Although the design is over a century old, the traditional lever-action rifle still has tremendous appeal. A big part of this is their versatility; the guns are still suitable for hunting a multitude of game species, for cowboy action competition, or for use as a truck or trail gun. Joystick actions are also a lot of fun to shoot. If you’re a stickgun addict, like me, and want to maximize its usefulness, a few accessories are in order. Here are a dozen great lever action accessories for bakers, ranging in price from $25 to $450. I have used them all and trust them all.
1. Beartooth Mercantile Safety Delete Saddle Ring
In the early 80’s Marlin added a cross bolt safety to their lever action rifles. It wasn’t such a bad idea since it makes the rifle safer when unloading, but traditionalists revolted because it’s like putting a trailer hitch on a Corvette. If you just can’t stand it, Beartooth Mercantile offers a replacement that looks and works like an old saddle ring. There can be discomfort when removing a factory safety, but I have one in my .35 Remington takedown and it just puts the rifle back to its original condition.
2. Federal HammerDown Ammo ($34 to $71)
Okay, it might be hard to call ammo an accessory, but I can’t leave this ammo out. A few years ago, Federal created the HammerDown line of ammunition designed specifically for traditional lever action guns. First, they perfectly tuned the bullets to the velocity of the lever gun. Then they left all the brass nickel plated for smooth cycling. But the best thing they did was drag the front lip of the cartridge lip to make it smoother to load through a side port. HammerDown loads are available in .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .30-30 Winchester and .45-70, and some have become my favorites. Federal says a HammerDown load for the .35 Remington is coming soon.
3. Versacarry Ammunition Caddy
Keeping extra ammunition in the stock of a lever gun is a tradition. For years, we’ve relied on lace-up leather cuffs that are fiddly and expensive, and those stretchy spandex ammo holders that soon fit like a pair of stretchy socks. The Versacarry Ammo Caddy is the best answer. It attaches to your stock via a Velcro adhesive pad that won’t damage the finish of your stock, and it also comes with a strap holder. I have an Ammo Caddy on every lever (and many more) rifles I own; I almost never hunt without one.
4. XS Sights Ghost Ring Sights
One of the original founders of XS Sights was a Texas deputy sheriff named Ashley Emerson. Emerson once told me, “You’ll go to hell if you put a grill on a lever gun.” A rescope reduces the snappy handling qualities that lever guns are known for, and if you want to improve the sights on your lever action while maintaining its supple feel, XS Sights’ ghost ring sights are a good option. I know because I’ve used them for years, and their all-steel construction combined with the white-striped pole front makes them incredibly strong and lightning fast. They are available for most joystick weapons and you won’t have to worry about spending eternity with Lucifer.
5. Galco Field Grade Chain Case
I don’t think you are condemned to a fiery hell for grabbing a lever gun, but there should be a punishment for anyone who abuses it. Although they are often thought of as a kind of rifle behind the truck seats, you should put yours in a good case when you move it. A lever gun in a plastic case is about as badass as cowboy boots, so check out Galco’s Field Grade holsters. They offer three versions: one for the ranged rifle, one for the scopeless rifle, and one for the takedown rifle. They are made of khaki cotton duck, lined with acrylic fur, trimmed with leather and have brass chains. Even if the lever gun is beat to hell, the deer camp will be the envy of you when you pull it out of one of these.
6. XS Sights Lever Rail
The thing that makes the XS Sights Lever Rail so attractive is that it helps a lever gun display its inherent versatility. With the lever rail you can install a traditional rifle scope, a red dot, or if you want a more general purpose rifle, a scout. But there is more. With the Lever Rail you get an integral ghost ring rear sight and a postal style white stripe front sight. I have taken two African Buffalo lever pistols and both rifles were equipped with lever rails. They are available for Henry, Marlin, Mossberg and Winchester rifles, and unless you have zero mechanical skills, you should be able to install it yourself.
7. Hill People Gear Lever Light Assembly ($95)
If you use your lever action for wild hog hunting, a gun mounted light is not a bad idea. Also, lever guns make great camp weapons, and you never know what kind of critter you might need to deal with around camp, especially at a remote backcountry tent camp. This cleverly designed little device from Hill People Gear attaches directly to the stock tube and is machined from hard anodized aluminum. It provides an M-Lok mount and comes with a short Picatinny rail section. I have one in my closet kept and always loaded, Marlin 1894 in .357 Magnum.
8. Ranger Point Big Loop Lever
A large ring joystick won’t help you use the joystick any faster, but if you happen to have Shrek-like hands, you might find them more comfortable. A large loop can also help when wearing thick gloves. Besides, the best thing a big stick does is make your stick weapon look badass. Ranger Point Precision offers great levers for Marlins and Winchesters, and you should be able to do the installation yourself. Ranger Point also offers upgraded stocks, forearms, and other zombie-killing accessories for joysticks.
9. Skinner Express Sight/Scope Mount Combo
If you simply can’t decide between open sights or a traditionally mounted scope on your lever gun, or if you want a system that offers both, this is an outstanding solution. Skinner Sights offer a ghost ring sight that comes with a screw-down sight opening. But the base for this look is unique because it will accept Talley’s gorgeous steel rings. And because these rings are quick to detach and 100 percent repeatable, you can switch between sphere or iron sighs in seconds. Several versions are available for most Marlin and Henry lever actions, and as soon as I got my new one for the 2022 Marlin 1895 Trapper, I ordered one.
10. Kirkpatrick Leather Cartridge Belt/Bandolier
I think it’s partly due to the lever gun’s ability to deliver rapid repetitive fire, but for some reason everyone who carries one seems to want to carry a lot of ammo as well. The Versacarry Ammo Caddy (above) is an effective, rifled way to do this, but what if five extra rounds just aren’t enough? How about a waist full of lever action ammo, thanks to a leather hunting belt with enough loops to hold nearly two boxes worth? Or maybe a Pancho Villa-esque bandolier is more to your liking. If one excites you, or if you want to audition for a part in a Wild Bunch remake, you can get there with the help of Kirkpatrick Leather.
11. Scope of Scout Burris
If you want to grip a lever gun while doing less harm to its inherent delivery qualities, consider a scout scope. Sadly, there aren’t many good scout scopes out there, and the best of what’s available is the Burris Scout 2.75×20. It pairs nicely with the XS Sights lever rail, can be mounted low, is only 9.2 inches long and weighs only 7.0 ounces. It also comes with an accented duplex-style reticle that’s easy to see even in low light. This 1-inch tube panel offers a 15-foot field of view at 100 yards and has 8.5 to 14 inches of eye relief. It is ideal for mounting on the barrel in a lever action.
12. Leupold FX-II Ultralight Duplex 2.5×20 ($300)
If you want to use a lever gun in the traditional way (in the receiver), minimally affecting its handling qualities, you need a compact and light rifle. For the most part these are a thing of the past, but Leupold still offers what may be the best ever made. This fixed power scope is only 8 inches tall, has almost 6 inches of mounting space and almost 5 inches of eye relief. At just 6.5 ounces, it’s also extremely light and comes with a wide Duplex reticle, while offering an incredible field of view of 39 meters at 100 yards. Combine that with the Skinner Express Sight/Mount Combo and you have a great all-around setup.
13. Leupold Deltapoint Pro
If you want to carry your lever gun in the future, consider a reflex sight. They are incredibly small and light. Leupold’s Deltapoint Pro comes with a 2.5 or 6.0 MOA red dot and will only add two ounces to your rifle. Typically, a reflex sight needs a mounting rail, but if you have a Marlin lever action, Leupold offers a mounting base for the Deltapoint Pro. It attaches directly to your Marlin receiver and weighs less than an ounce.