Lever Actions: Versatility to Protect & Provide

Hunter holding a silenced lever action rifle.

Introduction to the Lever Action Rifle

In 1860, Benjamin T. Henry of New Haven Arms Company patented the first truly successful repeating rifle, named after the inventor. This revolutionary rifle was a sixteen-shot .44 caliber rimfire lever action. We think of rimfire as practice and small game ammunition, but the original Henry Repeating Rifle delivered ballistics on par with a modern 10mm Auto cartridge – a 200-grain bullet speeding at 1200fps. A reliable tubular magazine and a hammer that was cocked by cycling of the action put it ahead of the competing Spencer which had half the capacity, a manually cocked hammer, and a generally less reliable mechanism. The Henry repeater has inspired American arms designers ever since for hunting, recreation, and defense roles.

wall mounted silenced lever action rifle

The reasons for such popularity were not just because Henry was the first practical high-capacity cartridge rifle. It also had positive extraction with some force behind it, something that neither falling block nor rising block nor trapdoor actions did well. The quote, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth,” attributed to Archimedes applied to rifle actions, with the lever reliably moving spent brass even from chambers badly fouled with black powder. Lever actions became the means for shoving enemy formations aside.

Why Choose a Lever Action?

Lever action rifles deliver versatility in spades, making them an ideal choice for someone looking for one type of firearm and a consistent manual of arms to fill multiple roles. Lever actions offer a massive selection of rimmed and rimless calibers to fit any task. Once limited to cartridges with flat point bullet profiles, some modern lever action rifles like the Henry Long Ranger utilize a removable box magazine to accommodate the pointed Spitzer-style bullets not usable in traditional tube magazines. Hornady Leverevolution loads use pointed rubber tips to make spitzers safe in tube magazines. Like a bolt action, lever action rifles can accommodate just about anything from the small-but-mighty .17 HMR to iconic revolver cartridges like .357 Magnum and .45 Colt to the heaviest hitting rifle cartridges like .45-70 Gov’t and .308 Winchester, but with an action that makes follow-up shots far quicker. A full-power .45-70 load can drop almost any North American game it where it stands, but lever action rifles provide speedy follow-up shots, just in case.

side view of lever action rifle with scope

They’re also more accommodating for left-handed shooters since the action is ambidextrous. Lever action rifles are generally trimmer and more compact than bolt actions of the same caliber and capacity. They handle well indoors, in dense brush, or on the deck of a boat.

Finally, this action suffers less regulatory encumbrance than semi-autos, an important consideration for some jurisdictions in the US and abroad. In the eyes of the public, a gleaming brass 30-30 is a less scary implement than something more martial-looking, though the actual capability of the classic may be greater.

Lever action rifles make quieter hosts for sound suppressors, as no gas escapes from the ejection port. Sound suppressors reduce felt recoil and muzzle flash and reduce the report to the benefit of the marksman and his neighbors alike. To learn more about the practical application of suppressors with lever action rifles for hunting, home defense, or recreational plinking, check out Tactical Meets Practical: Suppressed Henry Lever Action Rifles.

The features that make the lever-action rifle unique make it a smart choice for a do-it-all rifle that can protect the family and put fresh game in the kitchen. With modern ammunition optimized for various tasks, a loaded lever-action rifle in capable hands is a remarkably effective tool. The basic technology may date back to the 1860s, but the design, materials, and manufacturing precision all kept evolving in the meantime.

Choosing the Right Lever Action Rifle

The wide variety of calibers available, multiplied by the diverse barrel lengths, finishes, and brands, presents a bewildering array of choices.

A caliber that’s right in the middle of the power spectrum gives maximum versatility. With .357 Magnum, you can use Federal Hammerdown .357 Magnum 170-grain ammo to drop deer in its tracks, 158-grain hollow-points would do the same to a goblin invading your home, while light and almost recoilless .38 Specials excel for training, plinking, and introducing new shooters to the wonderful world of lever actions. Once you pick the caliber, rifle selection is a matter of checking off the desired features.

  • Is the rifle threaded from the factory for a sound suppressor or a flash hider?
  • Is the receiver drilled and tapped for an optics base for mounting a red dot or scope?
  • Does the rifle have a forend stud for a bipod or a sling swivel?
  • How long of a barrel would you like for comfortable handling?
  • Can a light or a laser be easily mounted?
lever action rifle leaning against truck tire

One rifle model with all those features and then some is the Big Boy X from Henry Repeating Arms. It’s a feature-packed, thoroughly modern rifle that’s managed to elevate the entire category of lever action rifles to incredible levels of popularity across America. It checks all the boxes for the features helpful to harvesting a whitetail deer out to 200 yards, popping coyotes to protect livestock, securing the family home from intruders, and – as importantly – having much fun at the range. Crisp trigger, light recoil, and natural handling all add up to make the Big Boy X Model a pleasure to shoot beyond just the practical benefits.


Henry Long Ranger Lever-Action Rifle - .223 Remington

Henry Long Ranger Lever-Action Rifle - .223 Remington

The Henry Long Ranger Lever-Action Rifle greatly extends the effective range of traditional lever guns by using a 6-lug rotating bolt head, a box magazine, and side ejection port that readily accommodates modern, high-pressure cartridges. The Long Ranger offers the look and feel of a traditional American lever-action, though its design is modern throughout.


Henry Big Boy X Lever Action Centerfire Rifle

Henry Big Boy X Lever Action Centerfire Rifle

Whether you're looking for your next deer rifle, truck gun, or home defense rifle, the Henry Big Boy X Lever Action Centerfire Rifle is packed with high-performance features, ready for dependable service. A durable synthetic furniture set is equipped with integrated mounting points for a sling and other stud-mounted accessories.