Fun Gun for the Family? Try a Repro 1866 or 1873 Lever Gun
While devotees of this site are hard-core accuracy addicts, who normally shoot tiny groups with sophisticated Benchrest and Varmint rifles, we should not overlook the pure fun of shooting a simple rifle at reactive targets.
Nailing a nice, tight 1/4-moa group is very satisfying. But for pure unadulterated shooting fun, it’s hard to beat a slicked-up “race-ready”, Winchester-clone lever gun. In fact, this editor’s favorite rifle for “fun shooting” is my 20″ Uberti Model 1866 “Yellowboy” Lever gun. Shooting light-loaded 38 SPL rounds at steel targets from a standing position offers old-fashioned shooting satisfaction. On the “fun meter” this tops the scale. My rifle features a slicked-up action and lightened trigger. After a “CodyMatic” action job by cowboy gunsmith Cody Conagher, my Yellowboy’s lever can be cycled with just one finger. Trigger pull is about a pound and a quarter. The high-gloss, blued octagonal barrel is very accurate and the mirror-finish bore cleans up easily.
Based on the Model 1866 Winchester, Uberti’s Yellowboy, and its Model 1873 “older brother”, feature a toggle-link action that is extremely smooth. The toggle action design also keeps the linkages separate from the chamber so the gun runs extremely clean. After firing a hundred rounds or more, all you need to do is wipe off the bolt and breech-face with some solvent and run a bore-snake down the bore a few times. To be honest, the Yellowboy is more fun to shoot at steel than my AR Carbine. And maintenance-wise, for every five minutes I spend maintaining the 1866, I’ll spend an hour detail-stripping and cleaning the AR. The shooting-to-cleaning ratio favors the lever gun by orders of magnitude.
These Italian-made Winchester clones are very handsome, with nicely figured wood under a durable clearcoat. You can polish the brass receiver to keep it shiny, or leave it alone to develop an authentic, dulled patina. Uberti’s Model 1873 features a steel receiver with gorgeous color case-hardening.
After the fun factor, what’s the best thing about Uberti lever guns? Resale value. I can sell my 1866 for quite a bit more than I paid for it. Over the past decade, the price of Italian-made Uberti lever guns has been steadily rising. This means that older rifles fetch a premium on the used market.
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