Do Any Militaries Still Use Lever-Action Rifles?

Do any militaries still use lever-action rifles? While still very popular these days, the lever-action mechanism is more common among hunters, rather than official authorities.


The lever action is a unique mechanism for repeating firearms. It relies on a manual cocking handle, which is often located by the trigger guard. It’s just one of the few different types of repeating action mechanisms, including semi or fully-automatic, burst mode, bolt, or pump action.

Lever action rifles gained huge notoriety when they first came out. They became a standard option for sportspeople, as well as hunters from all over the world. However, they weren’t particularly appreciated in the military, yet they were used in a bunch of different wars.

Now, do any militaries still use lever-action rifles?

Do any militaries still use lever-action rifles?

The truth is that lever-action is no longer in use in militaries. While there might be a few countries still using lever-action rifles for certain divisions, there’s nothing official about these rifles.

It’s worth noting that while most lever action guns are designed as rifles, some pistols and shotguns have also been produced over time.

The lever action has never really made it big in militaries, yet some countries have implemented such firearms in the past, but only for short periods of time.

The time’s lever action rifles made it to militaries

Over the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, lever-action rifles were quite common and used in conflicts all around the world.

The Henry rifle, for example, was used in the American Civil War and Indian Wars. It was also used in the French intervention in Mexico, not to mention the January uprising. In Europe, it gained more notoriety in Poland.

The Spencer lever action was also popular during the Civil War, not to mention different types of rifles produced for the Spanish Civil War. For instance, more than 9,000 Model 1895 rifles were given by the Soviet Union to the Spanish Republicans in the 1930s for the Spanish Civil War.

The Winchester Model 1895 was the primary choice for militaries in the USA and the Soviet Union.

The Russo-Turkish War from 1877 and 1878 also brought in an infusion of lever-action firearms. The Ottoman Empire bought more than 30,000 units of Winchester .44-40 Model 1873. Back then, it was referred to as the gun that changed the West, so the purchase was seen as a solid investment.

Initially, they should’ve been used by the cavalry, but they were later given to the infantry.

Most of the guns went to Plevna. Russians were slaughtered when they tried to attack. They lost over 20,000 people in just two attacks.

What happened after?

So, do any militaries still use lever-action rifles today? The truth is the lever-action rifle is still popular among hunters, but militaries have switched to bolt-action rifles as soon as they were proven to be more effective.

Bolt-action rifles and other alternatives are more common these days, leaving the lever action mechanism to classic hunting competitions and training only.

What makes bolt-action rifles more popular

There are more reasons wherefore lever action rifles have lost their popularity.

For example, shooting a lever-action rifle from the prone position is quite difficult when compared to a bolt-action alternative. The fire rate is not as good in bolt-action rifles, but governments preferred the lower effectiveness in order to avoid waste and extra expenses.

Moreover, the smokeless powder came out in the 1880s, meaning high-pressure cartridges became the norm. Lever action rifles were unable to shoot such cartridges in a safe manner. The Henry rifle, Winchester Model 1866, 1873, and 1876 ended up outdated at that point.

However, a new generation of lever-action guns came out. From the Winchester Model 1886 to the Winchester Model 1895, they were able to take more powerful cartridges, but they were still limited.

At the end of the day, the problem was financial. By the time these modern rifles with high power came out, most militaries had already implemented bolt-action rifles. The lever action alternative was more expensive and simply not worth the effort.

The drawbacks associated with the lever-action mechanism were seen as advantages for sportspeople and hunting enthusiasts. From a more official point of view, they were also common among wildlife authorities and prison guards, but also for a limited time.

In terms of accuracy, there were no major differences between bolt-action rifles and modern lever-action rifles.

A bunch of attachments can go on either one of them, with numerous brands developing custom upgrades. Whether it’s a custom holster or top-notch optics, there are lots of possible improvements.

Do any militaries still use lever-action rifles now? Although certain divisions out there may still rely on these rifles, there are no official records.

The lever-action gun is a solid choice, but it came out at the wrong time and had a few disadvantages compared to bolt-action rifles. To some militaries, it was too expensive to make the switch. To others, the extra effectiveness of bolt-action rifles turns these guns into the primary option.

The popularity of lever-action rifles went down at the beginning of the 20th century. With bolt-action rifles showing more and more improvement, it made perfect sense for governments to leave the lever-action mechanism behind.

It didn’t die though. Instead, it made a solid comeback among hunters due to its unique capabilities.

Final words

Do any militaries still use lever-action rifles? Less likely! Sadly for such a good mechanism, its popularity went up towards the end of the 19th century, only to drop during the 20 th century due to the extra capabilities brought in by bolt-action rifles.

Despite new lever-action rifles being released to compete against the bolt-action mechanism, they were a bit too expensive and not worth the switch. However, given the accuracy and other superior features, the lever action was quickly adopted by hunters and shooting sportspeople from all over the world.

These days, lever-action firearms are still being produced, but not for official purposes. From some points of view, the lever-action rifle can be considered a collectible these days. Indeed, new firearms are superior to the older generations and can be used for multiple purposes, but they’re not officially adopted in militaries. On the other hand, older models are harder to find and can cost a fortune, especially if they’re in good condition.


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