The Heritage Settler Mare’s Leg: Fun in a Small Package

I think I’m becoming Mag Life’s lever gun nerd. If so, I didn’t have far to go. I’ve claimed lever guns as my favorite firearm style many times. So, I immediately took notice when Heritage Manufacturing released its Settler Series in late 2023. The Settler Series initially includes three firearms: the full-length Settler rifle, the carbine-length Settler Compact, and the Settler Mare’s Leg. All are chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Heritage kindly sent us a Mare’s Leg to run and evaluate.

Heritage Settler Mare's Leg
The Heritage Settle Mare’s Leg is a fun little gun. Good looking, too. (Author’s Photo)

The Mare’s Leg concept originated in Hollywood. Television producers created the gun out of whole cloth for the late 1950s TV western, Wanted Dead or Alive, starring Steve McQueen. McQueen himself coined the firearm’s name when he said it “kicks like a mare’s leg.” The actor played bounty hunter Josh Randall and carried the Mare’s Leg in a specially designed hip holster. Wanted Dead or Alive was a big hit, and gun companies took advantage by offering cut-down lever guns for sale. Mare’s Legs have been available in various calibers, and even shotguns, ever since. Heritage is merely the latest to do so, but we think they have a winner.

Heritage Settler Mare’s Leg Specifications

  • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 12.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 23.25 inches
  • Weight: 67.37 ounces (unloaded)
  • Sights: Buckhorn rear with a windage adjustable front post and bead
  • Lever action with half-cock function
  • Cross-bolt safety

The ATF classifies Mare’s Legs as pistols, thanks to their cut-down stocks. Our first range trip drew questions like “Is that thing legal?” Yes, it is, as we explained. Many of you might be tempted to add a full-length rifle stock, and we’re right there with you. You can do that, but you’ll need to go through the ATF’s Form 1 procedure since adding that stock makes a Mare’s Leg a short-barreled rifle (SBR). We think it would make an awesome SBR. Just do it the right way.

Heritage Settler Mare's Leg
The mare’s Leg is short and handy, but it has a satisfying heft. (Author’s Photo)

This little gun now has several range trips under its belt, so here’s what we found. But first, we should note that Heritage provided this gun, and we do get to keep it. That did not affect our evaluation or conclusions. If anything, I’m harder on lever guns because I love them so much. Few things irritate me worse than a rough lever gun. Let’s get on with it.

Settler Mare’s Leg Features

Our expectations for the Mare’s Leg were hopeful yet reserved. I say “our” because my adult son often helps me run and test certain products. It’s nice to have a second opinion. Anyway, the Settler series is inexpensive, so there’s always a little bit of “wait and see” for such guns. But “inexpensive” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap.” We’re happy to report that the Mare’s Leg is not cheap, and it was even better than we hoped.

This gun is solid. Heavier than I expected. I like lightweight firearms as much as anyone, but I can appreciate a little heft where it’s appropriate. We both think it’s appropriate here. Despite the aluminum alloy frame, the Mare’s Leg weighs in at 4.2 pounds, thanks to the steel barrel and action, as well as the surprisingly nice wood stock and forend.

Heritage Settler Mare's Leg with .22 Long Rifle ammunition
The Mare’s Leg ate all the ammo we fed it. (Author’s Photo)

The receiver is easily the gun’s most striking feature, other than the length. It’s a handsome simulated case-hardened finish, giving the Mare’s Leg a very cool old-fashioned look. The stock’s butt plate and the barrel band are finished the same way. I wondered whether I’d like the finish after seeing the photographs. I was afraid it would look cheap or cheesy. We both loved it in person. The photos don’t do it justice. It gives each individual Settler a unique appearance. Well done, Heritage.

We also love the saddle ring on the receiver’s left side. We don’t ride horses, but we’ve kicked around adding a single-point sling since we’ve both fully bought into the tactical lever gun movement. Maybe you’ll see this gun in future articles exploring that concept. I’ll mention that idea again shortly.

The large lever loop is also a plus. First, it looks great. Second, you can easily run it with gloved hands. Third, and most important, the large lever loop lets you spin-cock this thing. And we all know that being cool is extremely important. This gun is cool.

The buckhorn sights are complemented by the high front blade topped with a brass bead. Buckhorns can be hit or miss, especially with a poor front sight. But Heritage did this right, and the front bead is easily picked up and brought on target. You’ll need to learn how to use buckhorns if you don’t already, but this isn’t exactly a long-range gun. You’ll pick it up quickly. The receiver’s top grooves eliminate glare, but it’s not tapped for an optic or rail.

The wooden stock and forend are nice, if not spectacular. I don’t know whether they are walnut since the Heritage website just says “wood.” So, probably not. But that’s really not a big deal for a gun like this. This is a fun gun, not an heirloom rifle, and the wood is probably better than I expected.

Lever action and simulated case-hardened finish
The Mare’s Leg’s action is solid and smooth. (Author’s Photo)

Mare’s Leg Functionality

A lever gun is only as good as its action. I’ve run otherwise beautiful rifles whose rough action ruined the whole thing. We are very pleased indeed with the Mare’s Leg’s lever. The action unlocks positively, and the lever runs smoothly to the throw limit. Closure and lockup are again positive. Some lever guns struggle with that, but not this Settler Mare’s Leg. We work lever guns hard, and this one runs like a champ. The large loop means you might want to use gloves or attach some kind of braid to protect your knuckles. But braids are cool, too, and we’ll be adding one soon.

The tube magazine holds ten rounds and is loaded via a twist-off brass tube liner. The tube liner features a polymer follower to hold the loaded rounds in place and push them down the tube. Make certain you have a solid grip on the tube liner when closing the magazine. You’ll find the liner bouncing out of the tube, your hand, and hitting the ground. Ask me how I know. But you’ll quickly master the technique. All our rounds loaded smoothly. Just remember to run the lever action robustly, and you won’t have any issues. That’s any lever gun, not just this one.

The half-cock function and cross-bolt safety both lock the trigger. The safety locks the action as well. I’m an old-school lever gun guy, and I dislike cross-bolt safeties. But I recognize that lawyers call the shots these days, and such things have become the norm. I still don’t like it.

Shooting from the hip
The Mare’s Leg fires easily from the hip. Just don’t expect to be accurate. (Author’s Photo)

Shooting the Mare’s Leg

Many guns are fun to shoot, including this one. But you’ll need to figure out the best way. Don’t bother trying to shoulder the stock. It won’t work. You could place it against your cheek, but that puts your nose right up to the hammer, which didn’t feel right to me. I got a good sight picture, but I didn’t like my face being right there. We didn’t shoot it like that.

We ended up firing the Mare’s Leg two ways. The first and easiest was from the hip. It was also easily the least accurate. This ain’t Hollywood, despite the Mare’s Leg’s origins. The best way was kind of shotgun style. We pushed the gun out to what felt like a normal length of pull, then did the “push-pull” shotgun technique to hold the gun steady as we fired. It takes some practice. It feels weird, and you’re trying to line up the sights without a third point of contact. That’s where we think the single-point sling would help. A properly adjusted sling, pulled tight, might provide a little more stability.

Running the action like that is pretty much impossible. You just don’t have the leverage. So, unlike full-length lever guns, anticipate reacquiring your sight picture each time. Learn to use those buckhorns! The trigger is a little heavy, but nothing major. It has a solid wall and a clean break. We both like it.

The Mare’s Leg requires some practice but is quite accurate at reasonable ranges. We didn’t shoot it past 25 yards, with most of our shots being more like 10 to 15. Given this gun’s role, we didn’t shoot from the bench or go for precision. If you’re looking for precise marksmanship, you need a differently configured firearm. This is a fun gun, and it was as accurate as we needed, reliably ringing steel once we got the hang of it. There’s no recoil to speak of, though the short barrel creates a bit of muzzle rise. It’s really no big deal, as you’d expect from a .22.

Heritage Settler Mare's Leg extended shooting technique
Extending the Mare’s Leg with a “push-pull” technique was the best way to shoot accurately. (Author’s Photo.)

Final Thoughts

We both love the Heritage Mare’s Leg. It serves no real purpose, but man, is it fun. And having fun guns is a purpose in my book. Shooting isn’t all about drills, MOA, and hundredths of a second. That’s all well and good, but let’s have a good time, too.

The Mare’s Leg provides that. My son is already angling for me to give it to him, and I will eventually. But for now, we’ll just toss it in the car when we want to blow off some steam or just have a fun day at the range. And you can do that for not a lot of money. The Mare’s Leg’s MSRP is $484.99, but I easily found them for less than 400 bucks. That’s a good deal in my book. Will it fill a need? Probably not. But sometimes, you buy guns because you want them, not because you need them. This is one of those “want” guns. And that price tag means you won’t even feel guilty about it.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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