Forgotten perfection: The Marlin MR-7 bolt action rifle

  1. Editor
    Marlin over the years has stepped up to the plate and provided an enduring series of bolt-action rifles over the past several decades. These guns all had two things in common: first, they were largely excellent designs. Second: their production run ended too soon. Perhaps none of their historic offerings hits these two points harder than the MR-7.

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    Why the design?

    Known primarily for its semi-auto and lever-action rifles, Marlin has also dabbled in throw-bolt guns off and on as well. Back in the 1950s, the company imported a Belgian FN Mauser action that they used in their Model 455 chambered in .270, .308 Winchester, and, of course, 30.06 Springfield. The SAKO-actioned Model 322/422 in .222 Remington complemented this.

    Taking a several decade break from the centerfire bolt-gun market, the company tried to take another stab at the concept in 1995 with the MR-7, a wholly in-house design inspired in large part by what worked for other makers.

    Design

    In the early 90s, the big five bolt-action rifles on the market were the Winchester (USRA) Model 70, the Remington 700, the Ruger M77, the Savage 110, and the Browning A-Bolt. These guns all had several things in common and Marlin borrowed concepts from many while adding a few twists of their own.

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    Starting with a cut-checkered American Walnut stock, they added a forged and machined heat-treated Mauser style receiver with a Damascused bolt whose face was encircled in 4140 steel for a strong lock-up. A hinged and removable floor plate under a standard flush-fit 4-shot internal magazine fed rounds into the 22-inch 6-groove RH barrel with a recessed muzzle crown. Extra touches such as a 3-position safety and an adjustable 3-6 pound trigger package set the gun apart, especially when the MSRP was $599 when introduced in 1996.

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    Chambered in .270 Winchester and 30.06 Springfield, the gun was advertised as being able to produce 1.5-inch groups right out of the box at 100-yards.

    Soar like a stone

    Sadly, the gun just faced too much of a struggle against the already established competitors. With so many "other" bolt-action rifles out there, and Remington, Savage and Winchester at the time selling bargain big-box versions of their offerings at $399 complete with synthetic stocks and Chinese-made 4x optics, how could you expect Marlin to gain ground?

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    They came out in 1998 with a model, the MR-7B, that was about $125 cheaper by using a birch stock and other streamlining techniques and promised chamberings in .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, and .308 Win that never arrived. In 1999, the last year of production, a few .280 Rem variants did come off the lines, but it wasn't enough to gain traction. Before the millennium changed over, the MR-7 was no more.

    Getting your own

    Just because these guns were not commercially successful does not mean they are junk. Quite the contrary, they are, in the opinion of many, considered among the best bolt-action rifles made in the 1990s.

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    Today prices hover right around the MSRP that they came out with nearly two decades ago, which means by and large that they have maintained their value. Brownells and others carry parts for these guns and its recommended that you pick them up if possible as the factory they were made in was closed years ago.

    Marlin now makes the X7 series, introduced in 2008 after the company became part of Remington. It shares many of the features of the more classic MR-7.

    Still, should you find one of the older guns around, you should check it out and ask yourself if there is room in your gun rack to give a forgotten rifle a home?

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