In his 2010 review of the Ruger 10/22, TTAG’s Brad Kozak called the .22 long rifle the Rodney Dangerfield of cartridges (it gets no respect). If that’s true, then the Marlin Model 60 is the Rodney Dangerfield of .22 rifles. Marlin bills the Model 60 as “an economically priced rifle that’s earned the title of most popular 22 in the world.” In a world that hadn’t seen the 10/22, that claim would be inarguable, but alas, popularity is a slippery claim. In Marlin’s favor, however, is the fact that it has sold well over 11 million of these little semi-auto rifles. Fair enough . . .
Marlin also says of the Model 60:
Since it was introduced in 1960, it has continuously represented one of America´s finest rimfire values.
Ah, value. Another one of those squidgy marketing terms. If you want a firearm that (kept well and used sparingly) can sell years later for more than your purchase price, this isn’t the value you’re looking for. In the Model 60’s milieu (much like Meineke’s), value starts with the fact that you’re not going to pay a lot. You could say it’s cheap, but that would be…well…cheap.
Let’s just say you’ll get a lot of bang — literally — for your buck. A little bit of history:
The Marlin Model 60 has been in continuous production since its debut in (surprise!) 1960. The rifle hasn’t changed much in the intervening 54 years. Somewhere in its early days it gained a manual hold-open that locks the bolt in its fully rearward position, but the best change came in 1985, when Marlin introduced a mechanism that automatically locks the bolt halfway open on an empty magazine.
The original Model 60 had a 22” barrel and a magazine tube of corresponding length, which held 18 rounds of .22 long rifle. In the late 1980s, to comply with New Jersey’s newly minted restrictions on semiautomatic assault weapons guns that scared its legislators, Marlin chopped the magazine tube down to hold 14 rounds. At the turn of our current century the barrel was shortened to 19”, which brought the overall length of the rifle back into proportion with the magazine tube.
Model 60s were sold under the Glenfield name until 1983, and were sold under private-label names for JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, Western Auto and others.
Among Model 60 collectors and enthusiasts — yes, they do exist — the pre-1980s versions with the longer barrel and magazine are the most sought after. Although some would disagree, its partisans call the Model 60 a modern classic.
Declaration of biases
There’s no such thing as an unbiased review. Despite that, I still think a review can be honest and useful if the reader knows where the reviewer is coming from. So here’s where I’m coming from: I really like this gun. It’s the first gun I bought for myself (about four years ago). It brought back skills learned in long-ago Boy Scout camps in dusty Southern Utah, and I taught my wife and kids to shoot with it.
While we’re at it, I’ll admit to my limitations, too. This is an owner’s review; I’m not calling myself an expert. I’ve put a few thousand rounds through my particular Model 60, so I know its capabilities and idiosyncrasies. I’ve done a little research and comparison, but I’m not a collector or a pro or a history buff. Basically I’m reviewing this thing from my perspective as a diehard plinker and cash-strapped shooting enthusiast.
I’m just a guy who really loves shooting guns. And some of my favorite shooting memories are tied to my Marlin Model 60. That said, I’m not blind to its faults.
Airing of grievances
The trigger is, in a word, terrible. Well, okay, it’s not irredeemable. But if you’ve ever shot a rifle with a half-decent trigger, you’ll know the Model 60’s trigger is more like a shirtless Rodney Dangerfield than a bikini-clad Israeli model. I haven’t measured the pull weight, but those who have say it clocks in anywhere from five to seven pounds (I’d guess closer to seven). And it’s gritty, and the travel is long, and it stacks, and you may even be able to hear springs creaking when you pull it. Still, it can be managed with good results.
When I bought my Model 60 about four years ago, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I hadn’t shot a gun in nearly 25 years, and I thought that’s just the way triggers were. So I learned my trigger and got pretty good with it. With a little practice I found that I could instinctively stage the long trigger pull: get on target, pull the trigger halfway, breathe out, let the sights settle onto the bull’s-eye…and then bang. It worked pretty well.
A few weeks later, when I bought my Marlin 336 — which does have a half-decent trigger — I was so excited to put lead downrange that I didn’t bother with dry-firing it or any kind of practice (yeah, I know…now). I just loaded that sucker up with 5 rounds of .30-30 and started my usual routine. Get on target, pull the trigger halfw — BANG! Ouch… Missed the target completely. That’s how different the triggers were. But I hit my second shot, and now that I know what I’m dealing with, I do well enough with both rifles, trigger disparity notwithstanding.
A minor gripe is that the stock doesn’t come with studs for mounting a sling. When Marlin says this is a no-frills rifle, they mean it (although a sling is arguably a necessity, not a frill). I installed my own.
As for cleaning, there’s good news and bad news.
Disassembly is easy enough; removing two screws separates the stock from the barreled action, and a single easy-to-remove pin holds the action and bolt in place. The bolt is simple and easy to clean, and there’s plenty of room to work on the barrel once you take the action assembly out of the receiver — but inside the action assembly is an assortment of springs and fiddly bits that you should never attempt to take apart.
What with .22 LR being a very dirty round and this gun positively daring you to throw hundreds of rounds downrange every time you pick it up, there will be gritty residue everywhere. And unless you have a solvent bath to soak the action in, you’re never going to get those fiddly bits fully clean. The good news is, you don’t have to. Just get the parts you can reach, paying special attention to the feed ramp, and you’ll be okay. That’s all the cleaning I’ve given the innards of my gun, and as far as I know my nephew hasn’t ever cleaned his (and he got it used, so who knows how long it’s really been).
This gun doesn’t seem to mind running a little dirty. That said, you do have to clean it.
The gunpowder haircut: A cautionary tale
Back in the faraway days of four years ago, I didn’t know guns needed cleaning — the guns in my life had all been rural closet-dwellers, fired once or twice a year to dispatch a pest or farm animal, and of course never cleaned. Why bother?
Well, it turns out that while you’re having a blast sending bullets downrange every weekend, that nasty-dirty .22 ammo is leaving layer upon layer of deposits behind, and if you don’t clean it periodically, you’re just asking for misfires. Eventually you’ll start seeing failures to feed as cartridges get hung up on the carbon-encrusted feed ramp, or failures to fire as the built-up crud pushes the cartridge out to where the firing pin can’t quite reach the primer.
In a more extreme scenario, you might wind up pulling a mangled piece of brass like this one out of your gun.
This particular kaboom gave my son a gunpowder haircut — the blast went back into the action, and the hot gases coming out of the gap between stock and receiver singed one side of his bangs clean off. Fortunately neither human nor gun was harmed. Heck, people actually paid for lopsided haircuts like that back in the ‘80s.
We joke about it now, but at the time it scared the crap out of me. Safety glasses, people. Safety glasses. Near as I can figure, crud on the bolt face and in the chamber prevented the bolt from closing completely, but the firing pin somehow still connected with the primer. Case failures like this are very rare, but somehow I made it happen.
Since then, I take a look at the bolt face every 500 rounds or so and scrape it off if I see any excess buildup happening. It only takes a few seconds with my specialty tool of choice, a $2.99 mini-screwdriver from Ace Hardware. Although you could give your gun a proper cleaning instead. If you want to be that way.
Feats of strength
Shooting this gun is just plain fun. The trigger pull may be heavy and rough, but the blade is substantial and ergonomic, with a wide surface and just the right amount of curvature. Holding the gun just feels natural. And then there’s the sheer joy of ripping through 14 rounds of .22 long rifle in one go. The Marlin Model 60 could well be the ultimate plinking gun.
Thanks in part to its relatively thick barrel, the Model 60 is just a tad heavier than some rifles in its price range, but that’s not a bad thing; it’s like having a bull barrel with a little less bull. It is a short and handy rifle, but it’s not “youth” sized; length of pull is a fairly adult-standard 13.5 inches.
The Model 60 is a reliable little beast. I’ve fired thousands of rounds through mine with the only malfunctions being a handful of failures to feed and failures to fire. (And that one gunpowder haircut.) The majority of those, I attribute to a criminally dirty gun.
There is one caveat, a foible endemic to semiautomatic .22 rifles: they’re finicky about ammo. You may get one that eats whatever you feed it, but you’re more likely to find that it prefers certain types and chokes on others. Generally speaking, higher-velocity rounds and heavier bullet weights are more likely to please your Model 60’s palate. (Mine will eat only standard Blazer round-nose and CCI Velocitors, for instance.) Find out which ammo it likes best, and you’re good to go.
The Ruger 10/22 may have become The Rifle to Which All Other .22 Semiautos Shall Be Compared, but there’s nearly universal agreement that the Marlin Model 60 has the edge in inherent accuracy.
Marlin touts its proprietary Micro-Groove rifling, which has 16 shallow grooves instead of the usual fewer and deeper grooves. The idea is that the many small grooves grip the bullet firmly without deforming it and without allowing gases to escape around it, thus yielding better stability, more uniform velocity and more consistent accuracy.
I dunno about all that, but I do know that my rifle is more accurate than I am.
Yeah, so it’s not hard for a rifle to be more accurate than I am. I have no range equipment — I’m a plinker, remember, so this is just me kneeling in the dirt in the boonies — but that’s not much of an excuse. I can be pretty accurate when I do my job right, but as you can see here, I often don’t do my job right. In this case my groups opened up as the daylight faded and I got impatient. A decent marksman should be able to produce groups like the two smaller ones consistently at 50 yards.
Fit and finish
The Model 60 is made with budget constraints in mind, but it still looks good. In aesthetic terms, likening this rifle to Rodney Dangerfield is more like a gross insult than a simile. It may get no respect, but this is a fine-looking little gun. Chuck Hawks says it has “streamlined, timeless styling,” and I’m inclined to agree.
The current version has a stock made of very nice-looking laminated wood; less-current Model 60’s (like mine) have a birch stock. The birch stocks look good, but I consider the laminated stocks an improvement. The wood-to-metal fit isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t call it sloppy, either; even though the stock features a couple of places where the fit could be closer, at least it’s uniform, and the parts that need to mate solidly do so.
I think the bluing on the barrel actually looks better than my Henry rifles. The receiver is an aluminum alloy (probably ZAMAK) painted black. After four years of use, the black coating is starting to wear a bit around the ejection port, where it takes lots of abuse from flying brass and hot gases; however, it remains unblemished elsewhere.
Caliber: .22 long rifle (will not accept .22 short or .22 long)
Barrel: 19 inches; has Marlin’s patented Micro-Groove rifling
Overall Length: 37.5 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Sights: Open rear sight, adjustable for elevation and windage; ramp front sight. Receiver grooved for scope mount.
Finish: Blued steel barrel, black coated receiver
Capacity: 14-shot integral tubular magazine
Price: $149 to $179
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Ratings are based on the merits of the firearm compared to other similarly priced and marketed firearms. The final rating is not the product of the component ratings, and may include other aspects not discussed.
Accuracy: * * * * *
This rifle sets the accuracy standard its budget-priced brethren hope to reach. The Monte Carlo profile stock provides a decent cheek weld, and Marlin’s signature micro-grooved barrel is inherently accurate. The trigger isn’t good, but it can be managed; once you’re used to it, you can treat it almost like a (heavy and not very smooth) two-stage trigger. Groups in the half-inch neighborhood at 50 yards should be routine if you do your job right.
Ergonomics: * * *
The rifle handles well and is a lot of fun to shoot. However, reloading the tubular magazine is an awkward process and the trigger is pretty rough. With practice both can be run effectively, but compared to similar rifles that have detachable magazines and better or more easily upgradable triggers, the Model 60 loses points. Take the reloading awkwardness out of the equation, and you’ve got a solid 4+ stars.
Reliability: * * * *
Once you identify its preferred ammo, just keep feeding it what it wants, and it’ll go bang whenever you want it to. In several thousand rounds I’ve only experienced a handful of malfunctions, and a very dirty gun contributed to most of them.
Customization: * * *
The options are sparse compared to a Ruger, but nothing competes with a 10/22 in the aftermarket department. Sights and optics that are made to fit rimfire rifles in general will fit your Model 60, and there are a few places that make snazzy replacement stocks. You may want to improve the trigger, but unless you’re into amateur gunsmithing, that’s a job for a professional (who will probably ask why you didn’t just buy a Ruger; you can reply that you wanted inherent accuracy, not aftermarket tomfoolery).
Overall: * * * *
I had a hard time not giving five stars, because that’s how much I like my Model 60 — but I’m trying to be objective, and it’s not perfect, so four it is. This is one of the cheapest .22 rifles on the market, but it’s the good kind of cheap. It’s reliable and accurate. A delightful little plinker. A quick-handling varmint killer. A perfect gun for the cost-conscious (i.e., poor) shooter who needs the best possible fun-to-money ratio. A low-risk, high-reward starter gun for beginning shooters. In terms of bang for your buck, it’s pretty hard to beat a Marlin Model 60.