Over the nearly two century long history of the company, Marlin has always made their own guns. In fact, for a good bit of the 20th Century, Marlin even made guns under different names for outfits like Montgomery Ward, C and C, and Western Auto, which were the precursors for the big box stores of today. These guns were given 'house' names when being sold at bargain basement prices, but deep down inside they are still Marlins.
Marlin Model 336 right? Well, its actually a Glenfield Model 30A. Funny story about that.
Why a house name?
Large department store chains had lots of buying power back in the day, even more so than now. While Marlin could never hope to put a catalog in every home, odds are every home already had one sitting on the coffee table from Sears, or Montgomery Ward. Back before the days of the internet, book catalog sales were perhaps the best way to make the consumer aware of a product and enable that sale.
The thing is, Marlin did have catalogs and salesmen of their own who traveled the country and stocked the local neighborhood hardware store and gun shop with their rifles, shotguns, and revolvers (yes, Marlin sold handguns for a time). It was hard for these little people to compete with the prices of the "Wish Book" catalog houses, so Marlin had to keep both their huge buyers happy, while preserving their market among the small independent sellers.
Is that a Marlin Model 336 in the middle of this 1973 JC Penny Catalog? No...that's a Foremost 3040, a very different gun. We promise (fingers crossed)
Then came the house brands.
While a really nice Marlin Model 336 would be labeled as such through Marlin's own catalog and handed out through their salesmen, Glenfield Model 30's and 36's would grace the shelves of K-Marts, Cotter and Company Model 33's would be on the racks of that chain, Montgomery Ward would stock their Western Field Model 740, Firestone (the tire people) sold it as the Model 10P64, Big Five sold the Otasco 30, Sears sold their Model 101.451 and JC Penny sold the Foremost Model 3040.
The Marlin branded version would have the best fit and finish, often with more embellishments, and the white 'bulls eye' inserts around the sling posts, but all of these were the same basic gun made at the same time in the same factory.
This meant that a customer at old Mr. Williams's gun shop on Main Street could buy his Marlin 336 off the shelf there and be assured that he had the highest in quality and value. If he asked, "Say, isn't this the same one the guy at Montgomery Ward is selling for $20 less?"
Then Mr. Williams could assure him that "No, this is a Marlin, that is a Western Field, I would never sell anyone a Western Field."
Meanwhile, across town at Montgomery Ward, the clerk could sell a customer a Western Field 740 and assure him, "It's the same thing as a Marlin Model 336, only $20 cheaper. Would you like to buy a box of shells and a sling with that extra money?"
Everyone was happy.
So how do you tell them apart?
Luckily, in most cases, Marlin still put their name somewhere on these guns, even if it is in smaller roll marks. Typically, you will see a Marlin name, but no logo, under that of the house brand.
Other occasions, there will be a house brand and the moniker "No Haven CT" or something similar. For those special occasions when not, we have a handy guide to go by.
We have a pretty complete list compiled here at the site with house brands from both big names like the above to more little known companies like Marky Bros, West Point, and Katz Drugs. Come on, when is the last time you shopped at a Katz Drug store that sold guns?
Still, they are all in the same family, and just like family, we love them all.
Even if they did cost $20 less and don't have a bulls eye.