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Smith & Wesson Model 1854 Review: A Modern American Classic

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Smith & Wesson’s legacy in firearm craftsmanship spans generations, beginning with founders Horace Smith & Daniel Baird Wesson. Their innovative spirit laid the foundation for the company’s 170-year journey. Recently debuted at SHOT Show 2024, the Model 1854 Series pays tribute to this heritage, offering a modern twist on classic lever action rifles, seamlessly blending tradition with contemporary design. Featuring a threaded barrel, M-LOK slots, and a Picatinny rail, the Model 1854 is meticulously engineered to provide both enthusiasts and collectors with an authentic shooting experience rooted in history.

S&W Model 1854 Specifications: 

  • Action: Lever
  • Caliber: 44 MAGNUM
  • Capacity: 9
  • Optic Ready: Yes
  • Threaded Barrel: Yes
  • Width: 1.6 in
  • Length: 36 in
  • Weight: 108.8 oz
  • Size: Rifle
  • Barrel Length: 19.25
  • Barrel Material: 410 SS
  • Frame: Stainless Steel

Model 1854 Out of the Box 

In the realm of lever actions, accessories often take a backseat. The Model 1854 arrives from the factory with the bare essentials: an owner’s manual, a pre-installed Picatinny rail, and a gun lock. It’s a minimalist approach, but truly, all you require besides a couple of boxes of ammunition. 

Barrel

This 19.25″ 410 stainless steel barrel shot well and features 11/16”-24 threads for using other muzzle brakes or suppressors. The 1:20″ RH twist 8-groove rifling had no problem stabilizing 200-300gr projectiles. I fired this rifle nearly 100% suppressed and without an issue. Utilizing a threaded barrel really helps bring a lever gun into the modern era, and shooting one suppressed was a great experience. I will say the added forward weight made the Model 1854 a little front-heavy, but this is the case for any suppressed rifle. 

I found that some muzzle brakes may block the removable magazine tube. I was using a Silencerco ASR muzzle brake, which was just wide enough to trap the mag tube from being removed. Otherwise, this caused no issues. 

Sights On the Model 1854

For those trying to run the Model 1854 right out of the box, it features a gold bead front and XS ghost ring rear sight. However, for those who want to truly bring this lever gun into the modern era, it utilizes a top Picatinny rail. This allows for mounting scopes, or red dots such as the Vortex Defender-ST which I immediately installed when this rifle arrived. The receiver is drilled to accept any mounts compatible with Marlin 1894 hole patterns. 

One thing to note is that the top Picatinny rail should be torqued down upon arrival. While mine felt tight originally, after shooting it, the top Picatinny rail had worked loose. I heard of someone else having this issue as well, so avoid the headache and torque it down when you get it. 

Stock

The black synthetic stock is simplistic and sleek. It’s thin and lightweight, yet still provides a solid cheek weld. There is a rubber butt pad about 1/2″ thick and provides great padding for taming 200-300 gr projectiles getting launched out of the Model 1854. Near the trigger, the grip utilizes what I would call aggressive texturing. It is not as rugged as some pistol grips, yet it provides for a great non-slip hold.

The stock features a single sling swivel stud, and the forend cap also has a sleek sling swivel hole machined right into it. At first glance, I was wondering how I would mount a sling, but I appreciate the integration of a sling swivel into the metal forend cap. 

Handguard

This lever action is as functional as it is sleek. The polymer furniture remains lightweight coming in at only 6.8 lbs. The forend features M-LOK slots at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions for ease of mounting accessories like bipods and weapon lights. This made mounting up my Valhalla Tactical weapon light quick and easy. While the mount I had placed the lights tail cap further back than I would have preferred, a cantilever mount would solve this problem. 

The handguard and stock are easily interchangeable and compatible with Marlin 1894 pattern forends and stocks. This allows for multiple customization options, however I find the Model 1854 to be configured perfectly right from the factory. 

Trigger

Smith & Wesson uses a flat-faced trigger with the Model 1854, and it feels good. The slack is clean, and the wall is well-defined. Pulling past it, the rifle I received has the tinniest slip of creep before breaking, but this is hardly noticeable. I measured the trigger weight to break at 3.75 lbs consistently. 

The trigger guard is large to allow for use with gloves, and even the loop is enlarged for quicker weapon manipulations. One thing I found interesting is that there is forward spring pressure on the trigger except for past the wall once fired. This means that it kinda flops around with or without the hammer cocked. S&W let me know this is normal, but it is just not something I am used to.  

Model 1854 Precision

Throughout this review, most of the ammunition used was either an assortment of Hornady or Magtech supplied by Ammuntiontogo.com. They are the official ammo sponsor for this review and offer a wide selection of competitively priced ammunition. For this review, I ordered some ammo and it was on my doorstep within the week. Easy to use online website, insanely quick shipping, and competitive prices. Go check them out! 

Aiming to test the precision of the S&W Model 1854, I used an assortment of various Hornady ammunition. I proceeded to shoot 3-round groups from 50 yards. I got multiple sub-inch groups with Hornady 200gr XTP which seems reasonable for a rifle chambered in 44 Magnum. Also, to help show what sort of velocities I was getting when shooting suppressed, I used a Garmin Xero C1 chronograph and listed my results in the table below:

S&W 1854 Performance

Throughout this review, I never encountered any mechanical issues with the S&W Model 1854. Everything ran as it was designed to do. The rubber butt pad made shooting 300gr Hornady leisurely. Also, the aggressive texturing on the polymer furniture made it easy to run this lever gun quick with a solid grip. The action is smooth, and I even shot 10 rounds in 5.5 seconds getting all hits on steel at 20 yards. For those who want to see this lever gun in action, I posted a short video to my Instagram page below: 

One thing I found out during this review is that the orientation of the gun matters when reloading. If the gun is turned to the right, the shell you are trying to load may bind up, or fall out completely when working the operating lever. While I don’t have much lever action experience, I don’t think this is unique to the Model 1854. I think this is more of a downside of lever guns in general. This makes unconventional positions such as lying on the ground shooting through a port in a VTAC board more tricky. However, if the gun is kept with the ejection port facing either to the side or towards the sky I didn’t have this problem. 

My only other hiccup was that the Picatinny rail worked itself loose on me. While I didn’t verify it was torqued correctly upon arrival, I would recommend torquing it down as it is received. Otherwise, everything ran great and I thoroughly appreciate all of the modern features incorporated into the Model 1854

READ MORE: Walther PPK in .32 ACP! — NRA 2024

Summary

When it comes to modern lever actions, the Smith & Wesson Model 1854 perfectly blends a classic aesthetic with modern functionality. It maintains the slim and lightweight profile lever guns are known for, while incorporating a Picatinny rail, threaded barrel, M-LOK slots, and aggressive texturing on its polymer furniture. This lever gun ran great throughout my testing and handled 200-300gr ammunition with ease. It ran well suppressed, and I might subjectively add it has a very good balance and feel to it. Coming in with an MSRP of $1279, and a street price of around $1179, this is going to be a solid contender in the modern lever action market. 

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