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The Marlington Model 1895 Guide Gun
Marlin's identity crisis...
©RGI Media, Inc - Published with permission

So why should we be thankful that Stephen Feinberg... Cerberus... Freedom Group... Remington bought Marlin? Because Marlin, like most of the other acquired companies, had nowhere to go and the company had been languishing for years for want of a valid direction. I would put the date of Marlin jumping the shark at about the time they introduced the 308 and 338 Marlin Express with great fanfare, in paraphrase, "Almost as powerful as a 308 Winchester and available in the ugliest, heaviest and poorest handling lever action rifles seen in modern times". Marlin was having labor problems, North Haven, CT was using the company as a tax piñata and their marketing department couldn't figure out how to make a case for lever action rifles. Instead they were busy trying to penetrate a highly competitive low end bolt action centerfire rifle market and a low end rimfire market, pretty much broadcasting to the public that the company no longer saw value in its traditional centerfire lever action products.

Trying to please the Internet...

Some Internet forums are incubators for malcontents. No, I did not say that most forum participants are malcontents, I said forums are incubators for malcontents. In fact, some forums are built around the notion that traffic to sell advertising can be boosted by creating a large cesspool where the worst and most offensive malcontents can swim. A few days ago, in advance of covering the current Marlin Model 1895 Guide Gun, we polled visitors to our Facebook page regarding this product. Some people liked the gun and remained loyal to the brand and some took exception to new production issues. Some, clearly without first hand experience or understanding of the firearm's function, went at it in a shrill, angry manner that seemed to have little to do with the gun and everything to do with putting themselves on a public display.

We felt it was appropriate for us to take a look at a new Marlin 1985 45-70 Gov't because we wanted to see, first hand, the stage of transition Marlin was in and also because we needed such a rifle to serve as the basis for several accessory projects we have lined up. So without the rant and without the blind loyalty - the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun.

We know it's fast, but will the doors stay on?

Back in the old days of drag racing, when Dodge and Plymouth Stage III Wedge and Hemi Ram Chargers set the pace during the 60's Super Stock wars, the brand presented a dichotomy. Chances are, a car that bested a tough Ford or Chevy competitor on the track, would pull back into the pits where one of the car's windows would fall off its track, or a front wheel cylinder would leak or a short circuit on a dashboard PCB would set the car's exterior lights to permanent blink and fill the car with acrid smoke. A contrast between hyperactive performance engine and drive train engineering and the engineers and assembly operations associated with the daily driver components of the car.

Ammunition Brand

50 Yard
3 Shot
Winchester Partition 300 1652 1/2"
Buffalo Bore 350 2146 3/4"
Remington Express 405 1154 1/2"
Black Hills 405 1218 5/8"
Buffalo Bore 430 1862 5/8"

This Marlin, built by Remington in the Ilion, NY plant, is at least as accurate as Marlin production guns. The Marlin 45-70 Guide Gun is known for its accuracy and the Remington made gun continued that tradition. The ammo selected for the project covers the 45-70 Gov't performance spectrum from plinker to serious bear hunting. Bullet types were both jacketed and cast. None were handloads. The gun cycled without incident and it could be loaded, unlike my earlier Marlin, without losing half a thumb.

QC Department was out of town or working to unacceptable standards

Unfortunately, there is more than function to consider when it comes to pride of ownership associated with a firearm. Often, the ever escalating price tag on a gun is not related to ever better accuracy, but rather quality of materials and finish and how much finesse was put into the assembly of the gun. Based on this example, I would have to say this is where the Freedom Group is missing the mark with the most current Marlin production. With a life time of manufacturing experience behind me, I believe this is not the type of product the company would want to be shipping to customers.

That protruding edge is a full 1/16" above the tang, on both sides and on the underside. This is the equivalent of a semi-inletted stock. The new Remington finish looks OK, although checkering is a little fuzzy.

The tubular magazine fastener hole appears to have been made with a dull can opener. This is a tough economy and money, for many, is hard to come by. With a $680 MSRP, I'm not sure who would feel good about a purchase of this type of product.

I do like the new Remington type finish and coloring of the Marlin stock, it's just that reddish brown finish doesn't look all that attractive in the recoil pad ribbing.

This is the forend cap fastener, left, and that is bare metal where the screw head was munged and around the screw on the cap itself. The trigger was showing bright metal through the finish where the part was mishandled in assembly or storage. There were numerous mars and scratches across retaining pins and the surrounding area where a punch got away from an operator. The side screw for the trigger guard plate was found to be only finger tight.

Internal cast parts were rough, the action was very gritty on cycling and trigger pull was approximately seven pounds with lots of creep. The camming surface of the locking bolt was stepped and finished, apparently, with a belt sander. The carrier was a tumbled rough casting, no secondary step clean up to facilitate smoother feed.

Blue residue remained on the locking bolt and was brightly visible on the assembled gun. There were lots of bright tick marks and surface scuff that were clearly from careless assembly.

So where does that leave us...

Maybe Remington is working through Marlin's old inventory that came with the purchase of the company. I don't know that is the case, however, a check with Marlin customer service reported the serial number to be Remington Ilion, NY production. From purely an accuracy and reliability standpoint, the Model 1895 is as accurate as ever under Remington stewardship. From the standpoints of pride of ownership and traditional aesthetics, the new Marlin has a long way to go. Is this a terminal condition? Of course not. Just an irritating situation for Marlin customers. We'll pull another gun in a few weeks and see how things are shaping up.


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