For a brief time in the 1960s, Marlin recast its vintage cowboy action rifle line into something a little more responsive and, using state of the art chamberings, was on the cutting edge of lever gun technology. Sadly, it wasn't to last.
The Levermatic family
Marlin firearms engineering guru Tom Robinson was issued patent number 2,823,480 Feb 18, 1956 for the Levermatic receiver, a system that he developed several years before from the Kessler Arms Company's "Lever-Matic" shotgun. What was neat about the design was that it used a 25-degree stroke (as opposed to a 90-degree) stroke of the lever to cycle the action. This meant that just moving the lever downwards about two inches would open the breech, remove a spent shell casing from the barrel, and load a fresh round from the magazine. This pattern, a lever action that worked faster than a turn bolt and nearly as fast as a semi-auto, was dubbed the Levermatic by Marlin and soon the ads started flying.
It was first introduced in the Model 56 rifle and continued in production over the nearly two decades as both the 56 and the 57 (with a tubular magazine).
Besides the action, the guns all shared a solid top receiver with side ejection so that center to the bore top-mounted optics could be fitted. As such, each rifle shipped drilled and tapped for Lyman and other receiver sights as well as a Weaver Tip-Off Mount. One-piece Monte Carlo-style black walnut stocks, gold triggers, finger safeties, and Micro-Groove barrels (a concept that Robinson had also invented) came standard. The Micro-Groove used 16 shallow grooves instead of the standard 6 deep grooves seen in Ballard type rifling and was advertised as reducing bullet distortion with picking up an increase in accuracy.
The thing is these guns were all rimfire, being offered in .22S, .22L, .22LR, and .22WMR. What the gun needed to be really effective was a nice shooting centerfire chambering.
Enter the hard hitting...
Note the short throw of the Levermatic as seen on this Model 62 in .256 above.
Stepping up further from the 22, Magnum was the 1964-era Model 62. This box magazine fed lever gun was marketed in .22 Jet, .256-Magnum, and .357-Magnum with .30 Carbine being added later. With a 24-inch barrel in a slightly longer receiver body, the rifle came in at 43-inches overall and weighed a handy 7-pounds.
While the .357 is well known and needs no introduction, let us look at the other offerings.
- .22 Remington Jet was introduced in 1961 to feed the hyper-accurate Smith and Wesson Model 53, a K-frame long-barreled revolver based on their legacy K-22 target gun. This centerfire .22 round is similar to a chopped down .223 (which it predated somewhat) and mounted a 40-grain bullet on a 33mm case. Besides Smith's wheelgun, the Marlin Levermatic was one of the few factory offerings in this caliber and is very collectable due to its rarity.
(.256 and .357, image via Wiki)
- .256 Winchester Magnum is a necked-down bottlenecked .357 case that uses a 60-grain .257 bullet that packed on the velocity well past that of a high-powered rifle, creating a massive 1000~ ft./lbs. of energy. Like the Jet above, this round was first introduced in 1961 this was a brand new round that was only offered at the time in the Ruger Hawkeye single shot pistol, which made Marlin's use of this factory wildcat a rarity. As commercial production of this ammo stopped in 1990, hand loading is on the menu today should you luck into one of these rifles.
- .30 Carbine is a true intermediate round, much larger than just about any handgun round, while at the same time falling shorter than most rifle rounds. Metrically it is around 7.62x32mm, just shorter than the classic Russian 7.62x39mm used by the AK-47 and SKS carbines and as such usually fires a lighter bullet. Ballistically the round with 110-grain bullet will break 1900fps and generate 880 ft./lbs. of energy. Compare that to the vaunted .45ACP, which, even in its fastest loadings will generate around 600 ft./lbs. of energy and it is clear that the .30 carbine packs a heavy punch when compared to handgun rounds. When compared to tactical rifle rounds like the 7.62x39mm, which typically delivers around 1500-foot pounds of energy, the carbine is outclassed. However I'd like to think that the .30 carbine round is ok with that, as it's what it was designed for. Besides the .357 models, this may be the most popular chambering for the Model 62.
As such, the Levermatic, with its modern short-throw and .256 and .30 Carbine calibers, was a true update to Marlin's turn of the century 93/94 cowboy guns chambered in the legacy black powder 25-20 and 32-20 respectively.
In each, the Model 62 used a 4-shot detachable box magazine that was slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes, and mounted a 23-inch barrel in a pistol gripped walnut stock with black cap and plate.
Getting your own
The Model 62 entered factory production in 1963, with the only offering at first being the .256 and .22 Jet. After a few years, the .30 and .357 were added until the line was closed in 1969. In all just 15,714 were made in all chamberings with the first 4000 or so leaving the factory without a serial number.
(Images by Collectors Arms)
A few years ago these could be found quite easily for $350 - $450, but in more recent days that figure seems to have gone much higher, with auctions pushing double and even triple that amount.
Current blue books on these top out at $500, which seems to be an undervalue for the penultimate short-throw Marlin lever gun.
Regardless, if you have one keep it and if you find one at a good price, get it!