View Full Version : Lever action accuracy

Spencer Stewart
March 11, 1999, 05:36 PM
Hello all, I'm pretty new to all this so please bear with me.

I have some questions about lever action rifles. They are attractive to me for their light weight, slimness, and supposedly quick cycling. However, bolt actions seem more popular.
It seems like folks hold the bolt action higher in terms of accuracy than the lever action. The only reason I've heard explaining this is the round the lever action shoots is normally round nosed rather than pointed. The Browning BLR Lightning shoots "pointy" bullets. Is there any other reason for the decreased level of accuracy in a lever action?

Some other questions:
Is the lever action really that much faster to shoot?
If I choose the lever action, out to what range can I expect powerful accurate results with the .243 and .308?
Are there any other inherent sacrifices in choosing a lever action over a bolt action that I need to be aware of?

I haven't purchased a rifle yet and I would like to find a general purpose rifle in either .243 or .308. As of right now, my skills are minimal, but I would like to have the capability of shooting accurately out to 200yds or so. One thing I've considered doing if accuracy is going to be sacrificed with the lever action is getting a bolt action for the smaller calibers (22, 243, 308) and leave the lever action for larger calibers used in shorter ranges.

Any suggestions? Thanks for your help.

Spencer Stewart

Art Eatman
March 11, 1999, 11:13 PM
The round-nosed bullet requirement originated with the Winchester, so that recoil would not cause the point of a bullet to fire the primer of another round, ahead of it in the magazine tube. Marlin "sorta" got around this with the grooved magazine tube, which offsets the line of the axis of the cartridge. Obviously not a factor in the Browning.

Accuracy is in part a function of the stock and how it's mounted to the rifle. For hunting coyotes or larger game out to 200 yards, there's no problem in any lever action rifle. Up to you and how well you do with whatever sights you use. Factory iron sights on lever action rifles usually suck.

The Winchester (Mod 94) and Marlin lever actions are not chambered for flat-shooting cartridges such as are available in the Browning. Just now remembering the Win 88, I'll add it to the list as shooting as accurately as the Browning (in .308, personal experience).

Note: There ain't no such thing as a "brush-bucking" bullet. From .45-70 on down, they all deflect. The really fast stuff blows up. Shape makes no never-mind. The only factor is how far behind the brush is the targeted critter? If he's close, a pointed .243 will hit. If he's more than 15-20 feet, a .45-70 or .444 will miss. I will, however, take luck over skill or statistics, anyday.

If you're talking generally-deer-sized primary hunting, out to 300 yards, with scope, a lever-action .308 or .243 will work fine. If you expect a fair amount of varmint hunting, the .243 is noticeably less recoil and plenty adequate for deer. Caveat: I don't include large mule deer and Maine whitetails in the .243 usage.

Lordy! Follow your esthetics, and practice a whole bunch of dry-firing as well as going to the range.

Best luck, have fun, and to heck with the budget!

cornered rat
March 11, 1999, 11:25 PM
I would guess bolt action is more popular for simplicity, ease of cleaning, ease of access to the action in case of misfeed. Lever could be faster to fire?

Cornered "but cheery" Rat

Ken Cook
March 12, 1999, 04:18 AM
I hunt with a lever action Win M94 30-30. I also like semi autos and pumps. I own only one bolt action. Steyr Mauser in .308. My preferance though is based on the fact that I must shoot a rifle lefthanded due to not having the use of my right eye. (I'm totally ambi with pistols) I have VERY little practical experiance with lefty bolt guns. I dream of the day when Remington offers a LH 700DBM in .308. (never happen :( )
A good lever gun will take you out to 200 maybe 250 very nicely. Remember though, you have to do your part.
I think a lot of the accuracy differences between bolts and levers is due to;
1. lockup.
2. bullet geometry aka ballistic coeffecient
3. barrel length, weight,rifleing
4.SIGHTS. There are very few scope mounts for leverguns that are good enough to consider using for longrange shooting. They are all compromises of some sort or another.
You didn't say where you live, do you have a real need for anything more than 200-250 yards for hunting? most of my deer have been harvested under 20 yards.
There was one I took years ago when hunting on Ft. Bragg, but no one would believe me if I said how far away he was when I took him, so I'll just say he was a lot further out than 200 yards. (300 Win Mag on a Springfield 03A3 receiver)

Your mind is your primary weapon.

March 12, 1999, 10:26 AM

Lever actions typically are slightly less accurate than bolt guns. The Browning you mentioned is likely close to bolt accuracy.

Savage 99's have good accuracy, as do some Marlin & Win 94's.

200 yd accuracy, assuming the ability to group 3 to 5 shots in 2 to 4 inches (1 to 2 minutes) is more likely with a bolt rifle.

As someone else stated, if you like levers, get one and use it a lot. You will likely shoot it well. My favorite is a military rifle, the Enfield No.4. This rifle does not make any exalted accuracy claims, but I like them. They fit me and I shoot it better than other weapons.



March 12, 1999, 04:30 PM
I can't remember the name of the rifle, but Guns&Ammo did an article on a new version of an old design. A straight pull bolt action. They put it up against the M94 Winchester and found it to be only a little bit faster, but it had much better acuracy. If you like the lever just for the style, go and get a Marlin 30-30. They are just as good for half of the price.

"The ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides, the drift of the continents, the very position of the sun along it's ecliptic! These are just a few of the things I control in my world!" Comand Master Cheif John James Ergayle quoting D.H. Lawrence in GI JANE

Keith Rogan
March 12, 1999, 08:20 PM

As someone else pointed out, the Browning BLR is nearly as accurate as a bolt action. I once owned a BLR in 7mm08 and took deer out to and beyond 300 yards with that rifle. Its rotary bolt and tight lockup, and the fact that its magazine fed to use pointed rounds, put it way ahead of the other lever actions on the market.
The new BLR with the aluminum reciever would make a credible scout rifle.

The Bears and bear maulings page: http://members.xoom.com/keithrogan

4V50 Gary
March 12, 1999, 09:07 PM
Setting aside the barrel (which is probably 90% of the effort towards accuracy), the lever action has one disadvantage in that the barrel can't be free floated and it's wood furniture is two pieces (forearm and stock). Being two pieces, there's more to shift around than on a bolt action rifle stock. Also, wood is susceptible to the weather (humidity and temperature) which would also affect its performance. Naturally, while replacing wood with modern polymers would address the latter issue, it does nothing about the free floating of the barrel (or consistent pressure caused by the forearm).

Lever action rifles aren't meant to be tack drivers like rail guns or varminters. Does this mean they're useless? Heck no. Art Eatman is right about it lever guns (depending on the caliber, the bullet, the shooter) being able to do the job. It's a matter of not applying it for a mission for which it was never designed. I myself have several lever guns and love them all.

March 16, 1999, 08:34 PM
I wouldn't overlook the Savage 99 series of rifles in a search for a good levergun. Good accuracy out to ranges beyond which you don't need to be shooting at game, and a unique look and feel due to its internal rotary magazine. The biggest drawback is the curved buttplate, which can smack you a bit in .308 if you're recoil sensitive.
Bolt guns have a larger following because of the design advantages of superior extraction due to the camming power of the bolt, and also ease of access for clearing misfeeds or other malfunctions. Of course, most people stick a scope right atop the action and negate this positive. If only someone would realize the sense of Jeff Cooper's Scout design (sigh).

Regards, Richard

Daryl Waldron
March 16, 1999, 09:24 PM
Good Posts! You guys know your stuff.

My Marlin 30-30 is my what use when I am on the ranch. Good all around work gun. Best over all, do most anything, easy to carry, rifle I have. If I Could have only one rifle that would be the one. Easy to handle, fast on tarket, hits what I aim at.
Just the way I see it.

Spencer Stewart
March 17, 1999, 11:28 AM
Thanks for all the help guys. I've done a little research and I found that Winchester had a model 88 that had a one piece stock. Would this not remedy the no-free-floating problem and provide better accuracy? Why did Winchester stop production and why doesn't somebody try it again? It seems like the Lightning BLR with a one piece stock would be the way to go.

Spencer Stewart

March 19, 1999, 07:28 PM
The Winchester 88 was a very accurate lever action but it was rather heavy. Probably, the main reason for its demise was that it didn't look "Western" enough.
It's a great gun if you can find one.

James K
March 27, 1999, 10:22 PM
Doc is right about the Winchester 88. They were very accurate but not "traditional." Sako also made a lever action for a short time that looked like, but did not function like, the 88. I will note, though, that even the Winchester 94, rear locking and all, can be made to shoot very well if the magazine tube and the band are freed up so they don't bind on the barrel. I had one that shot 100 yd groups of about 6". Just loosening up the front end and resting the gun on the back of the forearm rather than on the magazine got things down to 1 1/2 inches. (Flat point or not, the .30-30 is pretty accurate in a good rifle.)

Art Eatman
March 29, 1999, 01:40 AM
Oops! I had plumb forgotten the Model 88. I even had one in .308, a couple of years back, and with a K-4 I could hold right around 1 MOA...Darn good rifle.

Paul B.
April 15, 1999, 02:36 AM
I believe the reason Winchester dropped the Model 88 was because it cost too much to make. They dropped the Model 100 for the same reason. I'm not sure if they lost money, but the bean-counters said drop it, so they did.
Paul B.


Covert Mission
November 3, 2000, 02:58 PM
Just searching old threads for various answers. One comment on lever guns: the new, currnet Browning BLR has the forestock hung on a rod coming from the receiver, with no barrel band. This should inprove the accuracy, although my old-style BLR .308 is very accurate.

November 3, 2000, 10:07 PM
Funny that I would find your post today concerning lever action accuracy. To me there is an easy hands-down winner, the Savage 99. The ease of handling of a lever action with the power and accuracy of a sporter-type bolt action with the added bonus of something with a lot of history and which is fairly unique. Plus you don't have to pay extra for the name like you do the Browning. Took my wife's Model 99M in .308 out to the range yesterday after putting a used Redfield 2-7X scope on it. It dropped five rounds of Federal 150 grain SP into an inch and three-eighths at 100 yards and also managed to drop the jaws of all the bolt guys sighting in their bolt action Rugers and Remingtons.

Good luck and God bless America,

Nevada Fitch
November 3, 2000, 10:27 PM
MY brother inlaw traded off a bolt action rifle one time after we found out my Browning BLR would shoot groups half the size of his at my 200yd range with half the the power of scope used.Some of my longest and most memorable shots were made with that rifle witnessed and as a result several of my friends have bought them also with good luck.However I cannot recomend the old ones made twenty years ago with the rounded clips that stick out the bottom.I have had some reliability problems with a 358Win in one of those and have determined that the clips in that generation of rifle were inferior to the clips in the rifles made after that.however my brother in law has one like it in 308 and has had no problems. 2-1/2 to 3 inch groups are the norm at 200yds for the BLRS I have used with good loads.

November 4, 2000, 10:11 AM

Concerning the accuracy of a lever action. 4V50 Gary post is right on. A tack driver probalby never but a hunter Yes.

I'm planning on a trip to Colorado next year for elk. In the spring I going to purchase a Browning Ligthing BLR in 300 Win. Mag. to use instead of my Win. 70 in 30/06. I wouldn't be spending money on a trip and taking a rifle that would only give me marginal accuracy results.

If you like the lever design go for it the Browning will shoot all types of bullets due to its magazine.

To me there's something about Browning.

Hunted waterfowl for 27 years with a Lt. A-5 12ga.2 3/4" nothing better and replaced it this year with a Benelli Super Black Eagle.

Still like the Browning better.

Actually I'm sitting here at the PC waiting on my wife to finish dressing to go an appointment. Should be in my duck blind with the SBE hunting.


Paul B.
November 4, 2000, 10:39 AM
There is only one thing wrong with the Savage 99's. They've been discontinued. The bean counters strike again.
Paul B.