Lever action rifles are one of my favorite types of rifle for hunting in thick bush and rough terrain. They have been around since the 1800s and were some of the most common types of repeating rifles. I remember watching western movies as a kid and seeing people like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood using them and have had a love for this type of rifle ever since.
They are known for being reliable, accurate, and easy to use. The articles linked above will help you learn all about lever action rifles, including how they work, what they look like, benefits and drawbacks of using them, how they’re typically used when hunting, and which ones might be right for you.
Should I Buy A Lever Action Rifle?
This is a question that I hear fairly often and one of the reasons for this post. If you are looking to buy your first rifle, lever action rifles might be worth considering. They require less maintenance than other types like semi-automatic and can often be cycled faster than bolt actions. This can make them ideal if time isn’t on our side but we still want an accurate shot at game!
You should think about getting a lever action rifle if; you like the traditional look and function, you hunt thick bush where shorter shots are the norm, you find it easier to cycle the lever than a smaller bolt, or you just like the look and feel of them.
Why Are Lever Action Rifles So Popular?
Lever action rifles are very popular because they are easy to use and maintain. They require less maintenance than semi autos, which means that it will be easier for you when your rifle needs maintenance work done on them in the future. Plus, they have a very traditional look about them – think back to cowboys trying their luck at shooting game from afar with these riles back during America’s Wild West days (though lever action guns were actually invented many years before!).
Lever action rifles became popular in part because of their rock solid performance and ability to be cycled quickly, especially when wearing gloves in cold weather. They mainly use tubular magazines which means the don’t have a protruding magazine so they tend to fit well into saddle scabbards.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Lever Action Rifles?
The two main drawbacks of lever action rifles are their lack of locking lugs on the bolt and the traditional usage of blunt nosed bullets in tubular magazines. The lack of locking lugs on the bolt means that it is difficult to achieve the same high accuracy as a modern bolt action rifle.
While some lever action rifles can have great accuracy, they are often not as accurate as a comparable bolt action rifle firing the same cartridge. Their bolts tend to have a little more play within the action and the machining tolerances are slightly less.
The traditional usage of blunt nosed bullets in lever action rifles was mainly due to the tubular magazines and fear of a chain reaction detonation of the points of the unfired bullets detonating the primers of the bullets in front of them when the rifle was fired. These traditional blunt nosed bullets were great for terminal performance at shorter ranges but their ballistic coefficient left a lot to be desired at longer ranges. Especially compared to modern heavy for caliber long range high BC bullets.
This old problem has been partially solved by manufacturers such as Hornady who produce a line of bullets called Lever Evolution which used a softer rubberized pointed tip that helps give a better ballistic profile while preventing chain reaction detonation in tubular magazines.
These are some of my favorite bullets to use in my Marlin 1895G in 45-70 which has proven to be a great Moose and bear cartridge. The 325gr bullets have great stopping power at shorter ranges and still have decent ballistics out to 200 yards or more.
Are Lever Action Rifles Obsolete?
Definitely not. Lever action rifles are still a great choice for many hunting applications and are still widely made by a wide range of rifle manufacturers. They may not have the inherent accuracy of bolt action rifles and they may not have the same high rate of fire as semi auto rifles but they still have a place in the heart for many hunters.
There is something very satisfying and nostalgic about carrying a short barrel lever action rifle in the thick bush while stalking big game. The solid feel and traditional function make them a rifle type that is sure to stand the test of time.
How Do I Choose The Best Lever Action Rifle?
Choosing the best lever action rifle for you can be determined by asking yourself a few basic questions. What do I want to use this rifle for, how will it fit my hunting style, and what type of game will I be using it on.
In my case, I prefer lever action rifles for shorter range thick bush hunting. I find a short barreled rifle with larger slower bullets to work great for this task. If I am hunting in more wide open terrain or expect to take longer shots then I will reach for one of my bolt action rifles instead.
I tend to do a lot of spot and stalk for moose, elk, and deer in the thick forests of western Canada and therefore choose a larger caliber bullet like my 45-70. I also have a 336 Marlin in .338 Marlin Express which has similar ballistics to a 30-06 in a lever action rifle. This is a great middle of the road lever action that is capable of taking any animal in north America at moderate ranges.
If you are planning on only hunting deer with your lever-action rifle then you may choose to go with an even more traditional cartridge such as the ol’ 30-30. This cartridge is said to have taken more deer than any other (If the stories are true) and although there are many modern cartridges that shoot faster, flatter, and with more energy, the old 30-30 is still a capable round in the hands of an experienced hunter.
Final Thoughts About Lever Action Rifles
The tried and true lever action rifle is still a viable alternative to bolt action and semi auto hunting rifles. While it may not be the newest style, firing the fastest new hotrod cartridges, they are still a solid rifle style that is capable of harvesting game and putting meat on the table. Many hunters prefer the throwback style and classic look and function of a lever action rifle.
If you want to learn more details about lever actions then check out our articles linked above that cover in depth rifle reviews, general lever action information and history, and help you to choose the best lever action rifle for your next hunt!