Fingers Crossed for Ruger's Return of These Six Marlins
Marlin firearms – specifically their lever actions – defined decades of American rifle-making. Hearts dropped when the brand seemed destined for the trash heap with the Remington bankruptcy fire sale. When word broke of Ruger’s assumption of the Marlin brand, hope was bolstered. Now, with rumblings of the much-anticipated “new” Marlin rebirth, Guns.com can’t help but wonder which models will be first and which forever retired. While only time will tell what classic Marlin models Ruger will bring back, here are our top six choices for the Marlin renaissance.
Beginning in the late 1940s and continuing for generations, Marlin’s affordable lever-action centerfire Model 336 has been the workaday hunter’s rifle. It also proved worthy competition for Winchester’s proven Model 94. By far the most common Model 336 chambering was the .30-30 Winchester, followed by the brush-busting .35 Remington.
The 336 brought fame to micro-groove rifling, built on the premise that more and shallower rifling grooves in the barrel would stabilize projectiles better than fewer, deeper ones. While that’s a matter for an accuracy debate for another day, the main fact is that the side-ejecting Model 336 has accounted for more venison than can be measured.
Marlin’s 336 was a much-improved version of the earlier Model 36. Until the recent end of Marlin as we knew it, a total of over four million Model 336 rifles were produced. If Ruger really wants to turn some heads, they could bring back rare chamberings like the .219 Zipper or .375 Winchester. More likely, however, may be the chance Ruger adds one of their own. We can’t wait to find out, but we’d stake serious dough that some variation of the ol' 336 is one of the first to return.
One of the most respected of all lever-action rimfires ever made is the original Marlin Model 39. Working that buttery lever action on a well-balanced, old-fashioned rifle with rich color-case hardening and a hand-fit finish is a genuine delight. These takedown rimfires remain a gem to this day, held mostly in the hands of collectors. To find a clean, collectible Model 39 today will easily tip the pocketbook over a grand.
Luckily, the Model 39 remains accessible today in its newer form, the 39A. The tubular magazine-fed, takedown-model 39s accounted for untold numbers of small game harvests and tin cans plinked in backyards across America. Whether standard or Golden Mountie, the 39A ensured that vintage quality Marlin lever-action .22 caliber rimfires were available to a wider audience. If and when Ruger takes up the manufacture of lever-action rimfire rifles, it would be difficult to argue against leading with another run on the 39A.
If handgun rounds in lever actions gets your heart pumping – and gun safe door opening – Marlin’s Model of 1894 is exactly what you need. The 1894 boomed, busted, and boomed again in popularity, ending on a high note and leaving shooters and hunters hoping for a strong Ruger-driven return. Will we once again see chamberings like the popular .44 Magnum/.44 Special, .357 Magnum/.38 Special, and .45 Colt?
The Model 1894 was low-recoiling, smooth, and capable at shorter ranges. It was as at home on the ranch as it was in the hunting woods. The flat-top design and side ejection were ideal for scoping, though factory iron sights (or better yet, Skinner upgrades), made this close-ranger a deadly companion. When the old brand was divested, the Model 1894 was one of the only remaining square-bolt designs in Marlin’s arsenal, so it would be especially interesting to see what – if anything – Ruger does with this old classic, which would make the perfect companion to some of Ruger’s wheelguns.
Big bore lever-action rifles hold a unique allure to big game hunters, and few define that category better than the Marlin Model of 1895. Springing from the classic Model Marlin 1893, the 1895 was designed to chamber a larger, higher-pressure cartridge. It used side ejection, a tubular magazine, and side-loading gate.
Though its production saw a hiatus for a number of years, one thing is certain – Whether early production or late, Marlin 1895s were built for hunting big game. The venerable .45-70 Government defines the Model 1895, and rightfully so. It was not alone, though. Marlin added their own .444 Marlin straight wall chambering to the 1895 action, calling it the Marlin 444.
When we say centerfire 1895 models, we’re not talking only rifles. In fact, one of the most fascinating old Marlins was the short-run Model 1895 shotguns in .410 bore. They were practical field guns for small game, handy farm work, and light recoiling plinkers.
Which do we expect – and hope – to return? Ruger could put out a mean Model 1895 in .45-70 for old time’s sake, and with a little luck, perhaps a few other thumping big game calibers join the fray. Could we see a Ruger-Marlin shotgun return as well?
Marlin’s Levermatic rimfire rifles are underrated, period. They really must be worked to be appreciated. The lever’s throw is so short that the shooter can actually keep their hand on the stock while running the action. The Levermatic name is in fact not these rifles’ model perse, bur rather, an umbrella term for these fast-cycling rimfires.
Two main models comprise the family: 56 and 57, with chamberings in both .22 LR and .22 WMR. These rifles were well built, with above-average Walnut stocks, blued metalwork, and fed by a steel magazine.
Astute readers will realize there is one Levermatic missing from our piece. It was, in fact, not a rimfire at all. Marlin built the Levermatic 62, a centerfire version of the rifle, which saw an incredibly short run in chamberings like .30 Carbine, .22 Remington Jet, and .357 Magnum. Which would we like to see return to form during Ruger’s new tenure? If your answer is “all the above,” we can be lifelong friends.
No wish list is complete without at least one obscure request. By now, our love for big bores should be clear. Thus, the .375 Winchester chambered lever-action Marlin Model 375 simply must make the list. The design could best be described as a modified big-bore 1894 lever action. Yes, the caliber is rather uncommon these days, but its performance is underrated and now is the ideal time for a comeback.
Many firearms chambered for .375 Winchester are also capable of firing the throwback .38-55 Winchester round, the latter round having made of a resurgence on Henry Repeating Arms platforms. Marlin’s Model 375’s side ejection made it easy to mount a scope, something not as friendly on the Winchester “big bore 94” chambered for that same caliber. A 20-inch barrel made the rifle wieldy in the field. With a magazine tube holding five rounds, it was ample firepower for big and dangerous game.