I want to modify my lever gun, where do I begin?
by Scott Crawford - September 7, 2021
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been eye balling & possibly drooling over the multitude of pictures circulating around social media (Facebook / Instagram) regarding modified lever guns. It seems that the aftermarket accessories have really exploded lately with new and innovative items. From “this aint your granddaddy’s lever gun” extreme tactical hardware to milder upgrades such as improved trigger assemblies or sight combinations there are so many things you can do to make the lever gun stand out from items rolling off the factory floors & much more functional for your specific needs.
I’m a dyed in the wool traditional lever gun owner, collector, and user and have stretched that look to include modern optics (low powered scopes) on most of my lever guns. Some would say that just by adding a scope I’ve left the traditional behind me. So that school of thought may not subscribe to these newer, modernized versions of the lever gun – same things I’ve struggled with for a few years. That being said, some of these upgrades are making me want to say, Take My Money!
I’m going to talk about a few of the industry leaders today in this article however let me be clear, there are many more participants in the lever gun modification industry. I’m highlighting these today as I’m very familiar with their products however please be sure to check out these and additional resources in our supplier database.
A modified Henry All Weather owned by Vaughn NeVille aka "@themanspot"
So you want to upgrade your lever gun, there are a couple paths to follow if you choose. Many lever gun owners want to do the work themselves so the good news is that there are many sources for parts however the most widely known supplier for Marlin, Henry, Winchester & Rossi is Ranger Point Precision. It's like shopping online at an auto parts store but for lever actions - just awesome! The other path is to find a gunsmith who specializes in these types of modifications. This was really limited to just a few that specialized in lever guns a few years ago, now there are dozens. We're highlighting some of the better known ones today in this article.
The Ranger Point Precision Website
As I see it, there are a couple schools of thought on these modifications. One is to take a factory issued lever gun and update functional parts such as the trigger, sight systems, lever style, screws & other hardware to make the rifle or shotgun a higher functioning long gun. The other is to modify a factory offering with exotic changes from stock types, to M-LOK hand guards, ammo quivers and a ton of other accessories to include threaded barrels (oh my). Both provide the user with upgrades while one style holds the original look of the firearm more closely with the factory offering and the other chooses a style that wasn't your granddaddy's lever gun. More of a modern/tactical spin which has become very attractive to the gun owning community.
Two industry custom shops that lend themselves more to the conventional modifications are Grizzly Custom Guns and Wild West Guns. Their gunsmiths will give your rifle an action job and shortened barrel or convert to a takedown model with various metal coatings and much more. These are high end modifications however worth the money.
Custom conversion work by Wolf's Prairie Outdoors
So let's start by reviewing some modifications done by individuals using instructions provided by Ranger Point Precision. Wolf's Prairie Outdoors (example above) has some very well documented upgrades via YouTube video. If you are considering making your own modifications you would do well to watch many of his video series. Excellent work by him!
Ranger Point Precision does provide installation instructions and videos where required. Talk about a full service parts manufacturer/supplier! Don't forget that additional installation videos can be found across the web and YouTube. So don't hesitate to get started down this road if it's what you want in your lever gun.
A very popular upgrade, especially for Marlin rifles is a trigger replacement to solve the "Marlin Flop" and to reduce the poundage required to pull the trigger. Again, Wolf's Prairie Outdoors has video that covers the install as do video straight from Ranger Point Precision (RPP).
Another quick upgrade that's very popular is the elimination of the Marlin Cross Bolt Safety found on all models built after 1983. Again RPP has a kit with video instructions and Beartooth Mercantile does as well. Both very popular and both come highly recommended. So these are two quick upgrades that mean so much to so many Marlin owners and this just scratches the surface.
Big loop levers have been popular since the airing of westerns on the TV years ago but they were hard to find and were a one-off blacksmith solution. Today you can order varying degrees of "big" loop levers from multiple suppliers. A new twist to them is shown below and comes from Beartooth Mercantile. It may not be for everyone but wow, it sure says I'm custom doesn't it? They offer different models with varying style.
The BearTooth Mercantile Knuckle Duster Lever
Some of these upgrades are downright sexy but on top of that. . . they are extremely useful. One upgrade from RPP that looks good on any lever gun is their magazine tube end caps. Not so much a functional upgrade as they are for looks, and what is wrong with that?
Lever Gun LongBow Cartridge Quiver by Hoptic USA on a Midwest Industries M-LOK Handguard
Headbanger Customs modification
Ranger Point Precision Handguard, trigger, loading gate: XS Sights Rail & Sights: Burris Optics Scout Scope: Strike Industries Curved Foregrip: Leupold Optics Quick release scope mounts
Not all upgrades are bolt-on, many popular options are in the metal treatment from skins to hard coat to cerakote the later becoming very popular and for good reason, it is very protective of what it's covering. So take that rifle out into the elements and forget about rust for a bit! Beyond that, with some of these suppliers their creativity is just amazing with coatings that add a whole new level of customization.
Mad Pig Customs Modified Marlin model 336 complete with can
Some Custom Cerakote work by Texas Arsenal
The BACKPACKER SCOUT (SBR) by Grizzly Custom Guns with 13" barrel
The Wild West Guns Co Pilot Takedown with 18.5" barrel
To me the centerfire takedown rifle is king of the lever gun and always something that I've wanted but have yet to purchase. I do have a factory takedown from Marlin, a model 39AS, 22 caliber lever action. It is cool, useful, easy to clean and easy to pack away for a trip in the field. I can only imagine having that option in a centerfire big bore! Wild West Guns offers various take down models to choose from. Grizzly Customs offers a one piece Marlin that's easy to pack away albeit a much shorter rifle. Their backpacker can be custom made to any length you desire.
So to recap, if you're looking to upgrade your lever gun I'm hoping this has provided some good examples of where to look whether it is going to be a DYI or a send out to a custom shop. Lever guns are already a big investment just from the factory so some thought and planning need to go into any upgrades. As you can see it can become very pricy however this is what we do, we buy firearms, shoot them, clean them and in many cases, we upgrade them.
Beautiful custom Cerakote on these two rifles by Brookshire Gun Werks
At the end of the day we all like what we like. What your buddy at the range wants to shoot may differ from you however there are always things we can do to make our gun just that, our gun. Open your eyes and take in the possibilities afforded to today’s lever gun owner.
“Long Live The Lever Gun”!
IN THIS ARTICLE
Marlin Firearms Louthan Gunworks Ranger Point Precision Wolf's Prairie Outdoors The Man Spot Henry Firearms Rossi Lever Actions Beartooth Mercantile Hoptic USA Texas Arsenal Winchester Guns Wild West Guns Grizzly Custom Guns Mad Pig Customs Brookshire Gunwerks Headbanger Customs Midwest Industries