Marlin (courtesy cascity.com)

Suffer the poor Marlinistas. After The Freedom Group destroyed the storied brand’s quality control, unleashing rifles so poorly made Grizzly Custom Guns charges a premium to breathe on them, Marlin’s decided that it’s “trapped in an image that no longer reflects its true user.” That’s the post focus group summary provided by the NSSF’s SHOT Business magazine article Riding Off Into the Sunset. “With the cowboy image, there’s a romanticized view of the American West, and Marlin has clung to it for a long time,” admits Marlin Product Manager Eric Lundgren. “But when we really looked at it, we saw that most of the people using these rifles lived east of the Mississippi River. They’re regular guys, not cowboys–guys who wear camo when they hunt.” And so . . .

The insight led to a momentous decision to create advertising that would identify with the actual user. “As a result, consumers and retailers will see a new line of advertising that looked edgier and is designed to educate and promote the tangible benefits of lever-action in a contemporary, relatable manner.”

To paraphrase Clint Eastwood, a brand’s gotta know its limitations. Not to mention the simple fact that great branding starts with a great product. And goes nowhere without one. Oh, and one more thing . . .

Marlin’s set to introduce its $1350 1895 Limited Edition .45-70 Govt. model, the second gun in a multi-year series. Both sides of the LE’s receiver receive scrollwork. There’s an elk in 24-carat gold on the left side and, wait for it, the classic Marlin horse and rider on the right, along with other bits of ballistic bling.

I guess TFG’s marketing mavens forgot to send “the Marlin cowboy must die” memo to the rifle makers. Available on both sides of the Mississippi, FWIW.

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49 Responses to Marlin Ditches Cowboy Branding. Or Do They?

    • I couldn’t agree more. Marlin, Bushmaster, Remington. But Marlin hurts the most. I grew up just a few miles from their North Haven, CT factory on Kenna Road. It seemed like everyone knew someone who worked there. Their guns were economical, but reliable.

      I still have a mid 80s Papoose I bought about 15 years ago to carry in the back of my airplane. The barrel is threaded for a silencer now, but other than that its like new. In fact, i sent it to Marlin to be gone through just a couple of months before they shut the place down. I actually dropped off and picked up the rifle at the factory.

      Don

    • I keep hoping I will hit the top prize in the lottery so that I can buy TFG and turn the companies around.

  1. Well TTAG can review the $1350 marlin rifle (I’m sure not going to). Also, don’t forget to do a stock check and make sure it doesn’t break off in your hand.

  2. $1350 for a marlin? I would rather have a henry big boy for $400 less. Every time I go rabbit hunting with my model 60 I thank God I bought it the year before Freedom Poop, err I mean Group.

  3. Im so sorry I sold off my older Marlin 38/357 and 30/30 338s.
    Ive wanted to replace them but don’t want to spend Remington dollars till they leave NY altogether, forever.
    Marlins quality now, we all know that story.
    Seems to me next rifle might well be a Rossi.

    • I love my .45 Colt Rossi. I’ve been eye-ballin’ a stainless with grey furniture Marlin in .45-70 at the gun shows but haven’t had the scratch to buy it. Hearing what I’m hearing about QC issues, I may continue to admire it from afar.

  4. make a good product.

    it’s a shame that they’re not focusing on the cowboy shooters. i’d love one of the 1894’s but with the quality i’m not touching one.

  5. No matter how much gold and engraving you put on a rifle it still has to shoot 99% of the time the trigger is pulled.

    No one’s gonna buy a 1200-1400 dollar rifle that has a poor reputation for reliability.

  6. I have an old 336C I bought new in ’79. It has always been a great gun. This summer I bought the L.E. 336C (30-30). It is a well made, attractive, shooting machine. I put a 2×8 Nikon Monarch 3 on it and couldn’t be happier.

    Haters gotta hate.

  7. But aren’t some of the folks east of the Mississippi buying Marlins because they want to get in touch with their inner cowboy? That’s why I bought mine, and I live on the east coast…

  8. So that’s why the 1894C’s are out of stock everywhere up here. Oh well, time to buy that Rossi Mare’s leg and put a standard 1892 stock on it.

    Oh boy, I can’t wait for mossy oak plastic fantastic leverguns everywhere.

    • “Oh well, time to buy that Rossi Mare’s leg and put a standard 1892 stock on it.”

      Can y’all do that in the Great White North? That would be an SBR here, right?

      • Yeah, in Canada the Mare’s Leg is considered a rifle and non-restricted, so adding a full length stock is okay. No registering it, and no tax stamp. I guess they have to throw us a bone somewhere- either that, or they’re waiting for a Liberal or Lib/NDP coalition to get us again.

        Speaking of leverguns, I was looking at the Spencer carbine a while back, and it made me wish that it received more development. I think I prefer the magazine in the stock for loading and unloading. Too bad it doesn’t self-cock when you work that lever.

  9. Goofy idea. With the spotty QC, the iconic cowboy was the only thing Marlin had going for it. No longer content to ruin tangible assets, Freedom Group is now determined to spoil intangibles as well.

  10. I’ve never liked engraving on guns. Its almost always over done or cheesy. I’m a less is more guy. A little detail here or there, nice. Engraving the sides of the receiver? Pass.

    I love my M39A, but I’d really like to luck into a pre safety Mountie or a ’97 with a decent bore. My old 30-30 isn’t snazzy, but gets it done.

    • “I’ve never liked engraving on guns. Its almost always over done or cheesy. I’m a less is more guy. A little detail here or there, nice. Engraving the sides of the receiver? Pass.”

      I totally agree.

    • It depends – I agree that it’s often overdone, but I’ve seen some really tasteful, yet intricate and ornate engravings. Beretta tends to be really good about that sort of thing, except they cost $10,000.

    • Wallace Gusler are the only two words i can say to inspire you about engraving. He hand made flint lock rifles, and they are Art. not some over dressed dandy with Gold plating, just art.

  11. Hey, I have a great idea for Marlin’s rebranding!

    Instead of Marlin’s cowboy, how about a new, soon-to-be-iconic Hedge Fund Manager in a Brioni Suit. It’s perfect! Because the Hedge Fund Manager in a Brioni Suit and Marlin have something in common — neither of them actually works.

  12. All boys have a little cowboy fantasy in them. They grow up to be men that will spend money to stay in touch with their childhood fantasies.

  13. Strange coincidence or not, I got a Marlin 336 in .35 Remington today…

    My mom called this morning and told me my dad told me to come put a new battery in his car ASAP. So off I ride to change a battery, no big job to be sure. I finish that up, mom makes me a tasty sandwich, and dad tells me to come look at this:

    Apparently brand new 336.

    If its been fired I can’t tell, looks brand spanking shiny new. Tells me it was Grandpa Jack’s deer rifle and I can have it. It’s been sitting in a closet sine at least 1972 when Grandpa punched out. I was speechless.

    Since he waited until deer season is OVER! I’ll have plenty f time to find some ammo for it. Can’t wait to take it to the range. Beautiful rifle. It’s been a great day!

    • There’s nothing like an old Marlin. They were great guns. But you’ll have to shop around for .35 Rem, and learning to reload will save you some time and grief.

      • I already reload everything it makes economic sense to that I shoot. Looks like I’ll be paying 1.50 a round or more for .35 brass. Steep. Hard to find. OK then.

        Hate to buy online but none of my shops around here have it, I went to all of them already (did I already write I can’t wait to take it to the range??).

        Still learning about the rifle….apparently built in 1967 according to wikipedia and the the serial number, old style rounded lever, half cocked safety. Lovely dark walnut stock, not a scratch on it anywhere except slight wear on the magazine door, a beauty.

        I also cleaned all my dad’s guns for him while I was there. He can’t shoot (for fun) any more but he likes to keep them working. I wonder what else he’s been saving, he tends to pull out these types of things from time to time. He’s a cool old man. I’ll bring him a deer.

        I’ll change batteries all day for nothing you know but hey what do I get for pumping the septic tank??…….

  14. There’s nothin’ like putting away all the modern fancy toys once in a while, and just shooting steel with an old golden 39A. Clears your head, gets you back down to basics and just pure enjoyment.

  15. Customers to focus group: “Your product sucks and we don’t want to buy it anymore.”
    MBAs to CEO based on focus group feedback: “We need a new branding campaign and we’ve found just the consulting company to help us.”

  16. That’s unfortunate that they’re axing the cowboy logo…Thanks Freedom Group.

    My 336 Marlin is a post FG rifle and comparing it to Dad’s (pre FG), I really can’t tell a difference in quality. Maybe I just happened to get a good one. Either way, I love thing, it always goes bang and has lines that are just beyond classic. Doesn’t hurt that it feels right against the shoulder, either. Ahh…I think I may have to take it out when the weather breaks.

  17. I guess those dipsticks haven’t seen all the replicas on the market from Henry, and FN under the Winchester label.

  18. Wow I live east of the Mississippi and maybe want to get into cowboy action shooting. And I’ve been watching all these old cowboy shows from when I was a kid lately. Like Rifleman,Wanted:Dead or Alive and Cheyenne(among a bunch). Combat too for the cool WW2 weapons…I also had a Fort Apache play set as a kid. Talk about disrespecting OFWG. Oh well-guess I could put a Rossi 92 in 38/357 on layaway(with my budget).

  19. I have an old Marlin 1894CB Limited with the 24 inch 357/38 octagon bbl built in 99 that I love. It will run fast and with the front sight pushed out that far, it is easy to hit targets at the ranges I need. I need another lever gun for my daughter to compete with, but with Marlin Quality gone for good or until someone else buys the company I will be buying one of the Winchester ’73s that they are having made in their Japanese plant. At least it will have the Winchester name and a good bit better metallurgy than the Italian clones. Things seldom go well when a large corporation gets hold of a specialty manufacturer – they don’t under stand the market, they don’t understand the customer, and they don’t have a clue just how important quality is.

  20. I’m offended by the suggestion that normal guys don’t wear camo when they hunt. I think Marlin is a bit out of touch.

  21. Can some of you leveristas please comment on why buying a Rossi clone is a bad idea? I’m not seeing many comments in favor here.

  22. Focus group? Really?

    No cowboys east of the Mississippi? Really?

    If they will make the same guns they made 40 years ago and sell them for $400-600, they’ll be fine.

  23. Hello…Im an old timer recently retired from the Los Angeles City Fire Dept here in Calif. Im 62 years old and just happen to be looking at Pawn Stars with a customert brought in an 1894 Marlin Lever Action with very nice engraving.Hes asking 41k and got 21 K. Not a bad a bad day when you can walk out of pawn shop with TWENTY ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS for a rifle where most of the contributors of this site are talking trash about Marlin products. I purchased a 444 SS Marlin few years back and love it. Its reported to be the only lever action rifle used in the Viet-Nam War by Gerry Michael Shriver a lone wolf with a beautiful German Shepard named KLAUS . Read his experiences in the jungles of Viet-Nam.. You wont find much but what you do will make you think of what our Veterans went through when they had the bowling balls to do what he did. Curious ? Check him out and let me know what you think about this man. I graduated from high school in 1971 and did not go to the jungles of Viet Nam but did go to the Vietnam Memorial in Washingto D.C. and scrached his name from the WALL in D.C.I plan to have an engraver in Eagle Rock , Calif by the name of Guy to recognize Gerry’s exploits by engraving his name to his Honor on that 444 SS I have recently purchased two of only 1500 45-70 Govt Liimited Edition rifles in Oxnard ,Calif. at TURNERS made by Marlin. I really dont think Marlin went through this much trouble to put out an inferior product..Buy AMERICAN..

  24. I have several Marlins that were bought before the big change. One is no longer made it is a Marlin 1894 Cowboy Limited in 44/40. Bought that in 99 I think when I bought my Vaqueros they are also in 44/40. Then I have a 981T and 983T love them all.

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