Whether you like them or hate them, upgraded or so-called “tactical” lever motion rifles have grown in popularity lately. We can attest that filming our very own Marlin 336 Dark Series project is a variety of fun, but still has a number of downsides. The magazine tube only holds five rounds, must be reloaded one by one, and the handbook is vastly different from a contemporary semi-automatic rifle, resulting in a steep learning curve. At SHOT Show 2023, we found a latest Bond Arms lever motion rifle that mixes this classic operating mechanism with the ergonomics, capability and modularity of the AR-15. Bond Arms AR lower lever will be used any milspec AR-15 upperfeeds from an AR-15 magazine and accepts a wide range of Remington 870 shotgun stocks.
About Bond Arms
Bond Arms is a Texas-based gun manufacturer that has been around since 1995, but will not be typically related to rifles. The company primarily produces within the Derringer style double-barreled pistols. So, as we walked past the Bond Arms booth at this week’s SHOT Show, we were surprised and intrigued to see the lever motion pistol pictured above on a table surrounded by pistols. We immediately asked for more information and were directed to the rifle’s designer who detailed its features.
Bond Arms AR-15 lever operation
To be clear, this rifle remains to be in pre-production prototype phase, but Bond Arms tells us they have been testing and refining it for over a 12 months now. This is not the primary lever-gun-meets-AR project we have heard about – the FightLite Track Model 2024 involves mind – but it surely actually looks like a giant step forward within the category.
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Starting from the highest, it accepts a regular AR-15 upper receiver. Bond Arms claims to have tested the whole lot from the .223/5.56mm shank to the .50 Beowulf shank. Most of us already own plenty of AR upper receivers that will be used with the Bond Arms lower lever motion.
Moving on to the lower receiver, that is where it gets really interesting. There is a security button just like that found on a lever-action pistol, and a novel magazine release that extends to the rear for easy accessibility to the shooter’s index finger. The front of this magazine release – the part where the regular AR magazine release button could be situated – can be pressed on to drop the magazine. On the alternative side of the receiver is one other magazine release button for ambidextrous use. The magazine well is prolonged for quick reloading; we tested its retention and release with a 30-round PMAG.
The most surprising a part of how the Bond Arms AR lever works is the lever mechanism itself. According to the designer, he uses e.g asymmetric cam which rides on the track (silver slotted piece protruding from the receiver in these photos). This allows for increased leverage applied to the breech at points where more force is required, comparable to when feeding a round from the magazine. Bond Arms says this complex cam mechanism was not crucial with 5- or 10-round magazines, but feeding the primary few rounds from a full 30-round magazine created more drag and required more leverage for smooth operation.
An additional “grip safety” can be built into the lever – to ensure that the rifle to fireside, the lever have to be barely pressed against the stock. This works similarly to the 1911 handle security, only with the handle facing forward.
We were capable of handle and dry-fire a lever-action pistol prototype and located it to be smooth and simple to make use of. Compared to a standard lever-action pistol, this rifle has a noticeably shorter throw that lends itself to rapid fire. The only time we noticed a grip safety mechanism was when attempting to pull the trigger without touching the lever; it worked as intended and prevented the rifle from firing.
Another good aspect of this design is the interchangeable lever loop. Bond Arms has realized that some users prefer large loops to be used with gloves while others prefer the more traditional small loops. They also desired to allow users to exchange for various Remington 870 shotgun stocks comparable to Magpul SGA 870 stock and Hogue Overmolded stock pictured – this could require different loop shapes to suit the outline of the handle. The solution was easy: make a loop and a trigger guard a separate piece from the within the lever. The loop attaches to the pistol via two dovetail sections across the trigger guard.
This modular design allows the user to simply replace lever loops (and stocks) without affecting the rifle’s internal mechanism or requiring gunsmith work.
Price and Availability
We have not had a likelihood to shoot with the Bond Arms AR lever yet, but we hope to get our hands on it soon for a radical review. Bond Arms told us that their goal is to release a retail version of this lever motion pistol by this time next 12 months (i.e. January 2024) at a suggested retail price of $1500. Of course, the worth and time-frame should not fixed at this point. For more information, keep an eye fixed out bondarms.com or follow company Instagram @BondArms_.