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If you’re a fan of modern lever guns you’re going to love the latest iteration of the Dark Series from Marlin Firearms. (See our review of the previous take on this gun here.) Since Ruger took over the Marlin brand they aren’t just churning out the same old Marlins that our dads and grandads had (although they are still doing the classics as well) but they’re continuing to evolve the line. The new Dark Series is launching with the big daddy of lever guns, the Model 1895 in .45-70.


The Dark Series 1895 has a 16 inch threaded barrel with a radial muzzle break, a ghost ring rear and fiber optic front sight, as well as a Picatinny rail for mounting optics. There’s also an MLOK forend for attaching lights lasers, chainsaws or whatever else you see fit. It’s equipped with QD sling swivel mounts and has a sleek nylon reinforced polymer stock. the This 1895 has a Graphite Black Cerakote finish because, well, it’s Dark.

While the .45-70 is launching the line, look for rifles chambered in .30-30 and .44 magnum in 2024. I suspect there’s going to be a big crowd around the Marlin booth at SHOT in January waiting to get a firsthand look modernized 19th Century tactical rifles.


  • Receiver, lever and trigger guard plate are CNC machined from alloy steel.
  • Barrel is cold hammer-forged which results in ultra-precise rifling that provides exceptional accuracy and longevity.
  • Threaded barrel, with factory-installed match polished radial muzzle break has a 11/16″-24 pattern to accommodate other barrel accessories. Thread protector also included.
  • Major components feature enhanced durability due to the Graphite Black Cerakote® finish.
  • The bolt and lever feature a nitride finish for superior wear protection.
  • Five-round, tubular magazine with a loading gate located on the receiver.
  • Nylon-reinforced polymer stock with M-LOK® attachment slots for mounting of accessories.
  • Cheek riser included for an optimum sight picture when using an optic.
  • Generous recoil pad that effectively absorbs recoil.
  • Picatinny rail provides a stable mounting surface for scope rings and a variety of optics.
  • Fiber optic front sight with a tritium ring for improved visibility in low light conditions.
  • Anodized aluminum handguard features M-LOK® attachment slots for mounting of accessories.
  • Flush cup sockets for Quick Detach (QD) sling swivels located on the buttstock and the muzzle end of the handguard allows for comfortable carry with a two-point sling.
  • Mid-sized finger lever has a unique flare on the bottom for more comfortable cycling.
  • Reliably feeds a wide range of .45-70 Govt factory ammunition and bullet types.
  • Positive, push-button, cross-bolt manual safety and traditional half-cock hammer.


Caliber: .45-70 Govt
Capacity: 5+1
Stock: Nylon Reinforced Polymer
Material: Alloy Steel
Finish: Satin Black
Front Sight: Fiber Optic with Tritium Ring
Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring
Weight: 7 lb.
Overall Length: 35.50″
Length of Pull: 13.50″
Barrel Length: 16.17″
Barrel: Cold Hammer-Forged Alloy Steel
Thread Pattern: 11/16″-24
Twist: 1:20″ RH
Grooves: 6
MSRP: $1,379


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    • Probably no reason why from your point of view, but you aren’t the center of the universe and will never learn anything judging others without gathering more information before you comment.

      • I wasn’t judging others. I was seriously asking why buy this when there are much better options from a tactical standpoint. But after doing 6 years in California I returned east and forgot about how practical this could be in a non free state as Stuck in NJ and Scott pointed out.

        You’re comment is unnecessarily adversarial friend, as I am quite happy to see the actual use cases pointed out by others, and would point to their exact argument if someone asked the questions I askes. Another answer could be living in grizzly territory.

  1. It’s good for us living in states with “assault weapons” bans, but I’ll wait for the 44 Magnum version.
    Are those three slots in the buttstock just for looks, or can they hold three extra rounds of 45-70 ammo?
    I suspect they’re just for looks, but it would be nice if they can store extra rounds, because the gun’s 5-round capacity is pretty low-capacity, even when compared to my old Marlin 44 Magnum lever gun that held 10 rounds.

    • Those holes are there to be filled full of mud when your dragging your heart around.
      Please stop dragging my gunm around.
      Whooo hoo hoo whoo

    • Good point! Living 400 yards from Maryland in the totally gun friendly state of West Virginia I have to be careful what’s in my car every time I go to a Maryland grocery or building supply store and have to sympathize! I am a member at Peacemaker and going there is a nightmare of back roads because of the irregular border.

    • Looks like 3 general purpose MLOK slots, to me.

      While not for everyone, I like where Ruger is headed with this – I have an Remington/Marlin (‘Remlin’) 1894 w/ some factory new Marlin 1894 Dark parts (pistol grip stock and matching lever) and frankly the fit was terrible on the wood. Due to the painted wood nature of the stock, it’s not exactly easy to make it any better, either.

      Overall, the Marlin 1894/1895 factory parts situation is AWFUL right now, and unfortunately Ruger is retooling in many areas of the guns making Ruger parts incompatible with Marlin or ‘Remlin’ models (without modification).

      Most people that buy the ‘Dark’ models are going to be throwing the muzzle device in the trash and using a can, and it wouldn’t shock me if a good number of people tossed the stock in the garbage, too. My biggest complaint about the new 1895 Dark is the sights – I wish they would have just installed the XS Sights parts rather than trying to copy them… otherwise, the rifle is a great starting point for someone looking for a carbine-length 1895 to mess around with. This obviously isn’t for the CASS guys, so if it isn’t for you, rest well knowing Ruger will still sell tons.

    • My Winchester 1892 with a 24″ barrel holds 13+1. Is it tactical? No. Although it sends a pretty substantial 250 gr round down range, it’s rate of fire is fairly slow if you are trying for accuracy. Should lever action guns be made to look tactical? Again, no. The majority have a practical range of 100 to 150 yards, perhaps 200, and with a slow rate of fire, there is no point in plastic fantastic furniture.

      • I wish they made the modern ones with this standard. 24 inch barrel and 13 + 1. With the newer furniture. That would be a 21st century lever gun.

      • Put that “357” and “maximum” closer together, and you’ll be even closer to the sweet spot!😁

        • Some of my wish list for components shopping is low stock and/or expensive enough…..but yes that is a hilariously excessively fun looking round

        • I will have a look, also heard horror stories on how rough it can be on various frames but hard to get actual signal from that noise.

        • Yes, some of the earlier Contenders developed out-of-round hinge pin holes in the frame, after being repeatedly walloped with really heavy loads. The larger diameter cartridges are easier to push too hard. The Gen 2 and Encore frames are tougher, and the new ones that JWT recently wrote about should be even better. My pet load is a 180 grain Hornady Spire Point Single Shot Pistol bullet at 1,650 fps out of the 10″ pipe, relatively mild but has plenty of bark, and has easily killed every deer or groundhog I put one into. That bullet’s discontinued, and I’ll probably cry whenever I load and shoot the last one I have, unless I save some for daughter to inherit.

        • I am going to guess it is not a cast/powdered bullet that you could conceivably have a mold produced for. So short of some pretty specialized (expensive) press/swagging equipment yeah may be sol for that one……..not that I ran into anything similar ever.

        • The old Hornady part number is 3505, and it measures .358 and shoots very well in my pistol as is. If you scour the ‘net, you may find some NOS boxes somewhere. I found 2 boxes a couple years ago at an auction. And, if enough folks holler, Hornady may do another run–I put my 2 cents in.

          There are similar 35 caliber bullets, but many of them are for the 350 Legend and are sized .355. In my pistol, they rattle down the bore and keyhole. Others are built for rifle velocities, which is fine for silhouette/target but not so much for hunting unless you have a rifle length barrel so you can push them to ~2200 fps or so. There are a few cast bullets that shoot well, and the silhouette shooters liked them. There are some small boutique ammo makers that sell various loads ($$), and Starline still has the brass listed, although on backorder.

        • Hmm even by UPC search that availability is rough and no way of realistically making them youself………how does the 200 grain version work (or even fit)

        • Never tried anything heavier than 180s. The 200 gr may push to 1550 fps in my gun but would need more velocity to reliably expand. The IHMSA guys used it to knock down 200 meter rams with regularity. Guys also had good results with the Speer Hot Core 180 SP #2435, but I’m not sure if it’s available any more either. The Hornady 3505 did so well for me during my testing, that I never looked past it, except to play with a few .355s, .357s and a sample of cast slugs that I got from National years ago. When I found a 1650 fps load that put that Hornady bullet into 1.5 inches at 100 yards, I cried with joy and stopped looking. That’s a for-sure 150 yard meal ticket in the Ohio deer woods, with the 4x scope I have on it. Bear in mind, this is with a 10″ Contender, and most of what I worked on would not be good in a revolver (in case someone has one and is wondering). With wheelguns, you have to be mindful of max OAL, meaning pretty much stick with regular pistol bullets. A longer bullet, loaded to that same OAL will eat into powder capacity.

          Man, I haven’t shot that pistol in years, been neglectful. Writing about it is making me sweat.

        • With any luck the 9mm/380 explosion will level off in the next few years and oddballs can start to trickle out again with plenty of new shooters to make infringement a near impossibility. Optimistic on more fronts than is likely but good to have possible happy events to look forward to. Similar boat on looking into components (existing at all) for a 480 Ruger/475 linebauch option. They are better off than your 357 maximum re availability but only by so much.

        • That’s pretty much what a lady at Starline told me a few weeks ago when I asked them about 445 brass. They racked up a 4 year backlog pretty quickly during covid, and today are still a year behind despite running flat out. Oddball cartridges are generally low on the list with them also.

          I haven’t hunted deer in a while, so I’m probably ok with what 357 stuff I have for now, but I’ve wanted to boost the 445 stash a bit, and I’m preparing to 45 Super my 1911, and may even 460 Rowland it. A couple more boxes of stuff to order, Christmas presents for me ostensibly from my wife…

        • Sherry? In any case starline is great for getting back to you with questions. One day I may pick up a 1911 but given my tinkering tendencies may be better served with an older H&K offering in 45. Christmas presents to self may include die sets and expanded bench options this year to keep up with NY building an ammo registry………..22lr will likely remain a rely on existing stock and/or Pennsylvania/New Hampshire for the moment.

  2. H’mm., .45-70.

    The biggest, fattest pill I can find, load it *just* subsonic, and hang a can on the barrel.

    “Reach out, reach out and hurt feral swine…”

    • For years 45-70 was my backup home defense firearm. Gotta love NY but wild it’s double the price (but likely a better build than Cerberus) that I remember paying.

  3. They need to make something like this that shoots 223/5.56 from a detachable magazine for the states that are behind enemy lines.

    • For a ‘comparative’ rifle in lever action 5.56 magazine fed (yes, 30 rounders if you like) – the ‘almost – but pretty close’ equivalent to this Marlin Dark Series is the ‘Bond Arms Lever Action AR-15’ LVRB (Coming 1st Quarter of 2024) at around (almost around, depending on where you get it within +/- $200.00) the same price as this Marlin Dark Series rifle.

        • Thanks for the link, 40. I have to say, for a guy who likes walnut and blued steel, that lever gun kinda grabs my interest. I’m gonna be watching for reviews.

        • Now if that Bond Arms Lever system would work with common upper receivers, alas I’m assuming the whole system is proprietary. I was just watching O.G. Danger YT channel on the FightLite SCR rifle, it’s not a lever but it’s not a “AR”.

      • I don’t hate it……. I imagine there will be gremlins to work out but 870 stock compatibility for customization and potentially able to swap uppers/calibers like an AR does present some interesting possibilities with a detachable magazine and all the evil features desired.

  4. They used to say if you paint it black and call it tactical people will buy it. Now I never thought of the lever action as tactical, but I’ll say this. The lever action was, and is, a serious defensive weapon. I have a pre 64 Winchester 94 set up in a scout rifle configuration and a 18″ Marlin Texan. I can make your life miserable with either one. A lever action can be reloaded as quickly as a shotgun and has longer range. Typical lever gun calibers have much more punch than a .223. And, say what you want, but a lever action doesn’t tend to alarm the natives. Oh, Possum is correct. If you like lever actions, this thing is butt ugly.

    • Kinda want to see a 338 fed if they go to the AR10 length receiver analog. Yeah not visually appealing on the first iteration but the possibility of a base receiver that you can build a rifle around to your liking does have some appeal. I would imagine the manual action could also work well with some suppressed builds. But cart is way ahead of the horse with my thinking here as we don’t have a clear idea how the parts compatibility looks yet.

  5. I love it. Not for me but there is a market for it.

    I hate that they mounted a Sight Mark on that. Can’t the Ruger marketing department team up with a company that makes a good optic to use in the beauty shots?

  6. Oh, the terror, how can we tolerate these scary lever action assault rifles? Oh, and they are black. Just kidding, I would like one in .30-30. Kind of pricey, should be priced at under $1000.

    • That was my opinion on waiting for the .30-30 version. I already have a nice Henry Bison commemorative .45-70 lever action, but I’d like something I can also use at the indoor ranges nearby (here most have a .30 cal limit for the indoor rifle range). I kind of like the “scary black” look too.

  7. Another use case: for somone right outside the city lines and can hunt deer in backyard but still developments around: largest pill subsonic with can. Add tree stand and anchor the deer right down.

    • “…largest pill subsonic with can.”

      I really wish I had thought that up… 🙂

  8. Big old bullet, going fast as you can stand it, never gets old. I wish I could find a use for it.

    Still, BLR or Henry Long Ranger (rotary bolt, detachable box) is mo’ better.

    • The Winchester Models 1886 and 1892 with their dual locking block actions are stronger still. The 1886 was originally chambered in .45-70 Government, .45-90 Sharps, and .40-82 Winchester, it was later offered in a half dozen other large cartridges, including the .50-110 Winchester. The 1892 will handle any pistol caliber you can throw at it.

  9. Me likey. Never had a lever but they sure look like fun. Ive wanted an original dark for awhile now, guns just dont seem to be in the budget right now.

    • They are fun. I had Winchester and Marlin back in the day. In rifles nothing carries better than a lever gun for a long day in the boonies.

      • Uh yeah no 45-70 for me. Not hunting dinosaurs. I’m with you jwm 357 for the win. Ar15 energy without the ban…anywho I’ve kinda decided no Kali Key to make my AR a bolt action. I’m planning on a bolt rifle in 223 or if possible 556/223. I got plenty of both🙄

        • 44 is a great option as well. Would love to see a youth model in 327fed and a 480 Ruger just for compact optimization but for overall efficiency and cost effectiveness (especially when reloading) 357 is probably the best all arounder for the concept.

        • Safe. I’m warm for the .357 model because I purchased a Ruger GP100. I like the idea of one caliber for both. .44 is a great option. But I haven’t owned a .44 mag pistol in years.

        • I really wish they’d re-release a Marlin levergun (either the classic style or the black version) in .41 mag . . . the few old ones out there routinely sell for >$2500.

          (And yes, I know Henry has a .41 mag lever . . . but I want one with a side loading gate.)

  10. I wish they did this with a box mag ala the win 1895, preferably removable.

    I would prefer 45lc over 44 mag unless it runs specials. that would be fun with a can.

  11. jwm makes perfect sense for your collection. I tend to find oddballs and see what they can do but there is a lot of good in simplified efficient logistics. Also 357 in particular can be made to do utterly nasty things to kevlar with just a 4 inch barrel with 100gr copper solids. Would love to see how 16 inches could be loaded for.

  12. This is nice but It would be more appealing to me with a wood stock. Firearms like this make good places for red dots.

    • Still need a semiauto permit unless you buy the bare receiver and build it out as a bolt action (at which point most just get an AR15-10 anyway). With that said does work pretty well from the tiny numbers I have ever seen in real life. But can be useful in different ban states.

    • Not sure what the question is. It looks like a rifle to me.

      It looks like something I might would like to own.

  13. 38 caliber (special and 357 magnum), 16″, suppressed, with a red dot – that’s a great utility rifle.

  14. “Tactical crap” plain and simple, if I want something “blacked out” I’ll buy another AR15.

  15. Good luck buying one . As usual since Ruger does NOT sell to the public , the dealers jack the price way up from the msrp . C’mon Ruger . Why dont you email me a dealer that will sell me one for msrp !!!

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