Top Lever Action Rifles For The Collector

Few firearms in US history are more iconic than lever action rifles. Harkening back to the days of the Civil War and the American plains, these rifles have been a mainstay in American folklore. We’re going to take a look at several that are sought after and find their way into the collections of many gun enthusiasts.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to shy away from old, rare, ultra-valuable firearms of an antique nature. Sure, if you have many tens of thousands of dollars of disposable income, you can pursue that market. For example, old Winchester Henry rifles from before 1900 usually fetch lofty prices, with well over $10,000 being the lower end, and some models reaching over $100,000.

These are not the guns that the American working person normally seeks out. For most of us, a couple of thousand dollars will stretch us thin. As a result, we’ll focus on what is attainable and leave the “Unobtainium” to the rich folks.

Why lever action rifles?

With all the more modern designs on the market, aren’t there better choices, and are lever action rifles even relevant these days?

They sure are! Despite it being an old design, it still works, and works well! And there are advantages.

Many are short and handy rifles or carbines that still work wonderfully. They have a respectable capacity and can be chambered for a number of relevant cartridges. The action can be worked quickly. Good reliability is another selling point.

And as we already touched on, the nostalgia factor is huge. They’re just neat and they remind people of the days of the Wild West. John Wayne, “Gunsmoke,” and all those Westerns were very influential on us, and make us yearn for days gone past. Hefting a lever action can make a guy really feel like a cowboy!

Speaking of cowboys, Cowboy Action Shooting is a growing sport that a lot of people enjoy participating in. Also, a large number of hunters still use them these days for hunting. And the fact that several companies still manufacture them proves that there is an intense market for these rifles.

As a matter of fact, the market recently went wild when Marlin shut its doors. The prices of Marlin lever action rifles soared like no one would have imagined. Rifles that sold for a few hundred dollars a couple of years ago are now going for around $2,000 in some cases.

Aside from hunting, there is the self-defense aspect. Using a lever action for home defense is far more benign in the public image than doing so with a “black rifle.” In the courtroom, when the prosecutor holds up the weapon we used for defense, a lever action will appear far more reasonable than one with a long, curved magazine. And yes, image does matter in court. In fact, it might even keep us out of court!

Let’s take a look at a couple of popular manufacturers and see what they have to offer these days.

Marlin / Ruger

As mentioned, Marlin has closed its doors, with Ruger stepping in and beginning production of Marlin firearms. At the time of this writing, most of the Marlin/Ruger lever actions being made currently are in the .45-70 caliber.

Marlin 336

However, the Marlin 336 is now listed as being produced and is available “With limited availability” according to their website. The 336 is Marlin’s old mainstay in lever actions, being one of the most popular hunting rifles in the United States. I believe these will be in very limited supply for quite a while because shooters who love lever action rifless are clamoring for them and will snap them up off the shelves as quickly as they hit the shelves.

If you can find an older Marlin 336 at a reasonable price, you’d be smart to grab it if you’re able. They’re very high quality and extremely sought after. Barring that, you’ll need to hunt down a new one from Marlin/Ruger.

Marlin 336 lever action in .30-30.
Marlin’s 336 in .30-30 is a classic that’s beloved by deer hunters all over the country. They’ve risen sharply in price and desirability in the past few years. This particular rifle has many fond memories of hunting seasons with my father attached to it. (Photo: Jim Davis)

I’m partial to the 336 because I have one myself, and it belonged to my late father. They really are beautifully made rifles. Mine sports a 20-inch barrel and it has the gold trigger. I have memories from hunting with my dad for many years attached to this lever action, so it holds a special place in my heart.

We’ll take a look at some of the new specs from Marlin on the 336. Caliber is .30-30 Winchester, one of the most popular calibers for deer hunting. It’s fed by a tube magazine and has a capacity of 6+1 with a side loading gate. The stock is American Walnut and is beautiful. The rear sight is a semi-buckhorn with a brass bead with a hood.

Weight is 7.5 pounds and the overall length is 38.625 inches. The barrel length is 20.25 inches. The suggested retail is $1,239.00. That’s a fairly hefty price tag, considering what these rifles sold for just a short time ago.

The receiver, trigger guard plate, and lever are CNC machined from alloy steel forgings. The barrel is also made of alloy steel and features cold hammer forging. The new rifles also have a gold trigger, the same as the older rifles do.

Ejection is from the right side of the receiver, which makes mounting a scope on top of the receiver possible.

Model 1895 Trapper

Since we’re on a Marlin/Ruger kick, I thought it prudent to mention the Trapper. This beautiful carbine has a 16-inch barrel, which makes it extremely maneuverable in tight spaces and a real joy to handle. It also has a bead-blasted, satin finish that looks absolutely gorgeous and keeps the shine down. To me, it sets the carbine off perfectly.

The rear sight is a Skinner peep sight with the front sight being a ramp. Peep sights are my favorite for their precision and fast target acquisition.

Grip panels on the stock sport very nice checkering, that not only looks attractive but helps to maintain a good purchase. The end of the barrel is threaded and comes with a protector so muzzle devices can be added if desired.

Marlin 1895 Trapper.
Marlin’s 1895 Trapper is a short, handy carbine in .45-70 Government caliber. The stainless construction is perfect for warding off rust in bad weather. (Photo: Field & Stream)

Unfortunately, the only caliber available for this rifle at the time of writing is the .45-70 Government. I say unfortunately, because we don’t all need a huge round like that; some of us are satisfied with the .30-30 or other calibers. One reason for the .45-70’s popularity is that it’s a straight-walled cartridge, and certain localities mandate that any rifle hunting be done with a straight-walled cased rifle. So I get why they did it. It’s just that I’d prefer to have some variety. The .45-70 will take any game in North America (and the majority of the world).

The tube magazine holds 5+1 rounds. The stock is black laminate, so it’s very durable. Materials used in this carbine are stainless steel, which is another nod toward extreme durability. Make no mistake, this rifle is made to be out in the elements and will shake off abuse.

Weight is 7.1 pounds with overall length being a handy 34.25 inches. MSRP for this carbine is $1,449.00.

Although these two rifles are pretty enough to be “safe queens” for collectors who just like to look at them, they really beg to be used in the field. They’re marvelous tools. Marlin/Ruger does have other models available, but let’s move on to some other makers now.


If you’re looking for variety, Henry is the place to come! They have a few dozen lever action rifles in different classes: Classic Rimfire Lever Action Rifles, Golden Boy Rifles, Big Boy Rifles, and Large Frame Lever Action Rifles.

Let’s take a look at a couple of Henry’s offerings in more detail.

Steel Lever Action .30-30 Side Gate

Since its introduction in 1894 as the first smokeless cartridge in America, the .30-30 has probably put more meat on the table than any other cartridge.

This rifle has blued steel and a side-loading gate, making it an excellent choice for the hunting field (or for defense, for that matter). It weighs seven pounds and has a 20-inch barrel.

Henry's Steel Lever Action .30-30.
Henry’s Steel Lever Action .30-30 has a side loading gate and American Walnut stocks. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s great in the field. (Photo: Henry Repeating Arms)

The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts or other sighting options. It also has side ejection, so mounting a scope on top of the receiver is feasible. Capacity on this one is 5+1 rounds. The overall length is 39 inches, so this one handles well in close spaces.

Both the stock and forearm and made from American Walnut and are beautifully done. Rear sight is adjustable semi-buckhorn with a brass bead front sight. MSRP is $1,057.00.

Big Boy X Model

This one is a bit different, being geared more toward predators of the four-legged or two-legged variety.

The furniture is synthetic and is equipped with sling mounting points as well as Picatinny rails and M-Lok accessory slots, all of which allow various accessories to be added. The muzzle is also threaded, which will please the suppressor crowd, which has grown in recent times. A thread protector stays in place until the user is ready to mount the muzzle device. Front and rear fiber optic sights adorn the carbine’s 17.4-inch barrel.

Henry Big Boy X lever action with accessories.
This Henry Big Boy X is dressed up with various tactical accessories, including a light, scope, sound suppressor, and butt cuff. (Photo: Recoil Magazine)

There is a removable seven-round tube magazine, which makes unloading a cinch. However, there is a side gate for loading, which facilitates fast loading and topping up of the magazine.

This carbine is available in a few calibers: .45 Colt, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, and .44 Magnum/.44 Special.

The pistol calibers exhibit very low recoil, making follow-up shots very fast. Plus, the lack of recoil just makes it pleasant to shoot these carbines. For self-defense, it’s excellent. As a truck gun, this carbine would excel. And despite its “black gun” appearance, this would also make a great short-range hunting rifle.

Stand For The Flag Edition

What’s that? You say you want something with a little more bling? Henry can accommodate you in that department! They have a number of fancy rifles in their inventory for those who want something more eye-catching.

The “Stand For The Flag” edition has a number of décor features that are very cool. Old Glory adorns both sides of the receiver on this rifle. The stars and stripes are beautifully done! To further set it off, the receiver is nickel-finished and highly polished.

On the stock is a man standing with his hand over his heart with the stars and stripes in the background. “O Say Can You See” is written underneath. All the colors are vivid and really set the rifle off in a special way.

Henry's Stand For The Flag edition.
Henry’s Stand For The Flag edition is beautifully decorated. It’s fully functional it but almost seems like a crime to take it out and mar the finish. (Photo: Henry Repeating Arms)

The rifle sports a 20-inch, blued, octagonal barrel. Caliber is .22 Long Rifle and the tube magazine holds 16 rounds. The stock and forend are American Walnut. Sights are adjustable buckhorn rear and front brass bead. Weight is 6.75 pounds and overall length is 38.5 inches.

Overall, this is a gorgeous piece of artwork! Henry states that it’s fully functional (after all, we’d expect no less). Despite that, this seems to be a piece that someone would buy just to look at; it’s too pretty to take to the range and get all beat up.

MSRP is $1,361. To be honest, I’d expect such an ornate rifle with all this attention to detail to be pricier than that.


What lever gun roundup would be complete without at least one Winchester in it? The name is an American icon, and rightly so.

Model 94 Carbine

For many of us, our great-grandfathers used a Winchester Model 94 to hunt so many decades ago. It’s a true classic, in every sense of the word. Winchester’s 94 sports an American Walnut stock and forend with a satin finish. The grip is a straight-style grip. The 20-inch barrel is button rifled, and the overall length is 38 inches. Weight is six pounds, eight ounces. The magazine capacity is seven rounds. There is an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight with a Marble Arms front sight.

Winchester 94 rifle.
Winchester’s 1894 is a classic lever action and a perfect example of an iconic lever gun. (Photo: Guns & Ammo)

The 94 is currently available in the following calibers: .30-30 Winchester and .38-55 Winchester. MSRP is $1,309.99.

In Conclusion

American classic. Truck gun. Hunting rifle. Self-Defense carbine. However you decide to describe the lever action, it will fit in just fine. America’s love affair with lever action rifles spans well over a hundred years. It will be interesting to see how far into the future it reaches. We can rest assured that it will be quite a long time.

We’ve covered a number of types of lever action rifles here in the name of being well-rounded. Most are useful in the field, but we threw one in that’s more suited as an investment for the safe. Whatever your passion is for the lever gun, there’s one out there for you. Collectors and users alike are well satisfied with this venerable design for good reason.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.

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