With its synthetic, six-position, AR-style stock and tri-rail fore-end, the Mossberg Model 464 SPX is obviously not the lever-action carbine of John Wayne's generation. Rather, it's more like the lever gun of the new millennium.
The 464 action is based on that of the venerable John Browning-designed Winchester Model 94. Interestingly, the first model of the 464 was unveiled in early 2008—shortly after Winchester announced it would no longer be making standard Model 94s in the United States. The move was a savvy one on Mossberg's part because it positioned the company to fill the gap left by Winchester for a lever-action carbine that still has a tremendous following.
This isn’t your granddaddy’s lever gun. The 464 SPX combines the fast-handling qualities of a lever-action carbine with modern features more often seen on AR-style rifles.
As similar as the 464 and the 94 are, major differences do exist. For starters, the Mossberg has a solid rear receiver bridge that is drilled and tapped for scope bases. In addition, the bolt in the Mossberg is round and more like that of the Marlin 336, as opposed to square as found in the Winchester 94. The Mossberg also has a Marlin-style extractor, and it ejects to the side, so scope mounting is not an issue. Those familiar with the Winchester 94 will also notice the throw of the lever on the Mossberg is a bit longer. The action cycles very smoothly, though, and handloaders will appreciate the fact that the Mossberg will work with cartridges somewhat longer than can be cycled through a Winchester 94.
The other major difference between the Mossberg and the Winchester 94 or Marlin 336 is the safety. Both Marlin and Winchester opted for a receiver-mounted cross-bolt safety that blocks the hammer. Thirty years ago, true lever-gun aficionados saw this minor enhancement as a disgrace to the lever-action legacy. Nevertheless, it provides an additional layer of safety. Mossberg's approach leaves the receiver's sides unmarred; the safety on all Model 464s is positioned on the receiver tang. The Mossberg safety also blocks the hammer, but at the rear as opposed to just aft of the firing pin, and the rebounding hammer does not have a half-cock position.
The company's goal with the Model 464 SPX was to make a rifle the average shooter could press into service during troubled times, as in the aftermath of natural disasters, and use for activities such as hog hunting. Given those situations, the tri-rail fore-end that allows mounting a light, laser and other accessories makes perfect sense. Other provisions include a threaded muzzle to let a hunter remove the flash hider and attach a suppressor to protect his and his hunting companions' hearing.
Mossberg includes three ladder-style rail covers with the Model 464 SPX to make the carbine’s fore-end easier on the hands when it’s not equipped with accessories.
My sample Model 464 SPX reflected the typical Mossberg, made-in-America quality. Parts fit properly together, and the matte-blue finish was evenly applied. The gun's open sights—a highly visible fiber-optic red front and green rear—were perfectly zeroed right out of the box. I fired the Model 464 SPX for accuracy at 50 yards, and although the sights proved a bit coarse for precision work, sub-2-inch groups were not a problem from the bench. Nor was ringing a circular 8-inch steel plate at 100 yards from the off-hand position.
My 12-year-old son and I ran more than 200 rounds through the Mossberg—75 from the bench and the rest while firing off-hand. Most of the off-hand shooting was done by my son, who commented that the 464 SPX was "one of the coolest rifles ever." He appreciated the gun's padded, six-position, adjustable stock—especially after having his shoulder pounded by a "youth-size" lever-action .30-30 Win. rifle that did not come with a recoil pad. My son did complain the 464 SPX's tri-rail forearm was a bit sharp on his hands, but said no more about it after he installed the three rubber ladder-style rail covers included with the gun.
The Mossberg Model 464 SPX is definitely a departure from the traditional lever-action legacy, and most shooters won't feel all that cowboy-like when handling, shooting or hunting with it. However, having a rifle that can accommodate various physiques and is adaptable to a variety of tasks is more important than "playing cowboy" anyway.
Velocity measured in fps 15 feet from the muzzle for 10 consecutive shots using a Shooting Chrony chronograph. Temperature: 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Accuracy measured in inches for five consecutive, five-shot groups at 50 yards from a sandbag rest with factory sights.