Lever Action Hunting: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

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Many hunters think that the lever-action rifles are items of the past, while some still swear by them.  Over the recent past, these rifles have regained their popularity by an alarming rate among deer hunters. 

If you think that the lever-action rifles are a thing of the past, this article is here to prove you wrong. But, if you are a .30-30 rifle enthusiast, you’ll get in-depth reasoning on why you should continue using it. You’ll also understand better why the lever rifles are better than the bolt-action rifles.

Understanding the Functions of Lever-Action Rifles

What is a Lever-Action Rifle?

Lever-action rifles utilize a lever device located near the trigger guard area. Most of the time, this includes the trigger and guard itself. This lever-action system loads fresh cartridges into the chamber. Hence, the mechanism is contrary to the bolt action, semi-auto, pump-action, and particular firearms.

Most guns with lever-action are rifles, but some exceptional pistols and shotguns are adopting the lever action. One of the most popular lever-action rifles is the Winchester Model 1873. Many people refer to it as a little brush gun. 

Most semi-auto and pump-action rifles users gave up by embracing the magnum cartridges and bolt action rifles. 

Do Lever-Action Rifles Still Rock?

It is somehow surprising that the lever-action rifles have been able to withstand the competition for a long time now. To this date, the Winchester 94 and marlin 95 are still the favorite guns for most deer drive enthusiasts. 

In modern times when the fame of lever guns has faded slowly over the years, there are still some that have stood strongly to uphold their hunting prowess. These include; Marlin Model 95, Browning BLR, and the Winchester Model 94.

The Winchester Model 94

The Winchester 94 is available in various configurations today. These configurations include the carbine, Sporter, short rifle as well as Trails End Takedown. The other lever-action models still in a bit of control include the Henry Rifle 30/30, Mossberg’s Model 464, available in .30-30 Win. Ideal for the big hunters.

The Unyielding Popularity of the Lever-Action Guns

Many great whitetail hunters still rely on the lever-action rifles. Thus, lever guns still hold a formidable reputation. Hunting gurus still swear by them despite the domination of the market by bolt action and the AR-Rifles. But why is this so? Three firm reasons support this reality. These lever-action rifles offer a unique nostalgia, efficiency, and vast ammo offerings.

Why Hunters Prefer the Lever-Action Guns?

Nostalgia

Owning something that boasts rich history feels cool. That’s the exact feeling among many lever gun owners. Modern hunters have a sensational warm feeling while carrying the old-like lever-action rifles on their way into the whitetail woods.

The feeling of carrying your time-worn Winchester in pursuit of a whitetail buck is fulfilling. You will realize that lever guns are still ideal for some hunting styles and terrains. These guns are perfect for mid-range shooting and where the action is fast.

Efficiency

Hunters want a lightweight and quick handling firearm that offers dependable functionality. Also, rifles with sufficient knockdown power at moderate shooting ranges are quite efficient for hunting. These are the exact aspects which the modern lever-action guns do offer.

The modern upgrades in the rifles engineering and state of the art ammo give these lever guns impeccable performance. You won’t be wrong to say that these guns close and midrange.

Also, they are flexible and easy to handle in tight cover, hence, an excellent choice for hunters.  Besides, most big game animals are usually knocked down within range of the lever-action cartridges.

Upgraded Ammo Offerings

Perhaps the most luring feature of the lever-action rifles is the incredible compatibility with upgraded lever-specific ammo. It also entails the domination of big-bore cartridges, which gives these rifles amazing ballistic performance.

It is quite true that the biggest drawback of the traditional lever action rifles has been on ammunition. Well, in traditional lever rifles, the ammo is loaded tip to primer in the magazine. The recoil can cause the points of the bullets to dislodge the primers of the bullets ahead of it. As a result, the ammunition for these rifles has previously been limited to the blunt-ended bullets.

However, in recent years several companies have come up with customized bullets for the lever-action rifles. One of the important aspects addressed is the improvement in the lever-action cartridges. This aspect has given these particular rifles a stunning game-taking ability.

The Winchester’s 150-Grain .30-30 BST: Why is it Popular?

This ammo is popular among most lever-action guns. A Lever Action .30-30 Winchester is still a good performer in big game hunting platforms. It boasts cutting edge technology to allow precise and accurate shooting capabilities.

What does the Winchester’s 150-Grain .30-30 BST Feature?

The design of this ammo combines the famous Nosler Ballistic Tip with the patented Winchester Lubalox coating, thus, offering a stunning extreme range performance. With the barrel at 2,390 fps, it boasts 7½ inches of drop at 200 yards when you sight it in at 100 yards.

 It offers 989 ft. /lbs. kinetic energy for an amazing whitetail stopping power. Also, it surpasses other BST bullets because its rounded rifle will withstand the abuse of the magazine tube without risking primer detonation. 

Additionally, the .30-30 Win. 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip has a heavy jacket with a tapered design. It’s thin at the tip and thicker at the heel,  allowing rapid expansion and extreme velocities.

This mechanism is similar to that of the BST bullets since it is the tip that hastens expansion after an impact. This same approach applies to the revolution ammunition of the Lever. These boast an innovative construction that works in tubular magazine rifles. Also, these bullets boast flex expanding tip technology. 

They have high weight retention, incredible muzzle velocity, and of course, deep penetration. Well, they can attain up to 250fps faster than the conventional rifle load. The secret behind this incredible performance is the evolution pointed ammo with red elastomer flex tip. 

This tip can flatten enough to pad cartridges primer during recoil. Interestingly, the tip returns to its original shape after the impact. Therefore, it eliminates the possibilities of magazine chain fire.

Addition of More Horsepower

Having more powerful cartridges in the lever-action system is also a breakthrough. It enhances the knockdown power and performance. 

Fortunately, modern gunpowder and bullets anatomy allow the combination of nostalgia and efficiency and the lever-action.

The .338 Marlin Express and the .308 Marlin Express

To lure the hearts of many hunting and shooting enthusiasts, Marlin made these two bullets. The .338 Marlin Express performance is almost similar to that of .30-06 Springfield. It is stunning as it blends the amazing flat trajectory and exceptional, effective energy ever found in past lever-action rifles. The .308 Marlin Express emulates the .308 Win in terms of performance.

These are two similar but highly competitive ammunition, which delivers deadly performance. They boast about 300-yard performance and still deliver massive effective energy enough to knock down any game animal.

The Best Lever-Action Rifles for Hunting

If you want to hunt down game animals while full of nostalgic thoughts, then a lever-action rifle will surely impress you. With the new technology and state of the art chambering being incorporated in lever guns, using these cowboy guns for hunting has never been better. 

Here are the best lever action guns today.

Henry Big Boy

This gun is one of the bestselling hunting rifles that stirs American pride. It is a unique and high- performing rifle for mid ranges and impressive know down power. 

The company offers blued steel and a silver receiver. However, the Big Boy boasts brass with a polished shine, which catches the eyes of the hunter from a distance. 

It is a versatile rifle as it is available in a wide range of ammo. It is available in .45 Colt, .44 Mag, .38/.357, .327 Fed Mag and .41 Mag.

MARLIN 336

This gun is also amazing for medium-range game hunting. It has been available on the market since the 1940s and remains one of the most affordable hunting guns. The .30-30 has been the typical chambering for deer hunting all those years.

Although the Marlin 336 has been available in .35 Rem, it is still available in that caliber. There is another typical model of 1895 chambered in .45-70 and has been a splendid choice for larger game hunters.

The good news is that there are several fine models of the Marlin 336 and model 1895 lever-action rifles in the Marlin custom stores.

Henry Long Ranger

This gun is also amazing for hunting, and mostly for shooting long ranges. It is for this reason that the gun’s performance surpasses that of the Henry Big boy. The Henry long-range lever-action rifle is compatible with modern ammunition. Back in the days, Henry introduced this gun in .223, .308 and .243. At that time, most hunters gladly welcomed this rifle.

Recently, there has been the addition of 6.5 Creedmoor chambering. Hence, its performance just got better.  The browning BLR is a similar platform, but Henry rifles are perfect for many hunters due to their American pride and unmatched quality. Now, this long ranger is great for medium to the big game at incredible yardages.

SAVAGE 99

Here is another lever-action rifle that many professional hunters still own. It is one of those few lever rifles which have retained the fame and adoration of lever-action game rifles. 

It features an internal rotary magazine, brass round counter, and improved tube design makes this rifle still rock in today’s hunting platform. 

The .300 Savage and .250-300 Savage calibers made this rifle one of a kind. It brought a new range and speed. Most hunters prefer to hunt with them during the fall for their durability and quality of the design.

WINCHESTER 94

This is probably the most popular lever-action rifle for hunters. It boasts incredible durability and versatility, and many big game hunters refer to it as a do-all rifle. 

The Winchester model 94 is the most famous for durability and performance. But, still, it is hard to ignore the 64 models due to their versatility and easy handling. The overall performance of the Winchester lever action gun models is amazing and unbeatable.

Marlin XLR

 This gun is yet another which can allow a successful hunt. Most professional hunters recommend this as the perfect deer hunting gun. 

It is a fine .30-30 lever rifle but has a more modern look though it still possesses impressive traditional aspects. Well, it boasts stainless steel components and a unique laminate. This special construction tells you that it can beat all weather conditions.

Also, it is one of those lever rifles that allow great hunting accuracy. It has a 24-inch barrel, which gives hunters the added privilege of high performance. The fact that it is compatible with the .30-30 ammo which has become so popular. 

Though it isn’t similar to John Wayne’s rifle, it still possesses unmatched hunting performance.

Mossberg 464SPX

Are you looking for a lever rifle with a more modern appearance? The Mossberg 464SPX is a perfect product to buy. 

It uses the popular.30-30 load hence boasts great hunting accuracy and precision. With its plastic furniture and modular looking design, it might be better for home defense instead of deer hunting. But, if you love a mix of functions, this gum is still versatile, and it is an affordable choice.

Henry All Weather

This rifle also has a more modern look compared to the kinds of Winchester and Marlin. It also possesses great admiration from the lever-action rifle enthusiasts as it is durable and easy to handle. 

Well, it features a wooden forearm and stock and is resistant to harsh weather conditions. It has a moisture-protective coating and a beautiful, durable chrome finish on the surfaces; hence, it is weatherproof and proof that the lever-action rifles still rock in beauty. 

The sights and springs are also forged from premium material. Therefore, the construction of this rifle is well balanced but is a bit heavier than some close counterparts.

How are Lever-Action Rifles Better than the Bolt Action Rifles?

There has been a continuous debate on whether the lever-action rifles are in any way better than the bolt action guns. The truth is that lever-action guns can beat their rivals in so many aspects. 

Affordability 

Affordability is the number one factor. The .30-30 rifles and ammunition are less costly compared to the bolt action rifles. 

Quick Lever Action

The high speed of the lever-action is also worth some commendation. Thus, the .30-30 rifles have profound performance in backup shots. Due to this lever-action’s high speed, the shooter can keep the eyes on the sight or scope while levering another round.

Lightweight Construction

The .30-30 chambered rifles are often more lightweight than other game rifles. Thus, they allow more flexible functionality by virtue of being easy to handle. Also, you can efficiently carry them for a long distance as you maneuver through the thick woodland jungle. 

Despite being in the mid-range category, they are easier to carry than the long-range rifles, which are a bit heavy. 

Less Recoil Production

The other advantage is that the lever rifles produce less recoil compared to the bolt action rifles. Hence, they allow greater game shooting accuracy even when you are a beginner with little experience in game shooting.

Perceived Lower Accuracy

One of the perceived faults for the .30-30 rifles is lower accuracy levels. This problem is due to the cartridge’s actual accuracy, among other ammo issues. The old technology of the round-nosed bullets has some room for improvement regarding accuracy. 

New Technology

The new ammo features pointed design and the upgraded cartridge’s jacket design makes them quite reliable no matter the rifle you use. 

In the recent past, most of the .30-30 guns had only iron sights. This factor affected their accuracy in one way or the other.  The open sight made it hard for precise shooting at long ranges.

However, this factor is no longer a threat. You can add your best scope on top of your lever gun. Furthermore, upgrades in manufacturing practices have seen the improvement of the lever-action rifles. And, nearly all of the existing .30-30 rifles are incredibly accurate mid-range hunting rifles.

Conclusion

The lever-action rifles and their modern ammunition has won the hearts of many big -game hunters. Whether young or old, the whitetail hunters adore the outstanding performance of the lever rifles. 

Their performance even becomes better when you top them with premium rifle scopes. The yardage, muzzle velocity, easy handling, effective knockdown power are some of the best aspects of these rifles. Therefore, the performance, efficiency, and nostalgia of these hunting rifles are indeed unusual.

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