Best Tactical Lever-Action Rifles & Buyer’s Guide [2022]

The appeal of classic cowboy movies aside, lever-action rifles have a unique operation resulting in smooth shooting not seen in regular firearms. They’re an...

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Best Tactical Lever-Action Rifles & Buyer’s Guide [2022]
ImageProductPrice
henry-big-boy-x-model-bluedblack-lever-action-rifle-357-magnum-1638585-1Our Top Pick – Henry Big Boy X Model .357 MagnumCheck Price
marlin-336-dark-black-parkerized-lever-action-rifle-30-30-winchester-1531791-1 Runner-Up – Marlin 336 Dark Series 30-30 Winchester Check Price
Rossi R92 Triple Black Rossi R92 Triple Black .44 Magnum Check Price
citadel-levtac-92-black-lever-action-rifle-357-magnum-18in-1697458-1 Best High-Capacity Rifle – Citadel LEVTAC-92 .357 Magnum Check Price
taylors-and-company-1892-alaskan-takedown-black-lever-action-rifle-44-magnum-1532012-1 Premium (Fanciest Option) – Taylor’s & Company 1892 Alaskan Takedown .44 MagnumCheck Price

Introduction

It’s amazing to me that the lever-action still keeps its relevance to this day. There’s something satisfying about that cocking sound that makes you want to own one.

The appeal of classic cowboy movies aside, lever-action rifles have a unique operation resulting in smooth shooting not seen in regular firearms. They’re an undying American legacy.

1280px-Henry_Winchester_Musket
A Henry Lever Action Rifle Model 1860 and a Winchester Model 1866 lever-action musket. Source: Wikimedia

The first true lever-action firearm might be Henry’s Model 1860 repeating rifle, but the first popular lever-action gun type was the Winchester Model 1873, or “the gun that won the west.”

1280px-Winchester_1873_Rifle
The .44-40 caliber Winchester Repeating Arms Company 1873 rifle. Source: Wikimedia

Throughout the centuries, there have been earlier models of Winchesters, Henry rifles, and Colt repeaters that have gone through changes in design that focus on convenience in operation.

Today, manufacturers have come up with ways to enhance and improve the performance of the beloved lever gun. We’re talking tactical here.

Tactical lever-action rifles allow you to modify your rifle for all kinds of applications like home defense and competition shooting. They can take on multiple roles to fully adjust to the preference of the modern-day gunman, despite what gun purists say.

In today’s round-up, I carefully listed some of the best lever-action rifles with a tactical twist and great value.

There are budget rifles, premium rifles, ones for the seasoned sportsmen, some interesting classics, some with cool aesthetics, and some with excellent features that offer an edge in game hunting.

Let’s check them out.

Best Tactical Lever-Action Rifles

Our Top Pick – Henry Big Boy X Model .357 Magnum

henry-big-boy-x-model-bluedblack-lever-action-rifle-357-magnum-1638585-1

Pros

  • 7+1 capacity
  • Durable black synthetic stock
  • Comfortable rubber recoil pad
  • Perfectly-sized lever loop
  • Ambidextrous

Cons

  • Tough reloading
  • Heavy

A true household name in the lever-action business, Henry Repeating Arms laid down the blueprint for the first Henry lever-action repeater more than 160 years ago.

Their motto is “Made in America, or Not Made at All,” so you know you’re dealing with a renowned brand.

They introduced the tactical Model X Series in 2020 with a modern, pistol-caliber twist on the traditional lever-action rifles.

The Henry X Model .45-70 Govt. has a longer barrel, and the Henry All-Weather .45-70 Govt. has a durable frame, but we’ll focus on the Big Boy X.

The mechanism, loading gates, and tubular magazines remain unchanged from the original design. But, Henry went out all tactical with a black synthetic stock with a blued finish.

It has the shortest, carbine-length barrel of 17.4 inches, a 7-round removable tube magazine, and it’s chambered in the popular .357 Magnum.

The enlarged lever loop is large enough for a gloved hand, and the side loading gate allows you to top off the mag without removing the tube or suppressor. It’s as tactical as it gets, and the action feels smooth if you don’t rush it.

It has a comfortable recoil pad, M-LOK accessory slots, Picatinny rail on the forend, 5/8×24 pre-threaded barrel for suppressors, and drilled and tapped fiber optic sights.

Whether you accessorize it as a self-defense rifle, deer rifle, or you just want to turn heads at the ranges, the Big Boy X Model wears many faces.

Runner-Up – Marlin 336 Dark Series 30-30 Winchester

marlin-336-dark-black-parkerized-lever-action-rifle-30-30-winchester-1531791-1

Pros

  • Paracord-wrapped lever and paracord sling for convenience
  • Manageable recoil and muzzle flip
  • Lever loop is slightly larger than the Henry rifle
  • Suppressor-ready barrel
  • Bolt safety indicator turns red when ready to fire
  • Crisp trigger break

Cons

  • Heavy trigger pull
  • Short trigger reset
  • Heavy weight

Here’s another prominent brand with more than 150 years of quality.

Marlin came up with the Dark Series and caused a stir by going tactical on their classic Model 336 and Model 1895 rifle lineups.

The Model 336 is a 5+1 round capacity tactical lever-action rifle available in the traditional .30-30 Winchester chambering, and the Model 1895 is in .45-70 Government. They’re pretty hefty with a 7.6-pound weight.

They share the same features with an all-black finish, extended XS sights with a Picatinny optics rail, M-LOK handguard, and a 5/8”-24 TPI threaded muzzle, hammer spur, and a 16-inch barrel length with a Marlin-certified Micro-Groove rifling.

I’m not too sure about the painted black metal finish on the stock and forearm instead of a waterproof polymer stock. But, the stock handles recoil well, and the butt pad sits comfortably on your shoulder.

It has a paracord sling for convenient carrying, unlike many lever-action rifles.

The lever is slightly larger than the Henry rifle, and it’s very easy to operate. The bolt safety tells you when it’s ready to fire by turning red.

Some folks might not like the 5.5-pound trigger pull, but at least it has a crisp break.

Overall, it’s a very rugged lever-action rifle made for convenience and smooth shooting. If you’re an off-the-grid hermit and you want to protect your forest, look no further than the Marlin 336 Dark.

Rossi R92 Triple Black .44 Magnum

Rossi R92 Triple Black

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Very lightweight (6 pounds)
  • Lots of variants available
  • Stainless steel internal parts
  • Largest lever loop on the list

Cons

  • Stiff lever
  • Loading gate has sharp edges

The Rossi R92 Triple Black Series has a lot in store as a tactical truck rifle. The Rossi R92 Triple Black is a cost-efficient pistol-caliber that’s available in the standard .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum chamber.

It’s an obvious Winchester 1892 replica that pays homage as a portable lever gun with a highly durable polymer furniture and a nimble 16.5-inch barrel.

The main advantage is its oversized loop lever with leather paracord wrapping that’s perfect for gloves.

Honest to its name, it’s fully blacked-out with a Cerakote finish and comes with a forward-mounted Picatinny scope base for optics and stainless steel internal components.

The bladed front and peephole rear sights are convenient and suitable for open sight (long eye relief) shooting. You can also install a red dot on the weaver-type rail.

Despite its 6.5-pound weight, the recoil is surprisingly manageable with its comfy buttpad, and you get smooth operation and accurate follow-up shots at 100 yards. The hammer serves as an alternative safety when it’s half-cocked.

The downsides are the stiff lever and the sharp edges on the loading gate, which take a little practice to avoid. Still, the Rossi R92 Triple Black offers practicality and smooth maneuvering at an affordable price.

Best High-Capacity Rifle – Citadel LEVTAC-92 .357 Magnum

citadel-levtac-92-black-lever-action-rifle-357-magnum-18in-1697458-1

Pros

  • 8-round tube capacity
  • Oversized lever loop
  • Picatinny rail and M-LOK forend
  • Great for home defense and competition shooting

Cons

  • No threaded muzzle
  • Picatinny rail could be longer

If you’re looking for a great pistol-caliber model, here’s the Citadel LEVTAC-92, chambered in the .357 Magnum. Most hunters regard it as a Marlin copy as if it was a bad thing, but best believe it shoots like a breeze.

Inspired by the 1892 Model, Citadel made this one with a classic lever-action profile and a synthetic stock, an 18-inch barrel, Picatinny rail for your optics, and a modular M-LOK forend that really makes it feel like tweaking an AR rifle.

It’s available in other calibers like the .44 Mag. and the powerful .454 Casull.

The Picatinny and skeletonized M-LOK forend attachment points allow you to install bolt-on aftermarket parts like lasers, lights, sights, and more.

The oversized lever loop can accommodate almost any hand size. But, what makes the Citadel LEVTAC-92 stand out is its 8+1 round capacity, which is obviously designed for tactical home defense purposes as well as competition shooting.

If you truly want a tactical lever-action package, the Citadel LEVTAC-92 could use a longer Picatinny rail and a threaded muzzle to reduce flashes.

Besides that, it’s a very affordable tactical lever gun that ticks all the requirements, especially the extra mag capacity.

Premium (Fanciest Option) – Taylor’s & Company 1892 Alaskan Takedown .44 Magnum

taylors-and-company-1892-alaskan-takedown-black-lever-action-rifle-44-magnum-1532012-1

Pros

  • Weather-resistant finish
  • Lightweight (6.5 pounds average)
  • 10-round capacity model available
  • Oversized lever

Cons

  • Difficult to find
  • Expensive

The Alaskan Takedown tactical lever-action rifle is a great choice if you have some extra cash to spare and don’t mind skipping aftermarket upgrades.

Brought by Taylor’s & Company and made by Chiappa standards, the Model 1892 Alaskan Takedown .44 Magnum has a 7+1 round capacity and a short 16-inch barrel.

I failed to find a tactical lever gun with a takedown feature, so this one is really special if you’re looking for a portable survival rifle. You can separate the gun in two halves, place it in your backpack, and off you go.

This portable survival rifle is lightweight with a mere 6.5 pounds, Skinner Express rear iron sights and a fiber-optic front sight, and the oversized lever is a nice touch as well.

It’s tuned for the Hornady Lever evolution ammunition, so expect moderate recoil and reliable cycling. Pair it with a .44 Magnum revolver, and you have yourself a lucky number.

The flat-top octagonal barrel is made of carbon steel with black oxide, a weather-resistant finish, and the forward-mounted rail is drilled and tapped for “Scout Mount” optics.

The black hardwood frame (both stock and forend) has a heat-resistant rubber overmolding with a comfy anti-shock rubber pad on the buttstock.

The Model 1892 Alaskan Takedown is exclusive and can only be found via Taylor’s & Co. in Virginia. Good luck finding one in stock.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some honorable mentions that this list can’t go without. Some are classics and not exactly tactical, but they still make the cut.

Mossberg 464 SPX 30-30 Winchester

MOSSBERG 464 SPX - 30-30 WINCHESTER

Pros

  • Mossberg quality
  • Lever-action rifle with an AR-style
  • Diamond-pattern grips
  • 6-position adjustable stock
  • .22 LR rimfire cartridge model available
  • Smooth lever action
  • Limited Mossberg warranty

Cons

  • Heavy (7.3 pounds)
  • Safety is a bit awkward to disengage

Here’s Mossberg’s take on the tactical lever action, and man, does it rub elitists the wrong way.

The Mossberg 464 SPX was introduced back in 2012. It’s chambered in the .30-30 Winchester caliber, and it offers a portable, AR-style feel with its 6-position adjustable stock that’s compatible with AR-15 stocks, believe it or not.

It has a 6-round tubular magazine capacity, all-polymer furniture with a thick rubber pad, fiber-optic sights, and Picatinny Picatinny accessory rails on the fore-end. The forend is checkered with a diamond pattern for a comfy and secure grip.

The walnut stock and 16-inch barrel with a blued finish add up to a 7.3-pound weight, and it’s threaded for an AR-style birdcage flash muzzle suppressor.

The sights are adjustable on the drilled and tapped receiver, suitable for a Weaver-style base. The receiver is precision-machined, and it has a top tang safety hammer block.

While the trigger pull was decent with a crisp break, you need to position your hand properly because the lever sometimes fails to depress far enough if you want to disengage the safety.

Besides that, the Mossberg 464 SPX is basically a marriage between a Western classic and an AR-15 frame, much to the dismay of lever-action purists. It weighs 7 pounds but feels alright.

Browning BLR Lightweight ’81 Stainless Takedown 30-06 Springfield Rifle

browning-blr-lightweight-81-stainless-takedown-rifle-1457889-1

Pros

  • Reliable Browning quality
  • Portable 20-inch barrel package
  • Fast takedown lever-action rifle
  • Multiple calibers and models available

Cons

  • Not exactly a tactical choice
  • Doesn’t have an M-LOK rail
  • A bit expensive

Last but not least, here’s a Browning lever-action rifle, in all its glory.

The BLR Lightweight ’81 Stainless Takedown lever-action rifle is not exactly tactical, but it has a flush-mounted detachable box magazine which is a rarity on lever-action rifles.

Browning designed it to be a portable powerhouse with a superfast takedown and easy backpack storage. Simply flip the lever, twist the barrel and receiver to a 90-degree turn, and take it apart. Reassemble it in the reverse order.

It has a satin finish on a laminated hardwood stock, a nickel-finished, aircraft-grade alloy receiver, and a matte finish on a stainless 20-inch barrel.

The barrel is drilled and tapped for a forward-mounted scout-style optic base that guarantees not to lose its zero. The notched rear sights are low-profile.

The checkered grips and forearm offer decent handling, and the barrel’s target-type crown makes sure you shoot your 30-06 Spr. caliber straight.

While it’s a piece of high-quality precision machinery with a heat-treated, chrome-moly steel barrel, this Browning BLR model is not exactly cheap. I figured somebody might be interested in a classic setup without the tactical frames.

With a 13.75-inch LOP (overall length of pull), Truglo fiber-optic sights, and very smooth lever action, the BLR Lightweight ’81 offers a 30-06 Springfield-caliber shooting experience for the ultimate hunter.

Buyer’s Guide for the Best Tactical Lever-Action Rifles

First off, hats off to you if you’re considering this classic American rifle with a modern twist. Most people would dismiss any traditional firearm with a skeleton rail. I say they’re just too quick to judge.

Before we go through the main criteria of picking your own tactical lever-action rifle, there are some important issues to consider with the lever-action rifle as a home defense firearm, for plinking, or for hunting.

Why Choose Tactical Lever-Action Rifles?

Most lever-action rifles have now become collector’s items, but then again, there has been a resurgence of lever-action rifles, and I wouldn’t place the blame solely on nostalgia.

The main reason why lever-action rifles are still viable is that they bring a unique, practical solution to the table.

The manually operated cocking handle does all the work by moving the bolt, feeding and extracting cartridges, and cocks the firing pin all in one go. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Tactical Lever-action Rifle

Some would say that lever-action rifles aren’t built for home defense applications like tactical shotguns are. Though I agree with that sentiment, they’re still a cost-effective alternative for pistol-caliber hunting. First off, they’re:

  • Faster than most bolt guns;
  • Retain accuracy up to 125 yards;
  • Have a manageable recoil;
  • Easy to carry;
  • Lightning-fast follow-up shots with a hunting caliber;
  • Easy to unjam the cartridge if there’s a malfunction.

Of course, there’s no perfect, jack-of-all-trades tactical rifle that can do it all. These rifles I rounded up can be the closest for multiple purposes like home defense, hunting, or competition shooting in the pistol-caliber platform.

If you’re hunting deer, it’s obvious that 6.5 Creedmoor rifles would be better suited for that job instead of a pistol-caliber rifle.

The downsides are that they’re difficult to find, require a decent amount of practice, have limited ammo choices, and aren’t powerful enough for, let’s say bears.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the main criteria for picking the best tactical lever-action rifle for you.

Picking a Caliber

Guess what? A .357 Magnum bullet coming out of a 16-inch barrel is nearing standard rifle ballistics with sharp accuracy around the 100-yard range, despite what you might hear from misinformed gun bros.

Choose your caliber before you choose your lever-action rifle.

The standard 30-30 Winchester, 45-70 Government are expensive cartridges but are most suited for hunting deer and elk, while the .44 Magnum, .38 Special, .45 Colt, or the .357 Magnum are defense rounds and usually cheaper.

The good news is that lever-action rifles are accurate up to 125-yards, so you won’t have to worry about that.

Additionally, you have some amazing lever-action rifles in the .22 LR caliber for varmint hunting, so it’s all up to you.

Simply put, think long and hard about the purpose of your lever-action rifle, and choose a caliber that won’t bankrupt you.

Portability, Flexibility, and Aftermarket Support

I assume you’re either looking for an all-purpose rifle or a portable forest gun for your truck or backpack.

Look for rifles with a Picatinny Weaver-style rail and an M-LOK system with a tapped and drilled surface, which allows you to mount a good scope if you’re going hunting.

There are many rifle scopes under $500 that really bring out the best in your lever-action rifle.

Aesthetics

Tactical lever-action rifles aren’t exactly aesthetically pleasing for most, But hey, you can always pick a classic Winchester 1895 and a modern Henry X and get the best of both worlds.

Most manufacturers are scrambling to appeal to everyone by trying out engravings on American walnuts and keeping a classic, cowboy image on modern, tactical rifles. I think that’s silly.

If it shoots, it shoots.

Look for synthetic stocks that are lightweight and can still manage recoil. If you want fancy engraving on your walnut stock, go nuts.

Conclusion

Lever-action rifles ought to be regarded as dated by now. But no, they’re still an iconic firearm type that keeps on thriving in today’s modern gun world.

This new mechanism had a massive influence on firearms that brought us food to the table and revolutionized warfare. Soldiers in the 19th century had to reload their one-shot muskets every time, and this was a massive step forward in firearms ingenuity.

They effortlessly contrasted bolt-action repeaters at the time, and the name ‘lever gun’ stuck for obvious reasons. Nowadays, we see the ‘tactical’ word thrown about in the gun world.

Combine that with the resurgence of lever-action rifles in the past ten years, and it’s no wonder we see all these brilliant designs that offer us the traditional feel with a more modern, modular approach.

What makes lever-action rifles ‘tactical’ is not just their moddable frame with Picatinny and M-LOK slots. They’re supposed to be as flexible, portable, and practical as possible.

If you’re looking for something that’s straight to the point, I suggest you take a look at the Henry X models or the Marlin Dark series. These are the ideal tactical lever guns, and there’s a little something for everyone there.

Whether it’s hunting, competition shooting, or self-defense, you can find quality tactical lever-action rifles on the market that offer you a very distinct shooting experience.

Stay safe, shoot straight.

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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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