Marlin is back! I've been waiting a long time
to make that statement. It is not that Marlin ever really went
away, though it seemed as if it was teetering close to the edge
for a while. What went missing for a period of time was Marlin
quality. I remember from the days of my youth the Marlin
advertisements in the firearms and outdoors magazines. Those ads
emphasized the quality of the fit and finish on Marlin
leverguns. When the Freedom Group bought Marlin, they shut down
the factory in North Haven, Connecticut
and began production in Ilion, New York; quality
suffered, and it has taken some time to get Marlin quality back
to where it should be. Opinions vary on the topic. Some say that
the Freedom Group ruined Marlin, but a good argument could be
made that the Freedom Group saved Marlin from extinction.
Over the course of the past few years, I have
had several conversations with Marlin executives and engineers,
and they have been very forthcoming in acknowledging the
problems. They told me that they were wrong when they thought it
would be easy to scrap the old worn-out tooling in North Haven
and produce the rifles on modern equipment in Ilion. However,
they also took action to correct the quality problems, and
effectively shut down production until they were confident that
the rifles they were shipping would not come back. They halted
production on the many variations of the Marlin levergun, and
are bringing them back one model at a time.
In the interim, I told the good folks at
Marlin that I would be the first to announce that Marlin was
back, and that I was sure rooting for them to make it. Marlin is
one of our oldest brands of American rifles left, and it would
break my heart to see the brand die. The levergun is an American
design, and there is perhaps no other weapon that epitomizes the
American way of life than does the levergun. With Savage and
Ruger no longer making lever-action rifles, and the Winchesters
no longer made in the US, Marlin, Mossberg, and Henry
are the last levergun makers left standing in this country, and
for a while, Marlin was not standing on very solid footing.
Over the course of the past eighteen months
or so, I have noticed a slow progression of quality improvement
in the Marlin leverguns that I have seen in gun stores and at
gun shows. In September of 2013, while visiting my friends Al,
Lori, and Megan Anderson in the U.P. of Michigan, we took a trip
into town to load up on cheese curds and to stop in at
Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming, to coon-finger whatever
interesting guns were on display. Usually, we look only at the
used firearms, as we see the new stuff at trade shows, and
because I normally don't get to wanting a gun really badly until
it is no longer in production. Anyway, on the new gun rack we
spotted a handy little Marlin carbine; the 336Y. This is a Youth
model, which means the stock is a bit shorter in pull-length
than on a standard rifle, which is a plus in the U.P., as folks
tend to wear a lot of bulky clothing during their eleven and
one-half months of winter up there, so the short stock is much
quicker to get into action.
After we fondled the new Marlin a bit, Al and
I were both impressed enough with the quality of the carbine
that we decided to spend Al's money and take it home. Back at
his place, we blasted quite a bit of ammo through the Marlin,
and it performed exactly as it should, feeding and firing 30
WCF (30-30) cartridges as fast as we could stuff them into
the magazine tube. When I got back home, I called and ordered a
336Y for myself, and it too exhibited much-improved quality of
fit and finish, compared to the earlier Ilion guns, so my hopes
for the survival of Marlin were running pretty high.
Still, I was cautious; not yet ready to
declare that Marlin had completely corrected the quality
problems which it had suffered. Over the course of the next
couple of months, I talked to gun shop owners, gunsmiths, and
firearms wholesalers, to gather their opinions on the
improvements in Marlin quality. They all reported positive
thoughts towards the improved quality control at Marlin. In the
meantime, I started working with the 1895CB shown here, and just
today, I made another call to Davidson's,
a large firearms wholesaler that is showing several new Marlin
leverguns in stock, and their response to my quality questions
was also positive, and this brings me the long way around the
barn to my opening statement; Marlin is back!
The rifle shown here is their Model 1895CB;
the "CB" standing for "Cowboy". These rifles
are very popular with Cowboy Action
Shooting competitors who participate in the long range
events. The 1895CB wears a twenty-six inch tapered octagon
barrel. Many times, an octagon barrel means that it is going to
balance like a pig on a shovel, but the Marlin barrel tapers
from .85 inch at the receiver to .695 at the muzzle. With the
huge forty-five caliber bore, the barrel is not excessively
heavy at all. The rifle weighed in a just a fraction of an ounce
under seven pounds on my scale. The balance point on the empty
rifle is about one inch forward of the receiver, and the rifle
carries and handles beautifully. The sights consist of a
Marble's semi-buckhorn ladder-adjustable rear with a dovetailed
front post with brass bead. This makes for a good sight picture
for hunting. The receiver top is drilled for scope mounts, and
aperture sights are available from XS
Sights and from Skinner Sights
which will fit using the same screw holes. An offset hammer spur
is supplied for scope use, if desired. The rear sight does not
fold, so keep that in mind when choosing a scope and mount.
The 1895CB wears satin-finished
straight-grained American walnut buttstock and forearm. The
wood-to-metal fit is very good. It is not perfect, but it is
very good, with no excessive gaps nor excessively proud wood.
The steel is finished in a polished blue, with a bead-blasted
matte finish on the top and bottom of the receiver. The barrel
is well-finished in a polished blue, with the full-length
magazine tube extending to within four-tenths on an inch of the
muzzle. The mag tube holds nine cartridges, for a ready-to-go
capacity of ten. The 1895CB has Ballard-style rifling, so it can
accurately fire both lead and jacketed bullets. The buttstock is
of the straight-grip style with a square-back lever, and it
looks great on this Marlin.
As stated above, the rifle handles very well.
It has a slight forward balance, but not excessively so, even
when fully loaded. With the twenty-six inch tube, the overall
length is still only forty-four inches, and the rifle comes to
the shoulder quickly. The trigger pull on this 1895CB is very
crisp, as it should be, and releases with four and one-quarter
pounds of resistance. The rifle wears Marlin's crossbolt safety,
which blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin. The
operation of the action is very smooth, with no hint of
grittiness nor stiffness. It operates as a good levergun should,
and functioning was perfect throughout all shooting, with
various brands and styles of ammunition, with both cast-lead and
jacketed bullets, ranging in weight from 300 to 430 grains.
Every cartridge fed, fired, and ejected smoothly and perfectly.
Loading the magazine tube was easy, even when loading to full
Accuracy testing was done from the bench at a
distance of fifty yards. Past fifty, my eyes do no good shooting
open sights on a rifle. I did not want to mount a scope atop
this beautiful rifle, as I think that most users of the 1895CB
will leave it as is, or mount an aperture sight. I have a
low-powered Leupold scope on my 1895GS
45-70 Guide Gun, but for the CB, I like it without a scope.
Firing three-shot groups from a rested position, the 1895CB
proved to be very accurate. Shown are pictures of representative
groups, along with one lucky group, shown just for entertainment
purposes; mostly mine. I believe that the rifle is capable of
one-hole groups at fifty yards, but with open sights, I am not.
I was able to keep every group fired under the two-inch mark at
fifty yards, again, with my eyes being the limiting factor.
Many shooters mistakenly dismiss the 45-70
cartridge as merely a short-range proposition, which it is not.
Using modern ammunition, like the Buffalo Bore 45-70 Magnum ammo
with the 300 grain jacketed softpoint bullet, the 1895CB can
reach out and harvest game efficiently. Leaving the muzzle of
this 1895CB at just over 2500 feet-per-second (fps), this load
has 4262 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle, and retains over 1000
ft. lbs. of energy out past 300 yards. With a 200 yard zero, the
bullet drops only seven inches below the line of sight at 250
yards, so harvesting big game at that distance is very easily
within the capability of this rifle and cartridge. Other good
ammunition is available on the market from mild whitetail loads
up through ammo that will harvest any game animal on Earth. The
Buffalo Bore 430 grain bullet retains almost 1700 ft. lbs. of
energy at 300 yards. An excellent mild load that is safe in all
45-70 rifles is the Garrett 420 grain cast lead load, which
leaves the muzzle of this Marlin in excess of 1380 fps. This
load is easy on both the rifle and the shoulder, yet will
penetrate very well to get the job done on large game.
Along with this 1895CB and the 336Y rifles,
Marlin also has in production
the 1894 rifles once again. They are bringing more rifles
online one model at a time, as they seem to have everything
running correctly right now on the modern equipment. I can find
no fault at all with this new 1895CB. It is a smooth, accurate,
handsome, and reliable rifle, deserving of the legendary Marlin
brand. As of the date of this review, the suggested retail price
on the Marlin 1895CB is $839 US.
Check out this and other Marlin products
online at www.marlinfirearms.com.
For the location of a Marlin dealer near you,
click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.
To order the 1895CB online, click on the GUN
GENIE at www.galleryofguns.com.
order quality 45-70 ammunition, go to www.buffalobore.com,
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