Should I have 2 lugs or 3 lugs in my premium bolt action? Unfortunately, the honest answer provides no firm guidance. Both designs are proven shooters. Actions made with both approaches have achieved the highest levels of performance in organized competition. 3 lug actions are less common in hunting circles but their success in the completion world offers that they are certainly capable of premium performance.

It really boils down to more of a Chevy vs. Ford kind of debate. Each has features that makes them different enough that you consider the comparison but neither is such a stand out obvious outperformer that the debate is settled.

2 lug actions have a longer distance to move the handle when you are closing or opening your bolt. At the same time, the shorter distance the handle has to move on a 3 lug action requires more physical force. So on one hand, the 2 lug will need to move more but it takes less effort. Which is better for precision? Neither is the clear stand-alone performer.

So let’s look at another area of comparison that is the primary reason why Defiance makes 2 lug actions. The reason is repeatability and balance. In the action making process, if you do the same cuts on opposite sides, you have a stronger chance of all things staying aligned and true. This does not mean that all 3 lug actions are not aligned and true. It simply introduces an element of manufacturing that needs careful control.

If there is no significant benefit to the differences in handle throw and the force needed to move the handle, then what you are left with is a question on which is easier to make precisely and produce repeatedly. In this area, the advantage goes to the 2 lug. Combining symmetric design with symmetric machining increases the probability of success.

When you consider balance and alignment, the 2 lug design is more favorable since you have only 2 points that come together when the primer ignites rather than 3. When a primer ignites and the powder burns, the case expands, pushing itself against the chamber and bolt face. A 2 lug has symmetrical and wide surfaces upon which to push. The 3 lug design, although it is not unstable like an ATC from the 90’s, it does have an extra surface that is more narrow and not symmetrical to each other.

Metal shaping is a high speed, high heat, high energy process. Under such conditions setting yourself up with the simplest path to success is more optimal. This does mean that those who make 3 lug actions are not making good actions. It offers that it is harder to do this precisely over and over than it is to do it on a 2 lug action.

At the end of the day, the proof is on the target. To that end, I can offer no strong and obvious solution. Both action types have proven success. When it comes to giving ourselves the best chance to make the most precise actions again and again, the 2 lug design is the obvious best approach.