The lever action rifle, perhaps more than any other firearm, holds a powerful and sentimental place in the American story. Who hasn’t confidently watched an iconic western movie, sure in the knowledge that the hero would save the day with his well-loved rifle? Millions of Americans adored tuning in each week to The Rifleman, a 1950s and 1960s television show about a father and son making a life in New Mexico. Let’s honor the most quintessentially American gun by checking out five favorites.
Securing a Place in American History
Lever operated rifles first appear on the American scene in the mid 19th Century and saw a limited production by several companies including Oliver Winchester’s New Haven Arms Company. Winchester encouraged Benjamin Tyler Henry to join the company, and together they developed the iconic Henry Rifle that was so important in the Civil War.
Winchester changed the name of New Haven Arms Company to Winchester Repeating Arms Company at the conclusion of the Civil War. The business put out many great rifles including the Winchester 1873 over the next decade. John M. Browning joined Winchester and, beginning in 1883, the name Winchester and the lever operated gun became inexorably intertwined in American culture.
The Winchester wasn’t the single lever action rifle available to hunters in the late 19th and 20th centuries. John Marlin began offering these distinctive firearms in the 1890s and Marlins remain a favorite choice for many hunters to this day.
Five Terrific Choices
Who makes the best lever action rifle? Most people will admit that there isn’t one lever action rifle the fits everyone any more than there is one car that works for every driver. The first hunting rifle, for most of us, is the kind that our families preferred. Still, there are very few things as incredible in life as finding the gun that fits you and encourages you to head to the wilderness for an adventure. With that said, let’s look at five fantastic options.
1. Henry Arms .45-70 | Use: Short and Medium Range Big Game
The Henry Arms .45-70 is the type of gun you need to have with you if you’re venturing to some remote hunting destination in someplace like Alaska. This beautiful gun is made in the United States and boasts an American Walnut stock with a checkered grip that will help you to keep holding onto it when facing down a Grizzly Bear. The tubular magazine, although not everyone’s favorite type of magazine, allows for easy cartridge removal.
All in all, this is an elegant lever action rifle that does a terrific job in short and medium range big game hunting.
2. Browning BLR | Use: All Range Big Game
The Browning BLR is an outstanding choice for lever rifle lovers because it combines the high-quality craftsmanship expected in a top class rifle with the most modern and sophisticated technology. The result is a best in its class rifle that provides dependable handling with compelling accuracy.
One of the significant differences between the BLR and the Henry Arms .45-70 is that the Browning uses a detachable box magazine instead of a tubular magazine. The box magazine lets you use tipped ammunition instead of plain flat nosed ammo. The ability to fire powerful magnum rounds makes the BLR an excellent hunting rifle.
3. Henry Classic Lever Action .22 | Use: Small Game and Target Practice
The Henry Classic .22 is a fun little lever action rifle that will conjure up images of riding horseback in the Old West. Like every firearm made by Henry, the .22 is a beautiful instrument with a luminous blue finish and dark walnut stock. You’ll be stunned at how smooth it is to fire the .22 the first time that you unload on your target. The distinct clicking noise that comes from a cartridge chambering will bring a smile to your face as you remember all of those Saturday mornings spent watching old Western television shows.
The high-quality Henry .22 uses a tubular magazine that lets you load up and forget about it. The front and rear iron sites work well and make hitting the target much more comfortable. In all, the .22 is a super accurate repeating rifle that gives you a fun taste of the Old West.
4. Marlin Model 336 | Use: Woodland Medium to Large Game Hunting
Countless families have chosen Marlins over the years due to their robust construction and reliability. The 336 is one of the highest selling levers of all time and has been a favorite choice over the last few decades. It’s the first choice for many hunters because it’s a reliable rifle that does an excellent job of taking down big game at a reasonable price.
You can easily mount a scope on the Marlin 336 because spent cartridges come out of the side of the receiver. Marlin guessed that many customers might choose to install one and so the 336 comes equipped with a reversible hammer spur to make it easier to use it.
5. Henry Long Ranger Lever Action Rifle | Use: Long Range Medium and Large Game Hunting
The Henry Long Ranger is the rifle to get if you want to take down a target from a long distance. Henry made this rifle in .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, and .308 Winchester to successfully take on medium to large size targets. The Long Ranger is the incredibly accurate and smooth operating rifle that you need if you find yourself struggling on the side of a mountain with an angry bear on your tail.
Lastly, lever action rifles are part of the American cultural landscape, and you owe yourself the experience of hunting with one. Lever operated rifles are experiencing something of a revival as more and more people celebrate our rich gun heritage and the preeminent gun manufacturers are putting out terrific rifles. Take advantage of the excitement around this historic firearm and try one out for yourself. We promise you’ll feel a unique thrill when you head out the door with a piece of history in your hands.
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