You Want a Practical Lever Gun? Five Timeless Hunting Classics
Some guns are fancy collector pieces, too nice or historically important to take afield with regularity. Others are shooters built for hard use but lacking class and unlikely to be remembered in a hundred years.
In the world of lever-actions, there are five that reach across all categories. Grab one of these timeless lever-actions for a gun that can hunt all season long, hold a spot in the safe, and pass to the next generation.
One of the most instantly recognizable lever-action rifles is the Savage Model 99. The Model 99’s internal rotary magazine improved upon the standard tubular magazine used on earlier lever guns. A brass round counter set in the receiver was just one of the unique touches.
Calibers like the .300 Savage and .250-300 Savage brought new speed, and longer hunting ranges to the lever gun market, though the Savage 99 was produced in cool calibers from .22 High Power through .375 Winchester. Many Model 99s not only survive to this day but make their way to the hunting woods each Fall as a reminder of both the quality and longevity of the design. It’s safe to say that any hunter who’s had the pleasure of harvesting game with an old 99 would love to see that design return to production.
The Winchester Model 94 has been one of the longest-lasting and most well-respected lever-action rifles ever produced. Calibers like the .30-30 Win and .32 Win Special are certainly the most common chamberings, though the 94 has been offered in many others over the years, including .375 Win, .44 Mag, and even a .410 bore shotgun.
Springing from John Browning’s Model 1894 design, the 94 has surely accounted for more meat in the freezer than most any other lever gun, due to the length of its production run, which continues today. While any Model 94 will get the job done, it’s hard not to love the earlier pre-1964 models for their collectability as well as stellar quality. For an old-school hunting experience, seek out either a new or used Winchester 94 and relive past hunting days.
Affordability meets reliability in the budget-friendly Marlin Model 336. While the .30-30 Win is the most common chambering, the 336 is offered in the brush-busting .35 Rem caliber.
Barrel lengths are most often either 20- or 24-inches. For hunters seeking greater stopping power when hunting bigger game, stepping up to the similarly designed Marlin Model 1895 chambered in .45-70 Govt is ideal. Though the original Marlin brand sold in 2010, production continues under the Remington Outdoors Family of Brands.
Few guns stir all-American pride like the “Made in America or Not Made at All” Henry Repeating Arms rifles. The best-seller among hunters? The Henry Big Boy centerfire lever-action rifles. There’s something for every taste in the Big Boy lineup, with blued steel, silver, color case hardened, and high polish brass receiver options. The Big Boy is available in calibers traditionally viewed as handgun rounds, with maximized performance in both carbine and rifle lengths: .357 Mag, .44 Mag, .45 Colt, .41 Mag, and even.327 Fed Mag.
The 16.5- or 20-inch octagon barrel is topped with semi-buckhorn sights, though scopes are easily mounted as well. Those seeking something different and even more durable will appreciate the All-Weather Big Boy with its hard chrome finish and weather-resistant black-coated stocks or the newer X-Model with tactical features like a threaded barrel, fiber optic sights, and black synthetic M-Lok stocks.
While most lever-actions are fed by internal magazines, the Browning BLR made magazine-fed lever guns a legit contender. With a five-round detachable box magazine, the BLR made it safe and easy to chamber the rifles for pointed or tipped projectiles, opening the door to heavier magnum rounds, including some of the WSM’s.
Browning BLR production began in the 1960s and continues to this day with over 15 chamberings suited for hunters. The BLR uses a slightly different design than its earlier lever predecessors, with a rack-and-pinion driven system and a trigger that travels with the lever. Browning BLR rifles have harvested big game all over the world and look as good in the woods as they do in the safe.
While Browning was first to the punch with longer-range, magazine-fed lever-action rifles, Henry Repeating Arms jumped in with both feet. The Henry Long Ranger is available in four chamberings: .223 Rem/5.56 NATO, .243 Win, .308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor and is capable of handling everything from varmints to big game.
Barrel lengths include 20- and 22-inches, and all barrels are free-floated. The geared action uses a six-lug rotary bolt, and like other Henry firearms, are made in America of US-components, including beautiful American Walnut stocks. There are several Long Ranger model variants, some with iron sights and others with sweet engraving and inlay like the Wildlife Editions.