American Rifleman | 6 Tactical Lever-Action Rifles Available in 2020
It is amazing to believe that the lever rifle has flourished largely unchanged in the gun world more than 160 years after it was first created. Of course, there were early variations on the concept in the form of Colt’s ring lever rifles and the Volition Repeater, but the weapon that most points to the first true lever action rifle as we know it is Benjamin Tyler Henry’s Model 1860 bolt action rifle.
There have been advances and improvements over the years, and famous designs such as the Winchester Model 1873 and Model 1894, and the Savage Model 99 have emerged as popular options that continue to be used to this day. However, the market has certainly changed in some ways and today’s manufacturers have adapted to the wants and needs of consumers.
In the modern gun market, “tactical” is the name of the game, and we are certainly seeing an increase in darkened guns covered in rails and sports optics, suppressors, and other modern accessories. There are a number of modern lever rifles on the market for the discerning shooter, and here are the ones you can buy today:
Bishop Firearms 1895 GBL
At first glance, the Bishop Firearms 1895 GBL does not appear “tactical”. Of course, I am defining “tactical” here as something that is completely black, equipped with polymer furniture, and sprouting Picatinny rails from every surface, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. In this case, it’s not looks that make this weapon “tactical”. It’s the chamber.
That’s because Bishop Firearms managed to do the impossible. The company managed to figure out how to chamber a Marlin 1895 GBL in 458 SOCOM, which I would say is considered a “tactical” caliber. Why? Well, the company offers all sorts of legitimate reasons, such as hunting that doesn’t allow an AR or using a sleek, slender field weapon for pig hunting. Personally, I just think it’s bad, and that’s reason enough in America.
Now we’ve moved on to another Marlin offshoot, although this Citadel Firearms model was inspired by the Model 1892 pistol-caliber rather than the large 1895 drill that was chambered in 45-70 Gov’t. Citadel announced this model for its 2020 catalog, and the gun is offered in .357 Mag., .44 Mag. and .454 Casull.
The gun features an 18-inch barrel, a polymer buttstock with a traditional profile, a large loop lever, and a skeletonized front end that is loaded with M-LOK attachment points. It’s pretty close to a real tactical lever arm weapon, but for me, it’s not quite there without a threaded muzzle and an elongated Picatinny rail that runs across the top. It’s still pretty cool.
Henry Model X series
Henry has a fairly extensive selection of leverguns, but with the exception of a few all-weather models, most of the rifles and shotguns in the company’s lineup are fairly traditional, featuring blued steel, wooden furniture, and receivers made of steel or brass. The Model X series released in 2020 changed the game.
The company went all-in on the concept of tactical leverage this year, releasing not just one, but three darkened tactical lever rifles in one fell swoop. There’s the Big Boy X model that comes in .357 Mag. Or .44 Mag. And .45 Colt, and two Lever Action X models that come in either .45-70 Gov’t or .410-Bore. All weapons come with polymer furniture, an enlarged loop, a threaded muzzle, and a section of the Picatinny rail on the front end for accessories.
Marlin Dark Series
Marlin caused a stir when he added new Dark-Series options to its Model 336 and Model 1895 rifle rifles, pushing the company’s traditional lever rifle setup into the tactical arena. Models are available in .30-30 Win. or .45-70 Gov’t, and they have an all black finish. If you want something different, Marlin’s Custom Shop has a range of different accessories and Cerakote finishes.
Further features are an extended XS Sights Picatinny optical rail, a 5/8 ”-24 TPI muzzle with thread, an enlarged lever loop and a braided paracord loop. The furniture isn’t exactly weatherproof, however, as Marlin opted for black lacquered wood instead of polymer for the shaft and front end. There are few options for attaching accessories, but they can be fixed by adding a Midwest Industries M-LOK handguard for the rifles.
Mossberg 464 SPX
Mossberg was one of the first to offer a tactical lever rifle with the introduction of its Model 464 SPX in 2012. This lever pistol is unique in that it is the only one.One of them offers an AR-style adjustable stock that attaches to the receiver with a rather disjointed assembly. The nice thing about it, however, is that it is compatible with all of the AR stocks on the market.
Other features of the 464 SPX include all-polymer furniture, a fiber optic visor, and Picatinny accessory rails in three locations along the front end. The gun even features a threaded muzzle topped with an AR-style birdcage lightning suppressor.
Rossi USA Triple Black
One of the cheapest options on this list comes from Rossi, who offers an R92-series model called the “Triple Black” that is packed with many tactical features. First, the weapon is darkened with a Cerakote finish and has a paracord-wrapped lever with a large loop. The weapon is also equipped with a short 16.5-inch barrel, which makes it light, handy and nimble – all the necessary properties for a tactical lever weapon.
The Rossi R92’s visor assembly is also solid, with a forward-mounted Picatinny rail that is perfect for mounting a long eye relief optic. There is a visor and a peephole visor attached to the forward-mounted rail.
Taylor’s takedown in Alaska 1892
Although Chiappa makes this and other detached lever models, this Model 1892 lever rifle is an exclusive option only available from Taylor’s & Co. of Virginia. What sets this model apart from similar options available direct from Chiappa are several elements, including the all-black finish and the shortened barrel that is just 16 inches long.
Consumers will also find a forward-mounted rail that is designed for use with a Scout riflescope, and the rail features a peep sight that is paired with the fiber optic sight. Perhaps the coolest feature of this Model 1892, however, is the cut-off feature, which separates the gun in half right in front of the receiver. Since the iron sights and all mounted optics are attached to the front half of the weapon, this platform remains at zero during assembly.
You might think the perfect lever pistol doesn’t really exist on this list. Personally, I would love to see a gun that combines many of the features of these six models. For me, the ideal tactical lever weapon would have the matte finish of the Marlin Dark series with the M-LOK handguard of the Citadel LEVTAC-92, a polymer shaft and the forward-mounted optics and switch-off capability of the Taylor’s 1892 Alaskan. What does your perfect lever weapon look like?