The Lever Action: America’s “Go To” Rifle
Kevin Felts 11.20.17
If you were to pick one rifle that catches the eye more than anything else, what would it be? Is there any chance you said, “The lever action in 30-30 Winchester?” Some of y’all may have said the AR-15 or the AK-47. I am going to go ahead and say this: Both those rifles have nothing on the lever action.
The lever action is such an icon that someone does not have to know very much about guns to recognize it.
Who has not seen the following:
- A picture of John Wayne carrying a lever action rifle?
- Any western movie made in the past 75 years?
- Deer brought into a hunting camp that had been taken with a lever action?
The lever action rifle has been such a part of American culture since its release in 1866 that its earned the legacy of being “the rifle that won the West.”
Walk into just about any gun store and a Winchester, Marlin, or Henry rifle should be easy to find. Unlike bolt action rifles that come in a wide range of calibers, the lever action is most common in 30-30 Winchester, a.k.a. WCF (Winchester Center Fire).
For the most part, people may not know that lever actions have been chambered in 35 Remington, black powder cartridges (such as 44-40), and various other rifle and handgun cartridges. This is part of what makes the lever action so iconic. Pick one up and chances are it will be chambered in 30-30 Winchester, which has probably killed more deer than another other modern cartridge.
Several months ago, I found an older Marlin 336 at a local gun store. The rifle was made in 1976, so I put it on layaway and bought it. The store had at least a dozen new and used lever action rifles in stock.
Fast forward to November 2017, and the store has two lever guns in stock. In just two months, the shop sold at least 10 lever action rifles. Contrast that to the shelves full of new and used bolt action rifles that were not selling.
I looked at a Marlin bolt action chambered in 22 long rifle. It was a used gun that had been sitting on the shelf for three years. Some of the older used Remington 7400 rifles had been in the store for a couple of years, and were not selling.
Then there is the price point of the lever action. While a bolt action rifle may sell in the $600+ price range, I saw a used Marlin 336 with a scope for $295. The rifle had rust on it, and the scope was low quality.
If someone has $300 to spend on a used deer rifle, they would be well served with a lever action. This makes the lever action chambered in 30-30 Winchester Americas “go to” rifle. Price, plus reliability, plus performance, combined with reputation, makes it an excellent choice.
Are there better rifles on the market? Sure there are.
Are there better cartridges out there? Yep.
Is there anything more iconic than the lever action? Nope, not by a long shot.