R.I.P., Marlin Pistol-Caliber Carbines

How should you feel when one of your favorite guns, an American classic that had served cowboys, lawmen, deer hunters and recreational shooters for over a century, simply vanishes from store shelves? It happened before: we lost a classic .22 pistol when High Standard vanished, and a little piece of us died when Winchester imploded and the Model 1894 moved to Japan to be ‘resurrected’ as high-priced custom gun. Now, sadly, it has happened again…

With barely a whimper, Marlin’s entire line of pistol-caliber lever-action rifles and carbines has vanished from the shelves of online and brick-and-mortar gun shops.  The occasional used rifle can still be found on Gunbroker, but 30 minutes of diligent online searching won’t find you a single new .357, .44 or .45 Marlin in stock anywhere.

Am I surprised by this?  No, not remotely; this epic failure was as predictable as a cold January.  When Marlin was consumed by The Freedom Group and closed its storied Connecticut factory, all sorts of disasters predictably ensued.  After laying off their workforce of experienced New England gunsmiths and craftsmen, Marlin quality plummeted and sub-quality firearms were shipped out the door en masse.

Farago and I were subjected to two shoddily-assembled guns, each of which took months to set in proper working order.  Quality, obviously, was not Job One.  And neither was safety: OSHA just levied $170,000 in fines against the new TFG factory in Ilion, NY.

Our 1894C’s might have been clunkers, but we should probably count ourselves lucky because we’re almost the last two guys to get pistol-caliber Marlins at all.  In August (after some fishy-sounding half-denials) Marlin announced that they were ‘suspending production in order to maximize production.’ This is a tremendous shame, because in addition to their inherent and extreme coolness, there are all kinds of cool, crazy shit you can do to a pistol-caliber lever-action.  AAC makes a suppressor for them, and Crimson Trace has worked like Hercules to fabricate a fore-end mounted laser for Farago’s 1894, and you bet your ass I’ll beg them for one if they go to production.

I hope for their sakes that they can also make these goodies compatible with other lever-action designs like the Rossi and Henry, because Marlin’s 1894 series is currently pushing up daisies on Boot Hill.

While Marlin self-destructs slumbers, Henry and Rossi are sucking all the demand from this red-hot market and selling their pistol-caliber lever guns as fast as they can make them.  Even Mossberg has muscled in on the (lever) action, selling its own .30-30 that undercuts the Marlin 336 at nearly every price point and configuration.

Marlin has literally destroyed its pistol-caliber carbine brand in order to save it…from Marlin.  If the bean-counters at The Freedom Group ever resume manufacture (which looks increasingly doubtful) they’ll probably find, like Rip Van Winkle, that they’ve slept far too long.

Farewell, old cowboy.  I’m glad I got to know you before it was too late.