SHOT Show 2023: The Leverlution By: Travis Pike


There aren’t a lot of good jokes involving lever actions to make or puns, so I’m borrowing the term Hornady uses for their lever action rifle ammunition. Sue me. Anyway, SHOT Show 2023 has a number of interesting new platforms using the tried and true lever action design that is an American icon. As a fan of Chuck Connors and “The Rifleman,” I’ve always been a fan of the lever action rifle, so when new, innovative, lever guns hit the market, I tend to listen. I’ve got three new, innovative rifles and one old-school cool rifle that’s making quite the comeback.

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The Marlin 1895 SBL — Don’t Call it a Comeback

When Remington fell apart, Ruger was there to pick up a piece or two, specifically the Marlin brand. With the brand comes a ton of classic lever action rifles, the most famous being the 1895. Ruger has brought the weapon back to its full glory with the classic American .45-70 chambering. A lot has changed since 1895, and in that time, the rifle has gotten a few necessary updates.

shooting the Marlin SBL at SHOT Show 2023 Industry Day at the Range
The Marlin SBL 1895 is back with a vengeance, and it’s perfect when suppressed.

First, the barrel is threaded, and let me tell you, shooting .45-70 suppressed is the way to go. It takes a lot of sting out of the mighty round and helps tame the mini-explosion that occurs at the end of the barrel. The Marlin also features modern peep sights with a high visibility front sight. If irons are not enough, the optics rail gives you plenty of options.

This lever gun handled like an absolute dream, and the action was incredibly smooth and satisfying to operate. It’s tough to find a better feeling than a smooth lever action. The gun delivers everything Marlin was known for, and it’s time these classic guns got the love and respect they deserve.

The POF Tombstone 9mm

On the trails of the classic, traditional Marlin, we come to something new. Something some may consider absurd and maybe even sacrilege. The POF Tombstone has been one of the biggest draws of SHOT 2023. Even my friends who aren’t really into guns know about the POF Tombstone. This 9mm lever action rifle feeds from a box magazine, specifically the same mags used with their Phoenix series large format pistols.

POF Tombstone at SHOT Show 2023
The Tombstone is truly something different.

A curved magazine coming from a lever gun is just strange. On top of that, the Tombstone features all the modern features you’d find on a tactical rifle. This includes an M-LOK rail, a scope rail, and a great big muzzle brake. We also have a Magpul SGA stock that allows for effortless sling additions, an adjustable LOP, and a great cheek weld.

The POF Tombstone comes with a 20-round magazine. What impressed me most was how light the weapon was. It weighs less than six pounds and is quite handy and easy to use. The action felt a bit stiff against an empty magazine, but that was likely just because the follower was pressing against the bolt of the weapon. It’s odd and far from tradition, but I can’t help but appreciate it.

Tristar LR94

Lever action typically applies to rifles, and it’s rare we see a lever gun that strays from a rifle configuration. However, the Tristar LR94 takes the lever action design and applies it to the shotgun, specifically the .410 shotgun. They use the classic Winchester 94 design that is tried and proven with rifle and magnum pistol rounds. Lever action shotguns aren’t new, but this is the first time we’ve seen the 94 design applied to shotguns.

Tristar LR94 lever action shotguns at SHOT Show 2023
The use of a Winchester 94 design works well for a shotgun. The gun comes in three different finishes.

With that said, the LR94 and Winchester 94 design makes a lot of sense for a shotgun. The top opens to eject cartridges, and this allows you to access the loading port. This allows you to do the classic port load when you run the gun empty. It’s quite nice and allows you to use shotgun skills with a fairly odd shotgun. The LR94 offers you a super smooth action, and the gun can hold five 2.5-inch shells.

The Tristar LR94 offers a firing pin safety that is different than the standard 94 design but can be handy for younger shooters. A nice set of iron sights and some beautiful checkered furniture really set the whole rifle off. The LR94 is available in blued, stainless, and case-hardened finishes for the desperado or cowboy in you.

The Bishop .458 SOCOM 1895 GBL Lever Action

We started with the Marlin 1895 GBL, and we are going to end with an 1895 GBL, but this is not your dad’s lever action rifle. The crew at Bishop Ammunition takes a Marlin 1895 and converts it to the powerful and modern .458 SOCOM cartridge. This is the first time we’ve ever seen a .458 SOCOM lever gun, and the two just really squeeze together.

Bishop works their magic, converting these Marlins to be not only .458 SOCOM rifles but polished, tuned, and improved. This includes a better trigger, an action slicker than a Michigan road in the winter, and an XS sight systems option for a modern sight picture. An optics rial allows you to toss on anything from a micro red dot to an LPVO and beyond. A brake on the end really helps tame recoil and makes those faster follow-up shots a reality.

The Bishop .458 SOCOM 1895 GBL Lever Action at SHOT Show 2023
The Bishop Lever Action is the only .458 SOCOM lever rifle on the market. Eight rounds of .458 SOCOM will get it done.

The shorter .458 SOCOM cartridge allows you to fit eight rounds into the tube. Eight rounds are more than enough to deal with most issues, including hogs, bears, or anything in between. The Bishop rifles are not cheap, but they are likely the finest lever-action guns on the market.

Throw the Lever

Working a lever action design is one of the most enjoyable experiences for a shooter. We live in a world of modern semi-autos that are super reliable and lightweight, but lever-action rifles remain in production. Why? Because they absolutely rule. Plus, even in states with the strictest levels of gun control, you can get a lever action rifle. With all these modern, innovative, and downright awesome lever guns, it’s easy to see why they are a common selection in states with strict gun control laws.

These are the innovative lever guns I saw at SHOT Show 2023. Did I miss any? If so, let me know below.