Thanks to a marketing campaign that was second only to Colt’s relentless self-promotion Winchester successfully positioned their lever actions in the 19th century popular imagination as “The Gun the Won the West”. This claim was and is demonstrably false with a better case easily made for two generations of big bore single shots earning that lamentable accolade. “Plains rifles” like the Hawken and later “buffalo rifles” like the Sharps and Remington Rolling Block are not, however, the topic today.
While Winchester’s first marketing victory was in print advertising they really cemented the notion by virtually cornering the market on the Silver Screen. This marketing genius would make the lever action (meaning Winchester) the “American Rifle” and further lead the casual observer to think that there were essentially no lever actions beyond, in order of screen time, the 1894, 1892, 1873, 1866, 1885, with the 1895 very much bringing up the rear.
At the risk, if not the certainty, of being pedantic I’ll point out that the pump action is the truly unique “American” rifle design as the lever action (albeit in single-shot format) was also a European thing. That, however, is a conversation for another time; what I would like to talk about now are a variety of other lever actions that have not gotten the popular press that they should.
Some, like the Marlin 36 and 336, are every bit as popular by sales volume as their Winchester counterparts. The Savage Model 99 was literally decades ahead of the competition in both design and the rounds it was chambered for. The Browning BLR is, in a lot of ways, the logical evolution of the Savage Model 99. We’ll even look at Winchester’s 20th Century redheaded stepchild the Model 88. We’ll also look at the Marlin 1894C and 1895. While I would like to include the Ruger 96 series and the Sako Finnwolf (a lot like the Winchester M88) I don’t have access to those platforms and prefer to write about what I can actually touch and shoot.
This project will take place over a series of posts. I reckon I'l start with the Savage Model 99 and then just meander along as whim or, heaven forfend, logic dictates.
Too "gun show" for the hippies, too "hippie" for the gun show, I'm the misfit liberal gun nut in the crowd. Probably the only one. Stick around if you are pro-choice on everything including the right to own guns or can handle an opposing view on things.