Marlin returns with the Marlin Model 1895 lever-action rifle.

Ardent Marlin Firearms aficionados have been waiting for many years for the return to “JM stamp”-quality firearms after enduring the Remington-led, suspect-quality “Remlins” that have shipped since 2008. Now that Sturm, Ruger & Co. owns Marlin Firearms – literally lock, stock and barrel – longtime fans eagerly await what’s to come.

Marlin Model 1895 Launches Ruger-Led Return

While on a hunt in Texas’ Big Bend country a couple of months ago I got a little trigger time with Ruger-Marlin’s first model launched today, a Marlin Model 1895 chambered in .45-70. A few weeks ago Ruger sent out a press release with employees from their Mayodan, North Carolina, factory holding the first Model 1895 that came off the production line. Ruger has a habit of keeping new products under wraps until they’re ready to ship.

To gain a little perspective on Marlin Firearms, it pays to take a quick trip back in time to learn what happened to the company. Freedom Group emerged to purchase companies in the firearms industry, including Remington Arms. Remington, now owned by Freedom Group, 95 percent owned by Cerberus Capital Management, purchased Marlin Firearms in 2008. Marlin continued production in its Connecticut factory until its closure. It then moved to Remington’s Ilion, New York, factory in 2011. Cerberus fell on hard times in 2009 when another company, Chrysler, filed for bankruptcy, ending in purchase by European carmaker Fiat. The unionized workforce in Remington’s Ilion factory continued causing financial hardship for Freedom Group and Cerberus. So it moved Marlin production again, this time to a new factory in Huntsville, Alabama.

Two bankruptcies later, Remington and the companies under them went to auction, carved up and sold off to the highest bidders. Sierra bought Barnes Bullets, Vista (who owns Federal Cartridge) bought Remington’s ammunition plant in Lonoke, Arkansas, and Ruger bought Marlin. There were other buyers for other parts of Remington’s old holdings, but you get the gist of it. Along the way Marlin’s quality control became an afterthought, which earned the gunmaker a bad reputation.

Blending of Classics

I’ve been a fan of Ruger and Marlin guns for most of my life. As a former editor and publisher of gun value guides, I keep track of current values of a wide array of firearms as a hobby. Many of the used pre-Remington Marlin lever guns command three to five times the asking price of new guns of the same model that came from old Remington.

Word of Ruger buying Marlin brought cause for celebration. The folks at Ruger seem to be excited, too. Ruger’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Christopher J. Killoy said during a recent phone conference with investors, “We are hard at work on some exciting new product initiatives, including the return of Marlin lever-action rifles, which we begin – plan to begin shipping later in the fourth quarter… Mayodan is the newest facility. We acquired that plant in 2013, and we’ve been steadily adding to that as new lines come in. The team down there has done a great job. That’s also the center of gravity for our Marlin acquisition. Virtually, everything we acquired from Remington on the Marlin transaction was sent to Mayodan.”

“(W)e’re planning a mid-December launch of the Marlin product line,” Killoy continued. “Now we’ll be initially, as we just reviewed with our wholesalers down at the NASGW meetings last week, it will probably be less than the market wants. In fact, I’m sure based on the overwhelming demand we’ve seen from consumers and retailers, I’m sure it will be fewer guns and fewer SKUs than the market wants….”

Restoring Marlin Quality

Killoy was excited about early Marlin quality. “(T)he first samples, frankly, were just outstanding,” he said. “The first sample that I saw was – came off a line a few weeks ago, and it was a beautiful Model 1895, in .45-70 caliber and it just look gorgeous. So we’re very excited about that, and we are on track for that end of Q4 launch.”

“We’ll be making all the wood and laminate stocks for the Marlin product line,” Killoy added. “Those will be made in our existing wood plant up in Newport, New Hampshire. The teams up there have been doing a great job working together with the folks at Mayodan. And so I think it will be comparable to existing Ruger rifle products.”

The author found the new Marlin accurate during testing.

One of the callers on the conference call asked, “Will the Ruger name be stamped on the firearm somewhere on the rifle?”

“No, it won’t be,” Killoy said. “We’re going to maintain the Marlin brand. We’re very proud of the Marlin brand and its history. We’ve got a couple of things. I think Marlin collectors will be very excited about as far as how we can figure the serial number, some minor changes that we think collectors will enjoy seeing. But maintaining that Marlin legacy and the great things about Marlin, particularly the centerfire lever-action guns with some what we think are some great enhancements.”

Marlin Model 1895 Details

The Marlin Model 1895 I handled on the Ruger expedition a couple of months ago proved itself on game, and the rounds I put through it produced satisfactory results, too. The initial Marlin that’s lunching today is an all-stainless rifle with a black and gray laminated stock. It features a big-loop lever, and a threaded muzzle for suppressor attachment.

Gone is the old Marlin Micro-Groove rifling. Now it utilizes 6-groove Ballard-style rifling, according to Ruger PR man Paul Pluff. The fit and finish were superb, and the lever cycled the action smoothly. It put three shots into an approximate 1-inch group at 100 yards with Hornady LeverEvolution ammo from a rest, and a couple more offhand shots stayed in the kill zone at that range.

The pre-production rifle I handled that day came with a rear ghost ring sight-wearing optics rail, paired with non-hooded front sight.

Even though Ruger’s name won’t be on the new Marlin rifles, there’s a quick way to tell where these guns originate. A sapphire-and-white bullseye replaces the old black-and-white Marlin bullseye, embedded in the belly of the buttstock.

More to Come

The Model 336 will return, according to Killoy, in the future. He also mentioned that lever-actions in .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum were in the works, too. As a company, Ruger is sturdy as an old oak tree with deep roots. Grafting a new Marlin branch to that rootstock should produce some firearms fruit. Stay tuned for more exciting news on Marlin’s resurgence.

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