Whether your interest in lever guns stems from a childhood cowboy fantasy, or from the recognition that under the right circumstances they provide a quick-handling, lightweight option to other rifle platforms, there are a handful of models available today that will serve you well in the whitetail woods.
Introduced in 1971, Browning’s BLR gained a following with whitetail hunters who prefer a lever gun with a detachable magazine, which, of course, allows for the use of rounds with pointed-tip bullets that would be unsafe in the tubular magazines more commonly used in lever-action rifles. The rifle’s rotating bolt allows for positive lockup, and its side ejection makes scope mounting simple. The BLR is chambered in a wide array of whitetail calibers, from .22-250 Rem. through .450 Marlin. www.browning.com.
Another perennial favorite among whitetail hunters is Henry Rifle’s .30/30 Rifle. One-hundred percent American made, it’s the latest addition to the company’s extensive line of lever-action rifles. Like its predecessors, the .30/30 is both lightweight and maneuverable — perfect for hunting in dense timber or brushy terrain. And like every Henry rifle, it has select American walnut stock and forearm, steel receiver and a round blued steel barrel that is machined with state-of-the-art multiple groove rifling. www.henryrepeating.com.
For whitetail hunters, Marlin has a wide range of lever-action options, including its Model 336, Model 1895, Model 444 and the Marlin 308 and 338 Express. Chambered in .30-30 Win. or .35 Rem., the M336 is offered in several models and is a solid lever-action rifle with a smooth, well-designed action in a rifle that’s a pleasure to carry and shoot. For hunters looking for more horsepower in their lever action, Marlin’s got it covered. Chambered for .45-70 Govt. (Model 1895) or .444 Marlin (Model 444), these big-bore lever guns are great for whitetails and larger big-game animals. And the Marlin 308 and 338 offer .308 and .30-06-like performance, respectively, in a lever platform. All Marlin lever guns have side ejection for easy scope mounting. www.marlinfirearms.com.
Relatively new on the lever-action scene, and similar in looks and operation to the Winchester Model 94 — including top, angled, ejection — Mossberg’s 464 was introduced in 2008. Operation is nearly identical to the M94, but there are significant differences, including a round bolt and sliding thumb safety on the tang, similar to what you’ll find on Mossberg’s shotguns. The 464 comes with a 20-inch barrel and walnut stock and is drilled and tapped should you want to add optics. www.mossberg.com.
Among the earliest of the repeating rifles, the Winchester Model 94 is undoubtedly one of the most revered of the lever-action rifles — earning it the moniker, “The gun that won the American West.” And today its lightweight and quick-pointing characteristics make it a solid choice for whitetail hunters. The M94 was first chambered for the .32-40 cartridge and, later, a variety of calibers such as .25-35 WCF, .30-30 Win., and .32 Win. Special. By the time the M94 was discontinued in 2006, it had sold more than 7 million rifles. Fortunately, the rifle was put back into production in 2010. www.winchesterguns.com.