UP CLOSE: New Lever Actions For 2024

Lever action rifles are hotter than ever. And we’re not just saying that with no facts and figures to back up the assertion.

UP CLOSE: New Lever Actions For 2024

At the end of 2023, sales of lever action rifles had jumped dramatically over the previous year, according to figures gleaned from the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers’ SCOPE Program, which targets such information. According to SCOPE, prices on lever guns were up nearly 12% over the past year, and dollar sales were up 57%.

In contrast, the same report showed bolt-action rifle sales up about 10%, but prices were down 1%. And for semi-auto rifles, sales were down 18%, with prices also down 18%.

The answer to “why the big jump in lever-action sales” isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s because Western movies are making somewhat of a comeback. Or maybe it’s due to some nostalgia, as a large number of gun buyers who grew up watching their favorite cowboys on television (me included) are entering their golden years.

Regardless of the cause, the important thing for retailers to know is that lever guns are hot, and likely to stay that way, at least for a while. Consequently, adding a new model or two to your inventory is likely a good strategy at this time. 

That said, let’s take a look at three new lever action rifles introduced at the recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

Marlin 1894 Classic

Many people — gun sellers and shooters alike — lamented the likely end of Marlin’s historical lever actions when the company was purchased by Remington Outdoor Company back in 2007. And, indeed, things were looking fairly bleak until recently. Fortunately for lever fans, Ruger purchased Marlin out of bankruptcy in September 2020, and the company has thrown a lot of money and effort into ensuring that Marlin produces quality guns as in the past.

Marlin’s newest model just introduced at this year’s SHOT Show is the 1894 Classic, and it looks destined to be both a head turner and a crowd pleaser. Chambered in .44 Rem. Mag., the Model 1894 Classic sports a beautifully finished American black walnut straight stock and forend, both featuring clean, crisp checkering.

The receiver, lever and trigger guard plate are all CNC machined from alloy steel forgings. The receiver is blued with a satin finish, and the 20.25-inch barrel is made of alloy steel and is cold hammer forged for ultra-precise rifling to ensure exceptional accuracy and a long life. Sights are of the adjustable semi-buckhorn variety for quick target acquisition, and the top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope or aperture sight mounting.

Of course, since the 1894 Classic is chambered for .44 Magnum, it can also chamber and shoot .44 Special ammunition. The tubular magazine, which features a loading gate on the receiver, will hold 10 rounds of .44 Mag. or 11 rounds of .44 Special ammo. A soft rubber butt pad on the rifle helps absorb recoil. The safety mechanisms consist of a positive, push-button cross-bolt manual safety and traditional half-cock trigger. The gun comes with sling swivel studs mounted and an offset hammer spur for easy cocking with an optic.

To be sure, this isn’t a rifle that your customers would want to take on a long-range hunt in open country. But for lever-action lovers whose hunting is mostly close-up work in the woods, the 1894 Classic should make a fine companion. MSRP is $1,239.

Smith & Wesson 1854 

While many people know of Smith & Wesson’s storied history of producing fine revolvers during the “taming of the West,” most don’t know the company has a little lever-action rifle lore in its past. According to historians, the first Smith & Wesson company that was founded in 1854 and produced lever-action pistols before it was reorganized and renamed Volcanic Repeating Arms Company in 1855 produced about 10 lever-action rifles back in 1854-1855. Only three are known to have survived the ensuing years, with one on display at the Cody Firearms Museum in Wyoming.

Fast-forward 170 years, and the company is back in the lever-action rifle game with the new .44 Magnum-chambered Model 1854, celebrating the year of that first lever-action patent. With a stainless steel receiver and stainless steel 19.25-inch barrel, the rifle features a black synthetic stock with textured grip panels and black synthetic forend with M-Lok slots on the bottom. A removable tube magazine, so designed to facilitate easier unloading without having to repeatedly work the lever, holds nine rounds.

A flat design allows a straight pull of the trigger, which the company says will break at about 10 pounds. The sighting system includes an XS Sights ghost-ring rear sight with a gold-bead front. The 1854 has an overall weight of 6.8 pounds, and overall length is 36 inches. The top of the receiver has a Picatinny rail for mounting optics, and for those who like to shoot suppressed, the barrel is threaded and comes with a thread cap installed.

A Limited Edition model of the 1854 wears a high-grade walnut stock and forend with a satin finish. Its stainless steel barrel and receiver have been given a polished black PVD finish. Both models also feature a large loop operating lever reminiscent of Marshal Rooster Cogburn’s Winchester in the movie True Grit. MSRP is $1,279 for the standard Model 1854 and $3,499 for the limited edition.

Henry Lever Action Supreme 

Henry has been making lever-action rifles for 25 years, and the company has always done it very well. The company’s new Lever Action Supreme, which has been in development for the past five years, is like nothing Henry has ever made before.

Chambered in 5.56 and 300 Blackout, the Supreme is a lever gun made to use standard AR-style magazines, far different from the typical tube-fed rifle. Built around an entirely new action with a half dozen pending patents, the gun has a slightly enlarged lever that yields a very smooth stroke to eject a shell and chamber another. In fact, according to Henry’s George Thompson, “It is the slickest and smoothest action that we’ve ever made.” The lever also has a fairly short throw compared to most lever-action rifles to make space for the magazine.

Another interesting twist that differentiates the guns from many in the lever-action market is the emphasis on accuracy. The gun features a match-grade, free-floated barrel — which the company calls “sub-MOA capable” — for maximum accuracy. And the adjustable match-grade trigger breaks at about 4 pounds, with a pound of adjustment available. 

Unlike some companies making “modern” lever actions, Henry keeps its wood furniture, with the Supreme wearing a beautiful walnut stock and forend with attractive checkering on both. In another feature that breaks from typical lever rifles, the hammer is enclosed within the receiver. Plus, a rotating bolt head seals the chamber up nice and tight.  

In keeping with the gun’s modern features, the barrel is threaded for the use of a suppressor or other muzzle device. The Supreme has a tang safety, swivel studs front and rear for a sling, and it is drilled and tapped for mounting an optic. According to Henry, the new rifle will be the platform for other new introductions in the future. The Supreme should be shipping to retailers sometime in March, and MSRP is expected to be below $1,400.

Rossi R95 .45-70 Trapper

Rossi has been catering to lever-action enthusiasts with its lineup of pistol caliber rifles over the years, and now, it introduces a 45-70 Government chambering. Fans will know that the 45-70 chambering gained popularity in the 1800s for big, tough plains game like bison and grizzlies, and it’s still got a following today. The round is popular among big woods whitetail hunters and bigger-game hunters alike.

To add a modern twist to a classic-looking gun in a classic chambering, the barrel on the R95 is threaded 5/8x24, to accommodate muzzle devices and suppressors. It’s also got the enlarged lever loop that’s so popular today — easier to use with gloved hands when hunting in winter. The front sight is drift adjustable, and the gun features a Buckhorn adjustable rear sight. Capacity is five rounds.

This compact gun is 35 ½ inches overall, with a 16 ½-inch barrel with a 1:12 twist rate. Built on an alloy steel frame with a black oxide finish, the R95 also features a classic wood stock and a thumb safety. MSRP is $1,060.99.


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