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Despite its reliability, superior rate of fire (for pre-automatic weaponry) and ammo capacity, the lever action rifle never found much success in the U.S. military, for one simple: they’re a bitch to fire from the prone position. With the advent of trench warfare—invented by bullet-aversive soliders during the U.S. Civil War—levers never stood a chance (so to speak). That said, if you are standing up, looking at a Grizzly bear running towards you, you could do a lot worse than aim a Marlin 1985G lever action rifle at your ursine adversary . . .

The .45-70 caliber weapon is fully capable of blowing a hole through a full-grown Grizzly bear. Or four. Holes or bears. I know what you’re thinking: how have I lived without a Marlin 1985G (for Guide) all these years? Either that or where the hell’s my AR-10?

Mind you, you want to keep Newton’s law in mind: every big bore lever action has an equal and opposite reaction. Or, as one former Marlin 1985G owner put it, “it kicked so hard it would almost knock your pecker into your watchpocket.”

It’s also important to remember that the 1895G is a hunting gun. Use this weapon for self-defense and you’ll be facing reckless endangerment charges in several counties (if you’re in Rhode Island, at least two states). But the biggest problem with the Marlin 1895G is . . . Marlin.

The one I bought was a piece of junk! Slipshod workmanship, terrrible trigger (8 lbs) marred screw heads, buttstock had a large area filled with wood filler, asymetrical fore end, fore end and buttstock were stained a different color. Hammer fall strikes the side of the fireing pin cut at the rear of the bolt. Gun shoots high. Marlin says all is acceptable.

This kvetch from beekeeper (bees – bears – makes sense) back in ’09 reflects the lack of happy times at Marlin since the big bad wolf called Cerberus scarfed-up the company to create the failed IPO known as The Freedom Group. And closed Marlin’s storied New Haven factory, moving production to Remington’s plant in NY. Joy.

Not to worry. Grizzly Custom Guns has an answer to the questionable quality conundrum. The Montana gunsmiths can turn that rough [riders] diamond into a laser cut jewel—that can fell a moose. Send them one Marlin 1895G and some hard currency and they’ll . . .

And then you have one of the world’s most potent hunting rifles in a neat little package that give you plenty of chances to correct your trajectory before your trajectory corrects you (as they say in Mother Russia). Buy some Hornaday LEVERalone—I mean 325-grain LEVERevolution ammo, and you’re in hog heaven. Or send the hog to heaven. Your choice.

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  1. You're not the only TTAGer who has owned a Marlin lever gun. I bought mine gently used about 22 years ago for ~$150 — a rare Model 336C. Although it has been a few years since I have used the old boy, I have no plans to ever get rid of it. It's accurate. Built like a tank. Elegant in its simplicity. Historic aesthetic. I hate to hear that Remington is cutting so many corners now that they own the brand.

  2. actually there is a way to fire a lever rifle from prone; turn it sideways. i guess the army just couldn't manage to squeeze that thought out. go figure.

  3. David, firing sideways at any range that requires the use of sights would not be a good idea.

    Actually, you can fire one prone, you just can't operate the action from the firing position.

  4. I don't think it was the issue of firing from the prone that prevented the Army from adopting the lever gun, I think it was more an issue of money, tradition and the march of technology.

    Money: The first workable lever guns were produced after the Civil War. Given that the army was "downsizing" (to use a 21st century term) it was seen as a waste of money to adopt such a new and expensive weapon.

    Tradition: For most of its existence the US military has been skeptical about the notion of "firepower." The fear with repeating guns was always that the troops would shoot their guns empty and the primitive logistic systems of the day would not be able to keep them supplied with ammo. That's why the first cartridge gun adopted by the military was the single-shot trapdoor Springfield in .45-70 caliber.

    Timing: By the time the Army finally realized the value of a repeating rifle, there were better bolt-action designs that incorporated things like box magazines and bayonet lugs, things that the military minds of the 19th century required. Hence the Army went from the Springfield to the Krag-Jorgensen bolt gun.

  5. I would also add that the tubular magazine of the Winchester lever guns is completely unsuitable for the pointed bullets used by the militaries of the early 20th century.

  6. It is quite a shame regarding Remingtons very recent ownership of Marlin. Although Remington has its loyal following, I’ve personally noticed what seem to be ever increasing drops in quality control over the years, simply through observing their firearms up close in gun shops etc, regarding little things like fit and finish on brand new guns which in some cases seemed more than crude. It seems though that more than enough people still accept such unquality workmanship, and simply dismiss it perhaps due to Remingtons long standing history as a manufacturer, or perhaps because many a novice gun buyer is blind to such monstrous excuses for quality workmanship… We all know the type… Those who use butter knives as screw drivers, have no objection to philips head screws on a fire arm, and have no idea what blueing is, believing all guns are painted black. They’re those who don’t “see” the difference between a nicely finished and fitting stock when compared to a cheaply spray varnished piece of wood with pressed checkering that has one or two mm gaps where it meets the heel of the reciever. Shoddy workmanship has absolutely nothing to do with cost and everything to do with, well, shoddy workmanship. Case in point… I just picked up a post ’83 Marlin 336A in 30 30 caliber that’s still marked as a CT made gun. Keep in mind the A designation is Marlins entry level cheapo 336. Although all its features including sights are identical to the C for example, the A has always had a cheaper stock, which is what makes it a 336A. However, I find that the fit and function of all metal parts are fantastic, the hammer works just fine and falls centered etc. My only plan is to either swap out the wood for better, or perhaps just refinish it. Although the stocks are walnut with halfway decent checkering and fit farely well, I’m just not a big fan of the modern spray on tinted polycrapoline varnishes to begin with since unlike an oil finish there’s no wood penetration, and besides it’s got a few dings. After all, it is a used gun. Yet it’s still nice that one can upgrade wood on such a rifle to match the rest of its quality. It doesn’t quite sound that way with the newer Marlins from what I hear, which is a shame since it’s an old company with a rich history.

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