Best Lever Action Rifles of 2020

It seems almost ironic to me to talk about the “best” lever-action rifle. 

Lever-action rifles, while they have fallen out of recent fashion due to the precision and power of other weaponry, have a permanent place in the history and the aesthetic of American culture. 

In some ways, it seems more accurate to say that the lever-action was one of the ultimate rifles in American history. 

This is the rifle that won the Wild West and the silver screen. It’s the rifle we all remember when we think of Roy Rogers, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood.

  • Uses modern ammunition instead of tubular magazines
  • Versatile for self-defense and home defense use
  • Reliable, lightweight, fun to shoot

For a lightweight, versatile, and modernized lever-action gun, the Browning BLR is the bang-for-buck option. It’s truly compact with a fast cycling action, combined with its amazing accuracy, it’s truly an amazing purchase.

Top Lever Action Rifles in the Market Today

The 8 Best Lever Action Rifles: Game Dropping Action

1. Browning BLR Lightweight ‘81 .308 Winchester - Best Overall Lever-Action Rifle

This gun tops lists of lever-action enthusiasts for good reason: it’s one of the most perfect lever-action rifles ever made. The aircraft-grade aluminum receiver is both lightweight and sturdy. Chambered for high-velocity cartridges, it performs exceptionally well in both long and short action. In addition, the detachable steel box magazine makes for quick reloading.

This detachable box sets the BLR apart from rifles with tubular magazines in that it allows the use of pointed, more aerodynamic bullets. 

This is one of the reasons why lever-action rifles were discontinued for military use: the inability to use pointed bullets. 

The BLR allows for shooters to enjoy their lever-action rifle while also using modern bullets rather than tubular cartridges. In turn, this allows for ballistic performance that you would otherwise see in auto-loading or bolt action rifles. 

The accuracy, adaptability, and quick reloading capacities of the Browning BLR coupled with a 4+1 round capacity makes it one of the top lever-action rifles for self-defense, as well as an incredible hunting rifle. 

This rifle is also designed with comfort in mind. You no longer need to fear pinching your trigger finger between lever and trigger: the trigger now travels along with the lever as it cycles. 

With a walnut, straight ‘81-style stock, a glass-smooth rack, low-profile sights, and a deluxe recoil pad, this rifle is made with functionality, optimal comfort, and all-American style in mind. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.

Pros

  • Uses modern ammunition instead of tubular magazines
  • Versatile for self-defense and home defense use
  • Reliable, lightweight, fun to shoot

Cons

  • Low capacity

2. Henry .45-70 Government - .45 Colt Lever-Action Rifle

The Henry Lever-Action Rifle was the first lever-action rifle ever made. It changed history. With the introduction of the lever-action rifle, suddenly warfare, the frontier, and even the Civil War were brought into the modern rifle era. 

The Henry .45-70 shoots like a dream but has all the polished good looks of a showpiece. The brass plate and receiver give it its own look, while the steel-capped forend and buttstock are crafted from stunning checkered American walnut. 

If you’re searching for a lever-action rifle that could take down a bear in Montana, an Alaskan moose, or a big Pennsylvania buck, look no further than this Henry. It features a four-round capacity and an ultra-smooth lever-action for quick follow-up shots. 

A clean trigger pull allows for increased accuracy. Put simply, if beauty and smooth operation count for anything, this is the go to .45 lever-action rifle.

Pros

  • Excellent for big-game hunting
  • .45-caliber stopping power
  • Smooth lever action
  • Accurate

Cons

  • Heavy brass frames
  • Can be difficult to reload quickly

This is another American classic. Designed in 1892 by John Browning to compete with the Marlin 1888, it is a medium-range, fast-handling rifle. The finish comes in a gorgeous black walnut, while the metal is a beautiful, blued steel. 

The Model 94 comes with the standard smooth trigger pull of all Winchester rifles, and maintains the accuracy Winchester enthusiasts expect of their guns. It’s made to hunt a variety of game sizes from varying distances, and the bore size is not standardized so the caliber of ammunition can be easily swapped. 

The Model 94 is, to put it mildly, one of the best hunting rifles ever made.

It is lovingly called the “deer rifle” by deer hunters all over the world. It is the first lever-action rifle designed for commercial smokeless powder centerfire rounds. 

With its traditional crescent metal butt plate and walnut hardwood finish it exudes tradition and history. Shooters should be forewarned that the recoil can hit the shoulder a bit harder than rifles without metal butt plates. The receiver is ready for a scope. It also boasts a 7+1 round capacity, making for convenient hunting, or home defense.

Pros

  • Handles quick
  • High capacity
  • Can be used for hunting a variety of game
  • No standard bore size, so calibers can be swapped

Cons

  • Not tapped for scope mounts

4. Browning BL-22 - Best .22 Lever-Action Rifle

For a more affordable gun that ranks among the greatest lever-action rifles for self-defense, the Browning BL-22 is known for its accuracy. It allows for very rapid fire when compared to many other lever-action rifles, due to the lever action’s very short throw. Like the Browning BLR, the trigger travels with the motion of the lever, thus preventing the dreaded finger pinch. 

Of course, being a .22-caliber gun, it doesn’t pack the stopping power of many of the other options on this list. However, if you’re concerned about home defense, its 15-round capacity coupled with its accuracy and rapid-fire makes for one of the better options on the market. 

It handles both long and short cartridges well. 

The Browning BL-22 doesn’t skimp on good looks, either. The barrel finish, the blued receiver, and the dark walnut stock are certainly easy on the eye. If I had it my way, it would have a place on every gun rack. This is a beautiful homeowner’s defense rifle priced right.

Pros

  • Reliable
  • Accurate
  • Quick-fire
  • Easy to carry
  • Short throw-lever

Cons

  • Traveling trigger takes some getting used to

5. Henry Long Ranger .223 - Best .223 Lever-Action Rifle

Many lever-action rifles are built with medium- and short-range precision in mind, but not so with the Henry Long Ranger. The traditional lever-action function and feel are coupled with a free-floated barrel for optimum long-range precision. 

It’s chambered for hard-hitting, flat-shooting, short-action calibers. Like the Browning BLR, it has a detachable box magazine, which makes for reloading convenience. 

While other lever-action rifles may be better for short- and medium-range game, the Henry Long Ranger can take down a buck from 150 yards away while maintaining excellent precision. Because the .223 is a pointed bullet, it is more aerodynamic, allowing for your ammunition to travel farther than tubular ammunition in other lever-action rifles. 

For those looking for a hunting and home-defense lever-action rifle, the .223 is a popular caliber for self-defense. It has the stopping power to take down an intruder in your home, and it can be just as easily used to take hunting.

Pros

  • Multi-range accuracy
  • Free-floated barrel
  • Reload is quick with detachable box magazine
  • Versatile for home and sporting use

Cons

  • No external safety
  • .223 can lag over long distances

6. Marlin 1895 SBL - Best Lever-Action Rifle for Self-Defense

When it comes to home defense and self-defense, many gun owners choose a rifle over a pistol because of its sheer stopping power, coupled with the dreaded “racking” noise that can stop any intruder dead in his tracks. 

While it’s tempting to look at more modern-style guns, including tactical AR-15 rifles and pump-action shotguns, there is good reason to consider a lever-action rifle for self-defense. The loading of a cartridge with the lever produces a similar “racking” noise that can deter a criminal from going any further into your home. 

Additionally, while tactical rifles have racks for scopes and lights, many lever-action rifles such as the Marlin 1895 SBL have accessory rails to turn your lever-action into a tactical rifle. Don’t be deterred by the old-fashioned looks of a very modern rifle: the Marlin 1895 can meet your present-day self-defense needs. 

This 37” long rifle weighs only 8 pounds. It holds a 6-shot full-length tubular magazine, and it uses .45-70 Government rounds. It’s smooth, it’s shiny, and this sleek, silver rifle is ready to fire in any self-defense situation.

Pros

  • High-caliber rounds compared with a high-capacity magazine
  • Accessory rail included
  • Reliable and accurate

Cons

  • Recoil is a little heavier than other lever-action rifles with similar calibers

7. Marlin 1894 SS .357 MAG - Best .357 Lever-Action Rifle

If you enjoy the feel of a .357 Magnum pistol, then you will love the Marlin 1894 SS Lever-Action Rifle. If you are looking for a .357 with a scope mount, the receiver is already tapped on this model. 

One of the stand-out features of this model is the 8+1 round capacity and 6.5-pound weight, which makes it one of the lighter lever-action rifles despite having such a high capacity. 

Another feature sported by the 1894 for the modern lever-action rifle owner is the threaded barrel for use with a suppressor. While .357 ammunition is smaller than .44 or .45, there is still plenty of power in this rifle. For self-defense or sporting uses, this rifle will meet all your expectations. 

The blued metal meets black hardwood for a modern look and feel. This rifle looks like Marlin has taken a .357 revolver and enlarged it into something sleek and powerful. 

The swivel studs and enlarged loop make this rifle easy to operate, with a smooth lever-action to work through each cartridge in the tubular magazine.

Pros

  • Threaded barrel to add a suppressor
  • Works well for self-defense and hunting
  • Smooth mechanisms
  • Can shoot .38 Special ammunition

Cons

  • Not a great choice for large game at medium- to long-ranges

8. Mossberg 464 Pistol Grip .30-30 Winchester - Best Lever-Action Rifle for Comfort

The classic Wild West style of this lever-action rifle harkens back to our pioneering forefathers. The beautiful hardwood finish is accentuated by the black blued steel. 

The Mossberg 464 features a pistol grip that is ambidextrous and may be more comfortable to some shooters who are used to the more relaxed grip. The Mossberg .30-30 comes with a 7+1 capacity, but it only weighs 8.75 pounds. This makes for a lightweight rifle to carry with you, but a heavy enough rifle to reduce recoil and increase accuracy. 

Like other modern lever-action rifles, the Mossberg 464 comes equipped with easy installation of a top rail for accessories and sights. This model comes with front fixed dovetail sights and adjustable rear sights. 

The classic .30-30 caliber makes this rifle perfect for hunting deer and even wild hogs. In fact, if you are considering hog-hunting, the .30-30 is better than the .223 for this purpose because of the higher speed and power of the .30-30. The .223 tends to lag by a third of the speed of a .30-30 bullet.

Pros

  • Ambidextrous pistol grip
  • High-capacity magazine
  • Lightweight
  • Easy-to-install a top rail

Cons

  • Wood is lighter and more delicate than Winchester or Marlin rifles
  • Sight adjustments are not user-friendly

Our Conclusion

When it comes to a lever-action rifle, the variety of uses still makes sense today, even in the face of bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles. For casual gun owners and avid enthusiasts, the lever-action rifle is a fun gun to shoot that can also be put to practical use.

If you want a rifle that will work with any game you hunt or sporting event you partake, look no further than the Browning BLR Lightweight ‘81 .308 Winchester. It’s a excellently built lever-action rifle that works with modern ammunition so you won’t have to look elsewhere for hard-to-find ammo.

Choose the lever-action rifle that will provide power, accuracy, and reliability in any situation.  From hunting to precision shooting to home defense, the right lever-action rifle can be the perfect addition to your rifle collection.

Minuteman Review Team


Written by one of Minuteman Review's excellent writers.