Lever action rifles, like the Mossberg Model 464 can make great home defense rifles.
Lever action rifles, like the Mossberg Model 464 can make great home defense rifles.

When things go bump in the night, our adrenaline gets pumping and we start to prepare for the worst-case scenario. A part of the preparation is grabbing your gun and then executing the home-defense plan that you have laid out. The guns that serve in these roles tend to be modern striker-fired pistols, high-tech AR rifles and tactical shotguns. While these are all solid choices, there are other options as well. Like the Mossberg lever-action Model 464.

The Mossberg Model 464 Lever-Action Rifle

One that has come up in discussions many times is the classic lever-action rifle. I am here to tell you that a lever gun in trained hands can be a good blaster to help you protect yourself and your loved ones. These rifles have been around a long time.

I will not pretend that the lever gun is a superior weapon in this role. It is outclassed in magazine capacity by both ARs and most pistols. Even with that, the gun has merits, especially when it comes to price. The Mossberg 464 Lever Action rifle can be found in the $380 range, making it an affordable weapon. Some people like to say that price should not affect your weapon choice, but that is an absurd idea. The reality is that budgets matter.

Beyond price, however, the gun does have a decent capacity, equal to or better than most shotguns and revolvers. Most have a 6+1 capacity when chambered in rifle calibers—and guns like the Rossi Model 92 chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum can hold 10+1. Finally, much to the disgust of free America, there are states that have banned AR-15s as we know them. For those stuck in these communist strongholds, a lever gun may be a good alternative.

The Mossberg Lever Action Model 464


The first question often raised with the use of a lever gun in a personal-protection application is penetration. Many lever-action rifles are chambered in the classic .30-30, introduced by Winchester with the Model 1894. This has been a popular round and has killed more deer than winter. It does carry some mojo with it, however, launching at about 2,400 feet per second (fps) and dumping more than 2,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

The first question often raised with the use of a lever gun in a personal protection application is penetration.
The first question often raised with the use of a lever gun in a personal protection application is penetration.

It is absolutely a fight stopper. But depending on your location, structure and application, it may prove to be too much. This is one of the great things about lever guns. They are chambered in a variety of calibers, including .38 Special/.357 Magnum, .44 Special, .41 Magnum, .45 Colt, .45-70, .308 and so on. In reality, lever guns were some of the very first pistol-caliber carbines.

If you have ever had the pleasure of watching Cowboy Action shooters run lever guns, you know that they can be blazingly fast. We also have to acknowledge that they have spent considerable time honing their skills. Even with that, there is no reason that anybody can’t work on getting fast and effective with a lever gun. To help you along, let’s look at a few tips to help get that gun blazing.


The fundamentals of rifle shooting apply to lever guns just as they do to ARs. You want the rifle seated firmly into your shoulder to help manage recoil. Second, you want a good cheekweld. I encourage you to get this weld and stay with it during the entire shooting process—even while working the lever. This helps keep you on your sights and on target.

Another fundamental is the way you grasp the forend of the rifle. You need to hold it firmly, and at the same time drive the rifle back into your shoulder. If there is one component of grip that I would call critical, it would be that forend hold. The next part is running the lever action. I encourage you to avoid being gentle with it. A retired special forces sergeant major once told me: “Put some violence on that gun.”

Being too timid in running the action can lead to short-stroking and causing a malfunction. With your shooting hand, drive the lever down and through its arc as you let your trigger finger run parallel to the rifle. This will allow you to get back on trigger more quickly. Always give a smooth pull of the trigger to ensure you are not snatching the barrel downward. When all these techniques are brought together, the lever gun goes from fun range plinker to devastating threat terminator.

Running The Mossberg Lever-Action Model 464

I decided to test my well-established principles with a trip to the range. I would run the Mossberg 464 chambered in the iconic .30-30. If I could run this round well, pistol calibers would be a breeze. The Mossberg 464 lever-action rifle features a precision-machined receiver, conveniently positioned ejection port for clearance when using optics, convenient top-tang safety, blued 20-inch barrels, choice of three-dot adjustable fiber-optic or adjustable rifle sights.

As with any weapon chosen for self-defense, you should seek professional training to maximize your effectiveness with a lever-action rifle.
As with any weapon chosen for self-defense, you should seek professional training to maximize your effectiveness with a lever-action rifle.

The Mossberg 464 is a lightweight, easy-to-run rifle. I would set up essentially a speed range that would simulate multiple assailants at relatively close distances. Since we were talking about rifle rounds on steel, I gave myself a little more distance to be safe. This would also push my accuracy with this classic cowboy gun. I loaded the gun and set the buzzer to go.

Range is Hot

On the beep, I brought the rifle to bear on target number one as I moved from left to right on the range. Two shots and two hits. Still on the move, I engaged the second target about 4 feet to the left of the first one and 5 yards closer. That was a breeze, and the steel rang like a bell.

I now changed direction and moved toward the third target and delivered two center-mass shots. To simulate a failure to stop, I snapped the rifle up and took a headshot. The head plate snapped aside as the targets were now cleared. I found the key to engaging quickly and accurately was to never drop the rifle. The scenario was multiple assailants, so I already had a green light to engage. I watched the hits through the front sight each time. I also ran the action with serious intent. With that, I never had any feed issues whatsoever. I am by no means a professional Cowboy Action shooter, but I certainly gave my steel bad guys hell. I found myself grinning at the end of the run, as images of John Wayne flickered through my mind.

Training Considerations

While training with your lever gun on the range is absolutely critical, you also need to seek professional training in the use of your rifle in a home setting. A good instructor will share with you the techniques you need to effectively do things such as exit rooms, move around corners and open doors while armed. The instructor will also help you to develop a plan of action should the need arise.

With practice—with an empty chamber, of course—you can learn to maneuver your home very well with a lever-action.
With practice—with an empty chamber, of course—you can learn to maneuver your home very well with a lever-action.

Lever gun or no, you should not go hunting in your house unless there is a loved one in trouble whom you need to rescue. It is best to establish a defensive position and call the police. You have many advantages in this position, to say the least. If you do need to move through your house, you need to find the best route. The best route is not always the shortest, and the instructor will break it down for you. There are training facilities around the country where you would be allowed to run your lever gun inside a shoothouse. If you ever get the opportunity, you need to take it. Nothing can replace the experience of firing that rifle indoors and moving from room to room.


My personal belief is that a lever gun chambered in .357 Magnum is a solid choice. This gun will launch a proven round while giving you slightly more magazine capacity. You can also use .38 Special for practice rounds, making it a little easier on the wallet. Honestly, though, it all comes down to shot placement. A .30-30 round hitting a non-critical area will get an attacker’s attention, but it is not going to magically stop him. The same goes for any caliber. I will once again nag on you to get professional training. It can honestly mean the difference between life and death.

The lever gun has a long and storied history. The first patent was issued in 1848, and a variety of companies were building decent guns. Then, in 1883, the great gunsmith and inventor John M. Browning began a working relationship with Winchester. During that time, a legend was born.

Without question, the most successful Browning-designed Winchester was the Model 1894, the best-selling rifle in American history. These guns would become American cultural icons and go on to write history. With a pedigree like that, it is no wonder many shooters are naturally drawn to effective and accurate lever-action rifles. If you feel a lever gun is what you need for home defense, go for it. Just make sure that you master the art of shooting it well. For more information visit Mossberg.com.

Mossberg Model 464 Lever-Action Rifle Specs

Caliber: .30-30 Win
Barrel: 20 inches
OA Length: 38.5 inches
Weight: 6.75 pounds (empty)
Stock: Walnut (pistol grip)
Sights: Bead front, adjustable rear
Action: Lever
Finish: Blued
Capacity: 6+1
MSRP: $610

This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World Aug/Sept 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email [email protected]

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