Firearms

Range Report: S&W Model 1854 Series Lever Gun

Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle

After interviewing the good folks at Smith and Wesson regarding the new 1854 lever gun in .44 Magnum, I immediately requested a test sample. Not long after my sample arrived, I eagerly began the review.

The flat trigger breaks at about 5.5 pounds. A flat trigger on a lever gun is different from what I am used to, and it took a few rounds for me to get the hang of it. The synthetic stock and forearm are well textured to keep a solid purchase on this all-weather rifle. The trigger had the right amount of take-up, broke clean, and featured a bit of overtravel. For a hunting or duty rifle, this trigger is perfectly suitable. The furniture pattern is Marlin 1894.

Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle, right profile
I am very satisfied with the new S&W 1854 despite it taking me a few boxes of ammunition to get used to that flat trigger.

The front sight is a shade higher than some sights and incorporates a gold bead, which I love. It naturally draws your eye to it and makes it easy to center in the rear sight for a fast sight picture. The muzzle is threaded 11/16×24 to accept accessories such as a muzzle brake or suppressor. Since the front sight has a little height, I could use larger diameter silencer without issue.

Note that the locking end on the magazine tube is just below the muzzle. This allows the entire magazine tube to be easily removed as an additional way to unload this rifle safely, but it is a bit more awkward than thumbing the rounds out from the loading gate.

The adjustable rear sight is an XS ghost ring aperture, which paired perfectly with the front sight. Out of the box, the rifle was dead on at 50 yards. There is also a section of picatinny rail over the receiver if you elect to add an optic. In my opinion, the included sights are perfect for about 100 yards or so.

The stock incorporates a soft recoil pad. While you may not think this is necessary. However, when shooting some of the heavy .44 Magnum rounds, such as DoubleTap 320-grain hardcast rounds, you will indeed be thankful. A rear sling swivel stud is present on the stock, as are provisions for a sling swivel on the forearm, just ahead of the M-Lok at 3-, 6-, and 9 o’clock.

Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle forend
The Smith and Wesson Model 1854 features front ans rear swivel attachment points.

The stainless-steel receiver incorporates a typical cross-bolt safety. That makes the manual of arms of the 1854 the same as any other lever gun you would likely be used to.

Model 1854 Specifications

Width: 1.6 inches
Length: 36 inches
Weight: 108.8 ounces
Caliber: .44 Magnum
Capacity: 9+1 rounds
Grip: Polymer
Front Sight: Gold bead, raised
Rear sight: XS ghost ring aperture
Optic ready yes
Safety: Cross-bolt
Color/finish: Black/silver
Barrel Material: 410 SS
Barrel length: 19.25 inches
Barrel Threading: 11/16 x 24
Frame: Stainless steel
MSRP: $1,279

Accuracy Testing

Load

Group Size (inches)

Doubletap 320-grain Hardcast3
Defender 240-grain FN Plated3
Winchester 240-grain FMJ3.5
Doubletap 200-grain HP .44 Special2.75
Blazer 200-grain HP .44 Special2.75
3-round groups, fired from a rest at 50 yards

My buddy and I shot well into the sunset, banging steel from my friend’s front porch while the grill was tended. Bringing friends together for some recreational shooting and some hamburgers on the grill is truly a Saturday well spent.

Conclusions

Well, not to put too fine of a point on it, I like this rifle. I am a fan of lever guns and the .44 Magnum cartridge. I’m thankful Smith and Wesson combined these two in a rifle with a traditional silhouette and some modern features tucked in. Accuracy was more than acceptable with irons. We experienced zero issues in some 400 rounds of shooting. I estimate 50–75 were .44 Special. The rest were ‘mild to wild’ .44 Magnum from various manufacturers and bullet weights.

Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle - left side action
The flat trigger breaks at about 5.5 pounds.

The 1854 handled the heavy .44 Magnum well and was a dream to shoot with .44 Specials — especially suppressed. It makes sense that S&W introduced its lever gun in .44 Magnum. Well, truthfully, S&W reintroduced it. I would like to see this rifle in .45-70 and .30-30. I believe (hope), those calibers will be forthcoming. With that said, I get why S&W started with the .44 Magnum.

The big .44 is tremendously popular and will serve a wide range of uses. Adding a rifle that will reliably chamber the .44 Special, adds to the platform’s versatility. Many who hunt, camp, and hike, carry a handgun in .44 Magnum. Adding a rifle in the same caliber as your trusted sidearm increases your capability without increasing your load out.

Rear ghost ring sight on a lever action rifle
The adjustable rear sight is an XS ghost ring aperture, which paired perfectly with the front sight. Out of the box, the rifle was dead on at 50 yards.

With this rifle, you gain magazine capacity, sight radius, and velocity over your .44 sidearm. The increased sight radius allows for more precise aiming. The additional barrel length increases velocity, giving you a terminal ballistics advantage with most rounds. Therefore, it makes sense for your sidearm and long gun to be chambered in the same round.

I am very satisfied with the new S&W 1854 despite it taking me a few boxes of ammunition to get used to that flat trigger.

A modern Model 1854? What’s your take on S&W’s new lever gun? Which calibers do you favor for lever actions and why? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle, left profile
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle atop a box of Doubletap ammunition
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle - left side action
  • Recoil pad on a rifle
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle's loading gate and lever
  • Top picatinny rail on a Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle, chambered in .44 Magnum
  • front fiber optic sight on a rifle barrel
  • Rear ghost ring sight on a lever action rifle
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle, right profile
  • Smith and Wesson Model 1854 lever-action rifle forend
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Comments (8)

  1. Crossbolt safety???? Half cock has worked just fine for me for decades, on 73 Winchester and 94 Marlin. I agree with every thing that Sgt.Davis said. The straight trigger is a fashion statement – tacti-cool. There would be more room for gloves if they had stuck with curved.

  2. “The crossbolt safety makes the 1854’s manual of arms like any other levergun you’re used to.” That’s a NEGATIVE, Ghost Rider… lever guns I have, use, and are used to never heard of such Tomfoolery nonsense as a crossbolt safety. A crossbolt safety on a lever action is for uninformed lawyers and politicians. Like the receiver mounted lever safety on a single shot breakaction shotgun with a transfer bar… looking at you Stevens Mod. 301. Anyway, I’m a Smith guy, I like my leverguns… but c’mon, this thing is EXPENSIVE and it’s chambered in a cartridge I have no interest in. Supposedly it has a .357 sibling but no one’s seen them yet AFIK. I’m not totally opposed to the stainless/poly look but the blued/wood look is knocking on $3k! I want to like the 1854 but… it’s not chambered in what I want and the cost… there’s just no way for me to justify it. Sorry, but have to pass.

  3. I agree 100% John. Duded up abomination. Give me a classic lever every time. Guess those days are gone. Maybe time to find a new hobby.

  4. Too bad S&W didn’t go bold and bring it out in the 460 S&W or even the 500 S&W. Then they would really have something. There already are good 44 mag lever guns available. A 460 could also shoot 454 Casull and 45 Colt (maybe).

  5. Not sure it will happen in my limited lifetime, but I look forward to a return to class acts like original FN HiPower,the model 29 Smith, the original Colt python, real Winchesters, etc. I already have examples of those fine weapons and would like to see that quality brought out in new firearms. Blue steel and walnut. Nickel is good too. The manufacturers are all chasing the dollar and craftsmanship has really suffered. I’m sure S&W will rake in plenty with the current craze for lever actions, but wouldn’t it be great to see them in royal blue and AAA walnut?

  6. I bought one for testing and because I wanted an all-weather lever action. S&W blew it with the manual safety. They should have put a tang mounted safety on the rifle. Instead they went with the the non-intuitive cross-bolt safety. I don’t keep a round in the chamber of any of my rifles and shotguns, but once you do, your only option is to leave the safety off or fumble with it when you need to shoot.

  7. Hunter – you mentioned the “gain” in velocity over the velocity from a sidearm – surely true, but why did we not see the velocity figures? Can you add the FPS in the comments section? and maybe a 100 yard accuracy test with a scope mounted to that sweet pic-rail?

    regards, LoneStar

  8. Overpriced piece of pre- accessorized black plastic weekend warrior junk. If selling to those who appreciate a classic, time-proven firearm is the goal of their marketing team, they;ve missed the mark. Stainless? Great. Black plastic stock? Nope Picatinny Rail? Uh..add later “Ghost Ring Sight? No. Hollywood Lever? Come on, man.

    This is an abomination of Marlin’s classic lever-action many lovers of fine guns continue to use and buy when available. Don’t need this gun. Don’t want this gun. Walnut stock, decent sights, classic lever, acceptable price ..fine.

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