Recently, I had the good fortune to come across an older, very nice Marlin 336 chambered in 30-30 at a gun show. It was just my luck because I was, in fact, looking for one that day, but I wasn’t expecting to find one nearly as nice.
This particular 336 was manufactured in 1976, well before cross-bolt safeties were implemented. Many Marlin enthusiasts, myself included, think that is a good thing. It’s not that I’m against safeties, but I am a big fan of simple weapons, so having one less item on the receiver is just fine with me. The carbine can be carried or stored with the hammer at half-cock, which prevents any movement from the trigger. Besides, safety starts with the shooter, in my humble opinion.
Also, because my Marlin is a ’76, it came with real walnut stock and forearm and a “gold” trigger, which are things only top-dollar models were offered in the later years. I find that in general, older stuff means quality came standard, not as the exception.
One of the big draws to a Marlin lever gun versus other brands is the side-eject. Once you take a shot and work the lever action, the casing shoots out the right-hand side of the receiver instead of the top, which makes scope-mounting very easy. Also, you do not get hot brass hitting you in the forehead, which is always a plus.
The classic 336 features a 20-inch barrel, which is absolutely perfect for most things you’d want to do with it. Most decent shooters can get sub three-inch groups at 100 yards using the factory sights (can we say accurate!) Many hunters add a scope for hunting deer and whatnot, but I’m sticking with the old iron sights. I absolutely love the “cowboy gun” look.
The 30-30 caliber is responsible for taking more deer in this country than all others combined. The argument is that it’s first and foremost a deer caliber, but I have heard fist-hand accounts of people killing bears and bigger with their 30-30 lever guns.
A standard 170-grain round moves out of the 20-inch barrel at approximately 2000 to 2100 FPS, and the 150-grain whizzes by at around 2200 to 2300 FPS – that’ll hurt anything it hits. The Marlin 336 comes chambered in many calibers including the hard-hitting .45-70, but 30-30 ammunition is plentiful and relatively cheap.
The Marlin weighs in at seven pounds, making it a great choice for a gun you can carry around all day without getting a sore back and arms. The gun also feels balanced, which is largely due to the carbine-length 20-inch barrel. The entire gun is only 37 inches long, which means it’ll fit in the cab of any truck with ease. It’s maneuverable, it’s powerful, and it’s light. What more could you ask for?
The tubular magazine holds six rounds, with the option of a seventh in the chamber and it can fire as fast as you can pull the lever and the trigger, which, with some practice, can be mind-bogglingly quick.
The triggers on Marlin 336 models are known for breaking crisply, but at a heavier five to seven pounds. A lot of Marlin owners take their 336s in for a “trigger job”, which usually brings the break down to two to four pounds. In my opinion, it is really only a concern if you plan on entering matches with the gun. Otherwise, five to seven pounds is reasonable and maybe even desirable.
The Marlin 336 is extremely easy to field strip and clean, as well. One flat-head screw holds the lever onto the bottom of the receiver. Once that is removed, the bolt and ejector come right out, allowing access to the inside of the receiver and bore. As a side, always remember to clean the barrel from the receiver end; doing it the other way risks damage to the barrel crown, which you do not want.
Few would deny that the Marlin 336 chambered in 30-30 Winchester is one of the best carbines ever created. The simple, lightweight and rugged design and operation of the weapon, coupled with the high-velocity caliber, make great for hunting, home-defense, plinking, or anything else you’d like to do with one. For all-around usefulness, it truly is hard to beat the 336.
However, a few years ago Remington bought Marlin and their manufacturing plants were consolidated. After reading many forum postings and hearing word-of-mouth reviews, many folks say the quality of newer Marlin guns has dropped. Complaints include rough actions, poor bluing, incorrectly sized stocks and forearms, and shoddy components that make failures to feed and eject commonplace. Now, not all of them are bad, but if you are the kind of person who simply cannot stand the idea of a used gun, then make sure you look the carbine over very carefully before buying. The adopted slang terms for these guns are “Marlington” or “Remlin” – buyer beware.