There are a myriad of firearms with a legacy engrained in American heritage, many of which played a role in building America into the country we know today. Repeating firearms have become a timeless mainstay in our culture for various applications, but perhaps none has had the longevity or the consistency of the lever-action rifle. The fact gunmakers are still producing the same rifles more than a century later is a testament to the near perfection of the lever-action design. However, as technological advancements stay steady, these manufacturers manage to still find ways to make improvements to these rifles without sacrificing the tradition or the nostalgia that makes them so special. Many traditionalists remain loyal to this platform for various forms of big-game hunting, while others remain staunch in keeping one in their truck.
Today we'll dive into some of the best lever-actions available on the modern firearms market, assessing each model's practical uses based on its capabilities and affordability. However, because we're only including rifles currently in circulation, we decided to leave a handful of discontinued favorites, like the Ruger 94 and the Savage Model 99, off the list. Nevertheless, we're confident there's a lever-action rifle for everyone on here.
Browning BLR White Gold Medallion Maple Rifle
Here we have a stunning centerfire rifle that can be chambered in a nice variety of calibers, including .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. With a 20-inch barrel that uses a 1:10 rate of twist, this Browning beauty's performance matches its looks. Durability isn't sacrificed, either, as the receiver features aircraft-grade aluminum with a gorgeous, engraved nickel finish. The rack-and-pinion action ensures smooth cycling from detachable magazine with a 4+1 capacity. However, the modern infusion of a detachable magazine is counterbalanced with a classic walnut forend and stock. If you want a lever-action that performs like a new-age firearm but still turns heads with an old-school aesthetic, look no further.
A classic lever rifle design from a storied American gunmaker like Marlin. What's not to like? The Marlin Model 1894 comes chambered in either .44 Remington/.44 S&W Special or .45 Colt. This gun boasts a 10+1 capacity in the tubular magazine. The barrel is 20 inches long and features a 1:38 rate of twist.
The blued finish against the walnut stock and forend makes for a nice look. It comes stock with the open sights you're used to with this kind of gun, but it the receiver is also tapped for a scope. This would be a solid short-range deer gun for brushy areas.
Henry Repeating Arms .30-30
While there is no way to know for sure, it's arguable that rifles chambered in .30-30 have harvested more deer in American than any other round. That is what makes this Henry rifle a solid choice for the whitetail or mule deer hunter. It has a 20-inch, classic blued round or octagonal barrel with a 1:12 rate of twist.
Henry offers this gun with two different receivers, the classic blued steel style and a sharp-looking brass. The blued version has a beaded front sight and a semi-buckhorn rear sight. The brass version of this lever gun has a bladed front sight with a ghost ring rear. The classic walnut stock just adds to the old west look. This rifle can hold 5+1 rounds in the tubular magazine.
Uberti 1866 Yellowboy
If you're looking for a historically accurate cowboy-style rifle, the Uberti is one to consider. This one is made to be a replica of the Winchester 1866. Chambered in .45 Colt, you can get this gun with either a 19-inch or 24-inch octagon barrel. Both barrels have a 1:16 rate of twist for excellent accuracy. Grade-A walnut makes up the stock. It's an eye-catching gun with the beautiful brass receiver.
The tubular magazine holds either 13 or 10 rounds for the shorter barrel version. This one can also be quickly loaded through the side gate. It is an expensive rifle, but it is also one you can pass down through the family for years to come.
Henry X Model
Early in 2020, Henry rifles introduced their Model X series of lever-action rifles. They are a modern take on the traditional lever-action your grandfather used. While the action, removable tube magazines, loading gates and other features are basically the same, these rifles come with a slew of modern features. The weight is cut down with black synthetic stocks. The sights are fiber optic. These rifles have barrels that are pre-threaded for suppressors.
Henry even took a page out of the modern sporting rifle playbook by adding picatinny and M-Lok accessory slots. These rifles have a 7+1 capacity and are available in .45 Colt, .38 Special, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .357 Magnum and .45-70 Government.
Marlin 1895 Dark Series
This rifle is a good choice for the hunter who wants a round that can be used on a variety of different big game species here in North America. This rifle is chambered in .45-70 Govt and Marlin offers several different stock and forend variations including walnut and laminated hardwood in black, green or grey.
These guns feature over-sized loops for ease of use. The barrels and receivers are available in either a blued or beautiful stainless steel finish. These make great brush guns and some feature barrel lengths as short as 18.5 inches for quick handling and maneuverability. Capacity varies depending on the model you get, but the tubular magazines can hold four to nine rounds.
Henry Big Boy
Another classic cowboy look that is chambered in several powerful handgun rounds like .44 Remington Magnum, .357 Magnum, .45 Long Colt, and .327 Federal Magnum. As a bonus, the .357 can also shoot .38 Special and the .327 can shoot .32 H&R for more versatility.
These guns come with a blued, octagonal 20-inch barrel with either a 1:16 or 1:38 rate of twist. The receivers, buttplate and bands are brass, and the socks are made of walnut. The rear sights are Marble semi-buckhorn and are fully adjustable. The front sights are brass-beaded. The large loop lever makes it easy to quickly and efficiently cycle in new rounds when quick follow-up shots are a must.
Winchester Model 94
One of John Browning's classic designs, this gun has proven itself in both old West shootouts and in the field as one of the ultimate hunting firearms. The modern versions of the Winchester 94 are pre-drilled and tapped for scope mounts, but you can use the standard marble arms front sight and buckhorn rear sight too. Winchester makes this gun in .30-30 and .38-55 Winchester. It has a satin finished black walnut stock and a 20-inch barrel. Winchester has also taken to making shorter barreled and carbine versions and even a takedown model in recent years for even more versatility. It is probably safe a safe bet to say the 94 has at least another 100 years on the market.
Marlin 336 Dark
There are plenty of similarities between this gun and the 1895 Big Bore. The one big difference is in ammo. This rifle is chambered in .30-30 Winchester. This rifle features a black stock and metal receiver with a parkerized finish. It has an overall length of 34.5 inches and a barrel length of 16.25 inches. We see this as an ideal brush/deer gun. It holds five rounds in the tubular magazine. This sharp-looking gun also has modern flares like a suppressor-ready threaded muzzle. As a bonus, Marlin includes a paracord wrap on the loop lever and a paracord sling. Head to the gun range, sight it in and you're basically ready to hunt.
Henry Golden Boy Lever-Action Rimfire
The price tags on many lever-action rifles can be a bit intimidating, especially if you just want a gun that looks the part of an old West classic. There is a solution in Henry's line of Golden Boy rimfires. These rifles look just like the larger rifles with the octagonal barrels, brass receivers, butt plates and bands you might be familiar with. However, these rifles are much more affordable to own and shoot. These rifles are available in .22 long rifle, .22 Magnum and .17 HMR. These guns feature 20-inch barrels and generous capacities of 16+1 for the .22lr, 12+1 for the .22 Magnum and 11+1 for the .17 HMR. These guns will be a big hit on your next trip to the gun range!
For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels.
READ MORE: SIG SAUER CROSS RIFLE FOLDS THE GAP BETWEEN TACTICAL, HUNTING PURPOSES
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