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You may recall that TTAG scribe Chris Dumm and I had some “issues” with the 1894c’s Marlin sent us for our competing project guns (retro-funky vs. Cowboy Assault Rifle). In specific, my unfired lever action 1894c broke in two (the stock and the action had a dramatic parting of the ways). Chris’s 1894c had some oaf marks on the screws and various other fit and finish problems. Before posting the pics and video of the unintentional folding-stock lever gun, I pinged Marlin’s spinmeister for comment. She demurred, pending contact with the appropriate product managers. So I pressed play on the Marlin brand slam and called my main man Lew at Grizzly Custom Guns, to whom the 1894c was supposedly headed . . .

Lew said a split stock Marlin lever gun was rare, but not unknown. That’s down to the fact that the stock slots into the action via two protruding tabs. The metal is then tightened on either side of the tabs to “pinch” the stock onto the action, holding it in place. Except when it doesn’t.

Lew’s looking at creating some kind of bolt to improve the stock’s reliability. Note: Marlin’s had since 1894 to perfect the 1894’s design.

I asked Lew if we could forgag [sic] the whole wooden stock thing, given that we’re building a lever action rifle with all kinds of non-Western gear. Hogue had turned us down, but surely we could fit some kind of synthetic stock? I could hear Lew shaking his head all the way from Montana.

“I can get a synthetic stock from DON’T YOU DARE MENTION THE NAME but they’re not worth a damn. It’ll take me $800 in labor to put it right and then you’ll do your article and everyone will want one and I don’t even want to think about going there.

“We’re going to refinish [in the case of the fore-end finish] the stock anyway. Why don’t you have Marlin send you a new stock and ship the whole thing to me and we’ll sort it out here?”

Marlin PR didn’t like that idea. They wanted to inspect the 1894c, rather than provide a new stock. Fair enough. They said they’d send a mailing label for the gun’s return (not via email, they’re not set up for that). So, can you send me a replacement rifle? Sorry, the product is back-ordered again. Hear that? That’s me resisting the urge to make a snarky remark.

Suffice it to say, a package from Henry Repeating Arms arrived today. Inside: a Henry-branded rifle bag for the Big Boy they’re sending to my FFL. By way of contrast, the Marlin arrived surrounded by styrofoam in an unreinforced cardboard box without any case, and then broke before I fired a single bullet. So far, Marlin’s got nothing to say about it.

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  1. Marlin has a long way to go in the customer service and poor quality department.

  2. Don’t you just love those “let’s piss off the blogger” types? It’s as though they intentionally sabotage their employers’ reputations.

  3. Marlin’s lack of quality control is a shame – my older ones (1970’s – 1980’s) don’t seem to have these problems. The insides are nicely finished, wood to metal fit is good, functioning is generally flawless. My local gun dealer has to send a fair number of Marlin lever guns back for poor functioning, lousy stock fits, etc. You sort of wonder why they bother to make lever guns if they aren’t willing to make good ones. Maybe they want to go the way of Winchester. If you can buy an older Marlin, I would recommend that route.

  4. Here’s a question for the TTAG Armed Intelligencia: lever action magazines. Henry’s load from the underside of the muzzle end of the tube. Marlins and Winchesters load from the side of the action. Which one is better/more reliable? I’ve got a Golden Boy that I love, but loading it is definitely something that requires two hands and a table. I can imagine it’s possible to do a one-handed reload on a Marlin or Winchester. Is one style of magazine inherently more reliable? Easier? Inquiring minds want to know.

  5. Ease of loading award probably belongs to the Henry. If you’re doing more than a couple of reloads of the Marlin you may discover you’ve got some sore fingertips. Accessories are on the market to facilitate loading via the Marlin’s spring backed loading gate; e.g., an empty cartridge with a dowel stuck in it or a slick little plastic pipe that depresses the loading gate and lets the cartridges just slide right in. The Henry doesn’t require that a spring loaded gate be held down but two things stand out against the Henry. You’ve got to stand the Henry upright, or nearly so, with the muzzle in the air to load it and many shooting clubs require that all weapons being loaded be pointed downrange or at a huge berm and not straight in the air. Also, the Henry weighs a lot more than a comparable caliber Marlin 1894. Finally, it seems many Henry owners complain about poor operation and reliability. As far as sticky lever operation of the Marlin, most say that goes away after a few hundred rounds. And that has been my experience as well.

  6. Bought an 1894c .357 cal. yesterday. New out of box. Thought the muzzle looked a little small for .357. Had a 30-30 barrel mounted to a 357 reciever. WHAT quality control?

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