Why the Lever Gun is Great for Self Defense

posted on October 2, 2020
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Some of the big news this week is Ruger’s acquisition of Marlin since the previous owner, Remington, is folding up. And, that got me to thinking about lever guns as defensive firearms.

My first fighting lever action happened to be a Marlin. Back 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 240-grain hollowpoints and was just a handy little carbine. But, I’m clearly not the only one who likes lever actions because checking the 2021 Gun Digest Annual, I find that some 10 to 12 companies are building the guns. And I think that there are a number of reasons to consider the lever-action carbine for personal defense.

The first would be the fact that many models are chambered for standard handgun cartridges. The shooter who carries a revolver may very well find that a carbine chambered in the same caliber is mighty handy if for no other reason than the fact that only one kind of ammo needs to be carried and stocked. Carbines in pistol calibers will certainly take care of business out to 100 yards, and possibly beyond. And folks who live where dangerous four-legged game are known to roam can just select a gun chambered for .308 Win., .444 Marlin, .45-70 Govt. and others. Lever guns come in calibers that will take care of all of the ornery critters that one might have to deal with.

Another reason for choosing the lever gun is if a person is involved in Cowboy Action Shooting. Clearly, we will do our best work with the gun and caliber that we practice with the most. A serious CAS competitor who is putting a lot of ammo down-range in practice might be wise to select the same gun to protect home and family. I’d pull those light cowboy loads, though, and load with something a bit more substantial.

Others may live in areas where the AR-15- or AK-47-style guns are outlawed. The lever guns might be a good substitute for them. With a full magazine and a butt-cuff carrying a full reload, a person can discourage a lot of crooks, if attention is paid to the sights and trigger squeeze.

Finally, there are those who simply have grown up shooting the lever-action carbines. The guns feel natural and the shooter understands them. There is no reason to switch to something else. A .30-30, which has essentially the same performance as the 7.62x39 mm, will do as good a job of protecting home and family as it does bringing in the venison. 

The lever-action carbine, in one form or another, has been around since the 1860s, and it is still around because it gets the job done. I’m not, by any means, suggesting that everyone should switch to a lever gun. Just be sure that you don’t overlook it when selecting that personal-defense carbine.


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