Lever-action shotguns are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for over 135 years. Yet it seems many decades passed in that time with gaping holes in production. Now in 2023, however, buyers have more lever-action shotgun options than ever before. 

Whether collecting originals, nabbing a prime American build, testing out any of the newfangled tacticals, or going for old-school repros, shotgunners have never had it so good. While these are far from the only lever-action shotguns, they represent some of our classic favorites alongside others that have recently caught our attention. 
 

Table of Contents

The American Original: Winchester 1887
The Repros: Chiappa 1887 & Taylor’s & Co 1887
The New USA: Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410
The Out-of-Production Gems
The Turkish Budget Levers
The Non-Shotgun Shotguns

The American Original: Winchester 1887

 

Winchester 1887 versions
The original Winchester 1887, top, was famously sawed off, as shown at bottom, and used by Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)


All lever-action shotgun roads lead back to a common beginning. At the behest of Winchester, powerhouse designer John Moses Browning created a unique, contained, rolling-block lever-driven scattergun that fed from a tubular magazine. 

The Winchester 1887 was born, and since has come to be recognized as not only the first mainstream lever-action shotgun, but one of the first effective repeating shotguns, period. The model advanced through the years, adding a shorter 20-inch barrel that was selected for police use and stagecoach defense, along with the Model 1901 in 10-gauge. 

Regardless of the model year, that hulky 1887/1901 receiver design remains instantly recognizable. In fact, film aficionados will recognize variations of the 1886/1901 having appeared in films from early black-and-white Westerns to “Terminator 2.” Naturally, early original models are increasingly rare to find in high condition, with each specimen prized by collectors. 
 

The Repros: Chiappa 1887 & Taylor’s & Co 1887

 

Chiappa 1887 shotgun
Chiappa offers a line of 12-gauge 1887 reproductions with the classic good looks of the original. (Photo: Guns.com)


The Winchester 1887 has not been forgotten – far from it, in fact. However, few of us are able to add an original to our arsenal due to the combination of scarcity and cost. That’s where quality reproductions come into play. Among a handful of well-known repro brands, Chiappa and Taylor’s & Co have the corner on the freshly-built 1887 market. 

Chiappa’s 12-gauge 1887 line includes barrel lengths of either 22 or 28 inches. The thumpers look and feel quite similar to the Winchester, chambering 2.75-inch shells but taking a modern turn by integrating Beretta/Benelli Mobil chokes. They’re dressed in European walnut furniture and use an internal safety mechanism. 

Likewise, Taylor’s & Co takes those same lines and dresses them even fancier. The color case hardened finish simply radiates a rainbow of tones. Walnut stocks are classy on the specimens we’ve seen. While the guns are lookers, they’re also built to use. Each comes with a set of three choke tubes and gives modern shooters a feel for the old days.  
 

The New USA: Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410

 

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun
The author harvested a wild turkey with this Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 shotgun. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


In the modern lever-action shotgun market, both Marlin and Winchester have held ground, but at the time of this writing, Henry Repeating Arms stands alone. Henry’s Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun represents a family of firearms built around the company’s .45-70 Government action. A pair of blued steel and American walnut models headline the show. The 19.75-inch barreled version with a fixed cylinder bore touts itself as more of a home defender. 
 

Henry Side Gate Lever Action .410 Shotgun
Henry's Side Gate .410 is built around the company's .45-70 Government action. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


On the flip side, a 24-incher with interchangeable chokes makes for a versatile hunter. There’s even a blacked out, large-loop X-Model for those with a tactical penchant, alongside a snappy polished brass variant sure to catch eyes on the range. Per Henry's motto, these levers are “made in America or not made at all,” and backed with the company’s lifetime warranty. 
 

Related: Why We're Excited About Henry's .45-70 and .410 Side Gates
 

The Out-of-Production Gems


Over the years a number of quality lever-action shotguns have come and gone, including another crack from Winchester with the now-defunct 9410. It’s Marlin, however, that held a much larger market share. 

At the time of this writing, Marlin’s American-made .410 has been out of production for far too long. However, we’re anxiously awaiting word that new owner Ruger might once again re-launch the .410 shotgun arm of Marlin lever guns. Out-of-production used Marlin scatterguns –especially the limited run of early shareholder specials – continue to command a premium today. 
 

The Turkish Budget Levers

 

GForce LVR410 and TriStar LR94
A side-by-side look at GForce's LVR410 and TriStar's LR94. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


The lever action has long been an American design, but with the growing interest in lever guns, a number of other countries are joining production. Turkey, already quickly becoming one of the largest exporters of affordable shotguns in the world, is now turning out lever-action scatterguns. 

The two major players in that space right now are GForce Arms and TriStar. The companies share much in common, including 2.5-inch .410-bore chamberings, Turkish walnut furniture, and an aluminum alloy receiver build. From there, the differences begin. 
 

GForce Arms LVR410 Lever-Action .410 Shotgun
GForce's LVR410 is a standout option for budget-minded shotgunners looking for a new lever action. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


GForce Arms, a Reno, Nevada-based company, offers a wide variety of .410 lever shotguns. Buyers have a choice of either a 20- or 24-inch barrel, with 7+1 and 9+1 round capacities, respectively. Each ships with a hard case and a set of three choke tubes. In addition to matte black, silver and case-colored contoured receivers, the company offers a tactical-dressed Huckleberry family with wild color variants including a red, white, and blue model. 
 

Related: Unboxing a GForce LVR410 – Budget-friendly Lever Action
 

TriStar LR94 lever-action shotgun
TriStar's LR94 features a leather-wrapped loop and checkered walnut stocks for a Western flair. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)


TriStar’s LR94 sets itself apart with checkered stocks, a leather-wrapped loop, and a half-length magazine tube with a 5+1 round capacity. Three variants launched simultaneously – matte blued, case colored, and nickel silver finishes. Tristar offers shooters a choice of either a 22- or 24-inch barrel, each accepting interchangeable choke tubes.
 

The Non-Shotgun Shotguns

Lever-action shotguns that are not technically “shotguns”? These darlings may be short, but they’re legit. Chiappa's 1887 Mare’s Leg and Taylor’s 1887 Bootleg are compact, handheld reproductions of the original 1887 design. Meanwhile, Henry takes the non-NFA platform in a modern direction with its wicked .410-bore Axe
 

Related: A New Lever-Action in the Arsenal – Henry Axe

 
Chiappa 1887 Mare's Leg lever-action shotgun
The Chiappa 1887 Mare’s Leg measures just 27.5 inches overall. (Photo: Guns.com)


The Chiappa Mare’s Leg uses an 18.5-inch barrel, yet measures only measure 27.5 inches overall. The Taylor’s Bootleg shares the same metrics, packing five rounds of 12-gauge ammunition into a steel and walnut build that weighs a hefty 7.9 pounds empty. The case-colored finish is a sweet addition to an already eye-catching firearm. 

No matter what you call them or how you use them – home defense, cowboy action, or range time thrills – shorty lever-action shotguns have cemented their place in the firearms world. 

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