Best Lever Action Rifles In 2021

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Photo Credit: Hmaag, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lever action rifles are iconic and are still a viable choice for anyone looking to add a rifle to their collection. For me, it is a nostalgia thing that brings me back to shooting with my dad, so I prefer this type of rifle over others. 

There are a lot of options to choose from, and so I have put together a list of my favorites as well as some information that may help you find the best lever action rifle.

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What is a Lever Action Rifle?

Remember in those old west movies the rifle that the cowboys would fire across the field during that epic final battle? Those are lever action rifles. This type of rifle uses a long lever in the center of the gun to load new shells and spit out the used ones.

The lever is fixed to the rifle’s bolt, and this connection loads the bullet into the chamber to be fired. These types of rifles use cylindrical magazine casing that is housed under the barrel. 

Benefits of a Good Lever Action Rifle

I know a lot of people may wonder why the heck I like these rifles and not some of the more modern styles. There are a lot of great benefits (other than nostalgia) that you can take advantage of when opting to use a lever action rifle. 

Here are some of my favorites:

Hunting and Sporting

Surprisingly, this type of rifle is used worldwide for sporting and hunting. They have a wide variety of caliber choices that open up their versatility of use, including the larger .45-70 cartridge, which can be used for big-game hunting. 

The quickness of firing also ups the chances of actually hitting your target. They are super popular with forest and game personnel, as well as hunters.

Versatility

Once again, the variety of calibers is a big advantage. This gives them the ability to be used for multiple purposes. They can be used for outdoor activities, target practice, or even for home defense.

Rate of Fire

This type of rifle, in comparison to its cousin, the bolt action, offers faster rates of fire. Along with that, you don’t have to re-sight every time you chamber a new round, as you do with a bolt action. This allows you to shoot either from the shoulder or from the hip easily.

Durability

The materials used in construction and the overall blueprint for most lever action rifles lend themselves to creating one tough product. The design also tends to be more compact than other rifles, which makes them great for use while horseback riding.

How to Choose the Right Lever Action Rifle

In order to create my list of the best lever action rifles, I had to really narrow down what makes for a good one. In the end, the list below is what I came up with and used to pick the five lever action rifles I review below.

Here are the four factors I used:

Reliability

The most important thing when looking at any firearm is the reliability of accuracy. Lever action rifles are typically used in outdoor activities like hunting and so the importance of this feature doubles. In fact, to make a clean shot, accuracy needs to be top-notch.

Reliability is also in regards to durability and balance. You want your gun to be balanced so that the accuracy and precision are always on point. You also want a gun that is made to last as most are not cheap.

Maintenance

You want a model that is easy to clean even when you are out in the field. The design should allow for you to do a quick disassembly and clean every bit and piece of the rifle without too much difficulty. 

Maintenance is important, as well. You might want to pay attention to how easy it is to get replacement pieces if needed. 

Look

The look has very little to do with the functionality of the gun. However, it is nice to have a gun that looks good and is functional. The appeal is a matter of taste. 

I personally like a nice dark wood stock with a polished blue barrel. If the stock has a little detailing, that’s a nice touch as well. It makes me feel like I am back in my grandpa’s boots wearing his hat running around the yard with my replica cap gun. That’s just a cool feeling.

Personalization

Another major factor is if the rifle is customizable to your taste and upgradeable to make it more efficient. The first customization you may want to look for is the ability to mount a rifle’s scope. So, when you are looking for a lever action rifle, you will want to find one that has been tapped and drilled. 

There are, of course, other upgrades and customizations possible like engraving or changing the barrel.

Best Lever Action Rifles

So, armed with those features to guide me, I sifted through various lever action rifles. Here are the five I believe provide the most value.

Winchester Model 94 Carbine Rifle

This lever action rifle is the OG 30/30 that helped shape America. Though the version we are discussing today is the modern one, it still has a lot of the same qualities as that truly iconic rifle.

winchester model 94

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When looking at the rifle, you won’t see a lot of significant changes, but they are there. Most of these innovations come in the metallurgy and casting methods used in its construction.

The focus on staying true to the original is a nice touch that adds a little bit of an aesthetic appeal. The fit and finish are just as good as the first time this rifle came off the assembly line.

As for its performance, the company has stayed true to its reputation. It’s reliable and also one of the most accurate lever action rifles compared to its competitors. The downside is you will pay for all that history and performance.

Features and Specs

  • Caliber – 30/30
  • Capacity – 7 +1
  • Barrel length – 20”
  • Length of pull – 13.5”
  • Finish (barrel) – blued
  • Finish (stock) – American walnut
  • Sights (front) – bead 
  • Sights (rear) – semi-buckhorn
  • Tapped and drilled 
  • Weight – 6.75 lbs.

Pros

  • Shorter in length
  • Lightweight
  • Classic aesthetic
  • Reputation of brand

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Value

Ruger 77/22

You may not think of Ruger when you think of lever action rifles, but you should definitely rethink that. This model brings with it all the style and performance of some of the most iconic rifles. 

Ruger 77 22 Bolt Action Rifle

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The thing that really stands out with the rifle is the reliability and accuracy. Carefully crafted with superior materials, this gun is durable and well-balanced.

Then when I think about the ability to personalize it by replacing things like the barrel and adding sights. This option is probably the most customizable choice. The parts are also easy to find, so that helps with maintenance and upkeep. 

Now that being said, there are a few things that I really feel lacks when it comes to this rifle. The trigger quality is a little on the lesser side. Not that it breaks, but it is tighter than most, and that could cause a bit of a problem until it gets broken in.

It is also quite expensive even when looking at other models like the Winchester Model 94. I would say this perhaps best suited for a more affluent and experienced gun owner.

Features and Specs

  • Stock – walnut
  • No sights
  • Barrel length – 20”
  • Capacity – 6
  • Weight 6.5lb.
  • Length of pull – 13.5”
  • Three-position safety
  • Sling swivel studs

Pros

  • Accuracy
  • Well-built mags
  • Easy to find extra parts
  • Reliable 
  • Easy to customize

Cons

  • Trigger quality
  • Expensive

Marlin 336W 

Opting to focus more on the performance then the look Marlin has delivered the 336W. This rifle is a riff on the classic Marlin rifle of yesteryear and though made in a simple design, it still looks stunning. The beauty of these pieces lies in the delicate combination of features and balance.

 

marlin model 336

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It is a little heavy, but when you look at the swing, the balance, and the range, all that becomes a moot point. This makes it the perfect choice for someone new to the lever action rifle world. 

The price point is super affordable when put up against other rifles of the same caliber. So, in my opinion, if you are looking for a reliable, durable, and traditional-looking rifle, there are few better than the Marlin 336W, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to throw around.

Features and Specs

  • Capacity – 6
  • Barrel length – 20”
  • Sights – brass bead (front) / folding semi-buckhorn (rear)
  • Side ejection
  • Caliber – 30/30
  • Weight – 7 lbs.
  • Ambidextrous offset hammer spur

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Multiple pistol grip options
  • Accuracy
  • Excellent sights
  • Drilled and tapped
  • Micro-groove rifling
  • Nice balance

Cons

  • May need to be customized
  • Lacks extra features

Browning BLR Lightweight Rifle

Browning is a name most gun owners are very familiar with; after all, it has been building quality firearms for over a century. Over that time, they have really honed in on what makes a great gun.

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This lightweight rifle is designed for percussion and durability. The accuracy of the fine craftsmanship is stellar, and the smooth action only serves to help that accuracy reach new levels. 

That coupled with the inclusion of open sights, and you end up with a great option for any hunter. It packs a wallop too, so it works great even on big game.

Power is good, especially when hunting something like an elk, but that power can also be one of its drawbacks. The recoil may be too much for those that are a little smaller or slighter of the frame.

Features and Specs

  • Caliber – 270
  • Capacity – 4 +1
  • Barrel length – 22”
  • Length of Pull – 13.75”
  • Finish – Polished blued
  • Stock – Walnut (gloss grade)
  • Sights – open sights
  • Drilled and tapped for scope
  • Weight – 7.25 lbs.
  • Fold-down hammer w/ two-position 
  • Deluxe recoil pad

Pros

  • Good for large game
  • Amazing sights
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in side ejection port
  • Drilled and tapped
  • Durability
  • Nice smooth action
  • Good accuracy

Cons

  • Might be too powerful for some
  • Lengthy lever draw

Henry Lever-Action

This lever action rifle from Henry is another classic-looking rifle that has a lot more hiding behind the simplistic design. It is crafted in the same way Henry rifles have been for decades but with just a few modern twists.

Henry 410 Lever Action Shotgun

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These modern twists are what really made me fall in love with this rifle. It is fitted with a ventilated rubber butt pad that absorbs the recoil of the rifle quite well. Plus, it keeps your armpit cool when you are rapidly firing.

It is also created with swing swivel studs, so if you want to attach a sling, you can. All of these awesome features are why I knew it had to have a home on this list. There are a few issues, though. It is designed only to take 2.5” shells, and, in truth, is not powerful enough for big game. So, if that is what you are looking for, you may be better suited to check out one of the other options above.

Features and Specs

  • Caliber – 410
  • Barrel length – 20”
  • Capacity – 5
  • Finish – matte blued
  • Stock – walnut
  • Weight – 7.35 lbs.
  • Slip-resistant ventilated butt pads

Pros

  • Butt pad is ventilated
  • Non-slip grip
  • Handle recoil well
  • Five shot magazine
  • Built-in brass sight
  • Sling swivel studs

Cons

  • Limited shell compatibility (only 2.5”)
  • Not suitable for large game

Conclusion

Choosing the right lever action rifle, much like with most firearms, may rely on what you are looking to use it for and personal preference. Any of the above rifles are good choices, but in my opinion, the best rifle for the money is the Marlin 336W

It is affordable and offers a value that far exceeds the budget-friendly price. The rifle offers accuracy and reliability, and though simple still is a nice piece to add to your collection. For me, all that merges to form one of the best lever actions available today.

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Author

Brady

Hi there, I'm Brady and I'm the owner of GunMade.com. I have been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since I moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's my passion to share my knowledge and expertise to help you find the best guns in your price range.

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