Did the TV series Yellowstone bring the lever action rifle back into the mainstream? Were the scenes of the leading characters John Dutton or Rip Wheeler wielding their lever actions to take down foes or beasts that placed the image of a lever action into our forethoughts?
Perhaps Yellowstone can have some credit for the resurgence, but I don’t think the lever action ever truly went out of style since the 1800s.
The lever action is loved today as much as it was in the Civil War. Then, the troops from both sides of the battle cherished the power and capacity of their .44 caliber Henry lever actions. Civilians also jumped on the lever action wagon, purchasing them for protection and hunting.
Soon, the lever actions found their way to the West. First, the lever action became the favorite of cowboys and settlers, then into the hands of Native American warriors. The lever action seemingly won the West.
Over the past several years, the “resurgence” of the lever action has seen a modern flair added to the rifle’s look and feel. The modern lever action has rails for accessories, scope mounts, and side saddle cartridge holders.
Adam Devine, Founder of Ranger Point Precision out of Texas, was one of the first manufacturers to step up the lever action game. The modern lever action is tactical and practical, according to Adam. Adam said, “We started as a custom lever action builder, and our modifications were always geared toward increasing the practical usefulness of the traditional rifle. That’s really what “modern” and “tactical” have always meant to me. More practical. More flexible. My very first mod for the lever gun–before Ranger Point–was a buttstock-integrated quiver that held additional cartridges at the ready. The second was a forend mounted Picatinny rail for flashlights. At that time, no one made any bolt-on “tactical” parts for lever guns. The concept was new, and some of our early mods were polarizing.
I’ve been shooting an AR-15 for work (military and law enforcement) and fun for thirty years. The AR-15 is a staple of the shooting world, from shooting sports to defense. The way we see the AR-15 in today’s age is how the lever action was seen through the late 1800s. They both served their purposes in their days. Both weapons are fun to shoot, but there is nothing like the sound of a .44 magnum round hitting steel at 200 meters and hearing that reverberating “ping” echo back.
The modern lever action is just built differently than the olden days. I recently talked to Anthony Imperato, CEO, and Founder of Henry Repeating Arms, and asked him how the modern lever action is built. Anthony told me, “We are known for our smooth action; it is very much part of our DNA. We are obsessed with quality, reliability, accuracy, and performance. The entire package just works.”
Internet shooting sensation PewView sums up how fans view lever actions. He told me, “The lever action is a timeless rifle that never losses the interest of gun enthusiasts across the globe. Modernized or left with the patina of being used and loved by the generations before you, it will always bring you joy to shoot.
Whether it’s from the nostalgia of watching old westerns and action movies as a kid or the trance of memories you get from it, or just the history and pure fascination that a normal man named Benjamin Henry could figure out how to make such a complicated perfect rifle with the precision and timing of a Swiss watch in 1860. It still holds value and a need in the modern world almost two centuries later. So the lever action will always have its place in the hands and the hearts of millions worldwide.”
Chris Costa of Costa Ludus Training is an expert in weapons training, including teaching lever action manipulation and engagement. Chris is a big fan of lever actions. He reflected, saying, “The nostalgia of the old western gun and the “wow” factor of this “new” thing. One of the reasons I like the lever action is because I have to do the work. It’s like an old Ford six-speed. I have to run the action, load it, shift it, and there is some fun with it. It’s nice to shoot something you have to work for.”
Chris has his own rail system built out with Ranger Point Precision. Chris said, “It’s for the end user to change their mind; like an AR platform, you can add to the rail system with what you want, from lights to a thermal device to scopes. You can build it the way you want it when you want it, and it’s lightweight.”