Lever-action rifles employ a lever under the trigger guard to chamber bullets or occasionally as part of the guard itself. These gun models are commonly seen in cowboy movies, as villain weapons, or as law enforcement weapons fired from horseback. Unfortunately, no factory-made 9mm lever-action rifles are available for purchase today, but modifications and conversions are possible.
Continue reading to discover more about if there are any 9mm Lever-Action Rifles, how to modify your lever-action rifle to fire 9mm, and the obstacles you may face.
What Is A Lever-Action Rifle?
A Lever-action rifle is a form of repeating weapon action that employs a manually controlled cocking handle that pivots forward to move the bolt via internal linkages. This basically feeds cartridges in and out of the chamber, cocking the firing pin mechanism.
Other types of repeated actions, such as bolt-action, pump-action, semi-automatic, or automatic-selective-fire actions, generally do not have this feeding mechanism. The term “lever-gun” refers to a firearm that uses this operating mechanism.
Who Makes The Best Lever-Action Rifle?
The majority of lever-action firearms are rifles. However, several shotguns and pistols brands have also been produced throughout the years.
The indisputable Winchester model 1873 is one of the most renowned lever-action rifles. Other gunmakers, including Marlin, Henry, Colt, and Mossberg, have also developed centerfire or rimfire lever actions in retaliation.
A History On The 9mm Lever-Action Rifle
Cesar Rosaglio, an Italian gunsmith, was granted the first patent in 1829 for a six-shot lever action revolver with a six-second magazine cycle. The 1st and 2nd type ring lever-action rifles, with the lever situated frontwards of the trigger, were made by Colt in the 1830s and 1840s.
Pulling the loading lever indexed the cylinder to the next position and cocked an internally functioning hammer. Before Smith and Wesson, a Volition repeating lever action was patented, but only a few rifles were produced by 1852. In 1855, Smith; Wesson purchased the patent and invested in the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company.
Oliver Winchester was one of the new venture’s partners. Smith and Wesson grew interested in alternative revolvers after the new lever-action failed to find momentum. However, Oliver stayed active in the lever-action invention, forming the New Haven Arms Company after buying out the remaining investors. Oliver Winchester improved the Volcanic repeating rifle with the help of a rifle inventor called Benjamin Tyler Henry to create the Henry gun.
Lever-Action Rifle Popularity In The United States Of America
The Henry rifle, which was first introduced in 1860, quickly became popular among both military and civilian shooters. It was utilized extensively throughout the American civil war that followed, making up a substantial component of the union’s arsenal.
The Henry rifle was dubbed “the accursed Yankee gun” by Southern confederates, who said you could fire it all week and load it on Sunday. After the success of the Henry gun, the New Haven Arms Company became Winchester Repeating Arms. The Winchester 1866 was a new, better variant patterned after its predecessor.
Oliver Winchester hired John Oliver Browning in 1883, and he brought innovations to the firm that made lever-action rifles synonymous with the Winchester brand. The Winchester 1894 is John Browning’s most adaptable lever action, and we’re constantly improving on it.
The 1894 Winchester was initially chambered for black powder rounds in the 38.55 and 32.40 calibers. This was before Winchester developed the 30.30 centerfires, the first smokeless cartridge in the United States.
Production Of Popular Lever-Action Rifles
An estimated 7.5 million Winchester lever actions dating from 1894 have been produced. These weapons, along with the 1873s models, are unmistakably Western classics. Later in the 1890s, another lever action player called John Marlin released the Marlin model 39 with side ejection. Since then, this lever-action rifle has been produced as the model 39A, a Marlin bespoke offering.
Comparing American Made Lever-Action Rifles:
Winchester Vs. The Marlin
The Winchester and Marlin lever actions have been around for more than a century. Although production of the 1894 Winchester ceased in 2006, the design is still being produced by an Italian firm. When you use the two-stage lever on the 94 Winchester, you can see how it works. The whole trigger group is lowered to free the backward moving bolt for cartridge ejection.
On the other hand, Marlin’s action is single staged, although it has a distinct advantage over Winchester in terms of cartridge ejection. The expended cartridge ejects vertically when the 1894 Winchester action opens the chamber.
It was impossible to put a sight on the Winchester lever-action type 94 until the 1980s when the weapon was modified to discharge at an angle and sideways. On the other hand, Marlin featured a top receiver with side ejection, allowing shooters to add scopes without having to worry about ejector obstructions.
Savage Vs. Marlin and Winchester
Savage, a latecomer to the lever-action rifle market, produced a top-loaded model 99 to replace the tubular magazine. This rotating magazine-fed lever-action departed from the norm, with a simplified mounting system for peep sights or optics.
The Model 99 does not have a hammer, and as a result, it locks up quicker than the Marlin and Winchester. Since the Savage lever action lacks a tubular magazine, spritzer rounds capable of breaking 3,000 fps can be used.
Do 9mm Cartridges Fit In Modern Lever-Action Rifles?
The lever action is a staple of the hunter’s arsenal, and it may be adapted to fire 9mm bullets instead of the traditional 44.40. A lever rifle loaded with contemporary bullets fits the bill for elk, brown bears, pigs, and other small animals. However, it’s possible that it’s not as powerful as the factory planned.
The 375 Magnum is the most powerful round. However, a standard round like the 9mm Luger would suffice. You may also convert a .38 special lever-action to use the somewhat shorter 9mm cartridge. Both of these precise rounds are widely available in the United States and are compatible with lever actions.
9mm cartridges, although being intended and chambered for autoloaders, have substantially lower pressure requirements, bullet form, weight, and total length. On the other hand, they can handle a broad range of speeds.
Hunters constantly want to beef up their gear when they don’t have to worry about restricting variables like money when it comes to rifle modification. Lever-action Rugers with re-barreled barrels are the closest thing to shooting 9mm that’s readily accessible. The action may need some tweaking, but not as much as the magazine.
How To Convert A Lever-Action To Fire 9mm Ammunition
Even if a 9mm lever gun didn’t exist, that shouldn’t stop you from going on a hunt with your 9mm handgun ammo. A modified ranger point precision lever action that can shoot .38 special and 9mm sigs is one of the adaptations that has grown more popular among gun enthusiasts.
The short-stroke pistol carbine with a distinctive chamber, a piece with a distinct aesthetic, piqued my interest. The carbines produced by the upgraded lever actions rifles are smoother, more dependable, and more accurate.
A short-stroke modification will be required to convert an 1892 or 1894 Winchester lever-action to operate with 9mm cartridges. This enables you to take follow-up images more quickly. Slick, light motion is also possible because of the smooth action and trigger treatment.
Barrel modifications that are concentric to the bore and completed to the 9mm headspace standards will be necessary.
Each chamber must be changed and accurized to deliver 100 yards with an MOA of 1 inch. Ensure that the conversion to pistol caliber is hand-tuned for action that performs flawlessly in the face of failures and malfunctions. Rail extensions, optics, and two-point slings are all options for customizing your lever pistol.
Classic Lever Actions that can Easily be Converted to chamber 9mm cartridges are shown below.
Classic Lever Actions Models That Can Be Converted To Chamber 9mm Cartridges
Rossi R92 Carbine With Lever Action
The R92 is chambered in.44 Magnum, a vast bore strong hitter with a 5.6-pound weight. The stainless-steel finish on this lever-action holds 10+1 rounds and stands up to all hunting circumstances. After modification, the Rossi carbine can chamber 9mm rounds. It’s excellent for bush hunts and deep outdoor trips.
Action Rifle By Henry Lever
The Henry rifle, which saw combat in the Battle of Little Bighorn and was widely used throughout the American Civil War, is at the top of the list of moddable lever weapons.
This was one of the earliest lever repeaters, and it is credited with assisting the Sioux tribe in annihilating the 7th Calvary. The centerfire side ejects with no extra manual safety, an original Henry chambered in 45.70 and a tubular magazine.
A black powder cartridge design was used in a superb antique Henry from the second part of the nineteenth century. The Action Rifle by Henry Lever can be converted to fire 9mm cartridges after a series of modifications.
Classic Marlin Model 1895
By today’s standards, just a few of the masterpieces from 1895 are still relevant. The Marlin classic model 1895, on the other hand, sets the classic aside and becomes timeless.
A Marlin 95 chambered in 45.70 government may be modified to handle 9 mm rounds by reducing the bore diameter and changing the chamber. This timeless classic is likely to outlast our generation, especially if it’s been adapted to use widely accessible rounds.
1886 Chiappa Kodiak
The Chiappa Kodiak, inspired by the Winchester 1886, provides a beautiful blend of beauty and comfort. All metallic elements of this lever-action are corrosion and fingerprint protected, and it was initially chambered in .30-30.
When converted to 9mm, the Kodiaks rubber buttplate reduces the rifle’s mild recoil, while the fore-end wood stock gives a soothing touch. This strong chrome-treated lever-action rifle with an opaque finish will provide years of reliable service.
Model 1894 Winchester
The Winchester 94 is a sophisticated long-range game takedown lever action that can be converted to 9mm cartridges. The cartridge stop on this antique lever-action rifle is flexible for better feeding, and the steel gate makes loading a breeze.
Look for a Winchester 94 that has been tapped and drilled for easier scope attachment and improved long-range accuracy.
Model 71 Cimarron Hogzilla Killa
The HogZilla Killa, based on the Winchester 1886, packs a punch and might be a good fit for the 9mm cartridge. Cimarron is known for its eye-catching beauty, which conceals strength and superior manufacturing in relatively compact packaging. The Model 71 also has a walnut stock, an adjustable rear sight, and a typical pistol grip.
Armory Bighorn Model 90A
The Bighorn type 90A features a 17.4-inch barrel and a stainless-steel lever action that has been hardened adequately for year-after-year performance. This rifle is chambered initially in .45 caliber, but a professional gunsmith may adapt it to 9mm caliber.
The Model 90A boasts downrange accuracy and comes with rear and front swivel sling attachments, as well as a variety of stock configurations. Its curved lever and the full blade trigger may be used when hunting in cold weather while wearing hand gloves.
You won’t need the standard butt pad for recoil absorption if you convert this lever action to a chamber of 9mm.
What Are The Challenges To Modifying Your Lever Action To Fire 9mm Ammunition?
While there’s nothing wrong with firing standard-issue lever-action cartridges, it’s more convenient to keep your long gun and pistol loaded with the same ammo. Although the lever gun is clearly suited to hunting, not all jurisdictions allow them, primarily if they are chambered in 9mm.
The lever gun is highly regarded for its balance, remarkable pointing ability, and accuracy to a few inches at 100 yards.
Complications With the Cartridge Factor
Lever-action rifle cartridges are available in various forms, calibers, and powder loads. They do, however, fall into the high- and low-pressure cartridge groups.
Compared to point-tipped spitzer-type cartridges, lever-action rounds with rounded tips have limited pressure capability and poor aerodynamics. Chambering changes are similar to their low-pressure pistol capabilities, and 9mm bullets can be hollow or round-tipped.
Complications With the Magazine Factor
Ball cartridges aren’t allowed in tubular magazines, and hollow tips or flat noses aren’t qualified for handloading. Fitting a box magazine, similar to those used for auto or pump-action shotguns, may be done to make it seem like the 1895 Winchester.
After you’ve adjusted the magazine for the shorter 9mm cartridge, the bolt face for either a Savage or Marlin lever action would be correct. If you’re on a budget, altering what you already have is a better option than buying a totally customized 9mm lever pistol.
Using a 16- to 20-inch lever action with less than $200 in modification expenses for sheer bear, elk, or squirrel flexibility is recommended. This is an extremely accurate weapon that can fire 9mm slugs at targets that a handgun couldn’t reach.
Obstacles With the Unloading Factor
There is one flaw with tubular magazines, and it has to do with loading. Many states, especially when hunting season is over, require you to travel or store your lever actions empty. This would be appropriate for various cartridges and uses, but 9mm cartridges are smaller and can withstand tip wear.
After a hunt, it’s also challenging to ensure that all rounds have been discharged. When cocking a lever-action, the primitive mechanism can’t guarantee that a 9mm jammed in the mag won’t chamber. It’s simpler to detect if a box or rotary magazine has been unloaded just by touching it or looking at it.
A detachable magazine is practical with continuous loading and unloading, primarily if you hunt in gun-control areas.
Are There Advantages And Disadvantages To Shooting With A 9mm Lever-Action Rifle?
While lever-action rifles have long been popular among hunters and recreational shooters, the military has yet to embrace them. One explanation for this is that firing a lever-action rifle from the prone position is more complicated than firing a straight-pull or rotating bolt-action rifle.
Another cause is the availability of ammunition. While lever-action rifles have a faster rate of fire than bolt-action rifles, they are also fed through a tube magazine, identical to the one used on the original bolt-action rifle, limiting the ammunition that can be used in them.
Since the point of each cartridge’s projectile sits on the primer of the next cartridge in the magazine, pointed centerfire “spitzer” rounds, for example, can create explosions in a tubular magazine. Some newer cartridges, like Hornady’s Lever Evolution ammo with an elastomer tip, solve this problem.
The tubular magazine may potentially have a detrimental influence on the barrel’s harmonics, limiting the rifle’s possible accuracy. A tube magazine behind the barrel also shifts the rifle’s center of gravity forward, altering the balance in ways that some shooters find undesirable while firing off-hand from a standing posture.
There are, however, several lever-action rifles that saw duty with the Russian Army during WW1, such as the Winchester Model 1895.