For just three years in the 1960s, Marlin produced nine of their models in special variants for sales in Canada. Ranging from rimfire guns to full size 336's, these Royal Canadian guns are extremely collectable.
What was the program?
The Marlin Firearms Company had long been one of the most popular makers of rifles and shotguns in North America. Based in Connecticut, they often had sales over both the far away Southern border with Mexico and the closer Northern border with Canada. Seeing a chance at making a larger sales base in the lands to the Great North, Marlin came up with the idea of a special series of guns just for Canada. These guns, still wholly made in Connecticut, would be marked with that almost holy Canadian of symbols-- the maple leaf and the words 'Royal Canadian' to appeal to crown citizens of that country.
In 1961-1963, nine Marlin models were selected to be offered for the Canadian Program. These consisted of the centerfire 336-lever action rifles in three versions, and six different rimfire guns.
Centerfire RC guns
The lever action Model 336 at the time was perhaps the most advanced lever action rifle on the market. Introduced in 1948, the side-ejecting carbine had a six-shot under barrel tubular magazine. Just 664 Model 336s were made for the Canadian promotion with the RC/Maple Leaf roll mark. These were in three subvariants with the bulk (almost 400) being either 336T or 336C guns (marked RC) in .30-30 Winchester.
(The 336RC are 2nd model lever action guns that differ from the earlier Texan series by having a pistol gripped stock and smooth wood)
The balance were .35 Remington 336C's. These RC marked guns were all '2nd Model' lever guns with a Monte Carlo stock and raised comb and cheek piece rather than the old style pre-1957 smooth stock. Further, to add a little extra to these guns, Marlin shipped them with dovetail front sights instead of the standard ramp type. These guns were typically shipped with smooth (unchecked) stocks that instantly set them apart on a gun show table.
Rimfire RC guns
Of the half-dozen 22 caliber Marlin models made for the Canadian promo, most were bolt action Model 980 or semi-auto magazine fed Model 989's. About 700 of each of these were produced. Smaller numbers of Model 56, 57, 99C, and 57M guns were made, typically about 200 of each. Brophy mentions the Model 35 as being made for the same series, but we can't find any in the extensive Marlin collections across the country so we can't be sure that these even exist. (Therefore, if you have a picture of one, please send it!)
In all just 2400 rimfire, guns left Connecticut with the "Royal Canadian" roll stamp across the barrel with a maple leaf.
What happened to the program?
The Canadian government didn't like the concept of a bunch of US made guns being imported into the country with the term "Royal Canadian" and the maple leaf associated with them. This symbol, after all, is on the Canadian national flag. They refused Marlin a trademark on the term, which they felt if granted would have falsely portrayed these guns as being endorsed by the Queen, or the government, or the RCMP, or the Canadian military, or all of the above.
With this giant maple-leaf shaped hole in Marlin's scheme, the project's growth was stunted. While many of these guns were allowed into Canada, most never left the US and were sold at a discount here in the states.
Today these 'Maple Leaf Marlins' are a sought after piece for collectors, with just over 3000 total 'RC' guns having been made in the 1960s. This often adds a $50-$200 premium on these guns over and above the same models in the same condition that don't have the marking on them.
That is an expensive leaf no matter what side of the border you are on.