The Marlin 1895 XLR is the latest in a long, distinguished lever-rifle lineage.
Marlin's 1893 became the Model 36 in 1937, on the tail of the Depression. It sold for $32. The gun was promoted by the company as a "new gun especially for American big game." The carbine featured a solid frame, 20-inch round tapered "special smokeless barrel," proof-tested, crown muzzle, Ballard-type rifling, visible hammer, case-hardened receiver and a steel buttplate. Its black walnut stock had a rounded, semi-beavertail fore-end, and the silver bead front sight, dovetailed to the barrel, complemented what the company called a "flat top Rocky Mountain rear sight."
The 61/2-pound Model 36 came in .30-30 or .32 Special. A rifle version added inches and ounces. Eleven years later Marlin updated this lever-action, renaming it the 336. To the delight of its many fans, the new version took nothing from the sleek looks, gunny feel and excellent fit and finish of the original.
Rifle or carbine, the 336 still balances well and points naturally. The solid-top receiver, always a better design than the open top on Winchester's 94, has become an ever greater asset as more hunters use scopes. The stock comb puts your eye in line with low-mounted optics. Still, I like the way the 336 and 1895 feel with iron sights.
Now available in many forms, including short-action 1894s chambered in .357 and .44 Magnum and .45 Colt, Marlin lever guns retain the "cowboy" look and solid, smooth-shucking mechanisms that have kept them in saddle scabbards and on watch with stump-sitters for over a century.
The .450 Marlin and now the .308 and .338 Marlin Express qualify these rifles for the biggest North American game. Hornady's LeverEvolution loads deliver not only deadly results up close; they offer the reach and accuracy historically expected only from bolt rifles.Marlin's recent acquisition by Remington will bring changes in management at the New Haven plant. Remington has assured shooters that Marlin's distinctive rifles will remain so.