Ever since I was a kid patrolling the barn with my Red Ryder lever gun, this type of rifle has always been a big part of my life, followed by the Marlin Model 39 — a neat and trim rimfire. Over the years, between testing rifles, hunting and shooting, a Marlin lever gun of one kind or another has been in my gun rack. Plenty of deer and other critters have fallen over the sights of my Marlin Model 336, a model that was chambered for .30-30 Win. and .35 Rem.
As a direct descendent from the Model 1893, the Model 1936 (later renamed the Model 36) featured a solid-top receiver complete with a full pistol grip-type stock. In 1948, the gun became the Model 336 and was sold under both the Marlin and Glenfield brands. Today Marlin produces six variants of the 336, and one of the most recent is the Model 336BL (for "big loop"). Unlike 336s past, it's chambered for the .30-30 only.
Shades of "The Rifleman"? Maybe, but this gun can be fired only via the trigger and not the lever as was set up for the popular television show. The intent here is to offer a gun for those who hunt in cold weather: Marlin enlarged the operating lever to accommodate the wearing of gloves. I put on a pair of medium-weight gloves for some of my testing, and the gun functioned without hesitation.
With its shorter-than-normal 18.5-inch barrel, which employs Marlin's proprietary Micro-Groove rifling, this rifle will be the choice of many who ply their hunting skills in dense, cold forests.
The lever is closely fit, and the receiver is forged and features the solid top and side ejection that permit easy scope mounting. The bolt is left in the white, and it boasts a massive extractor to pull even the most stubborn cartridge out of the chamber. The mechanical ejector is located deep within the receiver.
Marlin says the full-length tubular magazine holds six rounds, and it does, but loading that last round is a bear — to the point I needed a tool to push the sixth round's rim past the loading gate. If it were my gun, I'd simply load five in the magazine and have one in the chamber.
For an initial function check, I loaded five dummy rounds into the rifle and worked the action; all ejected without any problems or malfunctions. On the negative side, Marlins have never been known for good trigger pulls, and the trigger on my sample broke at 10 pounds with just a bit of slack before the sear released.
The 336BL has a cross-bolt safety that rides near the tang of the rifle, and there's a trigger disconnector that requires the lever to be in the fully closed position in order to fire.
The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope bases, and Marlin includes an offset hammer spur to allow you to access the hammer spur with a scope mounted. The spur can be mounted on either side of the hammer and attaches with an Allen screw and included wrench.
I prefer open sights on lever-action rifles, and as with most Marlin lever guns, the 336BL has an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight that can be moved for windage via a brass drift. For elevation, lift the rear part of the assembly while sliding the elevation blade fore or aft to get the desired impact on the target. For those who mount a scope, the rear sight blade folds down.
Up front you have the traditional brass bead protected by Marlin's Wide-Scan hood. On my Marlins I find the brass bead a little wanting, especially in the early morning or evening light, so a dab of white or yellow paint solves the problem while enhancing the dot between the blades of the rear sight notch.
With the trend today for more durable rifles, the Model 336BL has a brown laminated hardwood stock that covers both the buttstock and fore-end. The fore-end of the gun is rather full, which makes it feel good in the hand especially with gloves on. It is nicely finished and inletted and has the typical Marlin point checkering complete with a diamond centered within the pattern.
The stock's pistol grip has more than ample checkering, the grip is finished with a cap, and the buttstock sports a black recoil pad with black spacer. The stock has a satin finish, which nicely complements the satin-finished blue metal.
I tested the Marlin Model 336BL at 50 yards with open sights, and the gun proved easy to handle and never missed a beat either loading or ejecting. I would rate it a nine out of 10, my only complaint being the horrendous trigger pull. For hunters looking for a lever action gun with some extra breathing room in the operating lever, take a closer look at this Marlin.