Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by txcookie, Nov 30, 2014.
Who is making the best lever rifles today?
I have limited experience because my lever guns are 15 to 75 years old. I recently shot a Henry .22 lever gun that I liked. Action was very smooth, fit and finish excellent. If I were in the market for a new lever gun, I would look at Henrys. They make calibers from .22 LR to .30-30 and .45-70.
But I'd probably look first for a pre'64 Winchester or an older Marlin.
There are lots of good levers out there today. Which is the 'best" is pretty subjective and usually starts Ford vs Chevy type arguments. Winchester, Browning, Uberti, and Rossi all make good guns. Marlins are getting better then they were a couple years ago after the acquisition. Henry makes a few guns that I like and many that I don't but I won't ever buy another one because of their misleading advertising practices. Huh, "Established 1862" my foot.
If I had to choose though, I'd say the best 22 levers made today are probably those made by Browning. The best new center-fire levers are probably the new Winchesters or Ubertis. My favorite though are older Marlins and Winchesters......
Marlins are a far newer design than Winchesters. Brownings and all the Italian etc. made rifles are copies of Winchesters. The Henry design pre-dates any Winchester, but it's still a Winchester.
"...I like too(also?) hunt..." To, Two, Too.
Any of the lever guns coming out of the Miroku plant in Japan seem to have a great reputation. I haven't handled any of them but those who have like them.
Browning guns all seem to share a high level of build quality. You could do a LOT worse than one of theirs.
Of the Italian makers Uberti GENERALLY makes a nice product. But they are making them at a cost point and some come out that function but need help to function smoothly.
Rossi lever guns are another example of a gun which functions but can be rough to the point of wondering why. And the finish on their stock wood and choice of stock wood leaves much to be desired. But if taken on with the idea that you'll get the action slicked up and refinish the wood they can become a very nice lever gun for not a lot of time and effort. Or added cost of you're not able to do the slicking up work yourself. And once slicked up you have a truly great Win 92 design. And they just don't come any better.
Chiappa in Italy also makes lever guns among others. But I've had trouble with one of their guns sold under the Armi Sport name. I also know some fellow shooters that have had issues with their guns. On top of that there's a pretty good number of posts about issues. All in all if they put half as much effort into the insides as they do to making the outsides look so nice these guns would be a winner. But they don't so they are a bit of a gamble. They took me to the cleaners once. So until I read that they've turned around I won't be buying any more of their guns. And that's a shame since they have a great lineup for options not seen elsewhere.
For rimfire the two biggies for new guns are Browning and Henry. Browning is obviously the winner here. But Henry makes a great rimfire lever. For those of us that can get past the idea of the name history issue and accept that cast alloy is OK for rimfire guns we get to enjoy a really high quality and slick operating rifle that is very accurate. You folks that turn away for either reason are missing out on a great and highly reliable rifle.
Marlin 336? Well, they just don't come any better. The only issue here being the wait and hope that they'll sort out the quality issue and begin producing winners once again. Certainly the design itself is capable and reliable.
That's about it for new other than Mossberg. But I've not read much about their lever rifles or handled/shot any. I'll leave that review for others.
And just what is wrong with going used? Shooting a lever doesn't get much better than a "pre-Remlin" 336 or a classic Winchester 94. And there's lots of fine used examples of both.
I'm a lifelong fan of Winchester lever actions.
I'm a more recent fan of Marlin lever actions.(In the past 24 years)
Both my levers are 1999-2000 Marlins.
Miroku-made anything is a high quality product.
What do you want it for, what caliber?
Lots making "traditional" lever calibers and pistol caliber rifles. But if you want a serious, flat shooting, long range cartridge, Browning BLR may be the only game in town. Luckily, it's a darned good game.
30.30. Hunting inside of 100 yards with no glass
From what I've been reading, if you're lucky enough to get a good rifle today in that caliber, you're lucky enough to play the lottery.
I have two lever actions -- a Winchester 94 that I bought in 1964 and a Savage 99 in .308 that I picked up at a gun show a couple of years ago. I love them both -- but the Savage is head and shoulders a better rifle.
An older Winchester or Marlin would be my first choice if it were the best lever action rifles made years ago Current production I would go with Browning, Winchester, and Henry.
If you want a 30-30, a used one may be simplest and most cost effective. If you want "best" at any price, the newest Winchesters made by Miroku are extremely well made, but cost quite a lot. a clean used Winchester 94 or Marlin 336 should work well. If you think you may want to scope it at some point, an Angle Eject Winchester or Marlin both are easy to scope.
It may be more fair to say the Marlin design is a little newer than Winchesters. Theres' an 1881 Marlin, then 1893 and 1894. Winchester started in 1866.
Which "Henry"? Do you mean the modern company? They arent related to or decended from anything in the past (other than the 1860 model they recently brought out, since the Italians had been making reproductions of them for many years and saw a market for them), and not related in any way to the original Henry rifles made by the New Haven Arms Company.
There was no "Henry" company that produced the original Henry rifles, they were made by the New Haven Arms Company, which morphed into Winchester Repeating Arms Company six years later. The only Henry arms company is a modern invention capitalizing on the old name. They aren't related in any way.
I bought a Henry Big Boy .357, and as a guy who owns, or has owned just about everything over the years I'd have to say it's one of the finest I've seen. They are almost too pretty to shoot! But shoot they do. Mine feeds .38's and .357’s, reloads, wadcutters, jacketed, lead, whatever, and it's as accurate as I am.
I still prefer my old Marlin, mainly because it's used and a bit dinged up, so I don't mind dragging it through the woods. The thought of getting the Henry dirty, or leaning it against a stone wall just seems wrong!
I used to be concerned about that sort of thing, then decided if I wasn't going to use it, I may as well not have it. That extended to modifying guns to be like I wanted them for my best use and enjoyment. I've cut down and/or added slings and receiver sights to several Brownings of different models. I've also fired previously unfired commemorative Winchesters that were 30 or 40 years old or more. I try to take care of them, but I'm going to use and enjoy them while I'm around.
But the last Winchester in-house design was in 1876. From then on, all lever action Winchesters were designed by John Browning -- the 1886, 1892, 1894 and 1895.
(Well into the 20th Century, Winchester finally brought out a few other in-house designs, such as the Model 88 and the 9422.)
As others have mentioned, the 30-30 is what the typical American thinks of when a man says deer rifle. That is slowly morphing into the bolt action rifles in an assortment of chamberings. For the 100 yard intended range you would be hard pressed to beat the 30-30, but also hard pressed to distinguish much between it and 35 rem, 44 mag, and 45-70, or even a 45 colt if you use GOOD ammunition. The hole size is slightly different but the end result is exactly the same. You could jump up to 444 marlin but then your in a whole new power class that only good 45-70 can hang with. I personally am a safety nut and will not own guns without a manual safety, which excludes the Henry (almost shot myself in the foot over it when I did own one...not the guns fault but a simple safety can prevent accidents if it is used). Look seriously at the winchester AE guns as they offer the traditional look, feel, and function of the winchester but with the added capability to mount a scope. My AE .357 was way too nice for me to beat up so I sold it...one of only a few that I truly regret selling.
miroku is making the best production lever guns today. you may or may not like their design the most, but they are the best made.
I like the marlin designs the best, but the quality is not anywhere near miroku's levels.
I'd forgotten about the Savage 99. While most I run across are chambered in .300Savage the odd one in .30-30 or .308 does show up. And like Vern above those with them really like them. And the nice thing is that because of the rotary magazine you're not limited to flat or softly rounded nose bullets like with a tube magazine.
If you're into reloading then the .300Savage is an option. I keep seeing brass for it all around at various times. And it uses the ever popular .308 bullet size. It's very similar or very slightly better than the .30-30 round.
At the Cabela's I work at, they have 3, '99's in the used gun rack. one is the proverbial .300, one is the .308 and one is the .250 Savage. All but the .250 are scoped.
I'd grab one of those -- my dad hunted in Sumatra and Ethiopia with a Model 99 in .250-300-.
The only lever I've had in practical ownership and use over several years has been a Uberti. I'm still evaluating it but the initial review is here. I've handled the new Japanese Winchesters and I think if you want the deep blue, fine grain, and functionality that is expected from a new rifle some financial urging is going to be required on your part.
If you're willing to accept a good shooting rifle with less than great fit and finish and cross bolt safeties the Marlin will suit your needs. Great rifles will have great prices. Amortized cost over years of ownership will determine if it will be worth it to you.
A buddy has a Savage 99E in .308 with a fixed 4X Leupold that shoots MOA 3 shot groups at 100 yards.
Another buddy has an early Savage 99 in .300 Savage with a 26 inch barrel that shoots 1.5 MOA 3 shot groups at 100 yards with open sights.
The meat put on the ground courtesy of those two rifles would probably fill a railroad boxcar.
I would look for a used Savage Lever Action if looking for a lever action rifle today.
Just my .02,
Find a older jm marlin. lots out there.
I concur regarding the Browning BLR, most excellent build quality,yet complex and not a rifle you will break down yourself. I have 2 Miroku rifles, the fit and finish is 2nd to none.
New Henry rifles are nice and good build quality, i just have a thing against a tube fed rifle.
Not a winchester lever fan, Marlin is superior in strength.
The Japanese Winchesters are supposed to be all good and the top of the list of levers being made today. I've neither handled nor shot one but their report card has uniformly high grades from those who have.
I would also recommend the Taylor Alaska (takedown) models in .357/38 or .44. In 16" or 20" barrels made my Chiappa. They also may have some .45 Colt left but I believe they were going to stop making them. They may not be the cartridge you are looking for and I'm always a bit worried about buying a Chiappa firearm. Though I have no personal experiences, I've read that they are mid-quality on average. Not sure where truth lies. That said, I have handled a few Alaska's and am very impressed.
I've never had a problem with a good Marlin 336. You can pick one up at a pawn shop for around $300 used. Add a peep sight and it makes a great brush gun that doesn't break your heart with every scratch that magically appears.
First deer rifle ever given to me was a 336 chambered in 35 rem. It was a great rifle. It was stolen from me at the age of 19. Almost ten years later I found one in a pawn shop and just had to buy it up to refill that sentimental void.
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