No one loves lever action rifles more than I do. I’ve been shooting them since I was a kid, and a lever gun has been my primary deer rifle since 1978. The same rifle.
I have lever guns chambered for centerfire rifle calibers, pistol calibers, and rimfires. I have them in rifle and carbine lengths, and even a Mare’s Leg. Standard loops and large loops. I can even spin cock my large loop carbine. I love lever guns.
So, you can imagine my excitement when SHOT Show 2024 opened to a flood of exciting new lever action offerings from mainstays like Henry and Winchester, to newcomers like Bond Arms and Bear Creek Arsenal.
People are rediscovering the speed, handiness, and just plain fun that lever guns offer. New tactical lever gun adaptations are making inroads in gun-restrictive states, providing slick and fast options to shooters who can’t access certain semi-auto rifles. And traditional wood-stocked models are selling as well as ever.
The firearms industry is obviously responding to the swell of enthusiasm, providing everything from traditional to tactical, large caliber to small. So, let’s take a look at the latest models in this exciting trend, as presented at SHOT Show 2024.
Aero Precision Lever Gun Prototype
Aero Precision is making a lever gun? Yep, they sure are. But it’s still in the prototype stage. It doesn’t even have a name yet. The rep told me to just call it the “Aero Precision Lever Gun Prototype.” Aero Precision based the rifle on the proven Marlin 1895 design, but it will be a tactical concept.
The prototype features a polymer stock with cheek riser, an M-LOK handguard, a 16-inch barrel, and a full-length Picatinny rail up top. Planned chamberings include .30-30 Winchester and .45-70 Gov’t. The gun is still in development and will not be available until Q2 or Q3 of 2025.
Aero Precision’s sister company, Stag Arms, will produce a traditional model in the same calibers. The Stag lever gun will feature a gray laminate stock like the 1895, with a 20-inch barrel and no “tacticool” add-ons. This rifle will be available at about the same time as the Aero Precision model.
Bear Creek Arsenal Lever Gun
Bear Creek Arsenal threw its hat in the lever gun ring with a hefty, mag-fed rifle in .450 Bushmaster. The current rifle features an M-Lok handguard, polymer stock, front and rear pic rails, and a big ‘ol brake on a 20-inch barrel. .300 Blackout and .223 Remington chamberings are on the way.
The gun takes standard mags, and the receiver looks to be an AR-style upper. I don’t have any more info, nor do I have an availability date. But the rifle looks very cool.
Bond Arms LVRB
Bond Arms previewed their new LVRB at SHOT Show 2024, and all it did was win Recoil Magazine’s Best Firearm of SHOT Show award.
The LVRB features an AR-15 upper, 16.25-inch barrel, M-LOK handguard, and a rotating bolt. The bolt carrier is slightly modified to engage the short-throw lever. The rifle will be available in the second quarter of 2024, chambered for .223 Wylde. Future chamberings will include .300 Blackout, .350 Legend, and .450 Bushmaster. It accepts standard magazines.
The LVRB is probably the tactical lever gun that excites me the most.
Henry Lever Gun Supreme
This list wouldn’t be complete without an exciting new Henry product. Henry isn’t shy about it either, calling it the Lever Gun Supreme. Other companies are approaching the magazine-fed lever gun from the tactical side, but Henry is nothing if not traditional. I like that approach, myself.
The Lever Gun Supreme is chambered for .223 Remington and .300 Blackout and is compatible with standard magazines. The slick Henry action runs a new rotating bolt. The 16-inch barrel is threaded for a muzzle device or suppressor. Buckhorn sights are standard, but the receiver is tapped for a rail or optic.
I fired this rifle at Range Day and was very impressed.
Heritage Settler Series
Heritage continues to expand its line of Old West-style guns with the Settler Lever Action series. The Settlers have been out for a few months, but SHOT Show was our first real look at them. Heritage offers three models: the basic Settler Rifle with a 20-inch barrel, the 16-inch Settler Compact, and the Settler Mare’s Leg.
All three models are chambered for .22 Long Rifle and feature nice wood and cool-looking simulated case-hardened receivers. The aluminum alloy frames offer a lightweight firearm that is easy to handle. No word on whether Heritage will offer larger calibers later, but the new Settlers look like fun.
Marlin 1894 Classic
Like many others, I’m so glad that Marlin is back. The proud brand had been run nearly into the ground, but Ruger has resurrected this classic line and seemingly restored it to its proper place. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the new Marlin Classic Series, which includes the Model 1894.
The new 1894 has the smooth action we expect from a true Marlin, along with a beautiful checkered black walnut stock and a blued, satin-finished receiver. The new Marlins feature hammer-forged barrels for the first time in company history.
The 1894 is currently available in .44 Remington Magnum/.44 Special, but the company plans to introduce a .357 Magnum/.38 Special version as well. I asked if .45 Colt might eventually be an option and received a definite “maybe.” Research shows that .45 Colt is easily the slowest-selling of the three chamberings, so it’s not a priority. But we can hope.
Marlin 336 Classic
The other Marlin Classic is the all-time great Model 336. I’ve recently had the pleasure of shooting one of these beauties, and it overcame my initial apprehensions. You see, the rifle I’ve carried in the deer woods for the last 45 years is a 1963 Marlin 336. I was a bit skeptical that the new version could rival my ol’ reliable.
It’s way too early to answer that question, but my first impressions are good. The checkered black walnut stock is nicer than my rifle’s wood, and the blued finish is very nice. The action is smooth, and the rifle shot very well indeed.
I’ll have to admit that the hammer-forged barrel is no doubt better than the old Marlins, and Ruger’s modern manufacturing processes are almost certainly superior. The 336 is currently available in .30-30 Winchester, with .35 Remington in the works. I’m glad the 336 is back.
Smith & Wesson Model 1854
Smith & Wesson returns to its roots with the Model 1854, named for the year Horace Smith and Dan Wesson patented their first lever gun, the Volcanic Rifle.
The new Model 1854 is a classic lever action rifle with a few modern upgrades. S&W says the new rifle mimics the smoothness and durability of their revolver line, making this a gun designed for hard use.
The stainless-steel receiver and barrel, matched with polymer furniture, make the 1854 an all-weather gun. Twin M-LOK slots allow modern accessories while maintaining the traditional look.
The 1854 features a large lever loop for easy gloved use and a receiver-mounted Picatinny rail for maximum optic compatibility. Finally, the new removable mag tube system facilitates easy unloading without running the action. The Model 1854 is chambered for .44 Remington Magnum.
Smith & Wesson is offering a limited-edition wood-stocked 1854 that includes a Model 29 revolver. Fittingly, there are only 1854 limited edition rifles available, so move fast if you want one.
The Winchester Ranger was one of my favorite new guns at SHOT Show 2024. The Ranger is a simple, quality rimfire chambered in .22 Long Rifle. The walnut stock is attractive, and the machined aluminum receiver makes for a light and handy rifle.
Unlike many lever guns, Winchester designed the Ranger for easy disassembly, which may be the gun’s salient feature. I plan to get my hands on a Ranger sooner than later. I think it will make a great first rifle for my granddaughter when she gets a little older.
Lever Guns Everywhere
Lever actions are my favorite rifle style. I love the speed, simplicity, and traditional look. I’m also glad that firearms companies have brought the lever gun into the 21st century, allowing shooters with more modern sensibilities to enjoy this classic design.
I hope this trend continues, and with companies like Smith & Wesson, Bond Arms, and Aero Precision jumping on board, there’s no reason to think it won’t. Now go out there and be a cowboy!