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05/03/2020

Audio Prologue:

The Marlin 1895 Dark reminds me of my once favorite heavy hitter, a Mauser bolt action with a hog’s back full stock, a 20.5″ Douglas barrel and chambered for the 375 Ruger. It was a world class ass kicker on both ends that never left me under gunned in any circumstance. Both rifles are stubby. Both are fast handling. Both have a lot of personality. Both have a lot of potential, but the bolt action is long gone and the Marlin still remains. I think I need to thank Paul Simon for that last sentence.

So what can A person do with a Model 1895 Dark 45-70?

You could go to a target range and get a workout with standard pressure ammo, but that brings the term “underutilized” to mind. The Model 1895 Dark, like the Trapper and Guide Gun versions, belong in the hands of a woodland hunter. The same loads with expanding bullets would be terrific for hunting deer, black bear and hogs, even out to a couple of hundred yards. Step up to high pressure ammo, and moose and elk capability can be added. Keep the high pressure and add heavy weight, tough jacketed bullets and big and dangerous game are covered.

Marlin Model 1895 Dark Series

Origin Ilion, NY
Manufacturer Remington
Order# 70455
Type Lever Action
Caliber 45-70 Government
Magazine Capacity 5
Barrel 16.25″ – 11/16″x24 Threads
Rifling 1:20″ Ballard
Nominal Weight 7.65 lbs
Overall Length 34.5″
Stock Black Spiderweb – Hardwood
Hardware Parkerized
Length of Pull 13.25″
Drop at comb 1.25″
Drop at heel 2.00″
Sights Ghost Ring
Optical Sight Mount
XS Rail
Trigger Pull 4 lbs. 12 oz.
Safety Cross Bolt Safety
MSRP $949

In overview, Marlin has given the Model 1895 a bit more utility… maybe more flexibility than the more traditional walnut stock models. Yes, some of the Dark Series differences seem only aesthetic altering but, in the main, they are also material enhancements.

As an example, in place of a walnut stock is a black, painted hardwood stock with raised black  spider webbing. Black is a popular firearm color these days, but the black webbing also makes for an all over terrific non-slip surface.

The XS Lever Rail ghost ring sight system is a good set up. The standard Marlin semi buckhorn rear sight is surrendered, but the rail can accommodate a ghost peep sight, red dot or scope. With quick detach mounts, it takes only seconds to change from one to the other and scope and red dot zero is retained when reinstalled.

The Parkerized metal finish is durable, it holds up well against wear and tear, it holds oil for rust prevention, and it is non-reflective. Perhaps not as pretty as a satin or gloss black oxide finish but, in my mind at least, it has a better look than Cerakote, a finish that is seeing too much use on new, premium model firearms

The hardwood stock looks good and the spiderweb finish makes for a non-slip surface anywhere the stock is grabbed. Very nice for cold and wet weather. It would also be easy to touch up, so post hunting season walnut stock touch up or cleaning up crushed checkering is not necessary.

The Paracord lever wrap and sling included with the Marlin Dark are definitely… black. The sling is actually quite comfortable on the back and shoulder. The wrapped lever is probably more for people who find fancy ways to tie their shoes so life won’t be so boring.

The rifle has a bit of heft for a short barrel carbine. In the case of the 45-70, particularly performance loads, a little extra weight is welcome. In any event, the rifle is neutral balanced, which is saying something for a rifle with such a short barrel. The silencer, like the scope, are really useful accessories while getting in some proficiency shooting, or during handload development where lots of rounds are fired. For dense brush and dense tree growth, I’d be temped to leave both at home and go with the most compact configuration and ghost sight.

The muzzle threads are very welcome; short barrel, big bore, lots of recoil… all just waiting for a good silencer. Maybe it’s just my age showing, but waiting for my hearing to return after a range session, or after taking shots while hunting, just isn’t as much fun as it once was. In this case, a SilencerCo Hybrid 46 ate all of the excess sound and recoil effectively.

The 45-70 as a mild obsession

In retrospect, I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of my life playing with various combinations of rifles and 45-70 cartridges, both smokeless and acrid black powder versions… trapdoor, falling block, bolt action, break action, and lever action… some standard pressure, some modern high pressure and some “Whoa!” pressure levels. How could anyone not enjoy these firearms?

Most of my shooting is done with jacketed and cast bullet handloads but, over the years, I have accumulated a good amount of factory ammunition, which provides a good baseline when comparing one firearm to another. In this case the test ammo selected was left to right above, top to bottom on table below…

Cartridge Bullet
Type
Bullet
Weight
Grains
Rated
FPS 24″
Barrel
Recorded FPS 22″ Barrel
Recorded FPS 18.5″ Barrel
Recorded FPS 16.25″ Barrel
Winchester  Super X JHP 300 1880 1693
1648
1533
Winchester Supreme FNSP 300 1880 1712
1652
1578
HSM A-Frame FNSP 350 2050 2183
2108
2138
Buffalo Bore Magnum FNJ 350 2150 2205
2146
2121
Remington Core-Lokt SP 405 1330 1051
1154
991
Buffalo Bore Magnum LFN 430 1925 1999
1862
1831
Garrett Hammerhead LFN 540 1550 1547
1532
1483

Other than the Remington 405 grain original load equivalent, which is more than enough for woodland deer hunting and fun for a day at the range, performance certainly did not fall off proportional to a missing 5 3/4″ of barrel. High performance loads were minimally effected.

All of the readings recorded tell the story of what happens when you lop 5 3/4″ off of a barrel, but most people who want to shoot 300+ yards tend to buy a longer barrel version of a firearm. Marlin 1895s are available with 22″ (above top), 18.5″ (above lower) and 16.25″ versions. Living in a place like Maine, at least in my part of Maine, the 16.25″ version surrenders no useful velocity amidst dense brush and tree growth. Locally, long range varmint shooting, outside of a farmer’s field, is about 25 yards. Yes, that is an exaggeration, but I am trying to make a point here and I can’t find my copy of Hacker.

In more objective terms

Three shot groups were shot from a cast iron front rest and a bunny bag aft. I think it is outstanding accuracy for a short barrel lever gun. I will take ownership for all, but especially the Hammerhead loads. They came at the end of a long bench shooting day and I can’t say my concentration and shoulder comfort was all it could be.

Winchester Super X 22″
Near-Zero – yds. 15 Mid Range – yds. 81
Far-Zero – yds. 143 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 152
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 1693 1595 1504 1418 1337 1265 1201
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1909 1695 1506 1338 1191 1066 960
Momentum – lbs-sec 73 68 64 61 57 54 51
Path – in. -1.50 2.31 2.70 -0.76 -8.54 -21.19 -39.26
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.09 0.19 0.29 0.40 0.52 0.64
Winchester Super X 16.25
Near-Zero – yds. 14 Mid Range – yds. 73
Far-Zero – yds. 130 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 139
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 1533 1445 1363 1288 1221 1162 1111
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1565 1391 1237 1104 993 899 822
Momentum – lbs-sec 66 62 58 55 52 50 48
Path – in. -1.50 2.50 2.35 -2.50 -12.58 -28.49 -50.84
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.10 0.21 0.32 0.44 0.57 0.70

The standard pressure ammunition showed the greatest velocity differential, which is counter intuitive…. but then so is the fact my pretty wife has managed to remain married to me for over 50 years. I live for surprises and data collected from test equipment. Group size 1″ @ 100 yards.

HSM – 22″
Near-Zero – yds. 19 Mid Range – yds. 96
Far-Zero – yds. 165 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 175
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2183 1958 1747 1553 1383 1238 1125
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3703 2978 2371 1875 1485 1191 983
Momentum – lbs-sec 109 98 87 78 69 62 56
Path – in. -1.50 1.87 2.96 1.20 -4.19 -14.14 -29.76
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.15 0.24 0.35 0.46 0.59
HSM – 16.25″
Near-Zero – yds. 18 Mid Range – yds. 94
Far-Zero – yds. 162 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 172
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 2138 1915 1707 1518 1352 1214 1107
Energy – ft.-lbs. 3552 2851 2265 1791 1420 1144 952
Momentum – lbs-sec 107 96 85 76 68 61 55
Path – in. -1.50 1.91 2.95 0.99 -4.75 -15.27 -31.68
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.07 0.16 0.25 0.36 0.47 0.60

This seemed to be the best all around load, along with the Buffalo Bore 350 grain, but I think the Swift A-Frame holds and edge. The difference in velocity between the 22″ and 16.25″ is so minor is has no significance in practical applications. Group size 3/4″ @100 yards.

Garrett Hammerhead* – 22″
Near-Zero – yds. 14 Mid Range – yds. 73
Far-Zero – yds. 130 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 138
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 1547 1443 1347 1262 1187 1124 1071
Energy – ft.-lbs. 2869 2497 2175 1908 1689 1515 1376
Momentum – lbs-sec 119 111 104 97 92 87 83
Path – in. -1.50 2.50 2.32 -2.66 -13.09 -29.69 -53.16
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.10 0.21 0.32 0.45 0.58 0.71
Garrett Hammerhead* – 16.25″
Near-Zero – yds. 13 Mid Range – yds. 70
Far-Zero – yds. 125 Max Ordinate – in. +3.0
Point Blank – yds. 133
Best Zero : Range 0 – 300 yards
Yards 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity – fps 1483 1384 1294 1215 1147 1091 1044
Energy – ft.-lbs. 2637 2296 2007 1770 1578 1427 1307
Momentum – lbs-sec 114 107 100 94 89 84 81
Path – in. -1.50 2.57 2.10 -3.57 -15.12 -33.28 -58.73
Drift – in. 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Time Of Flight – sec. 0.00 0.10 0.22 0.34 0.46 0.60 0.74

Took a little research to ID the bullet and the BC, 0.289, but it was listed in Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook 4th Edition – See 460 Weatherby bullet Data. Heavy bullet, incredible penetration, point blank with +3″ ordinate to 133 yards and a manageable -15″ out to 200 yards with lots of corresponding retained energy. Group size 1 1/2″ @ 100 yards.

What now, Joe?

We’ll, I don’t know about you, but I am headed for lunch. I’ve run out of Zero Sugar Sparkling Ice, John Prine music and I still have forty minutes of walking to get in before the sun sets. So let’s summarize…

How in the world could anyone not like a little gun with a big bark and this much power? The quality is very good, the performance is very good and it is backed by a serious warranty. It is a hunters rifle. It is a nifty to own rifle. It is a day at the range rifle.

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