Lever action: The next tactical frontier?

New-for-2021 firearm imports are coming into Canada now, and it’s interesting to see what’s showing up. Obviously, AR-style rifles aren’t coming in, thanks to the Liberal government’s Order in Council last May, which banned AR-15 variants, as well as several other sporting, hunting and target rifle designs.

Instead, we’re seeing more interest in semi-auto pistol-calibre carbines (like the Chiappa M1-9 NSR). And, we’re also seeing an increase in lever-action imports with tactical features (synthetic stocks, rails, and so on). Domestically, we see an increase in manually-operated tactical-style rifles from companies like Maple Ridge Armoury or Spectre Ballistics. People still want practical, fun-to-shoot firearms, and the market is working to full that demand.

Over in the UK, they’ve been dealing with similar firearms restrictions for years, and like Canadians, they’ve come up with firearms designs that meet existing laws. One option the Brits are exploring these days is the tactical lever action. They’re building rifles that aren’t just cowboy guns with lights and optics, they’re building modular lever-actions with tactical designs, in pistol-calibre cartridges.

If you start searching the corners of the Internet, you’ll find various ingenious designs along these lines. One of the most innovative creations on YouTube is an adaptation of a Ruger 96/44, turning it into a chain-fed bullpup, with external resemblance to an HK G11. Since this adapts a standard-configuration rifle into a bullpup, this would be prohibited in Canada. You can also find webpages for Brits who’ve adapted the BLR design to take high-capacity mags, muzzle devices and other modern features.

Then there’s the Southern Gun Co. Lever Action 9mm rifle. Southern Gun Co. makes tactical-style rifles that fit into the UK regs; as the regs change, the company adapts its designs. One of its most recent creations is a lever-action rifle with the features every modern shooter wants. It’s got a telescoping stock, takes Glock 17 magazines, and comes capability to mount optics and muzzle devices.

This rifle is completely manually-operated, unlike some other UK designs which focus on interrupting a standard semi-auto design. This isn’t a loophole gun, it follows the rulebook every bit as strictly as a Winchester 94. Nobody would mistake it for a cowboy gun, though, as you can see in Gun Mart TV’s demonstration below:

At this point, this rifle doesn’t even appear on the Southern Gun Co. website, it seems they’re still working on production. You can see one for sale on the GunTrader.UK website, though, priced at a whopping £2,485. That works out to about $4,350 CAD. Yikes. Too bad, because it looks like it should be legal under current Canadian laws.

Is this for you?

Is a ground-up tactical lever action design silly, or sensible, in light of current firearms laws? Whether you like it or not, there’s no denying this appears to be a fast-shooting rifle. That may end up making it an attractive alternative to straight-pull tactical rifles, if the design makes it to more widespread production.