rifle, the gun feeds from a magazine and has a collapsing stock, a modular handguard, and a flat-top upper receiver. The lever sits in the pistol grip, and I’d imagine the action is quite short.

The Southern Gun Company 9mm Under Lever looks like an absolute ton of fun. It’s silly but in a good way. I double we’ll ever see something like this here, but with California-like laws, maybe it’s an option? Who knows.

The Lever Gun Revolution

Lever guns were invented in Italy, or at least the original lever action was. Much like pizza, the United States adopted it wholeheartedly, and we’ve been a fan ever since. Lever guns are all-American and a piece of our iconography as a country. The fact that we have so many affordable quality semi-autos but still produce so many lever guns is a true testament to staying power.

 

 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike

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