While we can look back and drool over so many early-era lever-action rifles with their hand-done engraving and rare inlays, there are a surprising number of beautiful and practical lever actions being produced today. Who wouldn’t want to spend some time admiring these exceptional modern levers? If you adore matte black and synthetic, avert your eyes now.
Henry New Original Deluxe Engraved
One of the first, and still most simply magnificent designs in the lever-action world, is the Henry Original rifle. With no handguard and a unique tubular magazine, the Original is instantly recognizable. Though reproduced by many companies over the years, why not drool over the one still bearing the Henry name? Henry Repeating Arms produces multiple New Original model variants, including an Iron Frame, a Rare Carbine, Deluxe Silver Engraved, and a 200th Anniversary. But the one that catches the most eyes on every rack is the New Original Deluxe Engraved.
While authentic engraved 1860s period rifles are extremely rare, these new limited editions are more accessible. Engraving on this particular edition is purely American, with an eagle, Revolutionary War collage, and USA shield. The rifle still uses the toggle link lever action. There’s a 24.5-inch octagon barrel, polished brass receiver, and fancy American walnut stocks. It’s chambered in .44-40 Winchester.
Uberti produces so many high-end, attractive lever-action reproductions that the challenge is choosing a single rifle. If you’re a crow attracted to shiny brass that's paired with fine furniture, the 1866 Yellowboy line, featuring a brass frame and buttplate, is where it’s at. For those who favor the classic look of fancy wood and case color, Uberti’s Models of 1886 are on point.
Choose either the 1886 Sporting Rifle or 1886 Hunter Lite Rifle. Both display a lovely case-hardened frame and are chambered in .45-70 Government. They use straight Grade A checkered walnut stocks. The former wears a 25.5-inch, blued octagonal barrel.
The rifle known as the gun that won the West, recognized as Winchester’s most iconic American lever-action design, is the venerable Model of 1873. While true original models are collectible, nostalgic, and often surprisingly affordable, Winchester is building improved 1873 rifles today. Their special editions are nothing short of fantastic. Exclusives like the Trapper Grade IV Limited or 1873 Competition Carbine High Grade are head-turners, but the production model 1873 Deluxe Sporting is a true dandy in both class and shootability.
The Deluxe Sporting shows off a stunning color-case-hardened finish partnered with Grade V/VI black walnut furniture. With the figure in that wood and rich case colors, the drool factor is real. The 24-inch, gloss-blued barrel is half octagon and half-round. Case hardening even carries over to the lever, forearm cap, and buttplate. Calibers include .44-40 Win, .45 Colt, and .38 Special/.357 Magnum.
Henry Repeating Arms builds so many exceptional long guns that it’s nearly impossible to rank the top eye candy. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. Almost any Tribute edition rimfires could surely be considered, some with brass finish and engraving and others with silver or gold inlays. The American Beauty is a sure contender, as are the Deluxe Golden and Silver Boys. But if you want to talk about a rifle that is both practical and a hunter’s looker, check out the Henry Long Ranger Wildlife series.
Each of the three models wears a 20-inch round barrel, dropbox magazine, checkered American walnut stocks, and uses a high-polish nickel-plated receiver that is scroll engraved and then 24K gold inlaid with one of three animals. There’s the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO chambering with coyotes, .243 Winchester with antelope, and .308 Winchester with elk. Those who favor intricate scrollwork will want to lay peepers on the Long Ranger Deluxe Engraved with its polished nickel, scroll engraving, and 24K gold inlay.
If something named White Gold Medallion was advertised, you might think fancy jewelry. In this case, however, it’s even better – the Browning BLR White Gold Medallion Maple rifle. While the Browning lever-action family of rifles has been around for decades, this new edition is stunning. The highly figured AAA-grade American maple stocks are spectacular, with rosewood pistol grip and forend caps. There’s an engraved satin nickel finished receiver and a high gloss stainless barrel.
In calibers that include .243 Win, 7mm-08 Remington, .308 Win, and .30-06 Springfield, the BLR is as practical as it is attractive. A 20-inch sporter barrel wears iron sights, and the rifle is fed by a detachable box magazine. The gold-plated trigger and gold Buckmark engraving on the trigger guard are icing on the cake.
Names like Winchester and Henry have long defined the lever-action market. But when big bore, American-made, and attractive modern lever guns are desired, Big Horn Armory has to be at the center of the conversation. I’ve reviewed the Model 89 before, and it is a beauty. The Big Horn Armory Model 89 is one of the most well-built lever-driven long guns, capable of handling the meanest rounds, like .500 S&W, .500 Linebaugh, and .475 Linebaugh.
On top of that, those fine folks in Cody, Wyoming, know how to catch the eye as well. Model 89s essentially combines the best features of the Winchester Models 86 and 92 into both carbine and rifle options. Manufactured with stainless steel and dressed in select American black walnut stocks with superb grain, the BHA Model 89 stands alone.