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Name the last movie to prominently feature a lever action rifle that didn’t involve dancing wolves or a one-eyed Jeff Bridges. Having trouble? That’s because there isn’t one. The lever gun has been relegated to cowboy movie status since The Duke was riding The Big Trail.  You’d think the lever gun had become some sort of mythological creature used only by wanna be cowboys and Real-Tree clad OFWG’s hiding out in the woods of Wisconsin during the fall. It appears you’d be wrong though . . .

This servile scribe has written two reviews on lever guns; one on the stock Marlin 336 and one on TTAG’s first Cowboy Assault Rifle. Our fearless leader and Chris Dumm are chomping at the bit to pimp out a pair of Marlin 1894C’s (Those of you lucky enough to live close to AFS can see RF’s on Thursday night).

Hornady makes specialized ammo for 30-30 chambered rifle de palancas, smiths like Grizzly Customs are putting out some seriously bad ass pieces of equipment and the interwebs are rife with people currently talking about these weapons.

So I turn, as usual, to TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia for some educated opinions. What is fueling this sudden resurgence in lever action rifles? Do we all just really want to be Rooster Cogburn at heart or is there a more practical reason?

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  1. The lever action rifle is to an AR15 what a revolver is to a semi-auto: inexpensive, reliable, and (more or less) idiot-proof. ‘Nuff said.

    • They look much cooler than bolt-actions. And if you are so inclined you can get one in .357 or .44 with a matching revolver for added awesomeness. As soon as I am confident that the evil modern sporting rifles with three or more of the following features… that I need to defend myself against black helicopters and blue helmets won’t be banned (i.e. probably never) I will allocate some of my limited resources towards such an acquisition.

      Bonus question-not to reignite the Cooper debate but what exactly is the point of Ruger’s new Scout? It doesn’t seem to do anything that an AR-10 Carbine can’t do only it is a bolt action 10 shot instead of a semi-auto 20 shot. If I wanted a hard hitting, fast handling, but manually operated rifle I’d get a lever gun in .30-30 or .308

      @Ryan Finn
      Bonus grammar nazi, it’s “champing” not “chomping”.

      • I ye olde king’s English it is, in fact, champing at the bit; however, this is America and I will continue to butcher said English with slang and colloquialisms as I see fit 😀

        Seriously though, I had no idea until I googled it. Interesting sidebar history/english lesson for me.

  2. They are simple, fun and they work. the cartridges are more than powerful enough for any 95% of the big game we hunt. they are cheap and cheap to shoot. I think that follow up shots are faster than bolt guns.
    they have a lot going for them .
    At home defense ranges, their cartridges are “bolt of lightning” effective.
    there’s a lot to like.

  3. Tacticool stuff has its place, but SA or DA revolvers and lever guns have stood the test of time and display a heavy dose more of craftsmanship and sheer sexiness than many evil black rifles or polymer pistolas. Plus, lever action rifles are “like what my dad had” and that counts for something in my mind.

  4. Ever since I read Mack Bolan as a kid, with his .444 lever gun-I wanted one. I just opted for the .45-70 for easier ammo access. I love mine and it is one of the within-easy reach weapons in the bedroom.

  5. At least to me, living in Crook county in Commie-nois, a lever action is the quick way around our “safety” enhancing assault rifle ban if you want a carbine for home defense that you can legally keep in your house.

    • And there is the slight chance that if you had the misfortune of being involved in a defensive shooting that having something that looked more like the Red Ryder from “A Christmas Story” than the Steyrs in “Die Hard” would save you from the pokey.

  6. Much of it comes down to fashion. When I was a tyke in firearms, The Old West was the flavor in the sport, so single-action revolvers and lever-action carbines were the rage. Now the style of the day is black rifles and tacticrap. Style is the substance of it, then as now. It’s not like any of us will be shipping out from Cabela’s to Abbotadad — or Little Big Horn.

    Is there a resurgence in interest in lever-action, or is the gun racket trying to gin up a trend? Guess we will see. This is pure projection on my part, but maybe shooters could get bored with polymer and phosphate and are ready for some furniture and bluing.

    Personally, I love lever-actions. It’s the ideal saddle rifle — even if you don’t have a horse. Nothing better for plinking, varmints, or casual target shooting. In shooting weapons (as opposed to collector pieces) I have two favorite Marlins, a .30-30 and a .22LR.

    • Without a doubt, the Marlin Golden 39 is my favorite firearm, bar none. It’s the first gun that I ever bought and it’s the first one that I’ll give to my daughter when I’m ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. I’ll be hanging on to that one right up until the end, you can rest assured.

      Magoo, you said, “or is the gun racket trying to gin up a trend?” What an interesting statement. I do find it most curious and especially telling, your use of the words “racket” and “gin up”. I’m very suspicious of you and your contextual use of such loaded words. Is the evil, capitalist gun racket trying to gin up business? Perhaps, but isn’t that just business and who really cares anyway? A design, dare I say a design that is timeless in nature, in and of itself, whether it be a Tiffany lamp, a Stickley Morris chair or a Waterford vase, really doesn’t need a justification beyond its beauty and functionality. Some things are just damned near perfect by and of themselves; they need no further justification. Style feeds the ego, substance feeds the soul. If one’s ego commands one’s soul, their soul is lost. Who’s the skipper at your helm?

  7. People loved the lever gun in Terminator 2, and my friend wants to get one of those because his favorite gun in Call of Duty is a lever-action. But those are both shotguns, so they’re not exactly typical lever-actions.

  8. Everyone has said everything that I was going to say except for one thing. I think most people simply forgot about them. And then they pulled their lever gun out of the closet, dusted it off, and remembered how much they enjoyed shooting it.

  9. Bought a Marlin 1894c in .357 as a companion to my gp100. Local guy sells 158gr FMJ .38 new factory ammo for $10 per box of 50. Inexpensive, accurate, powerful fun!

  10. Red Dead Redemption, a western game with a huge following that came out last year, factors in lever guns pretty heavily. Everyone that I’ve talked to has wanted one after playing it.

    • For me it was Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. Lincoln’s Repeater was BOSS and it went “DING” every time you shot something. Then there’s the 45/70 and the New California Republic’s Rangers. It just super cool….

      I wanted a Tacti-fool Lever after those games. Black Synthetic stock .357 lever action with a super durable scope. I didn’t know it was a becoming a “movement”.

      …aw shit. I just outed my self as a video gaming nerd to serious folks again… My bad.

  11. Black rifles have become so ubiquitous that they’re a little boring. Lever guns work great, have that nostalgia thing going for them, are relatively inexpensive and they aren’t black rifles.

  12. I am a bolt action kind of guy but I have to agree that the rise of synthetics and the black rifle leave me a little cold. When I look at my Remington SPS 308 stainless steel and compare it to my 30 year old 270 with its beautiful wood stock it makes me wish that I spent the extra $200 for the wood.

  13. The League of Extradordinary Gentlemen was the most recent movie (outside of Westerns like Open Range & Unforgiven) where the lever gun was prominently featured. Sean Connery and that other guy in the movie wielded the lever gun with alacritous superiority.

    • Touche Hunter. I stand corrected. TLOEG featured twin engrave Winchester 73’s

  14. Just one question. I saw info on the use of 9mm and 45ACP from carbines and the increased velicoty wasn’t good for the bullets holding together correctly. Basically as most soft points are designed for pistol velocities they kinda explode at the faster rifle speeds.

    Anyone checked on how carbine velocities effect 357 or 44 mag? Are some bullet s better than others at holding together?

  15. And now, a year and a half later, it appears that several of the posters speculated correctly. The lever action is less “objectionable” to the average public than our scary black rifles (as in, “Gee, that fella’s rifle must be for hunting.”). That said, I’ve just picked up one in 30-06, that I know is a hell of a lot more destructive than my AK-47. My bad 😉

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