The Henry Repeater
The Henry Repeater

Choosing a Lever Gun for Deer Hunting and Home Defense

November 12, 2021

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Home invasions are on the rise and choosing a gun for home defense is becoming more important by the day. Having the necessary tools to protect yourself, family, and property has always been a God-given right we hope to never need to exercise, but that shouldn’t prevent us from preparing.

View of a house at night with a woman standing in the doorway with a rifle

Homes hold things of value. You need a good gun to protect it and everything within it. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

Putting food on the table is another right every man and woman has. And in an age where inflation is soaring, and the price of goods with it, efficiency and practicality come to the forefront. And that’s why Henry produces affordable rifles — to serve both categories.

Lever-action rifles are perfect for this and even double as great home defense and deer hunting guns. Each person and situation are different, so the exact needs change from one person to the next. That said, while no gun is perfect for everyone, some guns check more boxes than others. A lever-action long gun does just that.



Analyzing modern times, some might say the lever gun was the MSR before an MSR was a thing. In some ways, that’s true. In others, it isn’t. Sure, before AR-15s predecessors were invented, lever guns were the fastest repeaters around. Semi-automatic rifles now hold that title in the civilian realm. There’s no denying that. But when selecting a winner for the rapid-fire category, only an MSR is better than a lever gun. (Pump shotguns certainly aren’t and aren’t nearly the suitor for the deer woods that a lever gun is.)

Hand opening the action of a rifle

Spend ample time becoming familiar with whatever gun you choose as your home defense weapon. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

However, when selecting a firearm that doubles as a great deer hunting and home defense gun, it’s hard to beat the lever-action rifle. In my opinion, they reign in this category for several reasons. First, some states don’t permit the use of the MSR platform for hunting. Secondly, in some instances, increased regulations make these more difficult to own and use. It wasn’t too long ago that these couldn’t be purchased. (We have our 2nd amendment rights, but firearms are incredibly politicized, and who knows what might happen in the future.) And third, these guns are oftentimes heavy and difficult to use in tight corridors.

All things considered, a lever-action is arguably the best gun for a firearm that efficiently doubles as a deer hunting and home defense gun. Here are things to consider when choosing your next lever-action gun.

Home Defense Gun Considerations

A good home defense gun does a lot of things, but its primary job is to keep safe those who dwell within the residence. It’s simple, really, but also complex. A person needs to have the utmost trust in their home defense lever gun.

Woman grabbing a rifle from a gun safe inside a closet

While it’s necessary to keep your home defense rifle under lock and key, it still needs to be easily accessible for you, the protector of your home. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

  1. The most important requirement in a home defense gun is that it provides security. To get that, one must trust the gun in their hands. It must be comfortable, dependable, and unwaveringly accurate. Every aspect of its mechanical workings must be reliable. One can’t risk malfunctions during such times. It can mean the difference between life and death.
  2. Your home defense gun should fit like a glove. You must be able to shoulder it quickly, handle its weight fluidly, operate its components, such as the hammer, lever, and trigger, make adjustments on the fly, if needed, and use it comfortably and with confidence. You need to be able to snap shoot effectively and be able to follow through with control and poise.
  3. A good home defense gun is great at short to medium ranges, which aligns perfectly with a lever gun’s profile and performance. These guns can stretch it out a bit, which is great for deer hunting but irrelevant for most home defense scenarios.
  4. The right caliber for the job should be selected. Larger-framed shooters who can handle more recoil might select a larger caliber, such as a .44 Mag, .45 Colt, or .45-70. Those who are smaller and can handle less recoil might go with .30-30, .357 Mag, .38 Spl or .44 Spl.
  5. Round capacity is another important consideration. Most people prefer a seven- or eight-round tube capacity, if not 10. The last thing you want is to run out of ammo or need to reload in a time of crisis. If you must reload, it needs to be a fluid process. Tough, unruly loading gates and springs aren’t acceptable.

Deer Hunting Gun Considerations

While home defense and deer hunting are two completely different things, and which have very different requirements, some of the considerations are the same. The gun must be reliable and accurate; you must be comfortable and confident with it; it must fit you; and more. Still, there are other things to consider that aren’t necessarily factors in home defense, but that doesn’t mean one gun can’t satisfy them all. It certainly can.

Deer antlers in the foreground with a hunter in the background

A good home defense gun can double as a great deer hunting rifle. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

  1. As is usually the case in all things hunting, the first consideration is to check regulations. Some states only allow straight-wall calibers or have a set list of calibers that can be used. Obviously, this plays a major role in the selection and should be the very first consideration for the sake of maintaining your status as a law-abiding gun owner.
  2. Regarding calibers, most deer hunters want as much knock-down power as possible. With great kinetic energy comes higher energy transfer loads upon impact, effectively delivering larger shockwaves as the bullet passes through the vitals. This translates to shorter blood trails, which we all want.
  3. The next factor is range. Match the gun to the terrain you’re hunting in. Gun hunters oftentimes want to stretch out their range as much as possible. Unless hunting in tight corridors, selecting a caliber with a better range is a box most hunters need to check.
  4. While it hasn’t always been an issue, today, ammo availability and cost are other important considerations. If it’s hard to get ammo for it, or if you must pay high amounts, it might be best to select a different caliber.
  5. Lastly, anyone who hunts for very long can attest to the need for a good sling and set of optics. Being able to free up your hands rests your arms and makes the gun that much more convenient to take afield. Similarly, optics are just as important for deer hunters. Of course, that gets tricky when trying to use optics for home defense. You might just opt to hunt with iron sights, or perhaps choose a short-range sight made for home defense.
A hunter posing with a buck

The author poses with a big Missouri buck. (Honeycutt Creative photo)

Purchasing the Right Lever Gun

All things considered, it’s obvious that there are different needs and requirements for deer hunting and home defense rifles. But the good news is that lever guns satisfy virtually all of these in a manner that’s better and more efficient than other firearm options, and so, you sacrifice very little (if anything) on either side. Fortunately, Henry Repeating Arms offers numerous lever-action rifles that exceed standards.

Henry Big Boy X Model rifle

Henry Big Boy X Model

At the forefront is the Big Boy X Model. It’s perfect for shooting game from 100 yards and in. It’s also an excellent option for keeping your home secure. It holds seven rounds and comes chambered in .357 Mag/.38 Spl, .44 Mag/.44Spl, or .45 Colt.

Henry Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate rifle

Henry Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate

Another fine option is the Big Boy All-Weather Side Gate. It’s a sleek gun that’s incredibly durable, reliable, and smooth. It’s an excellent home defense and deer hunting rifle. It holds 10 rounds and comes chambered in .357 Mag/.38 Spl, .44 Mag/.44Spl, or .45 Colt.

Big Boy Color Case Hardened rifle and carbine

Henry Big Boy Color Case Hardened Rifle & Carbine

Lastly, if you want a great lever gun that’s practical, serves as both a home defense and deer rifle, and looks incredibly slick, the Big Boy Color Case Hardened Side Gate might just be for you. It looks incredible and shoots like a dream. It holds 10 rounds and comes chambered in .357 Mag/.38 Spcl, .44 Mag/.44 Spl, or .45 Colt.

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The Henry Guarantee

From Founder & CEO, Anthony Imperato

“When you choose to spend your hard-earned money on a Henry, you have my personal satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warranty for the life of the product. Your 100% satisfaction is of utmost importance, and our award-winning customer service team is empowered to do whatever it takes to make sure you are happy with your Henry.”