For some, the classic appeal of a lever action rifle never has never gone away. For many years my dad talked about getting one, but during that time "tactical" gear was what I focused on, and I would just confusedly wonder why he would opt for such an archaic and obviously low-speed choice. I mean, a wooden stock? What about the elements? What about rapid fire? What about the capacity limitations? As I built my own personal defense setup, I was always frustrated that the accepted defense rifle such as ARs, Scouts, Mini 14 and 30, and semi auto shotguns were both expensive and, at that time, restricted in regard to accessories and modification. Fortunately, many of the restrictions went away, but the price tag didn't. About two years ago, I stumbled onto an article written by Gabe Suarez, and it began to make me reconsider my opinion on lever guns. I was already pulling away from the "it's got to be black and tacticool" way of thinking after becoming a shooting instructor and realizing that there is a difference between the gear and the shooter.
Truth be told, the lever action has a lot going for it. Marlin and Winchester make the most frequently seen models and both rely on a simple, straightforward design that has been proven reliable since... well, since right around the 1860's. Depending on the caliber and model, the tubular magazine allows great capacity (6 - 13 rounds). There is both good and bad to the tubular magazine design. It's great in that you don't have to fumble with a mag release, carry extra magazines, or worry about mag failure. The downside is of course, not being able to pre-load magazines for quick reloads. However, the pre-load issue is somewhat offset by the fact that you can refill your tubular magazine at any point through the side loading gate. You don't have to wait until your firearm is empty, nor do you waste rounds by discarding partially full magazines. Fire a couple of shots with a lever action, and it's a simple matter of inserting two more rounds into the loading gate to be back to full.
Now I have only owned and shot Marlin lever actions, but from my experience with them, they are quick, natural pointing guns with pretty good triggers for the most part. As far as calibers go, they come in .22, .357, .44, .45 Colt, 30/30, 45/70, and the .308 Marlin and .338 Marlin so the caliber options are there. Here is a good place to pause and clarify that I don't feel the lever action rifle is a replacement to an AR, for example. An AR manufactured today can do a good many things that a lever designed on a 150 year old system just doesn't. Even with modern ammunition, you're not ever going to get 1000 yard accuracy out of a lever. With an AR, you can get there. Where the lever truly shows it's merit is in the in-between. It's short barrel, natural grip, affordability, sub 150 yard accuracy, and caliber options give you a great foundation for either defense or hunting. It's faster than a bolt action (for me), not nearly so threatening looking as many semi-autos to the public/media opinions, and most of those calibers are stocked in any gun shop. If you're inclined, the .357 or .44 version could allow you to be shooting the same caliber from your rifle as your pistol.
A lot has been made of the poor sights on most these rifles. Maybe that is why everyone seems to scope them if they can. With a range of approx. 150 yards in the most common caliber, 30/30, you definitely don't need a powerful scope if you want one at all. A 4x should do it. Either a light red dot or the Williams aperture sights instead are a great option too and cut down on the weight a scope adds.
New, the Marlin 336 can be found for about $400. I picked up my first one used for about $250. The Winchesters seem to be going for a bit more than that. But for getting a quality rifle that can multipurpose, that's a reasonable cost. I've yet to try out the Lever Evolution ammo, so I can't make any firsthand comments on it, but I've heard reports that it can extended the accurate range considerably.