Smith & Wesson Model 1854 Lever-Action Rifle in .44 Magnum: A Super-Short Review

Smith & Wesson has been hard at work, maintaining the top sales position in the firearms industry (over 2 million firearms produced yearly) by continuously diversifying their offerings. Recently, they released their takes on the 5.7mm handgun (M&P 5.7), multi-tube 12-gauge shotgun (M&P 12), and collapsible pistol caliber carbine (M&P FPC). Though each of these guns is like other manufacturer’s firearms, Smith & Wesson argues that each design brings something new to the table. Whether you agree or just prefer your firearms to bear the Smith & Wesson logo, there is no question they are offering an increasing range of options.

Shooting the S&W Model 1854
The S&W Model 1854 brings modern firearms engineering to a classic design.

A Very Long, Brief History

At the 2024 Shot Show, Smith & Wesson showcased their first lever action rifle, the model 1854, undoubtedly paying tribute to the date when Horace Smith and Daniel B Wesson acquired the Volcanic lever-action patent, which they followed up with the Volcanic pistol in 1855. The Smith and Wesson Company was later changed to Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. The rebrand came after more investors were added, including Oliver Winchester. By 1856, the company was dissolved, and the patents were transferred to Winchester, where the design would flourish in various rifle designs. Though Smith & Wesson only had a short time focused on lever action pistols before shifting their focus to revolvers, that history has been reborn in their first-ever lever action rifle.

S&W Volcanic Pistol
The Model 1854 lever-action rifle commemorates Smith and Wesson’s original involvement with the Volcanic lever-action pistol in 1854. Photo Credit: Wikimedia.

The Model 1854 Lever Action Rifle

Whether you want to argue that there is little difference in lever-action rifles made by such companies as Winchester, Marlin (Ruger), or Henry, Smith & Wesson has offered an impressive first outing with the model 1854. There are two versions (both chambered in .44 Magnum) currently available. The first is a functional stainless-steel version, compared to a more expensive brass, wood, and black limited edition.

S&W Model 1854
There is a lot to love in the new S&W Model 1854. Photo: Smith & Wesson.

The standard release rifle features a stainless-steel finish and black furniture (Stock and M-LOK foregrip). It has a 9-round capacity, loaded either from the front of the ammunition tube or through a side gate under the action. The safety is a cross-bolt above the trigger. Additionally, It comes with a gold bead front sight and ghost ring rear sight. Optics can easily be mounted on the included Picatinny rail. The barrel is threaded (19.25″), allowing for easy installation of a suppressor or muzzle device. The trigger is flat, and the lever features an enlarged loop for easy use. The trigger has a clean break, and the action is consistent. For reference, the Smith & Wesson Model 1854 is compared to some similar lever-action .44 Magnums from other companies.

Comparison Table Lever Action Rifles
Multiple companies are producing lever-action rifles in .44 Magnum.

Subjective Appraisal and Range Usage

The overall aesthetic of the Smith and Wesson Model 1854 is quite pleasing. I have always liked the combination of black and stainless steel. The balance was on point. The front sight came perfectly into focus in the ghost ring every time I raised the rifle. The action worked well, and I ran about 100 rounds of LAX .44 Magnum through this rifle with no issues. The action ran cleanly every time, ejecting and rechambering rounds as expected. I engaged steel targets at 30, 45, 75, and 100 feet and was hitting center on 6″ and 8″ plates at all four distances. The sights quickly snapped into view with each shouldering. And the rifle was very quick to return to an accurate sight picture after each rechambering.

Close up views of the S&W Model 1854
The fit and finish of the Model 1854 are top-notch, and several features, such as a flat trigger and top rail, are included. Photo: Smith & Wesson.


Overall, Smith & Wesson has developed a highly competitive lever-action rifle as they have entered this market. The quality and features are solid for the price point compared to other rifles, and I am looking forward to more lever-action rifles from Smith & Wesson chambered in more traditional rifle rounds in the near future. Whether you are looking to add a lever-action rifle in a pistol caliber to your collection or are looking for a good first lever-action rifle, it would be hard to go wrong with the S&W Model 1854.

Joel Nadler is the Training Director at Indy Arms Company in Indianapolis and co-owner of Tactical Training Associates.  He writes for several gun-focused publications and is an avid supporter of the right to self-sufficiency, including self-defense. Formerly a full professor, he has a Ph.D. in Psychology and now works as a senior consultant living on a horse ranch in rural Indiana.  Feel free to follow him on Instagram @TacticalPhD.

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