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Marlin Firearms - Are They Back? A Tracker's Perspective

There is no doubt that when Remington took over Marlin Firearms there was a learning curve that needed to take place. When the purchase happened, quality slipped, and the reputation of the Marlin brand was hurt. But over the past few years I have seen significant improvements in the Marlins I have looked at and handled. Based on this, I felt it time to take a chance and purchase a new Remington made Marlin lever gun – and I’m glad I did.

First off let me say that with the factory overhaul; with all the new CNC machines and new equipment and training that Remington has invested in the brand at the new factory wing in Ilion, my new 1895G Guide Gun in 45/70 is as good as any Marlin I have purchased in the past. That is a bold statement, but it’s true. The action is tight, but smooth, the hardware fits right, the wood to metal is tight, and bluing is consistent and deep, and the sights line up correctly. But how did it actually handle and was it accurate? After all, as a tracker, I need to know whether this gun can handle rapid fire exercises and feed and eject without jams, misfeeds, or ejection issues.

A Pleasant Experience

Let me start by saying I love the Guide Gun from a design perspective. With its fat, short, stiff barrel of 18 ½ inches, it has all the right stuff to be inherently accurate. But equally important is the balance of the gun, it is a true pleasure to carry. The fatter wood on the forend (a complaint to some who like a slimmer forend like those on the 336’s) coupled with the thick barrel keeps the balance perfect, and allows for a short rifle to retain good swing characteristics. This is important to a tracker like myself who may have to shoot in the thick at a fleeing buck or bear. While the rifle is light, it’s not overly so, nor would you want it to be. Even the less powerful whitetail rounds like the common 300 grain factory soft points exiting the barrel at around 1700 fps generate some stout recoil. So having the gun weigh 7lbs 2 oz’s with no scope is a proper weight for such a gun. Add a small scope (like the Leupold 1x4 shotgun scope I installed) and it’s a true pleasure to shoot.

So, how did it shoot? Well, with an XS Ghost sight and a Williams fiber optic bead at 60 yards (the range I shoot at only goes out to 60 yards – but I feel this is a reasonable range for a 45/70 that I will be using in the thick) and from a rest, I averaged a 2.12” group. With aging eyes and the ghost sight retaining a rather large aperture, that’s pretty damn good. I believe the rifle can do better with a younger shooter with better vision than I possess. To make that point clear I added the scope on a solid Leupold steel mount and rings, and proceeded to pull off an average of 1.12” from the 8, 5 shot groups I took with the scope set on 4 power. None were more than 1.8” and the smallest was .6 inches (essentially a ragged hole). This thing shoots. Barrel heat did not affect accuracy or created the dreaded “stringing” either, something that surprised me. One thing to note, is that if you shoot a certain grain and brand bullet, stick with that brand and grain combo, as I found point of impact shifted a lot between the different ammunition makes and styles, etc.

I never had a misfeed, misfire, or ejection problem with any brand or style bullet, and this included rapid fire exercises where I would shoot at pie plates from the standing position as practice for still-hunting and tracking. This point shows that the training of factory workers and the engineers got it right. It was slick, and there were absolutely no issues no matter how many rounds, or how fast, I was firing.

While this season I will be hunting with my 7600 primarily, I will take this gun on a hunt or two for sure; it’s that nice of a gun. It would be a shame to have it sit idle in the safe.

So is Marlin back? I’d say yes. While this is only one gun, the others I reviewed looked to be of the same consistent quality, something I couldn’t say just two years ago. The last thing I can say is that there is just something solid about a Marlin that no other lever gun possesses. The feel of carrying it cradled in your hand is unlike any other gun on the market, and is why I’ve always been partial to Marlins. Hopefully, I will be able to post a picture of this rifle leaning against a downed buck this year. If I don’t, it’s certainly not the fault of the gun!

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