Dear survivalists and preppers, have we gone AR and AK nuts? Hey, you know what, there are viable alternatives to the multi-round, mag latch, muzzle flash black guns so often associated with the bug out movement. For one, this author contends a good ole reliable, lever action 30-30 has a role to play in our survivalist work. Sometimes the best choice is the most iconic one.
If you’re into such things, you can revisit the original lever action rifle developed in 1894. The Henry “load once, shoot all day” rifles, among other efforts, pre-date the early Winchesters that ‘won the American west‘. The 30-30 came a year later as the first American centerfire smokeless powder load.
Even today, the so-called aged 30-30 Winchester remains the benchmark deer hunting cartridge mainly because it delivers ample killing power at reasonable ranges. Still widely available in factory ammo loads using 150-170 grain bullets, the 30-30 is no magnum, but is still effective.
The Outfit that Fits
A lever action 30-30 rifle is a versatile bug out rifle for woods, field, or ranch. It can be used for protection, patrol, varmint control, and hunting. These rifles are generally lightweight, handy to wield, and easy to shoot with low recoil. It is just as useful for protecting the bug in residence. The common variety 30-30 lever gun offers a 20-inch tube with some models sporting carbine, or compact rifled barrels. The under-barrel magazine tube holds 5-6 rounds with one additional loaded in the chamber. Sure, not a mag change, but cartridges are easily inserted into the side action loading gate. Lever action cycling is fast, effective, and accurate. What’s more, the lever action rifle is a reliable, well-tested choice. The lever gun is a good alternative fit for many preppers.
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As promoted, the typical lever action rifle is a handy tool. It is straight-forward in its use with no complicated buttons, switches, releases or other distractions. This rifle format is easy to load, operate, and chamber. The lever action is a positive camming action that rarely fails to work.
Normally, the external hammer is positioned in a half-cock safe position prior to fully cocking the hammer for firing. Many of today’s new factory lever guns also offer a slide bolt safety lock that is simple to manipulate. First time and experienced shooters will find the lever gun easy to operate. The mechanism becomes second nature.
Barrel lengths of lever guns vary from short carbine lengths of 16-inches to the factory standard barrel of 20-inches. There are some models that have longer tubes and some with intermediate barrel lengths. Shop for what you can handle best.
Lever guns most often come supplied with factory installed open sights, usually a simple buckhorn adjustable sight dovetailed into the barrel. The forward front sight can be a simple ramp or hooded ramp to reduce glare. Most current production lever guns have the upper receiver drilled and tapped for installing a scope mount for an optical riflescope.
Lever guns weigh in the neighborhood of 6-7 pounds, loaded. Many models have sling swivel studs to install a shoulder sling for ease of carry or for shooting support. They are not cumbersome to tote and can be pressed into service quickly and smoothly onto a distant target. A sling can be carried across the chest to free up both hands for other tasks, yet the rifle can be rolled out of the carry mode and easily shouldered for shooting.
Lever guns usually come with wood stocks but newer versions are now offering black synthetic buttstocks and forearms. Rifle finishes vary from a standard blued metal, matte finishes, or stainless steel models. Select the features that suit your needs and applications best.
The Lever Gun Market
Lever action rifle models are currently available from Winchester, Marlin, Rossi, Mossberg, and Henry Repeating Arms. These manufacturer’s offer models in 30-30, smaller handgun equivalent loads, and heavier loads like the 45-70. The 30-30 remains the moderate alternative.
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A new lever action rifle is going to set you back from $450 to upwards of $600, maybe slightly more. They are certainly cheaper than most AR rifles. Sales on lever guns can be found and shopped. Gun shows will have new and used rifles. If you go the used route, just be certain you are confident the rifle is in excellent condition. Stay clear of rifles with rust or an abusive appearance. You’ll know an overused gun when you see it.
To be honest, the typical lever action 30-30 rifle is no AR-15. But, let’s not get lost comparing apples to oranges. The obvious distractor could be the loaded ammunition capacity. However, load up the magazine, put one extra in the chamber and use a buttstock ammo holder to carry six more rounds on the rifle. That is plenty of ammo for hunting and deterring threats. Put twenty more rounds on belt loops or in an easy access pouch on your carry backpack. It sure beats lugging along a half dozen AR mags in a heavy, hot front carry vest. ARs definitely have their places, but not all the time. Preppers should always be open to alternatives; adopt them and adapt to them. Is the 30-30 lever action rifle an ideal set up? Well, no. It probably isn’t ideal for every bug-out or bug-in application. But, it is another choice worthy of serious consideration. Easy to operate, carry, deploy, shoot, and maintain, the 30-30 lever gun has a lot going for it.
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