This is a reader-submitted review.
By Alex Kelling
When you think of a .22lr rifle, you probably think of the Ruger 10/22, S&W M&P 22, Henry Golden Boy, or Remington 597. Maybe at the end of your list is the Marlin Model 60, the budget, tube-fed, do-all .22lr. Meet its younger brother, the Model 990. The Marlin Model 990 was produced from 1979 to 1987. This high quality firearm has served me very well over the 10 years I have been shooting it. This gun has survived use, abuse and over 10,000 rounds . . .
It’s a beaut, Clark.
Fit and finish of this gun are very nice. The stock and forearm is a single piece of walnut with stamped checkering and a brass inlaid Ducks Unlimited medallion embedded in the right side of the stock. There were no cosmetic defects (before ten years of heavy use in the field and at the range).
This gun was won at a D.U. banquet in 1988, but never fired until 2005. The machining is very smooth without any rough edges. The action is tight without any slop. Even the seam on the polymer trigger guard is almost invisible. The stock finish is shiny and smooth and has proven very durable. The checkering is mostly cosmetic as it provides little texture.
After 10 years and 10,000+ rounds this gun is well-used, but still looks great. The barrel shows a few rust spots and the finish on the receiver is a bit rough. This gun survived and functioned even after neglect and a lack of cleaning for years. Now, after many cleanings and oiling, the gun continues to function almost flawlessly.
The brass medallion in the walnut stock looks very stylish and stands out. The bluing stands out very nicely. Gold plating in the letters on the barrel add some style. Lots of thought was put into this gun. No corners were cut.
At 50 yards with the Barska 4X scope from sandbags I shot a 2.6” center-to-center 10-shot group. Without the flier the group is 1.4”. I was using CCI Blazer Standard Velocity 40 grain round lead nose. This gun does not favor this load very much. I would shoot other loads, but .22lr is gone in my area. This gun favors Remington Cyclones. I pulled the flier to the right because I jerked the trigger.
I tried to use the recommended SR-21 Target, but it proved difficult to get in the same spot with a scope. The group was less impressive and I knew the gun could do better from previous shooting. I experienced one failure to eject which resulted in a ‘stove pipe’ out of the 75 rounds I fired that day.
This barrel has ‘Micro-Groove’ rifling.
There are 16 grooves and lands in the barrel. The bullet is ‘grabbed’ by the rifling every 22.5 degrees and insure a consistent seal of the gasses. Another benefit of this is that the lands do not deform the bullet as much, and does not affect the bullet aerodynamics as much as deep lands. If this type of rifling has value for a .22lr or not, could be debatable.
For fun, I set up an 18-inch steel plate at 200 yards. After a ballistics sheet, some adjustments, even more adjustments, and some good ol’ Kentucky Windage, (duplex recital, with a holdover of half the scope) I could hit the plate 95% of the time prone from a rest. Offhand, not as consistent.
This gun operates as most other blowback action .22LR firearms do. The bolt reciprocates and does not lock up at all. The only thing that keeps the bolt foreword is the spring pressure. It has a simple cross-bolt safety behind the trigger guard. The safety snaps into position with a positive click. If the safety is operated slowly, it can be silent, for you tactical squirrel killers out there.
The gun loads by placing rounds in a tubular magazine from the front.
The bolt release is located on the front right part of the trigger guard. It pushes up and to the rear. It is a fairly heavy, moderately short push.
The charging handle is contoured to the finger and very comfortable. It is large enough to get a firm grasp, but not obnoxiously large. It is textured on the top for some odd reason. It has a white arrow pointing into the receiver. This must be an attempt to hint that if you pull the bolt back and push the charging handle in the bolt will stay back. This took me years to figure out.
Blowback .22lr’s are dirty, really dirty. Apparently cleaning them will increase accuracy and reliability. When I look back, this gun would jam about every other tube. Like most Fudds I used to rarely clean guns (I’m not a Fudd anymore). Maybe a wipe-down with WD-40 on the exterior of the gun and call it good. If I felt up to it, a shot of oil down the barrel was good enough.
I discovered the benefits of cleaning around the 7,000 round mark. Since then it’s been kept clean and oiled and it rarely malfunctions.
Start by removing the large screw in front of the receiver,
Then remove the rear screw on the trigger guard.
The action can then be pulled from the stock.
The large plastic pin can be pulled from the Fire Control group.
The F.C.G. can then be lifted up and out.
The bolt can be removed from the receiver by holding back the charging handle. Put your finger in front of the bolt and then pull down and slowly let the bolt out.
The barrel still needs to be cleaned from the muzzle because the receiver is too low in the rear to allow for a rod to go to the barrel.
This gun handles very well. It balances just forward of the receiver and chamber. It has a very prominent ambidextrous Monte Carlo comb for use with a scope. The gun points naturally and like a dream. The gun weighs 5½ pounds and feels very light when handling.
The 990’s controls are where they should be and are conveniently located…for a right-handed shooter. Being left handed, the cross bolt safety is not ideal. The trigger action has been nicely broken in after tens of thousands of pulls. First there is a little amount of take up, then a small amount of creep, then a crisp snap at about six pounds.
The tubular magazine is not as convenient as the removable magazine of a Ruger 10/22 or S&W M&P 22. But you won’t ever lose your magazine or have to find magazines that are reliable, either. The tubular mag might affect accuracy, as it gets lighter as you shoot, but I haven’t noticed any difference in accuracy because of this.
This gun was my first gun and probably got me into shooting. It serves me very well as my .22LR rifle for plinking, varmint hunting, and pest control. This gun has harvested many squirrels over the years. This gun or a new Model 60 would make a great first gun or entry-level hunting rifle or ‘the 22’s for the kids. This gun is quality made and the polymer parts on the gun are very nice for the price.
Aftermarket Parts and Accessories
Since this gun is an updated Marlin Model 60, many of the same parts fit in both guns. There are some aftermarket parts available, but not near as many as for the Ruger® 10/22. Sights and stocks are available along with spare parts for both guns.
Model: Marlin Model 990 Ducks Unlimited Model
Caliber: .22LR only
Magazine: 18 round tubular magazine plus one in the chamber
Materials: Aluminum receiver; steel barrel, bolt, magazine tube, and F.C.G.; polymer trigger guard; brass inner magazine tube
Empty Weight: 5 ½ lbs.
Barrel Length: 22 inches with Marlin Micro-Groove® rifling
Overall Length: 45.75 inches
Sights: Standard Ramp adjustable sights (removed on this rifle) with 3/8 scope rail
Price: Current Marlin Model 60 is about $175. The 990 D.U.s online are about $350.
Price in 1979… $81.00 ($264.90 Today)
1984… $130.95 ($299.25 Today)
1988… $156.95 ($315.01 Today)
Ratings (out of fiver stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Pretty good after 10,000+ rounds down the pipe. Definitely not a match rifle but not terribly bad. The Micro-Groove barrel with 16 grooves improves accuracy.
Ergonomics (Handling): * * * *
The tube fed design takes a star off for the lack of ease of fast reloads, but other than that this gun handles and balances beautifully.
Ergonomics (Firing): * * * * *
The trigger fit is very nice and the bolt hold open is a nice feature, comb on the stock helps significantly with iron sights or a scope.
Style * * * * *
This gun is very solid feeling and looks very nice. The Ducks Unlimited version is dressed up with gold lettering on the barrel and the brass medallion in the walnut stock.
Reliability: * * * *
This thing has had many a failure to feed, extract, eject, etc. Not cleaning was probably part of the reason. Since I have learned more about firearms, and have field stripped and cleaned it many times, the gun has had little to no misfires or jams. I did have one malfunction while accuracy testing.
Customization: * *
Not near as customizable as the 10/22. Very few aftermarket accessories exist. Replacement parts are available. The dovetail in the receiver adds options. There are adapters for 3/8” dovetail to Picatinny rail. The options for are everywhere.
Overall: * * * *
This gun has survived use and abuse for 10 years. My father won this gun at a DU banquet raffle. The very similar Model 60 for $120 seems like a great value if the Freedom-Group hasn’t compromised the quality.