Classic Browning BLR Review

Browning hammer and firing pin

The Browing BLR enjoys a great following in some circles. On paper, it’s clearly the most advanced lever action rifle on the market. The rack based operates more smoothly than a typical Win 94, and the bolt locks up solid enough to fire powerful cartridges. The detachable magazine is faster to load than a tube, and it also enables further flying pointed bullets vs the flat or hollow point ones required by tube magazine lever action rifles. The rifle is also easily scoped, something more difficult with a traditional top eject lever action. The Browing BLR combines all the great handling and fast firing of a lever, but reduces most of the negatives that usually come with one. At over $1200 new in Canada, they’re a bit pricey, but there’s lots on the used market as well.

Overall Quality

Many of the Win94’s I’ve handled have been pitted and corroded. Some of that is the fault of the hard use they endure, while some of it is because of poor finishing and the resulting underprotected metal. Brownings are more expensive than most standard factory rifles, but you do usually get better fit and finish. The BLR is no exception.


One thing that’s kept me away from semi-autos for hunting is their inherent trade-offs: it’s impossible to have a live cartridge in the chamber and the bolt open, so you have to have a live cartridge in the chamber with the safety on. That’s the only option (unless you think you can rack the slide back and gently guide it forward in complete silence) I much prefer a bolt action rifle slightly open or a lever action rifle with the lever slightly ajar. It make for a safer carry and is much easier for beginners to understand whether they’re loaded or not. Some rifles with hammers have the hammer resting on the firing pin when the hammer is down. That makes them poor choices for a third safe carry option: round in chamber, bolt closed, and hammer down or half. The BLR does offer a half cock that I’ve used. It’s almost completely silent to take it from half to full cock. It’s also safer than relying on a safety, because the probability that you’re going to accidentally both fully cock the hammer and jarr the trigger is low. Anyway, where am I going with all of this? The BLR offers firing rates that are much faster than a bolt action, while giving more selection and more beginner friendly carrying options than a semi auto.

Hunting with the BLR

The BLR is, in my opinion, one of the best short/medium range hunting rifles made. You can get more accuracy with a bolt action, and you can get a faster shooting rifle with a semi-auto, but the BLR offers a great combination of both. It’s also very pointable, and although I’ve got the somewhat uncomfortable straight stock, the newer version should be more comfortable on the wrist. The relatively short barrel and compact weight means that it swings quickly. The sling point on the forend is as far forward as possible and makes it so that the rile does not move when slung. That’s handy if you have to hike a few km’s back and forth from your hunting spot. The magazine slides into place with minimal fuss and does not make a lot of racket when moved. Now, compared to traditional lever action rifles, the BLR has 1 big thing going for it: standard cartridges. Standard Win 308 is a favorite caliber and offers 400 yard power and trajectory, which you’re not going to get from your 30-30. Indeed, the first deer I ever shot was with the very rifle pictured below, at 350 yards, resting on a fencepost. 308 offers enough power to get the job done without the recoil and noise that newer magnums come with and is a great companion for this rifle. Really, 400 yards should be about maximum for this rifle, as repeatable accuracy is not as good as a typical bolt action rifle. Most owners report groups ranging from 1-4 MOA. If you fall into the middle of that range, then 400 yard shots are pushing the limits of taking a deer humanely. My personal belief is that this rifle, combined with a 4, 6, or 3-9 power scope offers easy shots on deer up to 400 yards in a great little package. The detachable mag is also clearly better than a tube. The tubes move weight further down the barrel, and are a pain in the ass to load and then unload. It takes all of 2 seconds to load or unload the BLR, compared to 20 with a lever assuming you’re carefully sending the rounds into your hand and not just flinging the cartridges all over the floor.


The biggest downside to this rifle is the complexity of the action. You can’t really see it when using the BLR, but there are a ton of small parts in the action. While you may be able to take it apart, putting it back together is a whole other story. Suffice to say, it’s tricky. If you were to drop this rifle in the mud or sand with the action open, you might be stuck back at the hunting cabin for an afternoon, cleaning and then Googling how to put the dang thing back together. With a bolt action, you’d be done in 2 minutes.
The second downside is the accuracy. I hear all sorts of stories online from people who say they get 1 MOA or less from their rifles, but when they show up to the range, “things aren’t quite right” or “I pulled that shot” or “I need better sandbags”. A bolt action rifle is stronger, more simple, and easier to get accuracy from, so if you want to shoot in the 400-600 yard range, a bolt action is a better choice than a BLR. The accuracy isn’t bad, but it’s simply not a long range platform.

Other Options

The BLR comes in a lot of different calibers, as well as a premium White Gold line.


Where you hunt, how far are your shots? I’m out west so if I want, I might run up against that 600 yard shot. But I know when I’m going to need those vs my 100 yard blind or bush shot and those 100-200 yard shots come up a lot! In those instances, a handy lever comes up quickly and is reloaded in the blink of an eye. If you already have your “deer laser” big magnum bolt action rifle that could take the eye out of a gnat at 680 yards, a BLR might be a handy second gun to take along for those wilderness treks through the bush. In your treks, you might find yourself liking the BLR as your close range deer blaster. I know I do.

Video Review


The BLR pictured below is my fathers and has seen a lot of hunting from him, myself, and my brothers. Topped off with an old Tasco 4X fixed scope, it has caused a lot of deer go down in its years.

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  • Mauricio

    I really like that 308. I think the photographer could have used a little more focus on the golden trigger. Looking for some more commentary on the golden trigger, has anyone seen anything like it.

  • Will

    I have the same rifle and I love the golden trigger. Mine was produced in 1979 and still looks & shoots great!

  • Ron

    Have been shooting a Browning BLR 358 made in 1977 since 1977….have taken many many deer with it. Longest shot to date is 225 yards. love this gun it is my favorite rifle to hunt with. walking through the woods with my hand around the grip fingers in the lever feels like I am holding hands with an old friend. I currently shoot 200 grain Hornady round nose bullets on top of a load worked up for me by Bob Shell Reloading in Apache Junction AZ. very accurate very sweet shooting. I have a “new” Leupold 3x9x40 VX 1 on it and if is sweet…..can’t wait for another deer season to start. By the way, I have 14 notches on the stock. Each on represents a trophy deer or at least a memorable hunt. I am looking for number 15….Now that is not all the deer I have taken. I really don’t know how many I have killed with this rifle but those are special hunts or trophies..
    Good hunting and good luck…

  • Brandon

    I hunt with my dads 77 identical to that one since he can no longer handle the jar it puts on his back(titanium in the back makes the smallest of jars seem like death) shot my first deer with it as well at the 400 yard mark only thing I wish on it is perhaps the ability to shoot federal ammunition I run winchester supreme no problems for hunting but federal jams every time

  • Armonian

    I inherited this rifle without a magazine. I bought a new one for $85 (ouch!). Took it to the range today and shot it for the first time. It took a few shots to sight it in. I got 1 1/2″ groups at 50 yards on a crappy bench rest. I do not like the eye relief of the Bushnell 3-9x scope that is on it. Cheek weld is a little low for my liking and the butt needs a more cushioned pad. I noticed as the day went on around round # 30, the rifle was warm and the action got stiff like it was dry. I looked at the manual this evening and it says nothing about lubing or cleaning. I read that it is not an easy gun to disassemble. So, what are the preferred steps of cleaning and lubing this weapon?

  • Franco

    I too owned a golden trigger Browning .308 with a Lippold scope and really loved it. Unfortuantly, it was stolen from me in September 1997. The serial number is 14024RP127. There is a reward that still is in effect. Frank

  • charles casey

    i have a BLR in 308 improved its a 243 many quick kills on deer and one elk. no problems its not a target gun but it hunt well.

  • Ray Nelson

    I own two of these rifles; a 308 (short action) purchased new in 81 or 82 and a 30:06 (long action) that I picked up used last fall. That gun was purchased new in 2000ish. I used the 308 with iron sights for many years but scoped it with a 4X Nikon a while back. The 06 came with a 3×9 Leupold – nice! I really like the 308 having busted several elk and quite a few deer over the years. The rifle is relatively light which is a definite plus. The trigger is kind of stiff but fairly smooth. I had problems with the lever sticking in the fully open position. I believe the problem has to do with oil buildup where the front of the bolt comes to rest while cocking the gun. Since the bolt isn’t removable this place is difficult to clean but a few cycles of solvent on a q-tip followed by dry q-tips has remedied this problem. An owner of this firearm should be advised to go very lightly with gun oil around the bolt and make sure to keep it clean. The 06 is about a pound heavier which doesn’t sound like much but it is considerably heavier than my other 06, a model 70 Winchester. As with other 30:06’s it has a definite kick. The action is very smooth and reliable. The trigger pull is worse than my 308 with a sticky and stiff pull. I’m hoping that it will smooth up a bit with use. Both rifles showed 1.5 to 2 inch groups at 100 paces when I sighted in before hunting season last year, fairly respectable I think. I need to get out and shoot more however. Anyway, I really like the 308 having packed it over hill and dale for many years and am looking forward to breaking in the 06 if I can get used to the extra weight.

  • SnowyOwl999

    Got a new Browning BLR in 30.06 and the bolt locks up to the barrel as well as any bolt gun and is just as accurate.

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