Lever-action rifles are being lifted from harnesses on used weapon shelves, their stocks of beaten wood and once-silver-clad blue steel. The grandparents who used them are by far the happiest hunting grounds, and the grandchildren who would have taken them either do not shoot or prefer precise bolt action.
The time for leverage as America’s number one weapon has passed.
But from 1861 to 1918 – from the Civil War to World War I – we were a nation of guns. Lever-action rifles took us from the muzzleloader era to the modern lightning weapon. We have not forgotten this either. There is still no shortage of people for whom “deer rifle” means “lever action rifle”.
The Cowboy Action shooters stood behind Winchester’s reintroduction of the Model 1873 lever gun. Ruger just revived the Marlin Model 1895, and there are several custom stores that will build you a hot 1895 for a great deal of money. Lever-action rifles can shoot at long distances, release elephants, and print groups at a minute angle. Doug Turnbull has turned them into an art form with his magnificent restorations. And if you want an original pistol with lever, wound and all, you just have to look at that shelf of used weapons.
The best lever-action rifles have neither disappeared nor been forgotten. Here are the top eight models from the golden age of lever action.
Read more: The ten best deer camp rifles
He arrived in time for the Civil War and introduced the concept of fire superiority on the battlefield. In the hands of a skilled soldier, a Springfield Musket rifle could drop three rounds per minute. The Henry Repeating rifle, which carried 15 copper (later bronze) cartridges in a barrel cartridge, could be fired 24 times in 60 seconds. This new lever weapon was for the rifle musket, just like the M4 for a ’03 Springfield.
Henry was neither strong nor very powerful. He used a 0.44 rimfire cartridge, the maximum real range of which was probably 150 yards. But Henry’s lever action could shed the lead, and of the approximately 8,000 who served in the Union Army, many were private purchases. The weapon cost $ 40. A Union theater earned $ 13 a month. But the Boys in Blue were happy to spend the money. They had seen fire superiority at work.
(Today, Henry offers an updated version called The New Original Henry.)
The 1866 model is the first Winchester lever action rifle, courtesy of Oliver F. Winchester, who took over the New Haven arms company during the Civil War and changed its name to Winchester Repeating Arms in 1866.
1866 was a lever gun with 14 .44 shots with a special brass alloy frame. Mechanically, it was greatly improved compared to the Henry with an added charging port on the receiver and a tubular storage reinforced by a wooden front.
Native Americans called him the “Yellow Boy” because of the frame. Sioux and Cheyenne had a large number of them in the Little Big Horn, and they proved superior to the much more powerful .45 / 70 Model 1873 Springfield carbine.
The 1866 model had a long run. It was produced until 1899 and 720,000 were produced. How many lives he has saved will never be known. If you had Yellow Boy in the saddle case, you would have a chance to come out alive from whatever you get into.
Winchester Repeating Arms has long billed the 1873 Model as “the weapon that won the West,” and in that case, they may be right. When the West was really wild, the Model 73 lever weapon was the rifle used.
He was the direct descendant of the Yellow Boy, but the bronze frame was replaced by a much stronger iron and the anemic 0.44 rimfire cartridge was followed by the more powerful central fire.44 / 40. .44 / 40 was a pistol cartridge, but that meant you could carry an 1873 model and a revolver in that caliber and exchange ammunition carelessly in the world.
In 1875, Winchester began the practice of selecting his most accurate Model 73 barrel and building weapons around them with set triggers, very beautiful finish, and the engraved legend, “One in a Thousand.” These special edition lever stock rifles sell for $ 100, which is equivalent to $ 2,300 today. In 1950, a Hollywood western on the A list with Jimmy Stewart was realized with the title “Winchester 73”.
Over 720,000 Model 73s were made between its introduction and 1923, when it was finally discontinued.
(In 2013, Winchester reintroduced the Model 1873 lever gun into much fanfare and still offers the new 1873 in a host of configurations.)
Read more: The weapon that won the West
The Model 1886 lever action rifle is a model of John M. Browning and is called the American version of the British Express rifle – a heavy and powerful weapon designed to deliver rapid crushing blows.
It is also a prime example of how firearms were made. Its mechanism has a glass softness that you can only find in other firearms of the time and almost in modern ones. Although it came from a factory, the Winchester 86 was a handmade rifle.
Originally placed in the .45 / 70, .45 / 90, .40 / 82 and .50 / 110 Express, the Model 86 later switched to smokeless cartridges, particularly at 0.33 WCF. The blocking action was more than strong enough; all it took was a nickel-steel barrel.
The Model 86 lever weapon remained in production from 1886 to 1935; 160 thousand have been made. Teddy Roosevelt had one and liked it. So did many other people. (Winchester Reinforced Model 1886 in 1998.)
Here is a superlative rifle action rifle. “Model 94” is practically synonymous with “deer rifle”. Another design by John M. Browning, it was originally intended as a black powder lever gun, but when it went into production in 1895, it was used for the new .30 WCF smokeless model (later renamed .30 / 30). and both became synonymous.
The Model 94 was short, handy, light for its time, nicely held in the hand, inserted and snake out of a saddle, fired quickly, was reliable, and hit very little. Not everything was so accurate, but in those days no one cared. Nor could he accept a scope; but that was in the pre-alignment era.
So popular was the Model 94 that it was the first commercial sports rifle, with sales exceeding 7 million. Winchester produced it until 2006, reinstated it in 2010 and currently offers eight versions of the 94. Equipped with good iron looks, it is still a nightmare for deer everywhere.
If there was ever a rifle that was ahead of its time, this is Arthur Savage’s hammerless masterpiece. Due to its rotating cartridge (later changed to a detachable box), this lever gun could use spitzer bullets instead of flat points, greatly expanding its range. It had enough strength to handle modern, high-intensity cartridges. There was a good trigger. He jumped sideways, not up, so you can mount a field on it. It was reliable and, for a lever action rifle, accurate.
The Savage Model 99 was stocked with a wide variety of cartridges and I think most rifles sold at 0.300 Savage, which is very similar to the .308. However, the round that brought the glory of 99 was the .250 / 3000 Savage, which fired an 87-pound bullet at the unprecedented speed of 3,000 fps.
99 had a long and glorious course, lasting from 1899 to 1998. Today, they are becoming available in all calibers, models and conditions. If it were me, I would be looking for a beautifully shaped rotating magazine model, with room for 0.250 / 3000. It was a jewel when it was made and is still a gem among rifles.
Is there a stranger story than that of the 1895 Model Rifle that will not die? I doubt it. This lever weapon had four incarnations: The first, which appeared three years before the beginning of the 19th century, was a good, strong rifle with lever action that was never caught. It operated for only 22 years and became only 18,000. Incarnation Number Two came in 1972, when Marlin reinstated a version based on the Model 336 frame and set it at 0.45 / 70. This coincided with a resurgence of interest in the ancient cartridge. People were finding that he could release the deer with delivery and very little bounce, or you could load it up to levels roughly .458. In 2006, Hornady came up with its LEVERevolution plastic-tipped ammunition that enabled you to use spitzer bullets in a barrel cartridge and turned a 150-yard lever gun into a 300-meter gun.
Then came the personalized 1895s, of which 10 were on the Marlin line until Remington, its parent company, collapsed. However, there are a number of standalone custom guns that specialize in turning Model 1895 lever guns into great objects. Now, Ruger, having bought what was left of Marlin in 2020, has released a 2022 version of SBL 1895, for excellent reviews.
This model among the 0.22 rimfirs has an endless credential: It was the oldest and longest continuously produced firearm on the shoulder in the world, until Remington’s last bankruptcy. This 39a started as the 1891 Model, which was used by Annie Oakley, and thus received a compelling approval. It was later converted into Model 1892, and then Model 1897, and then Model 39A, and finally Model 39A Golden.
There are 2.2 million of them out there, and they are essentially the same weapon: a perfectly balanced lever action rifle, fine lines, unmistakable performance, excellent accuracy and the ability to use short, long rifle ammunition or long mutually. .
Good 39How they are not cheap, and really beautiful, or rare, cost a lot of money. Is there such a thing as a perfect firearm? No, but this lever gun is very close.
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