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Bolt Action vs. Lever Action vs. Pump Action

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Lord Soth, Apr 17, 2003.

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  1. Lord Soth

    Lord Soth Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    How do bolt action rifles, lever action rifles and pump action rifles compare to each other in terms of reliability, durability and accuracy (assuming they all have the same barrel lenght)? Is there much of a difference?
  2. TrapperReady

    TrapperReady Member

    Jan 29, 2003
    It seems to me that the bolt action would give the best accuracy in most cases. Almost all of the pump and lever-action guns I've seen use tubular magazines, which preclude the use of very pointed bullets (you don't want the nose of bullet touching off the primer in front of it).

    Bolt-action rifles typically use some form of box magazine, whether it is internal or detachable. This allows the use of different bullets which will be better-suited to long range accuracy.

    Although I don't know the mechanics of them too well, it seems to me that the bolt-action locks up very solidly and simply. Short of shooting out the barrel, there's not a lot to go wrong with them.

    Pumps and lever-actions can be made to last, and certainly there are examples of them doing good service for many, many decades. However, if I were to plunk down my own cash for something I wanted to shoot well for a long time, it would be a bolt.
  3. PJR

    PJR Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Bolt action in all three categories.

    Where the other two have the advantage is the quick follow up shot.
  4. Leaky Waders

    Leaky Waders Member

    Apr 14, 2003
    Content listed as posted by me may have been edite
    Some lever actions use a box magazine too...like the winchester model 95 or the old savages...this permits them to shoot pointy bullets like the 30'06 et al.

    All in all bolt actions are probably the easiest to clean...just remove the bolt and go to town.

    Some writers (I'm not a writer...just a reader and a user) promote bolt actions for being very strong and thus a safer platform for reloading.

    There's a matter of opinion as to the most accurate...most people would bet a quality bolt action was the most accurate. But the other weapons are not sold in the millions for their ability to miss.

    If I were going to buy a rifle (like I just did yesterday) I'd pick the round I wanted...then mate it up to the firearm I liked best based upon how/where I was going to use it. Then I'd practice like hell to make sure that I did my part to shoot the weapon of choice the best that I could.

    My two pesos
    - L. W.
  5. Archie

    Archie Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    Hastings, Nebraska - the Heartland!
    Depends on what you're doing.

    Bolt action rifles are the most accurate. As a group. No one uses a lever or pump or semi-auto as a bench rest gun. In fact, falling or rotating block rifles are not used as bench rest guns.

    Second in the list are various non-bolt single shots. Mechanisms that keep the breech block and chamber in high rigidity and provide a short delay in firing (fast lock time).

    Properly equipped semi-autos are probably next and then pumps, levers and break action rifles.

    Please note two other factors:
    Factor One:
    There is probably a lever gun in someone's possession that will outshoot several bolt guns. What I've said above is a generality. No doubt somebody reading this has a semi-auto something that will group .400" consistently. But as a group, they don't.
    Factor Two:
    What do you need to hit? If you are getting into bench rest, you need a rifle with a tuned Remington 700 action and a perfect barrel and a scope that costs a minimum of a grand.
    If you want to shoot High Power, you need an M1 Garand or M1A that has a decent trigger and will hold 3 minutes of angle.
    If you are seeking Bambi in the piney woods and a long shot is 62 yards, most anything that emits the bullet from the front will fill the bill.

    There is a vast difference between inherent accuracy, practical accuracy and usable accuracy.
    Assess your problem and determine your needs from that.

    From a reliablility standpoint, the bolt guns are probably the longest lasting. They have few moving parts and small movements at that.
  6. Warner

    Warner Member

    Mar 18, 2003
    No contest - the bolt action.

    And due to it's popularity, it should also be easier to sell if you find you've chosen wrongly.
  7. Gerald McDonald

    Gerald McDonald Member

    Feb 12, 2003
    I had a friend who had a Browning BLR in 22/250 (could have been a 223 its been awhile) that always amazed me, but then he also had a Savage in 250/3000 that was pretty accurate too. I have heard of some of the Marlins in 307 that were tack drivers. Archie sums it up pretty well thou.
  8. telewinz

    telewinz Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Pumps are a good compromise between bolt-actions and Semi-autos, good accuracy and fast aimed follow-up shots. There are several makes (Remington) available that have box magazines. On the down side, they have the weakess (poor leverage) cartridge extraction of the 3 types.
    The bolt action is generally considered to "rule the roost" in the three areas you mentioned.

    COHIBA member

    Jan 10, 2003
    lever action.
    just because.
  10. CMcDermott

    CMcDermott Member

    Feb 15, 2003
    Broomfield CO, USA
    You are confusing the method of operation an action has; which doesn't mean much; with the type of chamber lockup an action has.

    There are "lever" action rifles, "pump" action rifles, and gas-operated action rifles (semi-auto) that use a rotating bolt with front lugs that lock into the receiver or a barrel extension that have the exact same advantages that the typical "bolt" action has that is operated by that little handle sticking out the side of the bolt.

    There are also rifle actions that have that little handle sticking out the side that have their locking lugs in the middle or rear of the bolt (like the Lee-Enfield) that have the same problem with bolt springing that the winchester "lever" actions designed by Browning have with their lockup at the rear of the bolt.

    You have to look at how the chamber is closed and locked to determine the strength and accuracy potential of an action. There are actions of all types (both type of operation and type of locking) that can take modern 65,000 psi pressure levels, and actions of all types that are limited to 50,000 psi or even 40,000 psi pressure levels.
  11. PaladinX13

    PaladinX13 Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    For "defensive" (or military or SHTF, etc) purposes, how do these actions fair against one another? I don't usually see much pump action analysis.
  12. Kaylee

    Kaylee Moderator

    Dec 19, 2002
    The Last Homely House
    Well in all fairness CMcDermott, there are lots of other factors that have a major effect on accuracy to, eh? Most important I'd think is the forearm -- is it a one-piece arrangement that allows the barrel to float freely like a modern bolt action, or are there barrel bands, two-piece forearms, magazine tubes, and so forth hanging out there on the barrel? Not that the other designs can't be made accurate, but common wisdom anyhow is that the simplicity of the bolt action makes it a lot easier to build a rifle to starts accurate, and remains accurate through use.

    So far as "defensive" use, well... seems to me if you're worried about accuracy at X-hundred yards, we're not in the realm of defensive anymore. :)
  13. PaladinX13

    PaladinX13 Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    I'm trying not to create a new thread so I keep responding to or resurrecting old ones. There's a thread on "Defensive Levergun loads", a few days back "Tactical Lever", and I'm pretty sure there are plenty of "lever vs. bolt" type threads. Bah, I should just make an original thread... :)

    Basically, I see that semi-auto and lever rifles are sometimes suggested as defense arms. Pump and semi shotguns as well. But you almost never see a bolt action rifle or pump rifle being considered and I'm wondering why. Is a bolt action that much slower (than a lever) or a pump action much less accurate? Etc. What is keeping the latter two actions from being typically considered?
  14. pwrtool45

    pwrtool45 Member

    Nov 30, 2003
    A lot of it has to do with some actions or types of rifles are just "what you get" when you want to fill a niche with any given properties (e.g., SHTF, hunting, etc.). After a few decades (or generations) of such an attitude, certain guns get refined for certain tasks. Can a pump rifle be as durable as a bolt rifle? Maybe. There aren't a lot of people who express problems with the millions of Remington 870s out there, and they're generally much higher volume shooters than .30+ caliber rifles (over the life of the rifle/shotgun anyway). Can it be as accurate? (Not to be confused with "can it be accurate enough for a given prupose?") Well, in this case, unless it has a free-floated barrel, it probably won't be capable of sub .50" groups at 100 yards. That's a question that gets asked pretty often when, in fact, maybe the quesiton that should be asked (pragmatically) is "does it have enough accuracy to hit the COM/kill-zone out past 600 yards?" It is a source of some amusement to me when people poo-poo a rifle as inaccurate when they are, ah, possessed of limited field marksmanship themselves. The difference between .5" @ 100y and 1" @ 100y is largely negligable when shooting in field positions. (By "largely negligable," I mean "completely negligable" to most shooters (like myself). I don't know too many shooters than can shoot sub-MOA groups off hand (or in one of the more traditional field positions such as rice-paddy prone) with a rifle they'd be willing to take to the field. And by "too many" I mean "any" (that I'm aware of anyway)).
    While there are some mechanical issues (best possible accuracy), the issue holding most rifles back from filling what we'd consider "untraditional" roles is usually us. Remington brings out a pump rifle, but most people are used to using levers for short range hunting and bolts for longer range work. Nobody quite knows how to receive this new (more or less) object that resists classifiction until Uncle Jim Bob bubba's his 7600 and, by word of mouth, everyone becomes aware of one (or more) inherant flaws in the weapon's design. Some people take to it because it fits them properly, but by and large people recite gunshop stories from people they've only heard of about a weapon they've never fired and it fades into nothing more than a curiosity.

    Ah, the sordid tale of the 7600, at least it serves as an example. ;)

    As for the more specific question of what keeps bolt actions from being considered defense guns, well, have you tried to find a .223 or .308 with an 18" barrel and *good* iron sights lately? Yeesh. It's almost impossible. There are one or two out there, but most are longer barrel guns with no irons. By contrast, most levers/autos *are* short-barreled and iron-sighted. Provided you could find a turnbolt that has a reasonably short OAL and can take a good set of irons, I don't think you'd be terribly underarmed. Most only hold four or five rounds, but that's a whole other argument altogether.

    FWIW, I think Remington makes a "police" version of their 7600 which has a slide release and safety located in the same position as the 870, takes a detachable mag (AR-15?) and has the aforementioned irons and shorter length barrel. If you're interested in a pump defense rifle, this unit might bear further examination.

    Edited to add: What Kaylee said. I'm not sure how "defensive" a 600-yard rifle is? Given the general state of rifle marksmen nowadays, though, I wouldn't be too terribly worried about it. ;) ;)
  15. MrMurphy

    MrMurphy Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    The 7600P Pump has an 18" barrel, in .308 or 5.56mm, (the 5.56 allegedly uses AR15 mags), decent aperature iron sights and is generally well set up for close range defense (inside about 200 yards) with an optical sight you could hit farther, the ghost ring rear is a bit wide for precision work past that.

    A WW2 issue Mauser 98 or Lee-Enfield is available for $200 in a solid cartridge, but without training it's gonna be slow as a bolt action. You'll get one or two shots off. I can crank off 10 rounds reasonably accurately from my Lee-Enfield in a short time, but I've been shooting it since 1997. Better for long range work from ambush.
    For a general purpose defensive rifle, the AR-15 family, the CETME (.308 semiauto), the new Keltec SU16 (5.56, takes AR mags and even folds in half), the FAL all make solid defensive weapons that are accurate enough to make hits out to 300 meters. Not tiny groups, but hits.

    Any lever action .30-30 can hit a man sized target at 100-150m easily, and it's very available. Reloading's a bit slow but can be done. Magazine fed leverguns like the Browning BLR are around, even in .308, but they're hunting rifles, so a bit of looking before you find a shorter barreled one is in order.
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