Marlin's famous 1894 lever-action rifle has been around for more than twelve decades and continues to be one of this manufacturer's top-selling rifles.
Unlike many American hunters who grew up with a lever-action rifle, most of their South African counterparts grew up with a .303 Lee-Enfield or some form of bolt-action rifle as their first hunting rifle. As such, most local hunters have largely been admiring lever-action rifles on the silver screen instead of using them on game. This is a pity, because a lever-action rifle is a useful tool and can be used very effectively in a bushveld environment where shorter range hunting takes place.
The Model 336 is the basis of Marlin's continuing success in the centerfire rifle market. The classic chambering for this rifle is 30-30 WCF, a caliber that has proven itself as an effective deer cartridge for over a century. The combination of solid stopping power, fine accuracy at ranges of up to two hundred meters along with moderate recoil has made this cartridge an enduring classic.
The typical bullet weight available is 170 grains that is driven at a velocity of approximately 2,200 feet per second. The heavy bullet and moderate speed prevents the nasty kind of meat damage caused by high-speed bullets of similar or lighter weight, whilst also sparing the shooter's shoulder unnecessary punishment.
In terms of the Marlin 336's specifications, it's not hard to see why the rifle has maintained its position as one of the world's top-selling lever-action rifles. At just a touch over 3 kilograms, this rifle is light enough to carry around in the bush all day whilst successfully absorbing the moderate recoil generated by the 30-30 cartridge. The 20 inch barrel also makes for a manageable and compact package, which can be easily carried around in thick bush and also kept handy in the front of the bakkie.
The Marlin has a distinct advantage over the other popular lever-action rifle, the Winchester, in that it features a solid top receiver. This allows for cases to be ejected sideways and for a telescope to be easily mounted on top of the receiver. Winchester may have altered their design to allow for angled ejection to permit better scope mounting options on its lever-action, but the Marlin's design is a better bet for someone intending to fit a telescope on a lever-action.
The latest model Marlins also feature a safety button just in front of the hammer, a feature not found on earlier models. It doesn't detract from the rifle's aesthetics and is both effective and quickly accessible by the shooter. Another handy feature is the optional horizontal hammer spur that can be fitted to allow for easy hammer cocking should a telescope be mounted.
The trigger on the Marlin tested by Pot-Shot was on the heavy side, and judging without a gauge is probably on the other side of 5 pounds. This can be lightened by a competent gunsmith, or will eventually become lighter with enough use.
The stock is an attractive piece of walnut with neatly cut checkering. The metal to wood finish is also excellent.
In terms of accuracy, the test rifle was supplied without a telescope and this has inherent limitations in terms of assessing true accuracy potential. From behind a bench groups obtained with 170 grain Federal Powershock provided groups of just over two inches at a range of 40 meters. Obviously this will tighten considerably with the addition of a telescope and through custom handloads.
Given the intended application of the Marlin 336 as a close to moderate range brush/bush rifle the accuracy is perfectly sufficient for the job at hand.
The Marlin 336 Stainless Steel model in 30-30 has a suggested retail price of R22,860 and the Marlin 336 in regular blued finish has a suggested retail price of R19,000.
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