Developed by some of the most legendary names in firearms, the lever-action rifle was destined to be a classic from the start.
What’s the most quintessential American Firearm? The Colt Single Action Army? The M1 Garand? Or even the AR-15? All definitely fit the bill, but for many one particular style of gun rules the roost — the lever-action rifle.
From the 1860 Henry Rifle to the Winchester Model 1873 and the Model 1894, the guns earned their place in American history, one puff of smoke at a time. In addition, to taming the frontier, the guns also revolutionized warfare and still had time to put meat on the table. Though, given the lever-action’s pedigree, anything less than iconic would have been a disappointment. Perhaps no other style of firearm had more legendary names and know-how associated with its development than these repeating rifles.
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Most know of John Browning contributions to the lever-action. But even before that particular firearms genius got his hands on it, a bevy of other gun heavyweights were chipping away at the idea.
The earliest innovators were Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, of Smith & Wesson fame. Developing Walter Hunt’s Rocket Ball ammunition and lever-action mechanism, the pair laid the early groundwork on the rifle. But it was a pair of other legends who would see it through to the guns we know today. Tyler Henry and his 1860 Henry Rifle refined the concept into a workable and potent reality. Then Oliver Winchester mass produced the guns so that they became as common as saddle sores in 19th Century America.
The lever-action lives on today, and it's of little surprise. The rifle, in all its forms, was born to be among the best.