You got target rifle in my small game gun! The tale of the Marlin 880SQ

  1. Editor
    For a brief period in time, Marlin made a handy .22LR bolt action rifle that with a 7-shot detachable box mag that made a great little field gun. At the same time, they made a tack-driving benchrest rifle with a heavy target barrel. Well, someone at some point had the brilliant crackle of imagination to brainstorm what happened if they put the better of each one together.

    The 880 series

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    An evolution of the company's Model 780 rifle, this 5.75-pound field, and tin can special used a very basic 22-inch Micro Groove barrel fitted to a plain walnut stock. Using the long-standard 7-shot single stack mag that is still seen today on the XT-22 series rifles, these guns were the centerpiece of Marlin's bolt-action rimfire offerings when they were introduced in 1989. These guns sold for a bargain $149 range and were carried in big boxes extensively.

    While accurate for what they were, they just weren't tack drivers. In 1994, an improved variant, the 880SS, made extensive use of stainless steel internal receiver parts to include the breech bolt, cartridge lifter and trigger package as well as a synthetic stock.

    The 2000 series

    Marlin firearms decided to punch out of their comfort level in the 1990s with a bolt-action single shot heavy target rifle. Designed to compete with entry-level Remington Model 40 and Anschutz target rifles, the new Marlin gun, the 2000 was unlike anything ever made by the company. Designed with a 22-inch heavy barrel with a recessed match-style crown and matched chamber, the rifle was embedded in a distinctive blue ISU standard stock of a fiberglass/Kevlar (Carbelite) combination with a high comb, stippled forearm, and pistol grip. The stock had an adjustable butt plate for length of pull. A hooded Lyman front sight with seven inserts and companion target peep rear sight came standard. When they were introduced in 1991, they MSRP'd for just under $400, about half as much as the competition. Long discontinued as a production rifle, these run anywhere from $225-$350 today-- if you can find them.

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    Accuracy of this series is superb. In a February 1996 Gun Tests article, they wrote the following, "The best the Marlin could do at 50 yards was 0.6-inch groups, which we shot with Eley Tenex. Three other ammo lots, CCI Green Tag Competition, Dynamit Nobel's RWS R50, and Lapua Dominator, averaged 0.7-inch groups. The 2000 didn't like Federal's Gold Medal Match rimfire ammo, shooting 0.9-inch groups."

    If a 0.9-inch group at half a football field is the worst it could do, that's not bad.

    With that being said, let's bring on the...

    880SQ

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    In 1996 Marlin came upon the brilliant idea to walk over some beautiful blued 22-inch heavy barrels complete with crowned muzzles from the 2000 line over to the 880SS line and see what kind of magic could be made.

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    These guns were married to the same black molded stock that was standard on the SS and overall weight of the model tipped to just over 7-pounds. This gave the user a heavy barreled squirrel gun that was capable of those precise long distance shots while still being light and durable enough for field use and an MSRP of $329.

    But does it shoot?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj-Xns2V2mY
    Doug B. tries to hit a grape off a box at 30 yards...then pushes the envelope.

    Getting your own

    The bad news is that Marlin long ago killed off its heavy barrel match line, which did away with not only the 880SQ but also the 2000 series as a whole around 2003. About their closest current offering is the XT-22MVSR with a 22" stainless steel heavy varmint barrel with Micro-Groove rifling (20 grooves) and recessed muzzle-- but it is a .22 mag. The XT22VR is a comparable .22LR variant with a 16-groove barrel. However neither of these have a match chamber like the old 880SQ did.

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    (Mmmmmm, that crown)

    This leaves the small (and getting smaller) pool of SQs out there a steady and safe bet to retain their value. Pedersen and Fjestad call it anywhere from $245-$285 but good luck as we see them in online auctions reaching out closer to $350.

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    (Look for the roll marks if you are unsure)

    If you get one, get in touch with your spare parts as Remington liquidated the stocks of them a few years ago. Numrich carries barrels from time to time for $60 and Brownells covers most of the smaller parts.

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    (These guns dress out nicely with aftermarket custom wood stocks)

    If the going gets tough, remember most of the internals for the regular 15Y, 25N, 880, 980, and XT22R-series & Y-series guns will work in a pinch. Of course, always consult a knowledgeable gunsmith before shooting any used or repaired gun.

    And while you are at it, email Marlin and ask for the XT-22 with a match heavy barrel. Suggest they call it the XT-22SQ.

    Just saying.

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