Through most of the history of the lever-action rifle compromises have had to be made. Because the action of these firearms most often drew cartridges from a tubular magazine extending outward beneath the barrel, rifles of this kind had to fire blunt or flat-nosed bullets to prevent bullets in the magazine from detonating the primer of the rounds in front of them on recoil. As a result, most lever-action rifles were light, compact and used ammunition intended for shooting at relatively short ranges. Hornady got around this problem by introducing the innovative LEVERevolution line of ammunition, but long before that some rifle makers introduced lever-action rifles capable of shooting potent pointed-bullet rounds by drawing cartridges up from a detachable magazine with ammo stacked vertically instead of sitting end to end.
The Browning Lever-action Rifle (BLR) has been around for years. Its detachable box magazine enables the BLR to be chambered in a large number of modern centerfire calibers without sacrificing the light weight and quick handling associated with the lever-action design. This year, Browning unveiled the new BLR Lightweight '81 Takedown Rifle. It's an innovative design that separates the rifle into two parts of roughly equal length for transport and incredible ease of cleaning. Takedown rifles can be transported in gun cases half the length of those needed by a full-length firearm, and that's a real advantage when traveling. It makes the gun less awkward to carry through crowded airports if you're flying to a hunting destination, and the "briefcase" style gun cases are also easier to pack and retrieve with other gear if you're driving to a shooting activity.
At SHOT Show I handled and shot the new BLR Takedown chambered in .22-250. I must confess I had never considered a lever-action rifle in that chambering. Disassembly and reassembly was demonstrated to me and it took seconds. In no time an owner could learn to take it down and put it together as fast or faster than a double-barrel shotgun.
There are two versions of the BLR Takedown, one with a straight stock and the other with a pistol grip. You can choose from an impressive 14 calibers ranging from .22-250 to .325 WSM, and there's the option of scope mounting atop the receiver or farther forward in a scout-rifle configuration. BLR Takedowns come with sling swivel studs and recoil pads mounted. Overall lengths range from 40 inches to 43 inches assembled, depending on caliber, and weigh a quarter pound on either side of 7 pounds. How did the BLR shoot?
I was favorably impressed. My targets were bowling pins 100 yards away, and the rifle was topped with a variable-power scope above the receiver. Every shot I fired hit the pin I was aiming for, and I made a point of aiming at the thinnest part of the pin to see if the accuracy wandered the more I shot. The action cycled flawlessly with each stroke of the lever. My co-worker and I ran a bunch of rounds through the BLR, until the barrel was too hot to touch, without any variance in accuracy at all. Impressive. The rifle was allowed to cool, taken down into two sections, and then reassembled. We commenced firing again with no difference in the point of impact. Most impressive. A mark of an exceptionally well-made takedown rifle is how well it holds the zero of its scope after disassembly and reassembly. The BLR passed that test with flying colors.
With an MSRP between $800 and $900, Browning's BLR Lightweight '81 Takedown Rifle does cost more than many bolt-action hunting rifles on the market, but the price is not unreasonable given its takedown feature and fine performance. If the other calibers perform as well as the .22-250 I shot, it won't be long until this rifle is in high demand by hunters and shooters.
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