January 29, 2019
Shooting Marlin’s recently reintroduced Texan version of the grand old Model 336 took me back to an innocent time when the majority of deer hunters in my neck of the woods carried lever-action rifles with exposed hammers, and most stuck with open sights.
The Winchester 94 in .32 Special I used to bag my first deer belonged to one of my father’s hunting pals. Its rear sight was standard issue, but up front was a small steel ball suspended inside a hood by a couple of small horizontal rods. I had never fired the rifle, but when a buck eventually sauntered by at about 40 yards, it seemed natural to simply center the ball in the rear notch, close my eyes and yank the trigger. Much to my surprise, our supply of venison was in the bag.
When the time came to have a rifle of my very own, I chose a Marlin 336. It was the Sporting Carbine with a curved grip and a two-thirds-length magazine hanging beneath its 20-inch barrel. It wore a Weaver K2.5 scope. In those days the .30-30 was still king of deer cartridges, but I marched to the beat of the .35 Rem. drummer.
The Model 336 Texan I bought several years later—also in .35 Rem.—was given that name because, Marlin’s advertising said its straight-grip stock made the rifle “perfect for carrying in a saddle scabbard.” While I did not have a horse, it sounded like a grand adventure to me.
In those days scopes had a tendency to fog up, so the Texan with a Lyman 66 aperture-style sight attached to its receiver was my foul-weather partner. Both rifles accounted for quite a few deer, and one of several black bears taken with the Texan was so good that several decades of hunting them passed before I would take a bigger one.
The original Texan was introduced in 1954 and was produced in a number of variations for about 40 years. During that period, it wore barrel lengths of 16.25, 18.5 and 20 inches. It was available in .30-30, .35 Rem. and .44 Rem. Mag. The magazine tube of the 16.25-inch version held five .30-30 cartridges versus six for the magazines of the two longer barrels.
During 1963 and 1964, those with 16.25-inch barrels went by the handle Model 336 Marauder, and a friend of mine bought one in .35 Rem. The Marauder moniker was dropped due to political correctness, but the same carbine later came back to life as the Model 336 Lightweight.
Marlin changed from Ballard-style to Micro-Groove rifling in 1956, so with the exception of those built during 1954 and 1955, all Texan rifles will have barrels with 12 lands and grooves. Some receivers had a brass saddle ring while others did not.
If your Texan has a cross-bolt safety on its receiver, it was built after 1983. If it has a “gold-plated” trigger, it was built prior to 1982. The Deluxe Texan differed from the standard rifle by fancier wood and the head of a longhorn steer and a map of Texas hand-carved into its stock. Its $97 price was $10 higher than the standard Texan, and the difference in price would buy two boxes of .35 Rem. ammo.
Breech lockup of the Model 336 action is simple and sturdy. Closing the finger lever elevates the locking bolt at the rear of the receiver into engagement with a deep slot on the underside of the breech bolt.
The Model 336 is a descendant of the Model 1893, and in those days firearms makers were not a bit bashful about firing the occasional broadside in the direction of a competitor. One of several safety features described in a Marlin flyer was described as “a safety firing pin not found in Winchester rifles.”
The firing pin is in two pieces with a strong spring pushing the rear section downward and out of alignment with the front section when the action is open. The end of the rear section of the pin extends into the locking slot of the breech bolt. As the top end of the locking bolt moves into engagement with that slot, it pushes the rear section of the firing pin into alignment with the front section. This prevents the firing pin from moving forward until the action is completely locked.
In addition to that, a trigger stop pin prevents the trigger from being pulled until the finger lever is in its full-lock position. A cross-bolt safety that prevents the hammer from reaching the firing pin when the action is closed was added to the Model 336 in 1984.
Down through the decades, the accuracy of many lever-action rifles has been destroyed by cleaning the barrel from its muzzle end. One of the very best design features of the Model 336 action is the ease of partial disassembly for cleaning its bore from the chamber end of the barrel. This also exposes the interior of the receiver and its parts for cleaning and lubrication. A cleaning rod guide made specifically for the Model 336 is available from Sinclair International.
Begin field-stripping by making sure the magazine is empty and opening the finger lever just enough to unlock the action and cock the hammer. After using a small screwdriver to remove its threaded pivot pin, the lever is free to be pulled downward and out of the receiver.
Place the rifle left-side down in your lap or atop a padded work bench. Then grasp the breech bolt by its rear end and begin slowly pulling it from the receiver. Just as the nose of the bolt reaches the rear end of the ejection port, stop there and note that the ejector is in view in the left-hand wall of the receiver. Reach in with a finger, depress and hold down the ejector and remove the bolt entirely from the receiver. The ejector can then be pulled from its slot in the receiver wall.
Prior to installing the bolt, place the ejector in position with its alignment pin in a small hole through the receiver wall and hold it in its depressed position while sliding the bolt partway into the receiver. Once the nose of the bolt is at about the middle of the ejection port, push the finger lever back into engagement and install its pivot screw. The rifle is ready to shoot a deer.
The Model 336 Texan built by Marlin today is a bit fancier than the one I owned during my youth. Its metal finish is not as good as the old Model 336s in my gun room, but otherwise it is a cut above the appearance of most, and that begins with what the company describes as B-grade American walnut.
I am not familiar with Marlin’s grading system, but my eyes told me the stock and fore-end of the Texan I shot had just enough contrasting figure to prompt the lover of walnut and blued steel to choose it over its plastic-stocked competition. The stock has a nicely executed satin finish and a thin rubber pad, but since the less-expensive Model 336C has machine-cut checkering on its stock and fore-end, I am surprised by its absence on the Texan Deluxe.
As it should be on any hunting rifle, front and rear posts await a sling with quick-attach swivels. And, yes, the stock has the black-and-white bullseye we all look for on a Marlin rifle.
Both sides of the receiver have touches of machine engraving, along with Marlin’s ever-familiar horse and rider standing guard in gold. The Marble Arms semi-buckhorn rear sight is step-adjustable for elevation and drift-adjustable for windage. The front sight has a 0.120-inch white bead and is dovetailed directly to the barrel.
The Texan has a 20-inch barrel with 1:10 Micro-Groove rifling and is available only in .30-30 Win. Its tubular magazine holds six rounds. A tour with my Lyman Borescope revealed mostly smoothness inside the hammer-forged barrel with only a few light tool marks.
Installing an aperture rear sight on the new Texan was not solely in the spirit of nostalgia. In addition to being more accurate than open sights and as accurate as a scope out to 200 yards or so, that type of sight does not spoil the handling qualities of the rifle. Its only downside is toward the end of the day it runs out of shooting light sooner than a scope.
The receivers of Marlin rifles are no longer drilled and tapped for a side-mounted receiver sight, but Andy Larsson at Skinner Sights offers excellent sights that utilize the holes drilled and tapped in the roof of the receiver. The Express version I chose is adjustable for windage but not elevation. It was high enough to see the front bead a bit over and through the deep notch of the factory sight with its elevator removed and since the rifle was not mine, I did not remove its sight.
During accuracy testing, all cartridges were loaded into the magazine, and not a single one failed to make a smooth trip to the chamber. The trigger broke at a consistent 5.25 pounds, which is plenty light for making a wintertime shot at a deer with the temperature so cold your feet went numb hours ago. There was no detectable creep or overtravel, and the trigger was surprisingly smooth for a lever-action rifle. The action innards were also slippery enough and will become even more so through years of use.
The Texan arrived during our monsoon season, so I had no choice but shoot it in anything but bluebird weather. The weather map indicated scattered light showers, but upon arrival at the range, I was greeted by a steady downpour and a temperature of 86 degrees. My only covered target frames are at 50 yards, so those were used. I loaded six rounds into the magazine, fired two three-shot groups, water-cooled the barrel and then fired two more groups with each of eight loads. Accuracy was more than good enough to take game to the outer fringes of the .30-30’s effective range. The smallest single-group award (0.47 inch) went to Federal Non-Typical ammunition.