Big Horn Armory’s model 89 – 500 S&W Magnum
The on-and-off again relationship between myself and the Smith and Wesson 500 magnum revolver created a strong curiosity of what the powerful 500-magnum cartridge could be capable of fired form a lever action rifle, like the model 89 manufactured by Big Horn Armory (BHA) out of Cody Wyoming. The Model 89 is what many would consider a “grail gun,” conceived by the integration of features from both the Model 86 and model 92 lever action rifles. The people at BHA designed the 89 with a philosophy focused on a rifle that is ideal to get the most performance from the mighty 500 S&W magnum cartridge.
While stunning to look at, the quality of the model 89 becomes extremely apparent once you get one in your hands. The barrel and receiver are made from hardened 17-4 stainless steel, with claims that the finish is tough enough to withstand the harsh use that a hunting environment might provide. The black walnut stock and fore-end tout beautiful wood grain and extremely well-done checkering. The protective satin finish that is applied to the wood gives the rifle a feeling of indestructibility. As with the Model 86, the Model 89 ejects spent brass vertically, from the top for the receiver, preventing any receiver mounted optics from being installed. The rifle comes with a receiver mounted skinner peep sight, and a round front post sight from the factory with multiple barrel lengths (16”, 18”, and 22”). As a longtime admirer of the Model 89, I have had the opportunity to own and use this rifle in the 16” and 18” barrel versions. The 16” trapper version is very handy in the thick Florida brush but the 18” gives that extra sight radius for those more precise shots. For the sake of comparison for this article, I was also able to briefly acquire an 18” version that included the factory installed scout scope mount. While the scout scope mount allowed me to reach out to distances of 150-200 yards more consistently and with greater precision using my 4x powered scope, I felt that the traditional look, feel, and function of the iron-sighted rifles are more applicable to the hunting that I do within the thick brush, down here in southwest Florida.
The excellent build quality and performance of this semi-custom lever action rifle comes with a price. Earlier this year (2023), BHA increased the MSRP of their base Model 89 from $2700.00 (with a $600 nonrefundable build deposit) to $4499.00 (with a $2249.50 nonrefundable build deposit). In addition, the wait time on orders can range anywhere from 8 to 18 months. Whether the cost of this rifle is worth it for you likely depends on your reason for purchasing it. If you are a reloader like me, the cost to feed the rifle becomes much more reasonable, compared to those who don’t reload their own ammo. With the Starline brass, Ramshot enforcer powder, 330gr and 400gr projectiles, and Winchester large rifle primers that I purchased from US Reloading Supply locally in Venice Florida, I was able to load my own for less than $1.00 per round. Significantly less than the $3.00-$4.00 per round one would pay to buy factory ammo. While reloading helps to ease the burden of expense that comes with owning and regularly shooting a rifle like the Model 89, I was never able to justify keeping it in my collection for practical reasons alone, as much as I tried to convince myself that I should on several occasions…
If you are in the market for an extremely well-built lever action rifle that you can pass on for many generations, I suggest you give the Big Horn Armory Model 89 a good hard look.
*Photo from Big Horn Armory - Click the link to see more photos!*