4 Reasons Your Lever Action .357 Is Perfect for Home Defense
How an “Obsolete” Design Could Still Be Right for You
By Andrew Betts
Lever action rifles have been around for a very long time. There is no denying that they are great fun to shoot, but can a rifle designed a century and a half ago adequately meet those requirements? Is the lever action rifle obsolete or is it still a viable home defense tool?
Lever action carbines chambered in .357 magnum pack a serious wallop. The .357 mag cartridge is impressively powerful when fired from a revolver but it transforms into an entirely different being when it is fired from a 16”+ barrel. It delivers terminal performance at least as good, if not better than .223 Rem can produce.
This is absolutely phenomenal. There is no such thing as a death ray, but this gets pretty close. So long as we are talking about power, it is worth mentioning that the .357 mag has enough velocity to defeat soft armor when fired from a longer barrel, too. Level IIIA is the highest NIJ rating for soft armor and is designed to stop .357 mag when fired from a revolver, but as this test shows, it is no match for a .357 carbine.
You might wonder why anyone who isn’t a drug dealer would care about defeating body armor. To be sure, body armor is not commonplace among thugs, but it is being seen more often. Used vests can be purchased rather cheaply at pawn shops and military surplus stores and it turns out that thugs are just as reluctant to be shot and killed as the rest of us. The ability to penetrate body armor may not be the highest priority for your home defense considerations, but as the saying goes, it’s better to have it and not need it….
All of that power comes at approximately the price of a used handgun, too. A Rossi M92 can be purchased for about $500, brand new. That is similar to the cost of a decent shotgun and a fair sight less than you are likely to pay for most other defensive rifles. Of course, cost should take a distant second place to functionality when it comes to the safety of your family, but in the real world, cost has a serious impact on our decisions.
Lever action rifles also have a non-threatening appearance, which could matter in court. Now, if you behave in a legal manner and don’t do something foolish like give an ill-considered statement to the police, you should never see a criminal court. That said, it is always possible that you could run afoul of corruption in the legal system, especially in the states that are infested with authoritarian control freak voters. Even if you act legally and are not charged criminally, you could be sued by anyone at any time for any reason. If you do find yourself in a court room, a wood stocked lever action rifle may look a bit friendlier to a jury than an evil black rifle with cheese grater handguards and an optic. Of course, you should not choose a less effective weapon simply to look better in court. You have to survive to see a court room. If you can have a highly effective weapon that also will not scare a jury, that might not be so bad.
Perhaps more important than any other consideration is your own familiarity with the tool. If you cut your teeth on lever action rifles and spent many hours shivering against a tree clutching a Marlin, you are likely to be far more effective with that rifle than you would be with an AR. That does not mean that you do not need training and if you decided that 5.56mm carbine was a better choice for other reasons, you could certainly gain proficiency with it. What it does mean is that, until you receive professional training in another system that lever action is going to be your best choice. All other considerations aside, the best defensive weapon for you is the one that you can operate most competently. As always, software > hardware. Mindset and training will matter more than any other factor. Regardless of the choice you make, a light and sling are strongly recommended for any defensive long gun as is professional training.