When I was a kid growing up in northern New England, lever actions were the most popular hunting rifles in the region. In fact, the only high powered rifle in my dad’s armory was a Winchester ’94.

Time went on. Bolt actions and autoloaders came to the fore in popularity among hunters.

Today, we’re seeing a renaissance of the lever action rifles and carbines. To some degree it may be a fear that autoloaders will be banned, but I suspect that nostalgia may have a bit more to do with it.

Here’s a great article on the topic by Craig Boddington, who is sort of the Jack O’Connor of our time. I’ve met Boddington, and found him to be humble, down-to-Earth, and extremely knowledgeable. There’s a lot to be learned from the man.

T-shirt is one of many cool gun-theme tees from American Scroll.


  1. Sadly, the only pair of lever actions I have are the twin Red Riders I got for my son so we could shoot together when he was barely old enough to hold it up. But I’m not embarrassed to say they’re still fun plinkers.

  2. Thanks for the article Mas. I lived through those years and the article was a walk down memory lane. I used to own a Marlin 336 and still have my 94 Winchester angle eject, both in 30-30. I still preferred the accuracy of my bolt guns when hunting. I have read where the Browning BLR rotating bolt will give you the lock up and accuracy of a bolt gun. With a short throw and box mag for spitzer style bullets, it has probably always when been a sleeper.

  3. I’m a big fan of lever guns because they’re just pure Americana and a lot of fun to shoot. I have way too many but I want to be able give a lever gun & a revolver to each of my sons & grandsons (I’ll need to have many more grandkids to match the number of lever guns I own). My favorites are Marlins, and especially the rimfire 39 series. I also hunt with my levers because I don’t take a shot longer than 200 yards where I hunt and most are inside of 130 yards. I took a big spike buck to cull the heard last winter and dropped him where he stood with my Marlin 308MXLR. I plan on using my 336 Texan this year. I picked up one of the new Ruger Marlin 1895SBL’s last year and IMO, Ruger is making the best Marlins ever made. Everyone should own at least one.

  4. I killed my first deer at age 15 with my dad’s 94. When I bought my
    lever, I went with the Marlin for the ease of putting a scope on it at age 16. I’ve
    had it ever since. Bought a Henry .22LR when they first came out and it’s part
    of the family. My reason for having a lever is nostalgic with a side order of fun.

  5. I am amazed at what engineers have been able to do with lever action rifles. All the variations. Solved the Spitzer bullet problem with both magazines and flex tips. They even have tactical lever actions now.

  6. Some instructors – including you, IIRC, Mas, as well as Lee Weems in Georgia – are of the opinion that a good lever action would be a better home defense rifle than an AR-15. A standard lever gun would not have the “evil assault rifle” stigma when shown to a jury, and the almost non-existent mechanical offset of the sights would be an advantage at close range. I took Lee’s “Social Levergun” class earlier this year, it was a lot of fun and really solidified my levergun skills.

  7. I own a Savage 99 in .300 Savage (one of the progenitors of the .308 Winchester), lovingly restored by a talented local gunsmith. I bought it online because it had an NRA 99% bore. It was made before I was born. It’s a rifle, not a carbine, but it carries better in the hand than any firearm I have ever handled, because of the rotary magazine, and is masterfully balanced. The local gunsmith repaired the brass shell counter (window in the port side of the receiver), replaced the rear sight, one sling ring, and plugged the holes a previous owner had made in the receiver. When I offered to pay him for his work, he declined, saying it was a pleasure to work on such a fine old gun. I insisted to pay, and he said, “Son, do see how old I am? All those parts I used were in my spare parts bin for 30 years. What do you think the chances are that someone will come through that door with another old Savage 99?”

    • I believe that Marble’s used to make a .25 ACP insert for the .300 Savage 99 that was popular with trappers back in the day when maybe the center fire ignition of the .25 was more reliable as well as copacetic with the central firing pin strike. Charlie Sheen portrayed a notorious outlaw who evidently liked the .300 Savage 99. I have a friend in Alaska who hunted moose for years with a .308 99 without mishap, until he bought an HK semiauto in.308.

      • I have literally spent years hiking through Alaska and Yukon bear country in all seasons, including some encounters with grizzly and the.big brown, as well as many with the black species in various colors. I have carried several different long guns at the ready trail position, and fortunately I was always ready to present as quickly as possible. My favorite carry was a .45-70 Marlin 1895 JB (the new Rugers are probably terrific), and I never had a malfunction with it, although I always wanted to try an 1886 Winchester to see if I liked it better. You can rasp and sand down the size of the wooden Marlin forend to enhance trail carry. The large rim on the .45-70 case is highly conducive to reliable feeding and extraction. My 375 H&H Winchester bolt actions were probably the most deep-woods rugged, but the second shot would never be as quick as with a lever, and maybe the first shot either! Just make sure if you have a magazine tube on your lever-action that it is clean and free of any obstructions. A Savage 99 in .358 Win. with heavy bullets in its rotary magazine would be a great bear gun in the hand.

  8. My new lever action is a direct result of Washington state (where my grandchildren are) banning every rifle I owned. Totally illegal and perhaps the courts will get around to doing something eventually.

  9. I had to check the memory banks with the way back machine to recall Mr. Boddington. That said it was a very good article that covered the subject well.

    I’ve got to admit to a yen for a .44 Magnum rifle, a lever would be nice. I appreciate the quality of the Henry product, but would be willing to accept less spectacular wood for a more reasonable price. Off topic, but their single shot rifle is also very nice, but being able to change calibers/barrel profiles would make the product much more attractive.

    Wonder what the price tag on the Ruger/Marlin 1894 is going to be? Not that I need another toy.

    • Darn, Chris, ya missed it. I used to shoot Single Action Shooting Society matches in NH. Started with all originals: Winchester ’92 .38-40, Winchester ’97 pump shotgun, S&W Model 3 and Colt Frontier .44-40. Finished with Ruger single actions, Marlin .357 carbine, and the ’97. My lovely bride said, “I shoot GSSF and IDPA and USPSA and pins with you. I’ve even shot PPC with you. But I will not dress up like Dale Evans!!!” And it’s more fun shooting with her than without her, so…

      • Maybe she could dress like Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane or Wrangler Jane. Since she’s dressing up, might as well dress like a man. A woman could easily be Billy the Kid, or don a fake beard so she really looks like an hombre.

  10. Yes, but is it lever, as in fever, or lever, as in never?
    Again, very good article Uncle Mas.
    Hey, you missed one helluva storm.

  11. One point. Lever action firearms are quite favorable for people who are left-handed. They are far more “lefty-friendly” than your typical right-hand bolt gun. Even the beloved AR pattern MSR is not too “lefty-friendly” unless fitted out with an ambidextrous safety and, perhaps, ambi-mag and/or bolt releases. Stag Arms makes some completely left-handed AR models. I also own a Stag Arms left-handed AR.

    Did you know that Craig Boddington is left-handed? Perhaps that is a factor in his love for level guns?

    I happen to be a “lefty” myself. As a result, I have always found level guns easy to use. I currently own three versions.

    I like pistol-caliber carbines so I own a Marlin level-action carbine in .357 Magnum. I also own a clone of the Winchester 1892 carbine chambered in 45 Colt. A gun that never actually existed in the “Old West” but does exist today (The original Model 1892 level guns were never available in 45 colt caliber.)

    Finally, I own a clone of the Winchester Model 1887 lever-action shotgun. It is chambered to take the 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge shell. Talk about a fun gun to shoot! You don’t know what fun is until you start blasting targets with a 12 gauge lever-action shotgun! No wonder Arnold “The Terminator” used it so effectively as his “motorcycle gun”.

    As they say, it is the most fun you can have with your pants on! 🙂

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