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Although the design is well over a century old, the traditional lever-action rifle still has tremendous appeal. A big part of that is their versatility; the guns are still well-suited for hunting a host of game species, for cowboy-action competition, or for use as truck or trail guns. Lever-actions are also a helluva lot of fun to shoot. If you’re addicted to the lever gun, like I am, and you want to maximize its usefulness, some accessories are in order. Here’s a baker’s dozen of great lever-action accessories, priced from $25 to $450. I’ve used every one and trust them all.
1. Beartooth Mercantile Safety Delete Saddle Ring
In the early 80s, Marlin added a cross-bolt safety to their lever-action rifles. It wasn’t that bad of an idea, as it does make the rifle safer during unloading, but traditionalists revolted, because it’s kind of like putting a trailer hitch on a Corvette. If you just cannot stand it, Beartooth Mercantile offers a replacement that looks and functions like an old-timey saddle ring. There can be concerns when removing a factory safety, but I have one on my take-down .35 Remington and it simply returns the rifle to its earlier condition.
2. Federal HammerDown Ammunition ($34 to $71)
Okay, it may be a stretch to call ammo an accessory, but I can’t leave this ammo out. Several years ago, Federal created the HammerDown line of ammunition specifically engineered for traditional lever guns. First, they perfectly tuned the bullets to lever-gun velocities. Next, they nickel-plated all the brass for smooth cycling. But the best thing they did was to chamfer the forward edge of the cartridge rim to make loading through a side-gate smoother. HammerDown loads are available in .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, .30-30 Winchester, and .45-70, and several have become favorites of mine. Federal says a HammerDown load for the .35 Remington is coming soon.
3. Versacarry Ammo Caddy
Carrying extra ammo on the stock a lever gun is tradition. For years, we’ve relied on lace-up leather butt cuffs that are gawdy and expensive, and those elastic spandex-type ammo carriers that soon fit like a stretched-out pair of socks. The Versacarry Ammo Caddy is the better answer. It attaches to your stock via a stick-on Velcro pad that will not harm your stock’s finish, and it also comes with a belt carrier. I have an Ammo Caddy on every lever (and many other) rifles that I own; I hardly ever hunt without one.
4. XS Sights Ghost Ring Sights
One of the original founders of XS Sights was a Texas Deputy Sheriff named Ashley Emerson. Emerson once told me, “You’ll go to hell if you put a scope on a lever gun.” A riflescope does diminish the fast-handling qualities that lever guns are known for, and if you want to improve the sights on your lever-action while retaining its lithe-like feel, XS Sights’ ghost-ring sights are a good option. I know because I’ve used them for years, and their all-steel construction combined with the white-striped post front sight make them extremely rugged and lighting fast. They’re available for most lever guns, and you won’t have to worry about spending eternity with Lucifer.
5. Galco Field Grade Zippered Case
I don’t think you’re condemned to a blazing inferno for scoping a lever gun, but there should be a punishment for anyone who abuses one. Even though they are often thought of as a behind-the-truck-seat kind of rifle, you should put yours in a good case when toting it around. A lever gun in a plastic case is as bad as pleather cowboy boots, so give Galco’s Field Grade cases a look. They offer three versions: one for scoped rifles, one for un-scoped rifles, and one for takedown rifles. They’re made of khaki cotton duck, lined with acrylic fleece, trimmed in leather, and have brass zippers. Even if you’re lever gun is beat to hell, you’ll be the envy of deer camp when you pull it out of one of these.
6. XS Sights Lever Rail
The thing that makes the XS Sights Lever Rail so appealing is that it helps a lever gun showcase its inherent versatility. With the Lever Rail you can install a traditional rifle scope, a red dot, or if you want a more general-purpose rifle, a scout scope. But there’s more. With the Lever Rail you get an integral ghost-ring rear sight and a white-striped post-style front sight. I’ve taken two African buffalo with lever guns, and both rifles were outfitted with Lever Rails. They’re available for Henry, Marlin, Mossberg, and Winchester rifles, and unless you have zero mechanical aptitude, you should be able to install it yourself.
7. Hill People Gear Lever Light Mount ($95)
If you use your lever-action for feral hog hunting, a gun-mounted light is not a bad idea. Also, lever guns make great camp guns, and you never know what kind of critter you might need to deal with around camp, especially a remote tent camp in the backcountry. This smartly designed little device from Hill People Gear attaches directly to the magazine tube and is machined of hard-anodized aluminum. It provides an M-Lok mount and comes with a short section Picatinny rail. I have one on my closet-kept, and always loaded, Marlin 1894 in .357 Magnum.
8. Ranger Point Big Loop Lever
A big loop lever will not help you run your lever gun any faster, but if you happen to have Shrek-like hands, you might find them more comfortable. A big loop can also help while wearing thick gloves. Aside from that, the best thing a big loop lever does is make your lever gun look bad ass. Ranger Point Precision offers big loop levers for Marlins and Winchesters, and you should be able to do the install yourself. Ranger Point also offers modernized stocks, forearms, and other zombie-killing accessories for lever guns.
9. Skinner Express Sight/Scope Mount Combo
If you simply cannot decide between open sights or a traditionally mounted scope on your lever gun, or, if you want a system that offers both, this is an extraordinary solution. Skinner Sights offers a ghost-ring sight that comes with a screw-in peep sight aperture. But the base for this sight is unique because it will accept Talley’s magnificent steel scope rings. And because these rings are quick detach and 100 percent repeatable, you can swap between the scope or iron sighs in seconds. Several versions are available for most Marlin and Henry lever actions, and as soon as I got my new for 2022 Marlin 1895 Trapper, I ordered one.
10. Kirkpatrick Leather Cartridge Belt/Bandolier
I guess it’s partly because of the lever gun’s ability to deliver fast repetitive fire, but for some reason it seems everyone who carries a one also wants to carry a lot of ammunition. The Versacarry Ammo Caddy (above) is an effective, on rifle, way do to that, but what if five extra rounds just ain’t enough? How about a waist-full of lever-gun ammo, by virtue of a leather hunting belt with enough loops to carry nearly two boxes worth? Or maybe a Pancho Villa-like bandolier is more to your liking. If either gets you excited, or if you want to audition for a part in a remake of the Wild Bunch, you can get there with some help from Kirkpatrick Leather.
11. Burris Scout Scope
If you want to scope a lever gun while doing the least damage to its inherent handing qualities, consider a scout scope. Sadly, there are not a lot of good scout scopes, and the best of what’s available is the Burris 2.75×20 Scout Scope. It pairs nicely with the XS Sights Lever Rail, can be mounted low, is only 9.2 inches long, and weighs just 7.0 ounces. It also comes with a bold duplex-style reticle that’s easy to see even in low light. This 1-inch-tubed scope delivers a 15-foot field of view at 100 yards and has 8.5 to 14-inches of eye relief. It’s ideal for over-barrel mounting on a lever-action.
12. Leupold FX-II Ultralight 2.5×20 Wide Duplex ($300)
If you want to scope a lever gun in the traditional manner (on the receiver), while minimally impacting its handling qualities, you need a compact and lightweight riflescope. For the most part these are a thing of the past, but Leupold still offers what might be the best ever made. This fixed power scope is only 8 inches long, has almost 6 inches of mounting space, and almost 5 inches of eye relief. At only 6.5 ounces, it is also unbelievably light and comes with a wide Duplex reticle, while offering an incredible 39-foot field of view at 100 yards. Pair it with the Skinner Express Sight/Mount Combo, and you’ll have a wonderfully versatile set up.
13. Leupold Deltapoint Pro
If you want to bring your lever gun into the future, consider a reflex sight. They’re incredibly small and lightweight. Leupold’s Deltapoint Pro comes with either a 2.5 or 6.0 MOA red dot and will only add two ounces to your rifle. Typically, a reflex sight needs a rail for mounting, but if you have a Marlin lever-action, Leupold offers a mounting base for the Deltapoint Pro. It attaches directly to your Marlin’s receiver and weighs less than an ounce.