The Marlin Model 1895SBL is a lever-action hunting rifle chambered in .45-70 Government. The 1895SBL has a few more features than the Classic Model 1895.
Its cartridge the .45-70 Government. is a preferred hunting round for shorter range. Since it has such a low velocity yet powerful impact, it’ll kill larger game without destroying a lot of the meat. Marlin recommends the 1895SBL for hunting deer, larger game and black bear.
|Sights:||Ghost ring sights|
|Features:||Tubular magazine; big-loop lever; and, deluxe recoil pad|
|Stock:||Gray and black laminate|
|Scope:||Drilled and tapped for scope mounts; and rail base|
|Twist:||1 in 20"|
The Allure for the Old Lever Action
During my childhood, I spent many afternoons watching black and white reruns of Lucas McCain (portrayed by Chuck Connors) better known as the Rifleman. His legendary modified Winchester rifle with the overly large lever-action vanquished many desperadoes and tamed the Wild West for him and his son. My undying love for lever-action, old west style rifles started in front of that ancient television.
In my teenage years, when I’d gained sophistication in a hunter’s education program accompanied by a life time of being a Boy Scout and woodsman, I was deemed fit to be a deer hunter. My first deer rifle was an amazing Marlin .30-30 lever-action with see through scope mounts. Oh how I loved that rifle. I harvest numerous white tails over the years with that rifle, only to lose it to a house fire.
Marlin is producing a line of lever-action rifles that dredge up those teen year memories of hunting with my first 30-30 and going beyond that in bringing back my childhood fantasy involving a cowboy rifle with a huge lever on it… the Marlin 1895, in .45-70 caliber. I have tried and tried to locate one of these rifles in my local shops to purchase and according to them they are quite difficult to get right now, possibly due to a change in manufacturing venue for Freedom Group, the new owner of Marlin firearms.
Regardless of their rarity and desirability, I did get one donated to me for the day by a friend to take to the range and in his words “not to drool too much over the stock.” Just from looking at this rifle as I drew it from the case, I knew I had to have it. One thing I will say here, it’s a tough little rifle and a tough caliber.
There are seven variants of this rifle, but the one I tested was the 1895SBL. It’s touted as soon to be a favorite among North Country guides, this .45-70 looks almost like a swat version of the 1895. This version also has the 18.5” barrel in stainless steel, the large loop lever, and dark gray and black laminate stock. It has a 6-shot capacity and sports the XS Ghost Ring Sight with high-visibility front post sights. There is also a weaver style scope rail for scope mounting.
I will note here that Marlin uses the Ballard-type deep cut rifling on these rifles. There are six grooves in the Ballard-type which is reported to provide better performance, especially in respect to stability and consistency, with cast bullets. The majority of the barrels also use a 1 in 20” right handed twist in rifling.
On the range this caliber is amazing especially considering I shot a heavier bullet. It is loud and devastating on target. In my trials of this rifle, bear in mind that while I am a precision rifleman, I did not employ optics. It was all just iron sight shooting as it was designed to be done and has been done for well over a century.
The rifle that I was shooting was virtually new, having only had 50 rounds fired through it prior to my receiving it. The lever action was so smooth I wondered if it weren’t manufactured with a bit of butter in the metal. It slid so well. It did require a bit of muscle to work it but that was comforting at the same time because I knew the lever wouldn’t release inadvertently either. I didn’t feel any grind or excessive friction of metal on metal as it fed the shells into the receiver.
The first shell ejected was of immediate interest to me because I didn’t know just how far it would go. We found out quickly however when it flew down the collar of the owner standing a little beside and behind me. I’m sure it was hot. Part of my reasoning for mentioning the ejection is that today, range etiquette requires you not to let your ejected brass rain on the shooter next to you, but also, it is so economical to reload your own ammunition. The saved brass is a crucial step in reloading, obviously.
Loading was a bit stiff as I’m sure the new rifle springs were a bit stiff from lack of use. Also a note here: Do not store your rifle completely loaded. It will reduce the effective life of your tube magazine.
Firing and Recoil
As expected the hammer fall is beautiful and crisp. I did not notice any delay or difficulty in hammer release. De-cocking the hammer is easy to achieve and a higher degree of safety in doing so is present with the hammer spur available. There is much less chance of slippage and accidental discharge.
The recoil was as I expected. It is a short rifle, with a recoil pad in a hefty caliber. It wasn’t bad at all. I believe I could shoot several boxes of shells through this rifle and not feel any worse for wear afterward. Its weight, 7 pounds, isn’t much, but is just right.
Since I was firing a rifle, I felt it only proper to fire from ranges beyond the 50-yard line. I chose 50, 100 and 150 yards with 3 round groups. The 50 yard groups were fired from a standing position while the 100 and 150 were fired from a bench with a rest. I used the 1895SBL for my testing and the Hornady .45-70 325grain FTX LEVERevolution.
I was quite pleased with the performance.
With Group 1 in both the 100 and 150 yard targets, I did have to adjust for range, so my groups weren’t as tight as I wanted. It was shooter issue, not the rifle. The iron sights are more than acceptable at those ranges with the grouping not having more than a 2.25” deviation between all three ranges. Also, I believe that the use of the longer barrels such as with the XLR or the cowboy would tighten up those groupings at extended range.
Although I wasn’t wearing chaps, a ten gallon hat, or calling my shooting friends “pilgrim,” I truly enjoyed this rifle and my desire to own one has not reduced at all. This, by all accounts, is a five-star firearm. It is moderately priced and is sized in such a way as to accommodate all but the tiniest of shooters. The only difficulty I can see, as I write this, is locating one to purchase. They are out there to be had and diligence will be rewarded.
This is a tough rifle that is made to take on the trail, in the scabbard on the saddle, or on the ATV. It is a perfect brush gun and would even be good on open ground based on your skill with iron sights. The hooded front sight is a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the design team in anticipating walking through weeds, brush and bayous and protecting that front sight in all but the most extreme cases.
Get one of these while you can, otherwise, at some point you’ll regret not doing so.
Check out what others say about the Marlin 1895: