Why wouldn’t you want a .357 Magnum lever action rifle? The .357 Magnum round is pushed to greater ballistic performance (add about another 600 fps and another 500 ft-lbs of energy, give or take) as well as a wealth of ammunition choices.
You can even shoot .38 Special for some of the easiest long gun plinking you’ll ever do.
“But muh tactical!” you say? Poppycock; the .357 Magnum is one of the best rounds for personal defense out there. With the added velocity and muzzle energy, along with the fact that JHP rounds are easily available from any gun store, whereas frangible or JHP rounds for an AR-pattern rifle are harder to source, it makes one of the best home defense long guns possible. Additionally, .357 Magnum lever action rifles can accept optics as most are pre-tapped for scopes and can easily be fit for a tactical rail.
Yes, tactical Virginia, you can put a red dot on a lever gun. If you want to. There are even night sights available from aftermarket suppliers.
You can also get your lever action fix without breaking the bank on ammunition – .357 Remington is cheaper than .30-30 – and without breaking your shoulder, as a .45-70 will make you black rifle boys soil yourselves and cry for your mommas.
The fact is, .357 lever action rifles are proven game-getters, as they are well-suited to whitetail and hog hunting in thick timber at close(r) range, inside about 150 yards. Larger game such as elk or black bear warrant a more substantial cartridge and hunting game on the open plains of the West requires more power and a flatter trajectory.
With that said, should your fancy be tickled, here are five .357 Magnum lever action rifles to look for.
If it’s an American classic you want, the Winchester Model 1892 Carbine is about as classic as it gets. The 1892 was one of Winchester’s rifles designed by John Browning. Browning created the 1892 to compete with the Marlin 1888, and according to legend, completed the work in two weeks. The 1892 is a top-ejecting model so scopes or rails are out, but the point of this gun is to be a fast-handling, medium-range rifle. At that task, it has excelled for more than a century.
The ’92 is a round-barrel model, with the metal bits in blued steel and the furniture in black walnut. The Carbine model features a 10-round tube and a 20-inch barrel. At only 6 lbs, it can easily be carried in the hand…which you have to do since it lacks sling studs. Today’s edition also features a falling block safety, so it can be carried loaded. Since MSRP is only $1,069, it’s Winchester’s entry-level lever gun…but it’s far from entry-level quality.
The Henry Big Boy Classic is as close to the original lever gun as it gets without having to look for .44 rimfire. It’s replete with a brass receiver, 20-inch octagonal barrel and buckhorn rear sight, so it has the classic look and feel, but also features a brass bead front sight and 10-round magazine tube. Worried about scratching that brass? The Henry Big Boy Steel is a great option, too.
It’s an entry-level model — MSRP is $972, you’ll pay about $200 less retail — but the rifle comes tapped for a scope or rail if so desired.
Marlin made a name for themselves offering an improved version of the Winchester action starting in the 1880s. Among their improvements was a revision to the receiver for their model of 1894. Marlin changed the sliding top strap to a sliding sidewall, therefore making the rifle side-ejecting. That keeps spent brass out of the eye of the user and today, allowing for easy mounting of a scope.
With today’s rail-mounted optics, that makes the 1894 CSBL tactical and practical, with the addition of an XS Sights Lever Rail and sight set.
The 1894 CSBL has a 16-inch barrel, with an 8-shot tube. The finish is stainless steel with a black/gray laminate stock with checkered pistol grip and a rubber recoil pad. It carries easy, at 6-½ lbs, with swivel studs coming standard (as does a hammer block safety) and has a large loop for fast cycling. You get the best of both the classic function of a lever gun with modern improvements. Granted, it comes rather dear at $1,214 MSRP, but since the name on it is Marlin instead of Winchester, you should be able to pick it up for much less.
Of course, you can also get the original Winchester carbine, the Winchester 1873. The Gun That Won The West. The 1873 was one of the most popular lever action rifles of all time. While initially offered in .44-40, .32-20 and .38-40 (and discontinued for some time) a new version emerged in 2013 chambered for .357 Magnum/.38 Spl and a hammer block safety for safe carry.
The 1873 Deluxe Sporting is that classic rifle, dressed to the nines with a color-case hardened finish and checkered pistol grip. The furniture is high grade walnut, and the Deluxe Sporting model also features a 24-inch half octagon barrel and half rounded. This is the showpiece among Winchester’s 1873 model range, and it had better be with a price tag at around $1,800. If you want a lever gun for your wall and occasional shooting, good luck doing better.
Another Marlin not to miss is the Model 1894 CST, which features a black pistol grip stock and stainless finish. The sights are – just like the CSBL – are an XS Sights ghost ring sight set. It lacks a top-mounted rail (you can still install one, the receiver is pre-tapped). Just like the CSBL, it has a 16-½” barrel length and an 8-shot tube magazine, an enlarged loop and swivel studs…but this model also adds a threaded barrel for adding a suppressor. MSRP is $1,223, but since the name on it is Marlin instead of Winchester, it’ll command less of a premium in-store.