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Hornady LEVERevolution Review

New Life for Lever Actions

January 2, 2013
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

At one time, lever action rifles dominated the firearms landscape. The most common lever actions were made by Winchester and Marlin. Some of the most popular calibers were the .30-30 Winchester, .32 Winchester Special, .35 Remington and .45-70 Govt. These cartridges are known for their rounded or flat-nose bullets. As more powerful cartridges were developed over the years with better ballistics, these cartridges were less-than-enticing but remained a mainstay in lever action rifles. The tubular feed common in most lever action rifles made pointed bullets a dangerous option (the bullet tip hitting the primer of the cartridge ahead of it). The typical rounded or flat-nose bullets meant they were stuck with high ballistic coefficients.

In recent years, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum handgun cartridges were added to the caliber availability in lever actions. Marlin firearms even developed new, more powerful cartridges for their lever action line, such as the straight wall .444 Marlin and .450 Marlin, but again rounded bullets were the norm for tube feed rifles.

In 2005, Hornady introduced the LEVERevolution cartridge specifically to breath new life into lever action and tube feed rifles. LEVERevolution cartridges have a pointed bullet with a soft polymer tip (called Flex Tip eXpanding) that is safe for use in tubular magazines. This pointed bullet substantially improves down range ballistics as compared to round or flat-nose bullets. Hornady then beefed up the muzzle velocity (up to 250 fps faster) and muzzle energy (up to 40%).

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Manufacturers test their ammunition under controlled conditions. My testing was done in less than favorable conditions at the local range (high humidity, off-and-on rain, variable wind, temperature in the 60's and a hot rifle barrel). Muzzle velocities were checked with a ProChrono chronograph at five feet from the muzzle. Accuracy was tested at 75 yards with targets attached to a thick rubber mat (this is important to know when you see the targets). An older Marlin 336 with 20" barrel was used for the LEVERevolution cartridges in .35 Remington; the .45-70 Government cartridges were shot from a Marlin 1895XLR with 24" barrel.

.35 Remington Results:

Muzzle velocities for the Remington 200 gr Core Lokt ammunition averaged 2037 33 fps. For the Hornady LEVERevolution, the average was 2135 12 fps. The LEVERevolution was 98 fps faster and had substantially more consistent velocities with 21 fps less variance from the average.

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Hornady LEVERevolution

The LEVERevolution consistently shot groups of 1 1/8" to 1 1/2". The Remington groups were 1 1/2" to 1 3/4". LEVERevolution shot about 1/2" higher than the Remington ammunition which is due primarily to the faster velocity. Unlike the round holes produced by the Remington ammunition, the FTX bullet in the LEVERevolution did more damage to the rubber mat and the target.

.45-70 Gov't Results:

Winchester 300 gr Super-X cartridges averaged 1834 14 fps. The 325 gr LEVERevolution cartridges averaged 1928 7 fps. The LEVERevolution was an average of 94 fps faster and had more consistent velocities.

Fact Box

CartridgeBulletMV100 yds200 yds
.30-30 Win
Hornady160 gr FTX240021501916
Federal150 gr Soft Point FN239020191686
Remington150 gr Core Lokt239019731605
Winchester150 gr Super-X239020191685
.32 Win Spcl
Hornady165 gr FTX241021451897
Federal170 gr Soft Point FN225019231630
Remington170 gr Core Lokt225019211626
Winchester170 gr Super-X225018701537
.35 Rem
Hornady200 gr FTX222519631721
Federal200 gr Soft Point RN208016971374
Remington200 gr Core Lokt208016981376
Winchester200 gr Super-X202016461335
.45-70 Govt
Hornady325 gr FTX205017291450
Federal300 gr. Trophy Bonded185016121401
Remington300 gr. Core Lokt181014971244
Winchester300 gr Super-X188016501425

The Winchester groups were from 1 3/4" to 2 1/2". LEVERevolution shot 3/4" to 1" groups. Winchester ammunition produced relatively round bullet holes. Hornady's FTX bullets in the .45-70 Government were devastating when they hit the target and rubber mat.

Final Thought:

Even though the muzzle velocity results for the cartridges did not equal those shown by any of the manufacturers, the Hornady LEVERevolution was faster, was more consistent in muzzle velocities and was more accurate.

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Lever action rifles are still popular for a variety of reasons and there are quite a few in the OH/PA/WV area. There's a very good chance of seeing a hunter in PA or WV during deer or bear season with a lever action rifle. Still, quite a few lever action rifles are left sitting in gun cases or safes and not being used as hunters opt for a more powerful cartridge. Hornady's LEVERevolution ammunition will add some substantial punch to lever action rifles and is a good reason to get those rifles out hunting again.



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