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View Full Version : Why are lever actions and bolt actions chiefly rifles while pump actions are chiefly shotguns?


MichaelEmouse
08-10-2014, 02:23 PM
While there are pump action rifles, bolt action shotguns and lever action shotguns, it's overwhelmingly the reverse which is the case. Are there reasons for that?


Also, we see plenty of box magazine-fed bolt actions but hardly any box magazine-fed lever actions and pump actions. Why is that?

johnpost
08-10-2014, 03:19 PM
with the room for the pump mechanism you have room for a tubular magazine.

a pump action disrupts your aim the most and that is needed the least in a shotgun.

running coach
08-10-2014, 03:35 PM
with the room for the pump mechanism you have room for a tubular magazine.

a pump action disrupts your aim the most and that is needed the least in a shotgun.

At defensive ranges, a shotgun spread is only a few inches. 1 inch per yard to target(appx.)

GaryM
08-10-2014, 04:02 PM
a pump action disrupts your aim the most and that is needed the least in a shotgun.

I find a lever action more aim disturbing than the straight line action of a pump.

Until the development of polymer tips for bullets pump or lever action rifles with tubular magazines were pretty much limited to flat point projectiles. This was so a pointed projectile would not initiate the primer of the round in front of it in the magazine. Flat point projectiles tend to not do well at longer ranges.

johnpost
08-10-2014, 04:30 PM
with the room for the pump mechanism you have room for a tubular magazine.

a pump action disrupts your aim the most and that is needed the least in a shotgun.

At defensive ranges, a shotgun spread is only a few inches. 1 inch per yard to target(appx.)

i tried convincing that goose to attack me but it wouldn't, so it was a harder shot.

engineer_comp_geek
08-10-2014, 06:21 PM
In the 1800s there were some experiments with bolt action shotguns, but they didn't work very well. There were also lever action shotguns, most notably from Winchester, as they felt that they were the "lever action" company and wanted both their rifles and shotguns to be lever action for brand recognition.

The problem was that shotgun shells back then were often made out of paper, and lever action or bolt action shotguns would sometimes crush the shell and render it unusable. Pump action designs were found to be much more kind to the shells, and therefore were much more reliable.

Winchester sold some lever action shotguns, but eventually even they jumped on the pump action bandwagon and their lever action model had fewer and fewer sales until it was discontinued in the early 20th century.

You can get reproduction Winchester lever action shotguns these days which are designed to be used with more modern rugged shells. They are popular with modern cowboy action shooter competitions.

ETA: Bolt action was preferred by the military for rifles because it can be more easily used from the prone position than a lever action or a pump action. Lever action usually results in a shorter overall design, which made them more popular for civilian rifles.

GaryM
08-10-2014, 07:22 PM
Hey, I had a Mossburg bolt-action shotgun in the late 60's. Wasn't very good though.

engineer_comp_geek
08-10-2014, 07:39 PM
I didn't think they made any bolt action shotguns after the 1800s. Poking around on the web though it looks like Mossberg and Marlin both made a few starting in the 1940s and 1950s or so, and Browning has what looks to be a modern design on their web page. Plastic shotgun shells didn't come around until the 1960s which means that they were still using paper shells when a lot of those Mossbergs were produced.

Interesting.

MichaelEmouse
08-10-2014, 07:43 PM
Why couldn't they have used metal shells for their shotguns?


Why aren't pump and lever used with box magazines, you think?

engineer_comp_geek
08-10-2014, 07:57 PM
They did use metal shells. Their main drawback compared to paper was cost.

Johnny L.A.
08-10-2014, 08:08 PM
Why aren't pump and lever used with box magazines, you think?

Some are.

sparky!
08-10-2014, 09:29 PM
Basically, each type is best at what it does and progressed to handle the development made in ammunition (low pressure black powder rounds to high pressure and powerful smokeless powder rounds).

Lever actions came onto the scene when black powder cartridges came out. These actions were fast and were able to handle the low pressures inherent in the black powder rounds. This is true of pumps, too.

However, for a shotgun, you want a rapid second and third shot, which must happen in a fluid movement, while keeping the end of the barrel on target (bird hunting). A lever action is rapid, however not nearly as fluid (working the action can easily pull the end of the barrel off target).

High power smokeless rounds, as seen coming onto the market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries required a very sturdy action to handle those higher pressures. At the time, lever actions and pump actions were not able to be manufactured to handle those increasing pressures.

The reason those newer high pressure rounds continue to be found in bolt action is that the bolt lends itself well to the intended use. Typically, the rifle is shot from a fixed manner, utilizing a scope. Neither a pump action nor a lever action work as well in this case as a bolt action.

And has been posted upthread, the various actions did see uses beyond what was common. However, as noted, they weren't as good, so never took off.