Marlin has been in the gun biz for going on 150-years. Founded just after the Civil War by John Mahlon Marlin, they have produced more than a hundred models of firearms in almost every caliber imaginable. Here we look at five of their timeless classics. These guns were all extremely popular standard production models that helped make the brand a household name.
Lewis Hepburn was Marlin's preeminent firearms designer in the 19th century. He invented a long line of lever action guns that included the M1888, 1889, and others that introduced innovative takedown actions, magazines, and trigger groups. In 1896, he produced his masterpiece, the M1895 rifle. It was the first lever action rifle that used a solid top receiver, side ejection, and Ballard barrels. Produced in standard and take down models (which could be disassembled for transport) these guns were built in hard-hitting .38-56, .40-65, .40-82, 45.-70, and .45-90. As such, they were capable of taking down anything from deer to moose to buffalo and everything in between. Not bad for an 8-pound rifle. Some 400,000 of these guns were built until 1917. After taking a break from the design for fifty years (not a lot of buffalo around these days) Marlin brought the gun back in a greatly redesigned (based on the Model 444 action) as the New Model 1895 in 1972, which is today still in production in in a four-shot .45-70.
The people's choice for going on 70 years, the Model 336 brought 19th century lever-action goodness to the 1940s. These guns, most commonly found in .30-.30 Win, have hung from many an ATV and truck gun rack, bringing down legions of whitetails over the decades. With a six-shot tubular magazine, side ejection to mount a scope, microgroove barrels and walnut stocks, these feature rich brush guns were made in more than 20 variants that included the .356-caliber Extra Range, the 336CC in Mossy Oak camo, and the Marauder that came with a 16.25-inch barrel in .35 Remington. Ranging in prices starting in the low $200s for used (but still usable!) guns, they are still in production.
In the 1960s, with the popularity of Old West TV shows on the boob tube (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Have Gun Will Travel were all top rated programs), Marlin brought out a lever-action gun that people could afford to 'plink' with at the range. Marketed starting in 1969, the Model 1894 was a handgun-caliber carbine that still could put meat on the table while being cheaper and easier to handle than a larger .30-.30 or .45-70 Marlin Lever. These guns have been in steady production since then in .38/.357, .41 Magnum/Special, .45 Long Colt, and .44 Magnum/Special.
In 1966 under their Glenfield line, Marlin introduced their Model 60 rifle. This handy little 5-pound semi-auto could fire 14-shots of 22LR (more if using longs or shorts) as fast as you could pull the trigger. Set up with a tubular magazine that allowed youngsters to learn to shoot from the prone position, this feed system also made the M60 a well-loved squirrel and small game getter. Still in production today, well over 11 million have been made. New or used, they have been in mass circulation for generations and will most likely continue to be.
A relative youngster to the Marlin tribe, this 22LR bolt-action rifle with its 7-shot box magazine is a mini-sniper rifle for groundchuck whisperers and varmint hunters. Added to the company's line up in 1982 it has been made in dozens of versions, which morphed into the 880, 915, and finally the XT22 models of today. Don't let its 30-year old birthdate fool you, as it's a descendant of the 1930s era Model 80/81 that was in production for some 40-years itself. They are all recognized by their smooth and steady short-throw bolt action and domino-sized detachable box magazine.
While these five guns are not the only ones Marlin ever made, they are by far some of the best.