Last Updated September 10th 2023
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Winners at a Glance
Henry Big Boy X
Winchester Model 73
Marlin Model 1895 SBL
Henry Golden Boy 22LR
POF Tombstone 9mm
Marlin 336 Classic
The best lever action rifles are a nostalgic trip down memory lane. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and more have dispatched bad guys with a lever action rifle, and you can too.
Now the Henry Big Boy, the best lever action rifle on the market, is more about fun than home defense. But you can use them for hunting, not just plinking, and plenty of people like a bit of old world magic as a truck gun.
Henry Repeating Arms, Winchester Arms and Marlin, old names from the Wild West days, are still the big players, but lever action rifles have come a long way since the days of Billy the Kid.
Here are the best lever action rifles in 2023
1. Henry Big Boy X
- Price: $999.99
- Caliber: 45 Long Colt/44 Magnum/357 Magnum/38 Special
- Barrel Length: 17.4 inch
- Weight: 7.3lb
- Capacity: 7
- Fiber optic sights + optics ready
- Multiple caliber choices, 38 to 45-70
- Action developed over 130 years.
- It’s expensive, prices start at around $1000
- Modern looking lever actions aren’t for everyone
The Henry Big Boy X Model brings the classic lever action right up to date with a series of modern performance features.
This lever action rifle is a model line, not just one rifle, and you can order a range of pistol calibers. Now the 45 Long Colt is the classic lever action caliber, but we do like that you can buy a 357 Magnum or 44 Magnum version too.
As well as the classic action, you get a synthetic stock, rubber recoil pad, a Picatinny rail up top and M-Lok slots on the forend. So you can run it with a scope, red dot sights and lights and lasers, if the single green fiber optic front sight and two red windage and height adjustable rear sights aren’t enough.
All the modern accoutrements join forces with a carbon steel receiver with a matte blue finish. That is drilled and tapped for Weaver or Picatinny mounts.
Now the Big Boy X lever gun is just one part of the Henry Repeating Arms X Model line and you can order them with a 30-30, 45-70 Government or even .410 shotgun shells.
So if you’re long range hunting with a scope up top or clearing snakes from your yard, there’s an X Model for everybody. They can come with an old school wood stock, if you’re a traditionalist, but they’re all some of the best lever action rifles on the market.
See the full line here:
2. Winchester Model 73
- Price Range: $1,541.99
- Caliber: 45 Long Colt/45-70 Government/357 Magnum/.44-40 Win
- Barrel: 19
- Weight: 7.3lb
- Capacity: 6
Best old school lever gun
- Piece of American history
- 45-70 Government can take big game
- Grade 1 Walnut stock
- No mod cons, which is good and bad.
The Winchester Model 1873 is the gun that won the West and the modern reproduction lever gun has stayed pretty true to the old legend right up to its 150th anniversary.
That’s good, because this is part of the fabric of American firearms folklore and everyone who claims to be a gun enthusiast just has to own one. It’s that simple.
Now you can get a rifle carbine version, but this short rifle version gets the pistol calibers and a Grade 1 black Walnut stock, metal buttplate and brushed stainless steel receiver.
This Winchester lever action rifle could do with a rubber recoil pad and a more comfortable lever action, but then that would be messing with the original design and willfully missing the point.
A gold bead front sight, full length tube magazine and side gate loading remain basically unchanged since 1873. The engineering, manufacturing and materials have stepped up though, especially with the cold hammer forged stainless steel barrel.
John Moses Browning joined forces with the Winchester Repeating Arms company and you can still buy those lever guns too, but the gun that won the West has to be one we’d go for.
There are also sporting versions that are popular in Cowboy Action shooting competitions and more tactical lever action rifles for hunting big game.
Check the full line here:
3. Marlin Model 1895 SBL
- Price Range: $1,670.99
- Caliber: 45-70 Government
- Barrel: 19
- Weight: 7.3lb
- Capacity: 6
Best for Big Game Hunting
- Combination of classic style and modern tech
- Laminate stock is elegant
- Lever is big and comfy
- Limited to 45-70 Government
The Marlin Model 1895 is another one of those pioneers of the lever guns scene that has come screaming into the modern age.
It also starred in Jurassic World and is rated for a T-Rex on Marlin’s own site. I mean that sounds optimistic, but it’s definitely a top class big game hunter.
We like the modern look of the laminate stock Marlin 1895 SBL Stainless Big Loop lever guns, but you can also choose the more traditional Guide Gun or 1895 Trapper.
This one comes with a Picatinny rail up top, which opens up opportunities for red dot sights and other optics for this tactical lever action.
Of course it has the classic side gate loading and six rounds of 45-70 is a lot of big holes when you’re hunting big game.
4. Henry Golden Boy
- Price Range: $540.99
- Caliber: 22LR/22 Win Mag/17 HMR
- Barrel: 20
- Weight: 6.8lb
- Capacity: 16
Best for Plinking
- Cheap fun
- High capacity tubular magazine
- Great training gun
- 22LR is for small game only
- There are much cheaper 22 rifles
If you’re just plinking for fun, or hunting small game, then you don’t need more than a 22LR. So you can save money and get the full Wild West feel with the Golden Boy.
The Henry rimfire lever guns come in the standard rimfire calibers and they all have that old school flavor.
A 20 inch blued octagonal barrel, Brasslite receiver, brass buttplate, American walnut stock and traditional adjustable buckhorn sights mean the Golden Boy looks and feels like a proper big bore lever action. From a distance, but you can shoot all day without worrying about ammo costs.
With 16 rounds between reloads, there’s a lot to be said for the 22LR if you’re just shooting for fun. And that 6.8lb heft means this rimfire lever action is accurate and recoil just isn’t a thing.
It was the first rimfire to win the Guns & Ammo rifle of the year award, which is kind of cool. And there’s a Henry Youth version, too, with a shorter length of pull and 16.25 inch shorter barrel.
5. POF USA Tombstone
- Price Range: $1,848.99
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 16.75
- Weight: 5.75lb
- Capacity: 10
Best 9mm Lever Action Pistol Caliber Carbine
- 9mm great for plinking or home defense
- Detachable box magazine
- Modern design
- Semi Auto PCC is more practical.
- It’s properly expensive
The POF Tombstone is about as modern as you could hope. It’s a 9mm tactical lever action rifle that is an oddball, steampunk alternative to a Pistol Caliber Carbine.
You get a compact gun with a 16.5 inch barrel, M-LOK handguard with partial rails top and bottom, and a synthetic stock. While you can rely on the integrated ghost ring sight, there’s a place on the Picatinny rail for a red dot sight too.
There’s a twin port muzzle brake on the threaded barrel, it’s a lightweight gun with a detachable box magazine, rather than the side gate loading tubular magazine found elsewhere.
Also it’s a 9mm tactical lever action rifle, which is unusual to say the least.
6. Marlin Model 336
- Price: $2,549.99
- Caliber: .30-30 Win
- Barrel: 20.25
- Weight: 7.5lb
- Capacity: 6
Best for Deer Hunting
- Beautiful checkered black walnut stock
- Cold hammer forged barrel
- Legend status in hunting community
- Again, price is an issue
- Caliber is a deliberately oddball choice
The deer hunting community has a long love affair with the Marlin 336 Classic Lever Action rifle.
It’s an updated Marlin Model 36 with performance features like a chrome plated breech bolt, a flared open ejection port and a high quality extractor to go with the semi buckhorn sights.
It is designed for easy field stripping and can be cleaned from the breech.
7. New Original Henry Iron Frame
- Price: $2,901.99
- Caliber: .44-40 Win/45 LC
- Barrel: 24.5
- Weight: 8.62lb
- Capacity: 13
Best for Historical Re-enactment
- True to the 1860s design, down to the serial numbers
- Case hardened steel
- High capacity
- It’s heavy
- It’s insanely expensive
In the 1860s, Benjamin Tyler Henry took the 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge and created a lever action rifle that would change the course of the Civil War.
This is as close as you’ll get to those rifles without spending crazy money at auction for an original repeating rifle.
Now this gun changed history as it went up against muzzle loading Springfields that were generally good for three shots a minute in skilled hands. The 16 shot Henry was a revelation and the soldiers coined the tagline: “Henry, the gun you load on Sunday and shoot all damned week.”
This side gate color case hardened receiver is steel not iron, and there are other concessions to the modern ammunition and materials. Aside from that, this gun follows the original patents and patterns faithfully.
You even get the classic folding ladder rear sights and traditional half-cock safety hammer notch, together with that tack driver of a blued steel barrel.
The New Original Henry Rare Carbine offers a slightly shorter barrel and hardened brass receiver.
8. Rossi R92 Carbine
- Price: $915.99
- Caliber: 357 Magnum/38 Special/44 Magnum
- Barrel: 20
- Weight: 5.6lb
- Capacity: 10
- Super lightweight
- Fast lever action
- Great price
- Doesn’t have the name of the big three
- 38 can have feed issues
The Rossi is a lighter, cheaper and more compact version of the Winchester 1873 and more and more folks are choosing this for cowboy action competition.
As well as the price advantage, the lever action is fast and slick, reliability and accuracy are certainly good enough and being chambered for 357 Magnum and 38 Special gives it flexibility.
It’s a thoroughly modern looking gun with a Picatinny rail, laminate stock and brushed stainless steel receiver and barrel. There’s a lot to like here if you’re prepared to stray from the big three.
They do come with more traditional finishes, too, if you want to go that way.