My custom lever gun projects are still stuck in development hell. Grizzly Custom Guns is waiting for the foundry to deliver my octagonal barrel. Aqua Timber continues its search for a suitable piece of previously submerged 100-year-old birch for the stock. It’s been three years since I ordered a Smith & Wesson 500-firing lever gun from Big Horn Armory. Meanwhile, I’ve bought an old Marlin .22 lever gun and figured something out: to unload the gun you work the lever. Repeatedly. Until nothing comes out of the rifle. Actually I kinda knew that before I bought the Marlin or saw this view. But no one ever protected people from their own stupidity by over-estimating their intelligence. Or something like that.

17 Responses to Guns for Dummies: Unloading a Lever Gun

  1. Henry only just recently started shipping the long awaited 45-70 and if we are lucky their 1860 will ship next June/July.

    As far as unloading, many people ask that question

    • I understand that Marlins and Henrys load differently. I have not shot either type of lever gun. Is the process to safely unload a Henry the same as a Marlin?

    • I just had a pre-64 30-30 hang up on me after fully loaded and the hammer let down. Couldn’t get the lever 2 cycle at all until I had to hit it on the table bluntly. Never had that happen b4

  2. Working the lever is inevitable. Fortunately, my Marlin .45-70 has a safety which is always on during unloading, and I keep my finger away from the bang switch. In the woods, lever actions have a reputation for negligent discharges, and there are hunters who’ve literally shot themselves in the foot. The older Marlins and Winchesters don’t have safeties, and have pretty light triggers. Follow the safety rules, and you won’t have any extra holes.

  3. For at least my Marlin 1894s and 1895s, you can unload the magazine by pressing the loading gate with your thumb and removing them the way they same way they went in. I prefer that to cycling them through the action – it’s quicker and IMHO safer. Here’s a video example:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCn3fxRhmB8

    You still have to cycle the action to clear the chamber of course.

  4. When I’m introducing people to my lever gun I point out that there are TWO ways of unloading it. The first is as he describes above, but the slightly safer method (imho) is to open the breach and tip the gun sideways, spilling the round from the elevator into your open hand. This way, there’s never a round loaded into the chamber when you close the breach. This process can then be repeated until the magazine is empty.

  5. So, you are saying there is a lever mechanism on your gun that will unload the bullets? Hmmmm…. Good idea. I wonder if this feature will ever catch on in the gun design process? 😉

  6. Nice Marlin. My Marlin 30-30 is bone stock and is pre safety. I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting a pistol caliber lever gun as my urban assualt rifle. Nothing is more American than the lever gun and living in Ca. they are still allowed without too many restrictions.

    • (I apologize if this ends up as a duplicate post. User error.)

      If you have a .357 or .44 mag handgun, take a look at one of the (used market) Marlin 1894s in those calibers. I have one in .357, and it is amazing what an 18″ barrel does for that cartridge. Sucker moves out – had to put my peep sight on the lowest setting to get it on target at 100 yards. I think the energy at that range is right up there with the .30-30.

      And gee, it’s just a nice little cowboy rifle, with a 10-round capacity. Very politically acceptable, even in California.

      • The man speaks truth: levers are fast handling, and .357 lever guns shoot almost as hard as .30-30s. .44/.45 levers hit almost as hard as most .45-70s: theyre sledgehammers on medium/large game out to 100 yards. I destroyed my pistol-grade steel targets by shooting them with a .357 lever; the JHP bullets almost punched through the 3/8″ plate.

      • Anyone have any experience with the Rossi .357/.38 lever guns? Almost bought one when I saw it at a gun show a few months ago.

      • I would probably go with the .357 as it will also shoot .38’s of which I have a large stock and would like the cheap practice ammo.

        And that would give me an excuse to buy a .357 revolver. It’s been a few years since I owned a magnum and I am a die hard wheel gun fan.

    • Tube magazines have a major drawback in California. You can’t store loaded them in your locked truckbox. A detachable magazine is better in that regard, easier to load and easier to unload.

  7. “It’s been three years since I ordered a Smith & Wesson 500-firing lever gun from Big Horn Armory”

    Since I am the one who gave you the link for that beautiful rifle, I will just snicker quietly behind my hand.

    I can’t believe you actually ordered one!

  8. Note – If you follow this video you might want to engage the cross-bolt safety after opening the action to eject the chambered round – and before closing the action which would chamber the second round.

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