Marlin Model 9 Semi-Auto 9mm Carbine


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 15th, 2009




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I very seldom get to shoot my guns. I have a few, and like every one of them, but I usually spend all of my shooting time shooting someone else’s guns. There are always a few test guns in here that need to be fired for function and accuracy, so the majority of my shooting time is spent with those. Unlike some of the paper magazines, and a few of the online magazines as well, we shoot every gun that comes in here for review, and shoot them a lot. To do it right, it takes a lot of time and ammunition, but to me this job is still a lot of fun, so I don’t mind doing it at all. The problem is, it leaves very little time to enjoy my own guns, as usually I am involved with something brand new and interesting. However, I am going to use this opportunity to have a look at a dandy little carbine that has been around here for a few years; the Marlin Camp 9. Actually the Model 9 Camp Carbine, it has come to be called the Camp 9 among most users of the rifle. Never as popular as it should have been when it was on the market, the Camp 9, along with its big brother the Camp 45, has developed somewhat of a cult following since its production was discontinued in 1999. The Camp 9 was built for fifteen years, and was a handy little semi-auto that came with a twelve shot or a twenty shot magazine, but could use any magazine that fits a Smith & Wesson 59 series pistol, such as the Models 59 and 5906, to name just a couple. One thing that surely led to its demise was the Clinton-inspired ban on normal-capacity magazines, regulating every semi-auto to ten shots or fewer. Another thing that hurt the carbine’s popularity was that it did not look like a “tactical” rifle. Some gun owners think that a rifle has to be plastic and black for it to be effective as a fighting tool. That is a marketing conception. Some “shooters” are not satisfied unless a rifle is flat black with attachment points to hang every possible contraption onto the rifle. The Camp 9, to some, looks more like a sporting or hunting rifle. It even looks a lot like some of Marlin’s dandy little .22 rimfire rifles. Also, the rifle was marketed as an all-around outdoorsman’s gun, much like the Ruger Ranch Rifle. Many folks who are looking for a carbine for home defense overlook the Camp 9, but that is a mistake. While the Camp 9 can serve well as an intermediate range predator and varmint gun, it can also do service as a handy little home defense carbine that has very little recoil, yet ample power to get the job done. While the 9x19mm Luger cartridge is certainly not a magnum, many rely upon it in a pistol, but overlook it as a choice for social work when chambered in a carbine. However, from a carbine-length barrel, the 9mm offers better performance and is easy to shoot accurately and quickly. It is an ideal choice for those who do not like the recoil and noise of more powerful rifle cartridges. While the 9mm will never replace a 7.62x51mm (.308) as a main battle rifle, most of us do not need a main battle rifle. We will not be attacking a fortified machine gun nest on the side of a mountain, but might very well have to defend our home from an intruder, or several of them. This is where a lightweight carbine that can lay down fire quickly and accurately can be very useful, and the Camp 9 serves this role well. It is a carbine with which family members who are not really into shooting can be taught to use rather quickly, and again, even stoked with Plus-P high performance ammunition, the Camp 9 has very little recoil.

Weighing in at about six and one-half pounds with an overall length of 35 ½ inches, the Camp 9 is quick-handling, yet still has the heft to make it feel like a real gun. It is a solid little carbine. Operating from a blow-back semi-auto action, the bolt is a solid steel, nicely-machined piece. It has a single recoil spring on a guide rod, and is very reliable. One thing that I do recommend is to replace the recoil spring with a twenty-one pound spring from Wolff. By changing out that spring, one can use high performance Plus-P ammo, without stressing the gun. It also eliminates the action “spitting” burned powder upon a left-handed shooter. The rifle works just fine as delivered from the factory, but the heavier spring is much better, and allows the use of more powerful ammo. Even with the Wolff spring installed, the Camp 9 still cycles just fine with standard pressure ammo, but it cycles much smoother than with the factory spring. The magazines feed the cartridges very well, and the action locks open on an empty magazine. As mentioned above, the carbine uses either twelve or twenty shot mags, but even magazines with a capacity as high as thirty have been available to fit the S&W pistol, and they work well in the Camp 9. Still, I prefer the shorter twelve and twenty-round versions. The safety on the Camp 9 is very easy to use, rear for “on safe”, and push forward to fire, just like on a Garand or a Mini-14. It is very natural to operate, and works as well for left-handed shooters as it does for right-handed shooters. I hate a push-button crossbolt safety, and the safety on this Marlin was designed just as it should be. Disassembly for cleaning is very simple and easy to perform. The parts are robust, and very straightforward in operation.

The Camp 9 has a very good set of open sights, but for a rifle that might be used in low-light conditions, whether for shooting a fox that is doing a night raid on the hen house, or for more serious purposes, I like an optical sight with night-time capabilities. The perfect choice for a carbine such as this is a reliable red dot, and I keep a Trijicon Red Dot mounted on the top of mine. While it is on my mind, any scope base for a Marlin lever action 336, 444, or 1895 will work perfectly on the Model 9 and Model 45 Camp Carbines. The Trijicon is a rugged little unit, and with its Weaver adaptor, weighs less then two ounces. The dot is bright and easy to see, even in daylight, and shooting with both eyes wide open, it is easy to see the target and everything that is going on around the target. It does not give the shooter tunnel vision like when looking through a scope, and out to one hundred yards, it is perfectly suited to a man-sized target.

From the Marlin’s sixteen and one-half inch barrel, 9mm Luger ammo exhibits some pretty impressive velocities, for a pistol cartridge. I chronographed a few types of ammo, with the chronograph set at ten feet from the muzzle. Velocities are listed in the chart below in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains. HP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. PB is Cor Bon PowRBall, a specialty hollowpoint with a plastic ball in the nose. DPX is a homogenous copper hollow nose bullet. HS is a hollowpoint with a post insert to promote expansion. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. Velocities were recorded with an air temperature of sixty-one degrees Fahrenheit at an elevation of around 550 feet above sea level. Accuracy is the average group size for a three-shot group at fifty yards. Group sizes are listed in inches. The GECO FMJ was not tested for accuracy. I have precious little of it left, and do not waste it on paper.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Accuracy
Cor-Bon DPX 115 1330 1.75"
Cor-Bon PB 100 1692 5.375"
Cor-Bon HP 115 1532 0.875"
GECO FMJ 124 1306  
Buffalo Bore HP 115 1646 3.5"
Buffalo Bore HP 124 1458 2.125"
Buffalo Bore HP 147 1225 1.375"
Federal HS 147 1155 0.75"

As can be seen, accuracy varies from not-so-good to excellent from my particular Camp 9 carbine. Velocities recorded are well above what is exhibited from a standard pistol barrel. Recoil was very mild, and the carbine was easy to shoot. Mine has a trigger pull that measures almost five pounds , but is pretty crisp, and much better than the trigger on a typical AR-15, and is superb when compared to an AK. My Camp 9 has always been one-hundred percent reliable with every type of 9mm ammunition that I have ever fed it.

While the Camp 9 has been out of production for ten years now, they can still be found for reasonable prices on the used market. While there are other 9mm carbines on the market today, the little Camp 9 is still one of my favorites. I wish that Marlin would bring it back one more time, but it is doubtful that they will do so. The truth is, if it had a black folding stock and several feet of Picatinny rail to hang flashlights and such, it would probably sell like beer at Sturgis. The Camp 9 is not as “tactical” looking as many carbines on the market, but it is still an accurate, reliable, fun little gun to shoot that can serve well to protect the homestead.

Jeff Quinn






The Camp 9 is capable of fine accuracy.



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Click pictures for a larger version.


Marlin Model 9 "Camp Carbine".



Internal parts are simple and robust.



Stronger, 21-pound Wolff recoil spring is highly recommended.



Safety is exactly where it should be, easy to use with either hand.



The Camp 9 can use any Smith & Wesson 59 Series magazine.



Open sights consist of semi-buckhorn rear (top) and bead front (bottom).





Trijicon's red dot sight is perfect on a handy gun such as the Camp 9.