Shooting Illustrated | Why the Lever Gun is Great for Self Defense

Some of the big news this week is Ruger’s acquisition of Marlin as previous owner Remington collapses. And that made me think of lever rifles as defensive weapons.

My first combat lever action happened to be a marlin. In the early 1970s, I got a Marlin 1894 in .44 magnum and cut it down to trapper size. Even with the 16-inch barrel, it held 9 rounds of hollow points with 240 grains and was just a handy little carbine. But I’m clearly not the only one who likes leverage, as when I review the Gun Digest Annual 2021 I find that around 10 to 12 companies make the guns. And I think there are a number of reasons to consider the lever carabiner for personal defense.

The first would be the fact that many models are designed for standard pistol cartridges. The shooter carrying a revolver may well find that a carbine of the same caliber is very useful, if only for the fact that only one type of ammunition needs to be carried and stored. Pistol-caliber carbines are sure to take care of business up to 100 meters and possibly beyond. And people who live where dangerous four-legged friends are known to roam can simply choose a weapon that is chambered for .308 Win., .444 Marlin, .45-70 Govt. and other. Lever rifles come in calibers to take care of any Ornery Critters that may have to be dealt with.

Another reason to choose the lever arm is when a person is involved in the cowboy action shoot. Of course, we’ll do our best job with the gun and caliber we practice most with. A serious CAS competitor, who in practice puts a lot of ammunition out of range, may be wise to pick the same weapon to keep home and family safe. I would, however, pull those light cowboy loads and load them up with something more essential.

Others may live in areas where AR-15 or AK-47 style weapons are prohibited. The lever rifles could be a good substitute for them. With a full magazine and cuff with a full reload, a person can discourage many crooks if attention is paid to the sights and the squeeze is released.

Finally, there are those who grew up just shooting the leveraged carbines. The guns feel natural and the shooter understands them. There is no need to switch to anything else. A .30-30, which performs essentially the same as the 7.62x39mm, is just as good at protecting the home and family as bringing in the venison.

The lever action carabiner of one form or another has been around since the 1860s, and it’s still around because it gets the job done. I am in no way suggesting that everyone should switch to a lever weapon. Just make sure you don’t overlook it when choosing this carabiner for personal defense.

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