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Old November 23, 2020, 10:05 PM   #1
Forte S+W
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According to Chris Baker, Lever Action Rifles reputation for ruggedness/reliability is undeserved.

Chris Baker of Lucky Gunner recently put out an article/video in which he states;

"For whatever reason, lever actions have a reputation for being rugged, tough, and reliable. They’re the perfect gun for the prepper or outdoor survivalist. The truth is that, compared to almost any other rifle being made today, lever actions are more delicate and prone to failure."

Source: https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/a...fles-reliable/

Now personally, I don't own a Lever Action Rifle, but my father owns a Winchester 1893 .30-30 Lever Action that he took with him deer hunting for many years, and he wasn't exactly gentle with it. He carried it in all manner of weather and barely bothered to clean/lube the thing, yet it still functions smoothly to this very day. So I find Chris Baker's assertions to be questionable, and I can't help but wonder if the article is intentionally being contrarian for the sake of getting views, but I would like to hear from some folks who are into Lever Action Rifles and have used them extensively.
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Old November 23, 2020, 10:15 PM   #2
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Baker seems to cover the topic quite well.
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Old November 23, 2020, 11:00 PM   #3
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I love lever actions and I cannot disagree. There are also many failure modes that like a revolver are not easily remedied.

That said I still would not feel unarmed with a good lever gun.
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Old November 24, 2020, 12:19 AM   #4
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I take most things Baker posts with a grain of salt. His bag is more entertainment than informational.
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Old November 24, 2020, 05:02 AM   #5
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that explains the large amount of them made over the years, they wear out and break down so their owners have buy more. total bull crap.
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Old November 24, 2020, 05:04 AM   #6
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Never heard of Chris Baker, but have always known that a lever action is the most complex, least reliable of all rifle actions. I've never known of anyone who tired to say they were rugged and reliable.
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Old November 24, 2020, 01:37 PM   #7
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He's done a good job of applying his 21st century standards to 19th century designs, and finding them wanting....

OK, so they're the most complex manual repeater..(though some pump rifles are right up there too)...so WHAT???

He makes numerous comparisons between lever guns and AR/AK and finds faults with the lever gun for not being something they were never designed to be.

Because of that, while he didn't directly say it, I get a strong feel the message was "if it ain't tactical, it ain't practical"

Lever guns, with all their "flaws" have remained in demand from hunters and outdoorsmen since they came out. Do note that they do their intended job well enough that there have been very few design "upgrades" over the last 100+ years.

Don't bitch about horses because they aren't HUMVEES. The horse doesn't care, and it just annoys the folks who enjoy riding them.
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Old November 24, 2020, 03:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
my father owns a Winchester 1893 .30-30 Lever Action
There is no such animal.

The US military actually looked into lever action rifles back in the late 1890s but rejected them due to being too delicate and prone to damage under field conditions. They noted particularly that the magazines were easy to damage (most lever actions have thin-wall tubing as magazine housing), stocks were thin and easy to damage (everything had to do with horses back then, and a horse can trash a rifle), and using the rifles from the prone position was an issue due to the lever hitting the ground. The only lever action to ever enter US service was the Spencer rifle (many state militias used the Henry during the Civil War).

I love lever action rifles, but they don't hold a candle to a bolt action except in capacity. They are primarily an American phenomenon, coming about at the same time that bolt action repeaters were being developed and refined. And no, it's not fair to compare them to ARs. Ars had another century of development and refinement over the lever action rifle designs we see most commonly.
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Old November 24, 2020, 04:12 PM   #9
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I view Chris Baker's article as mostly an entertainment piece, it's a nonsensical apples to oranges comparison with little data to back up his assertions. He takes a feature of modern lever guns - the ability to use 38 Special/357 Magnum and 44 Special/44 Magnum interchangeably - and tries to turn it into a negative. How many ARs can feed .223 and .222 Remington interchangeably? Or operate with cast bullets and black powder?

There's more nonsense, but people who buy lever actions aren't using them in place of an AR, or vice versa. They both have their place in the market.
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Old November 24, 2020, 05:28 PM   #10
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The US military actually looked into lever action rifles back in the late 1890s but rejected them due to being too delicate and prone to damage under field conditions.
If the Army was looking at lever guns in the late 1890s, they were behind their own curve, having adopted the Krag in the early 1890s. However, that's not impossible for the Army. (late 1880s, maybe?)

And yes, they certainly found the lever gun complicated, fragile and EXPENSIVE, compared to their other choices.

Something that must always be remembered about the "fragile" part, is wasn't JUST the abuse of field use and five thumbed apes in army uniforms, it was also about use in combat, and particularly hand to hand combat. Military arms (until fairly recently) were expected to be robust (tough) enough to both serve as an impact weapon and a defense against the same, and still survive as a serviceable firearm.

Without firing the military rifle was still a weapon and fought with both ends hand to hand. bayonet and butt to bayonet and butt. No commercial lever gun was every built for that kind of use. Military arms needed to be tough on a level that civilian rifles do not, and on a level that generally civilian users don't want and wouldn't pay for.

There's a reason that GI rifles weighed 9lbs give or take and who wants to pack that if you don't need to??

Its kind of like saying my sedan is inferior to a pickup because I can't haul a cord of wood in my sedan. Its not inferior, its just differently made for a different purpose.

Military priorities have changed, the Army stopped teaching bayonet combat almost half a century ago. And our current focus is not on using the rifle in hand to hand combat, either. I still remember my DI telling us why they weren't going to "waste our time" teaching us the bayonet.."the Army, in its infinite wisdom has decided that should you meet an enemy soldier the odds are high that one of you will have ammunition. If that's you, SHOOT THEM! if its them and not you, well, life's a bitch...."

Lever guns were probably "looked at" but I don't think ever seriously considered as a principle military arm, they just weren't up to the task, and they cost too much, comparatively speaking.
The Spencer was used, but remember the time frame and its competition. At the time it was cutting edge technology, and its firepower was a decisive thing, facing primarily muzzle loading single shots.

DO note that the Spencer was replaced with a single shot rifle, for military use, not another lever gun even of improved design.

SO, not being "milspec" tough, or easy to disassemble is a flaw? Apparently it is to Mr Baker or if not an actual flaw, at least a drawback.

That being said, other than as entertainment (and poor entertainment at that) his comparison is fundamentally unfair.
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Old November 24, 2020, 07:44 PM   #11
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Quote:
However, that's not impossible for the Army. (late 1880s, maybe?)
They tested the 1892 prototype of what would eventually becomethe Savage 1895, so probably not the 1880s.

Found it. NRA Museum page
Quote:
The Savage military rifle was submitted to the Army's 1892 Ordnance trials, where it was rejected in favor of the bolt-action Krag-Jorgensen rifle.
http://www.nramuseum.org/guns/the-ga...ion-rifle.aspx
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Old November 24, 2020, 09:39 PM   #12
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ok, so early 1890s not late 1890s....
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Old November 25, 2020, 09:23 AM   #13
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Charlie Askins said his editors told him to write provocative articles to stir up the readers and get them to write.
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Old November 25, 2020, 10:00 AM   #14
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The Russians did buy a lot of Winchester Model 1895 box magazine lever actions in 7.62x54R but I think of them as a stopgap measure to eke out the supply of the no doubt rugged Mosin Nagant.

The "Spruce Army" guarded their trees in WW I with Model 94s but they weren't fighting in the trenches.

The Turks held off the Russians at Plevna for a long time in 1877. Their tactic was to open fire on the Russian advance at long range with their Peabody Martini 11mm single shots and when the Russians got within a couple of hundred yards, go to their Winchester 1866s and pour on the fire. The Russians eventually took Plevna but it used up a lot of Russian soldiers.
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Old November 25, 2020, 12:42 PM   #15
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Old November 25, 2020, 02:37 PM   #16
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Chris Baker is Lucky Gunner's "Managing Editor" stating his opinion. Much like the gun rag writers in the old days. Where he got the idea that lever actions have a reputation for being rugged, tough, and reliable is another question.
A Winchester M1893 is a shotgun. And Armies, everywhere, were testing all kinds of stuff in the 1890s.
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Old November 26, 2020, 01:46 PM   #17
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"Charlie Askins said his editors told him to write provocative articles to stir up the readers and get them to write."

Absolutely correct. However, if you try to defend Askin's character or work on here, you will stir up a hornet's nest. Too many take him literally instead of understanding there was a heavy sprinkle of BS added to his work to stir controversy / sell magazines. Easy to see how some unfamiliar with "artistic license" and pressure from Editors, may Judge him based upon today's PC culture and standards by taking him literally. Interesting character and talented writer to some, cold blooded killer to others.

As far as Baker, I enjoy his videos, well shot, knowledgeable guy, fairly objective and not arrogant like many on Youtube. That's my perception anyhow, I don't know him personally. But, much like articles written for magazines, Baker needs viewers, so a little contravesy helps.

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Old November 26, 2020, 01:59 PM   #18
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I agree with 44 AMP on the subject. Also, I messed up, my dad's rifle is a Winchester 1894.
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Old November 27, 2020, 05:02 PM   #19
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Charlie Askins said his editors told him to write provocative articles to stir up the readers and get them to write.
Same thing happens today, just read a few gun rags and you'll see the same things going on today. These "gun authorities" are writing opinions to sell guns, nothing else. If they were objective, we would have never had the .270 vs .280 war of words that happened in the 1950s and 60s. We would have never seen the 264 Winchester flop. We would have read about 22 WaldoG instead of the 22 CHeetAH. The 6.5-284 would have never gotten more press than the 6.5-06. And the 6.5 Creedmore would have just been another "so what" cartridge (slower than the 260, but wait! There's more!). Instead, literary careers were forged on opinions about things with no discernible difference. It's hard to tell someone they're wrong when they are telling you their opinion, right?
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Old November 27, 2020, 05:32 PM   #20
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Also, I messed up, my dad's rifle is a Winchester 1894.
Yeah, we pretty much knew that as soon as you said "Winchester", "lever action", and "30-30". Not very much else it could be (1894, 53, 55, 64, 94, 64A are the only Winchester lever actions chambered for 30 WCF/30-30). We just moved on to other stuff, running down rabbit holes. You know, fun stuff.
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Old November 27, 2020, 06:36 PM   #21
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While lever actions were never adopted by our military in any great numbers, the US Government sure bought a lot of them, for the Marshalls Service, Railroad agents, Forest Service, Parks and Wildlife, plus some military purchases. You find small numbers of guns of all types in military service. The Army game warden at Ft. Wainwright, AK had an issued S&W Model 29. (1976) I'm sure the Army had a few lever guns at some more woodsy postings. While not combat rugged, they accompany a lot of people with outdoor or rugged jobs and provide reliable service.
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Old November 27, 2020, 07:41 PM   #22
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This is the point about his opinion, it seems that if its not "infantry battle rifle" rugged its reputation is undeserved.

The only place traditional lever guns fall drastically short of military service rifles is surviving hand to hand combat.

Since the 1870s, a lot of lever guns have spent a lot of time outdoors, in every possible weather by all kinds of people who didn't do much, if any, hand to hand combat with them.

ever see a 100+ year old lever gun without a shred of blueing left on the receiver (or much else, anywher)? but still mechanically sound and accurate enough to do the job it was built for, just as well as it did when new??
I've seen quite a few.

Here's something seldom brought up, while soldiers generally don abuse their guns (their life might depend on them working) they don't care for them the way a civilian usually does. Wear out or break your infantry rifle, the Army will fix it or give you another. Do that to YOUR rile and YOU will be BUYING the replacement.

Seems like Mr Baker feels that if you CAN beat your rifle to death, then its not rugged or reliable enough to deserve that reputation.
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Old November 28, 2020, 12:25 AM   #23
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IIRC, most of the fragility/reliability issues with lever action rifles can be traced to 2 things. First, they are usually tube magazines. Tube magazines usually have thin walls and thus can be dented. Second, the lifter mechanism is a potential point of failure.

Note that neither of these issues apply to vertical feed/box magazine lever action rifles. I have had extensive past experience with both Savage 99 (internal vertical feed) and Winchester 88 (box magazine) rifles. While the Winchester 88 does have a complicated action, neither of them suffered from "traditional" reliability issues associated with lever action rifles. In fact, I never had any reliability issues with either of them.

Much of the "complexity" issues are associated with actual complex mechanisms such as the Winchester 94s. I have not noticed any such issues with the simpler mechanism of the Marlin 336. But there is a history of lifter issues even with the Marlin.

------- Added

Note that the same reliability issue vectors that are associated with lever action rifle are also present with pump action shotguns. They are tube fed, with thin metal tubes that can be dented. They have similar lifter mechanisms, and are similarly complex.

Notice that pump shotguns were used in combat with good effect in the trenches of WWI. Nobody really doubted that they were suitable for combat. They were used by our military before WWI, through WWII and all the way through the Vietnam conflict. They are still used as riot guns to this day. Again, nobody doubts their reliability.

There are valid reasons to doubt the tactical value of lever action rifles. The main ones are that they are difficult to use in the prone position (you have to roll the weapon on its side to work the action), and that they are slow to reload (a problem that people seem to ignore regarding tube fed shotguns).

Reliability? Nah, that's not one of them. They are proven by over a century of evidence.
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Old November 28, 2020, 07:10 AM   #24
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Lever actions excel at straight wall, short range powerful calibers. The ones made to use more traditional longer range cartridge's are novelty and fun but not practical. Keep the Lever actions in their niche as a great short range, small to medium game rifle and stop worrying if you can snipe wamp rats at 1000m.
As for military use, at that time hand to hand combat was inevitable. So they wanted to put weapons in soldiers hands that would serve them in both realms. The lever action didn't fit that mold so they moved on. Yes you can whack a mole with one but a total re-design was required for bayonet and honestly reloading a Lever action took too long.

I love my lever actions, jams, misfeeds and all. Not that they happen any more or less then other rifles to include my ARs.
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Old November 28, 2020, 06:38 PM   #25
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This author was still in diapers when I was busy slaying deer with a borrowed 94.

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