Arguably the best-known name in the lever gun game, Winchester lever actions are now manufactured by Miroku in Japan for the brand and include the Model 92 and Model 94, both in 20-inch versions and both suitable for defending the homestead, whether a ranch house, penthouse, or suburban picket-fenced stronghold. Both are based on slightly updated classic John Browning designs, with sliding thumb safeties and rebounding hammers to reduce the chances of accidental discharges during handling. The Model 92 is a short-action design in .357 Mag, .44-40, .44 Mag and .45 Colt that features blued steel and comes in both rifle and carbine stock configurations. MSRPs range from $1,069 to $1,259. The Model 94, with over seven million made since 1894, has been the deer rifle for generations of riflemen, and it’s now available blued with 20- or 24-inch barrels and chambered for the venerable .30-30 and .38-55 calibers, with various stock configurations and prices running between $1,199 and $1,459. (<a target=blank href=http://www.winchesterguns.com>http://www.winchesterguns.com</a>; 800-333-3288)
The Marlin Model 336 in .30-30 has been a mainstay of the company’s lever action line for several decades, and it’s a strong and reliable action with the added bonus of being far easier than the Winchester’s to break down for routine cleaning. Featuring five- and six-round magazines, 18.5- or 20-inch barrels, and available in basic and deluxe versions in blue and stainless, black walnut and laminate, prices run from $515 to $748. The Model 1894s in .357 Mag in blue steel, with nine-round magazines and 18.5-inch barrels, are short, handy and trim to maneuver inside and outside tight corners. The 10-shot .44 Mag versions with 20-inch blued barrels pack serious bear-level energy figures into an equally handy package at $729. The rimfire Model 39A in .22 LR, the present generation of one of Marlin’s longest-running rifles at well over a century and counting, features a longer-than-ideal 24-inch barrel with a correspondingly longer 19-round magazine that can find a place at home among the recoil-shy at $709. (<a target=blank href=http://www.marlinfirearms.com>http://www.marlinfirearms.com</a>; 800-544-8892)
Browning’s thoroughly modern BLR Lightweight ‘81 uses essentially a gear-driven action with an extremely strong bolt-to-barrel lockup that allows a range of centerfire power from .22-250 on up to the .270, .30-06, and .358 Win calibers, with three and four-round detachable box magazines, iron sights, high-gloss walnut stocks and scope mounting options on their alloy frames. The little BL-22 is another beautifully crafted Miroku lever gun. It’s available in 15-shot .22 LR and 20-inch-barreled Grade I and Grade II versions. With very short 33-degree lever throws, these rifles are slick and quick in use. (<a target=blank href=http://www.browning.com>http://www.browning.com</a>; 800-333-3288)
Henry’s centerfire Big Boy line covers the .357 Mag, .44 Mag and .45 Colt calibers with 10-round capacities, 20-inch octagonal barrels, bright brass frames and American walnut furniture at $899. Fans of the .30-30 have two choices, either an octagonal barrel with a bright brass frame and trim or a lighter round barrel with a blued frame. Both measure 20 inches, and both feature five-round magazines and rubber recoil pads. MSRPs are $950 and $749, respectively. Rimfires run the gamut from the little blued Classic with its 18.25-inch barrel and 15-round .22 LR magazine at $360, through the blued 20-inch, 12-round .17 HMR Varmint Express at $540, on up to the 20-inch Golden Boy with bright Brasslite receiver covers, beautiful walnut, gleaming trim, octagonal barrels and a 16-round magazine. Golden Boy prices vary between standard and deluxe models, between $550 and $595 in .22 LR and .22 Mag, to a Deluxe Engraved at $1,585. (<a target=blank href=http://www.henryrifles.com>http://www.henryrifles.com</a>; 201-858-4400)
Mossberg offers several 20-inch versions of its Model 464 in .30-30, ranging from models with blued or corrosion-resistant Marinecote, straight and pistol-grip stock configurations, and gold bead or fiber-optic sight combinations. All come with six-round magazines and range in price from $513 to $552. A 14-round rimfire version with an 18-inch barrel, blued steel and a straight-gripped stock sells for $482. (<a target=blank href=http://www.mossberg.com>http://www.mossberg.com</a>; 203-230-5300)
Rossi’s long-running Brazilian 92 variants have dominated the Winchester 1892 market for many years. The current Rossi USA importer lists several variations in blued and stainless, 16- and 20-inch barrels, eight- to 10-round magazines, round and octagonal barrels, conventional and large-loop levers, and chamberings including .357 Mag, .44 Mag, .44-40 and .45 Colt. Prices are very reasonable, with MSRPs ranging from $627 to $726. (<a target=blank href=http://www.rossiusa.com>http://www.rossiusa.com</a>; 800-948-8029)
The lever-action rifle is alive and doing quite well among both domestic and foreign makers, and there’s a wide field to choose from in selecting one for home-defense use. Imagine what you want it to do before you go shopping around. The centerfire models will have a fair amount of crossover in serving both the home front and the hunting camp, if that’s important to you, and you can obviously stretch your money farther by extending the dual utility of a true rifle caliber. The so-called pistol-caliber lever guns have the advantage of less recoil and ammunition commonality with handguns that might be in the house, and in any of the magnum calibers they’re still no slouch. With practical ranges out to 150 yards and more in the hands of a good shooter, they can also easily handle both defense and hunting chores within their practical limitations. See the gallery above to learn about six manufacturers selling lever-action rifles.
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Henry Repeating Arms
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by Personal Defense World / May 22, 2015