Big Horn Armory’s Heavy-Hitting 500 S&W Lever Gun — SHOT Show 2022

in Jeff Cramblit, SHOT Show 2022

The Model 89 Black Thunder is a modern tactical version of Big Horn Armory‘s Wyoming-made classic lever guns. They matched up their rifle with a modern powerhouse cartridge and then added several features so shooters could take on hogs and big bears.

Shooting the powerful 500 S&W cartridge from the handy 16-inch barreled lever gun lets you know you have a real rifle in your hands.

Big Horn Armory’s Heavy-Hitting 500 S&W Lever Gun -- SHOT Show 2022
A blend of the old west, a modern cartridge and tactical trends make a hard-hitting performer.

The rifle is outfitted with picatinny rail for mounting dots or optics but also has a classic peep sight and Marble front bead sight. The red dot is installed with quick detach mounts so it can be removed to use the iron sights. The forearm has an extension for mounting lights, lasers or a bipod.

Big Horn Armory’s Heavy-Hitting 500 S&W Lever Gun -- SHOT Show 2022
Large brake does its job well.

The large muzzle brake helps tame the recoil of the 500 S&W to allow faster follow up shots, though I doubt many will be needed with over 2,400 ft lbs of energy in every projectile. The tubular magazine of the 16 inch gun holds 6 rounds providing a 7 round total capacity.

Big Horn Armory’s Heavy-Hitting 500 S&W Lever Gun -- SHOT Show 2022
 Classic lines of the receiver and loading port complemented by the Skinner peep sight.

The Black Thunder has some heft when I handled it but it still moves well in the hands and steadies easily on to target. The trigger broke cleanly launching the large slugs downrange.

The Big Horn Armory Model 89 Black Thunder has an MSRP of around $2,700 to $3,000 depending on options chosen.

Big Horn Armory’s Heavy-Hitting 500 S&W Lever Gun -- SHOT Show 2022
Compact and powerful, the Model 89 Black Thunder.

For more information about Big Horn Armory and the Model 89 Black Thunder click HERE.

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

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  • Dee January 27, 2022, 1:16 pm

    $3000 if you’re not joking the price is way out of reach. What about a wood stock cowboy gun ? A big NO to tactical lever actions. Lots of American made lever guns out there for 1/2 the price or less. Who wants a 500 S&W in a lever action. Show of hands !

  • Mark T. Davis January 27, 2022, 12:22 pm

    Another rifle in another cartridge that nobody wants or asked for. 45-70, .444 Marlin already do the trick. It’s DOA.

  • Grumpy Old Guy that's popped a cap or two January 27, 2022, 11:37 am

    I agree with all of the comments. Too high a price, why a 500 S&W compared to a 460 S&W which the handgun version will fire 45LC and 454 Casul and has in some cases better ballistics. I predict it’ll be an Edsel of the gun world. To you young pups that was a car manufactured in the 50’s that flopped trying to give the car buyer what Ford thought they should have, not what they wanted.

    • Nicholas January 27, 2022, 4:30 pm

      I agree, and for the record, Big Horn agrees that the 454 is just as good if not better.
      They make a 45LC & 454 Casul. I have a Winchester model 94, and a Rossi model 92, both in 45LC. I handload so I can boost the 45LC to substantial power. Since the model 94 was built for the 30-30 its no problem handling the suped-up 45.

  • BJG January 27, 2022, 10:24 am

    Why make a Lever Action look like an AR? Doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m sure it does to some.
    Several years ago I had an shot out 1886 .33 Winchester re-barreled by McGowen to .50-110.
    Got around 2,100 fps with 350 gr. cast bullets, and better than 1,500 with 500gr. but
    recoil was pretty stiff with both. Ended up trading it.
    Believe a .45-70 will do just about anything that .50 S&W will do especially with 500 gr. bullet.

  • Todd January 27, 2022, 10:14 am

    I guess I get the .500 when I note the potential for 7 hard hitting rounds in so short a carbine.

    I distinctly dislike the *snaggy* nature of the sights given the implied handiness of the overall package.

    Also – that kind of money and the *custom* nature and no sling swivels?

    All in all, the package looks very purposeful though in need of a couple of tweaks.


  • OldBeast January 27, 2022, 8:24 am

    Yeah I don’t expect this to do very well at $3000 for a pistol caliber lever action! I can literally think of hundreds of other firearms I would rather spend $3000 on! I was really expecting the MSRP to be more like $1200 or something, you know where most of the target consumers are at! They will still sell a few to the rich folk that want something different to show off.

  • Altoids January 27, 2022, 7:16 am

    Having fired the .460 S&W in a revolver some years ago, I wondered why someone didn’t chamber that round in a lever gun.

    But then I remembered a cartridge called the .45-70. Seems to be favorite close range bear medicine in Alaska, although I’m not personally familiar with that scenario. Rifles and ammunition are commonly found.

    Makes one ask, why spend $3k for a lever gun chambered in .500 S&W?

    • Big Al 45 January 27, 2022, 9:54 am

      The idea of a Rifle/Handgun combo with the same chambering has always been a lure for those of us with a utilitarian/survival bent.
      The .500 is a bit much for me in a handgun, but as a Rifle round it’s pretty sweet.
      My favorite is the .45 L.C.,
      I have Ruger Handguns and Marlin Rifles chambered for this round, and with proper handloads it will handle Elk.

    • Travis January 27, 2022, 10:54 am

      Big Armory makes a lever in 460 SW just FYI. So choose either 500 or 460. I hv a 460 5inch X frame and it is a beast to shoot. I bet in the BA lever action it would really produce great expansion with the velocity. I have a Henry in 45-70 I love. Drops whitetails in their tracks. Have taken the .460 handgun for handgun hunting but have not seen anything when I have hunted with that. I would like to compare the lever 45-70 to the 460. I have recovered bullets from both and their is not much difference. I would like the .460 BA lever if it also shot 45lc, and 454. I do like that about the pistol I have. But it is about 6lbs so no holster for that lol.

  • Tom Szczepaniak January 27, 2022, 6:48 am

    I like the idea of the 500 S&W in a lever rifle but this fixation with “tactical” leaves me cold. I would rather see a classic Win 94 style, or better yet, Marlin style receiver, minus the ugly rail and good old fashion walnut furniture.

    • Davron January 27, 2022, 9:45 am

      They already have an older style lever gun for 500 S&W. This is just a new version that costs even more… for some reason.

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