Over the last couple years I have been checking out the Marlin 336. I recently saw a blued 336 at my local gun shop and my interest was renewed. It was a nice looking rifle but I decided to do a little price checking and research before closing the deal and I’m glad I did. Here is what I learned;
To my surprise, the Marlin Firearms company that is famous for building high qualitly moderately priced lever action rifles has been sold. Marlin was bought out by a large conglomerate that owns Remington and several other firearms manufacturers. The purchase took place in 2007 but Remington didn’t start assembling guns until the last half of 2008. As is usually the case when a company is bought out, the new owner starts to cut costs to improve the bottom line. In 2009 the Marlin production of lever action rifles was moved to Llian, New York. The problem with making the move and closing the long established manufacturing facility in New haven, CT was that the vast experience of the old time, skilled gun smiths and artisans who built the traditional Marlin lever rifles was lost in the move. This is quite evident in the first lots of guns manufactured under the auspices of Remington management. There is a lot more to building a quality firearm than running machines and milling wood to make parts and then screwing them together. There is just no comparison in fit, finish, and quality control between a traditional New Haven, CT Marlin made prior to 2008 and a Remington/Marlin, affectionately known as a RemLin, made after 2008. The horror stories about ill fitting wood, rough actions, actions that don’t operate, barrels that were drilled and machined off center, and sights that are ridiculously not vertical to the center line of the rifle abound. Although there are more than enough negative articles about RemLins online, there are beginning to be positive reports of gun owners who purchased Remington built Marlins who are happy with their new rifles. Perhaps Buying a new Remlin is OK now that they have gotten over the initial start up quality issues. I would still perform a good pre-sale inspection.
Because of the many quality control issues noted with the Remington built Marlins I made it a point to buy an original traditional quality Marlin made in New Haven, CT prior to 2008. Mine is a 2007 vintage with JM proof mark and made in New Haven, CT stamped on the barrel.
The Marlin 336 is probably the most popular rifle ever made and has taken more deer than any other hunting rifle. The popularity of the Marlin model 336 is not just due to the nostalgia of owning a lever action rifle, but is also a combination of rugged reliability, ease of use in thick brush, accuracy, the flexibility to use standard iron sights or a scope, and the stopping power of the low cost medium powered 30-30 Winchester round.
At first glance the Marlin lever action rifle looks similar to the Winchester 94, the rifle that “won the west”, but the differences, or rather improvements, are significant. The 336 ejects out the side and has a flat top that is drilled for easy rail and scope installation. The Winchester ejects out the top making scope installation more complicated.
Marlin 336 disassembly for cleaning is as easy as removing the lever pivot screw. The Winchester requires a more detailed disassembly for cleaning. The Marlin 336 models have a simple action, the Winchester action is more complicated with more moving parts.
The Marlin 336 is an update to the model 36 that was first designed and manufactured in 1936. Updates included a stronger rounded tubular bolt in place of a square-ish tube bolt to make the rifle stronger and capable of shooting more powerful rounds and larger calibers.
There are dozens of variations of the Marlin 336 all based on a basic model which today is the 336W a model that was exclusively sold by Wal-Mart. My 336SS is basically the 336W in stainless.
Marlin 336 Specifications
- Caliber – 30-30 Winchester and 35 Remington
- Capacity – 6 shot tubular magazine
- Action – Lever action, side eject
- Sights – Adjustable folding rear, hooded ramp front sight with brass bead. Solid top receiver tapped for scope.
- Scoped Model – Comes with a factory mounted and bore-sighted 3-9×32 scope
- Safety – Hammer block and half cock
- Stock – The nicer stocks are American black walnut with cut checkering. The inexpensive stocks are walnut finished Beech hardwood with pistol grip and cut checkering. There are older models with straight stocks without the pistol grip.
- Barrel – 20″ with Micro-Groove 12 groove rifling with 1:10″ right hand twist
- Overall Length – 38.25″
- Weight – 7 lbs
After picking up my rifle I did a quick cleaning. Disassembly for cleaning is easy. Make sure the rifle is safe and unloaded then pull the hammer back. Open the action about half way. Remove the lever pivot screw. Take care to use a proper screwdriver that fits the slot. Remove the lever. Slide the bolt out the rear of the receiver. Take out the extractor. The rifle is field stripped and ready for cleaning. Run a wet patch through the barrel then several dry patches.
After cleaning, lube the lever where it contacts the bolt and the pivot screw. Apply a light coating of oil on the bolt and lube the extractor and groove where it slides in the bolt. Then reassemble.
The night before, I had loaded up 50 rounds of 30-30 Winchester ammunition with 150 grain blunt point bullets, using 33 grains of H335 powder. I loaded 5 rounds into the 6 round tubular magazine. When I pulled the trigger the first shot didn’t go off. It took me a moment to realize that the cross-bolt safety was on. Pushed the safety to the off position and then a big smile. Fired all 50 rounds.
The rifle action is smooth and easy to operate. It was a lot of fun to shoot. Recoil is noticeable, not as much as my 308 but enough to know that you are shooting a powerful rifle. The sights were right on and the bullets went right to the point of aim. Group size was about 2 inches which is great considering my shooting ability using iron sights.
The Marlin 336 feels good, aims naturally, is fun to shoot, the 30-30 ammunition has reasonable power and is relatively inexpensive compared to most other calibers. It is a quality rifle built with very nice fit and finish. The only negative about it are the edges on the lever. These could be softened a bit. All in all I would highly recommend the Marlin 336 in any of its many configurations. I’m not a hunter, but shooting my new lever gun gives me ideas about bringing home a deer sometime in the future.
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