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Skills Check: Running a Lever-Action Rifle

Skills Check: Running a Lever-Action Rifle

Lever-action rifles are an American staple. Long a favorite deer rifle, the lever action also has defensive applications—I refer you to John Wayne and hundreds of Western movies. At reasonable distances, say out to 150 yards, the lever gun can get the job done, whether defending the fort or bringing home the venison. Lever guns are available in pistol and rifle chamberings, with the pistol calibers benefitting a lot from being fired in barrels 16 inches or longer. On the top of the power curve we have rifles chambered in .45-70 Govt. that are entirely suitable for shooting anything you can imagine with custom loads from outfits like Buffalo Bore. If you need even more power, the Big Horn Armory Model 89 in .500 S&W Mag. is made for dropping a T-Rex in his tracks.

Running the lever gun with its tubular magazine is similar to running a tube fed, pump-action shotgun. Normal carrying mode is with the magazine loaded and the chamber empty, hammer down. As the rifle is brought to the shoulder, the lever is run down and back up to chamber a round. After firing (or not), the hammer can be lowered to the half-cock notch with the safety on, if there is one. Now it’s time to load the gun back up to capacity by replacing the number of rounds fired in the magazine tube. While reloading is kind of slow, it’s not an issue, unless you happen to be fighting off hordes of bad guys and in most circumstances involving hunting or defense you’re likely to take care of matters with the ammunition in the gun.

Here are some drills you can run to familiarize yourself with running the lever gun:

Starting from a standing ready position at 25 yards, muzzle up or down, and with an empty chamber and full magazine, run the lever as the gun is brought to the shoulder and fire one round. Follow-through (reacquire the sights) and run the lever with the rifle butt in the shoulder then reload the magazine. Repeat five times. (Total:five rounds)

Again, from 25 yards, repeat the first drill, but fire two rounds and reload two more. Repeat five times. (Total: 10 rounds)

At 15 yards, starting from a ready position, fire one round on each of two targets then reload. Repeat five times. (Total: 10 rounds)

These simple drills will consume 25 rounds and go a long way toward familiarizing you with the operation of your lever-action rifle. If you have one (or two, or three, or…), I’ll bet it has been a while since you practiced. So, dust off Ol’ Betsy, take her to the range and let the spirit of John Wayne take you back in time.

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