While the lever action rifle has been an icon of American grit for the past 150 years, there seems to be an escalation in interest in this old design of late. I have also noticed an increase in interest in the bolt-action scout rifle concept in the past few years as well. Why are we seeing this growing re-kindling in attraction to seemingly outdated firearms designs?
I think the single biggest factor is AR15 fatigue. The market is now so saturated with the modern sporting rifle that shooters are looking elsewhere for something to get excited about. However, there are a few other reasons that I think interest has ticked upwards in these designs. Each has some benefits when compared to the ubiquitous AR15 or the like, and when dealing with lever actions in particular, we are looking at a class of gun that is still a capable self-defense tool despite being quite old.
A few months ago I penned an article stating that the Marlin 1894 chambered in 357 Magnum is my “go to” carbine even though I am plenty experienced with the AR platform. Many people may find that sentiment quite absurd in the 21th Century. Well, for those that keep questioning my sanity I am going to address the advantages that this platform has going for it.
To begin, let me state the obvious: if I knew that I was going into a fight with multiple adversaries and could choose any rifle, I would go with a tricked-out AR15. This idea, however, is certainly hypothetical, as when does a civilian self-defender know they are in for a fight? Such foreknowledge is quite unusual. So, playing the hypothetical game, if I was going out to fight the golden hoards I would be going with an AR, body armor, and hopefully a division of fellow patriots. And, by the way, I think all American patriots should have AR15s and body armor for exactly that unforeseen future. Now, back to reality:
While the modern sporting rifle is obviously the superior fighting tool, I have a hard time envisioning a realistic civilian self-defense scenario in which an adequately trained lever rifle practitioner would not prevail with that tool, all else being equal. Like the pump-action shotgun, the lever action rifle can get it done, period. So, with that said, I will give you the five reasons why I prefer the lever gun, chambered in 357 Magnum, as my here and now, daily life, go-to carbine:
1: It is legal almost everywhere, so if you have to travel to restricted jurisdictions within the United States you can take it along and have a capable self-defense tool in your abode with you. A pump shotgun with a standard tube capacity also fills this role well, but if you prefer rifles to shotguns, as do I, the lever action is the obvious alternative.
2: It makes for the better “trunk gun” in terms of the ever-present possibility of theft. If you keep a gun in the car, secure it well with a safe. Even so, there is always a possibility it will walk away. When a crack head steals your AR15 it might end up on the street. When the crack head steals your lever gun it will go to the pawn shop.
3: A slender lever action is, in my opinion, far more convenient to carry in the woods than is an AR or other semi auto. They are typically lighter and they are simply more sleek in handling.
4: A lever action is a self-contained gun that does not need magazines. This makes it more convenient to transport. Instead of needing the gun and associated magazines, I just put the Marlin in a case along with a box of ammo and go anywhere.
5: A good lever rifle is truly reliable. While good AR15s and other semi autos are reliable, when in very harsh conditions, such as sub-zero blizzards, I frankly have learned to not trust any auto loader. Good bolt and lever rifles are impervious to such conditions.
So, there you have it. I think all free citizens need to keep their AR15s ready for an unpredictable future, and for those that keep an AR for home defense I think it is one of the best choices for that role as well. However, for my needs in the present, the lever rifle proves more convenient and it is a capable self-defense tool that will do anything that I may need to do with a rifle. It serves me well for a woods gun, a trunk gun, and I am perfectly comfortable with it as a home defense gun as well. Your mileage may vary.