The Best Marlin Ever Made

The Ruger-made Marlin 1895 Trapper is built to tighter tolerances with thoughtful upgrades.

The Best Marlin Ever Made

Marlin is one of the most recognizable brands in the firearms industry. After a period of quality control issues, Marlin fans were excited in 2020 to hear that Ruger had acquired the brand, intellectual property and hard assets from the Remington Outdoor Corporation with the promise of delivering the best Marlin rifles ever. 

Ruger’s recently expanded facilities and modernized manufacturing capabilities have allowed Ruger to introduce a stream of innovative high-precision products over the last decade.

Customers' expectations were that Ruger would leverage those capabilities to restart the Marlin brand, fix shortcomings, and improve the overall product quality. Based on the quality of the new Marlin 1895 Trapper, the power of Ruger’s manufacturing team has delivered on the hopes of Marlin customers. 

A decision was made early to take a fresh look at the entire Marlin manufacturing process to align to “the Ruger way.” It started with moving all the Marlin assets including machinery to Mayodan, North Carolina. Ruger invested significant effort upgrading tooling and rehabilitating the older Marlin equipment to improve precision and reduced allowable tolerance ranges by half on most Marlin machines. Ruger also added other modern and higher precision machining processes new to Marlin production. 

The essential Marlin lever-action design has not changed much in 125 years, so Ruger wanted to assure the look, feel and DNA of Marlin was retained. Ruger even consulted with the Marlin Firearm Collectors Association on customer requested enhancements including fit and finish, and accuracy improvements. Ruger believed they could greatly reduce or eliminate hand fitting and finishing processes with tighter tolerances. This evaluation required going back to the original Auto-Cad drawing specs from Marlin’s New Haven plant. 

Higher precision eliminated the typical shims used for barrel mounting while EDM delivered a crisper trigger and CNC manufacturing reduced fitting. Instead of broach and button-rifled barrels Ruger moved to cold-hammer barrel forging to improve consistency and accuracy. The parts are also now pre-heat-treated before machining to assure the parts retain the expected precision. Stainless is harder to machine than steel, so Ruger started with stainless steel knowing that steel would be simpler, so expect many new things coming.

Customers should feel a very notable quality jump just handling a new Marlin rifle. The name “Ruger” does not appear on the new Marlins, which are now only recognizable with RM-prefaced serial numbers, a Ruger proof mark on the barrel, the origin changed to Mayodan, North Carolina, and the Marlin trademark horse and rider logo lasered into the grip. The black and white bullseye logo stock inset is now red and white as well.


Below is a list of the new Ruger updates to the Marlin lever action rifles:

●      Precision EDM machining of trigger and other high precision parts

●      Improved trigger feel and 5- to 6-pound trigger pull

●      Premanufacturing heat treatment of parts to assure precision

●      Cold hammer-forged barrels with barrel threading

●      Tight shimless barrel fitting and consistent barrel torque

●      Stainless Skinner Sight system

●      Smoother cycling

●      Radiusing of all edges to improve feel and lever cycling comfort

●      Reengineered rear of receiver to prevent stock cracks

●      Slightly slimmer handguard profile

●      Nickel-plated bolt

●      Corrected cycling issues when gun was held at odd angles

●      Reduced-glare finish

●      All-weather laminate stock

●      All stainless construction

●      Most part tolerances reduced by 50% from 4-thousandths to under 2-thousandths

●      Built to the same quality standard Ruger uses on all other products

The 1895 Legacy The Marlin 1895 was really not that popular until it was reintroduced in 1972 when Marlin was a little financially strained. Marlin executives believed that a heritage large-bore rifle would elevate sales. The tactic worked. Marlin became known for its big-bore lever actions and literally owned the majority of the market for decades. New shooters are again buying lever actions and the .45-70 has seen a large resurgence as a proven round with a lot of power and reliability in any environment. Ruger has carried through that legacy and also listened to what this new market wants from these rifles. Input from Alaskan hunters led to a shorter overall length, threaded barrel, generous buttstock pad, bullet-proof off-axis cycling, improved sights and all-weather design. The result is the 5+1 capacity stainless Marlin 1895 Trapper in .45-70 with a light 7.1-pound weight and trim 34.25-inch overall length that makes it one of the shortest large-bore lever actions made. 

In addition to Ruger delivering a significantly higher grade of Marlin, much attention was on assuring the 1895 Trapper would be optimized for harsh field use, hunting and self defense for hunters in remote locations. Beyond the stainless construction, nickel-plated bolt and all-weather stock, even the sight selection was tuned for this environment. The choice to include billet stainless steel Skinner Sights was perfect with Skinner’s reputation as the premier lever-gun sight. Optics and electro optic gadgetry are really not needed on this rifle and the reliable Skinner Sight system is the perfect solution. 

Though the thick buttstock greatly reduces felt recoil, there will be a lot of customers who opt to add a suppressor or muzzle brake to reduce recoil further. To make extended testing bearable, I used a Wilson Combat Q-Comp brake. It threaded on easily and tamed even the heaviest .45-70 loads. 

This is the smoothest Marlin I have ever shot, with perfect reliability throughout testing. Ruger clearly did a lot of work to smooth out the action and to assure flaw-free feeding. Loading was also smooth and shooters will also greatly appreciate the radiused edges around the trigger, hammer and loop to prevent blisters.

Shooting Experience

Ruger has carried through its quality process on the Marlin 1895 Trapper and has built a gun that would make John Marlin envious. Ruger has looked deeply into every aspect of the Marlin rifle instead of just moving and restarting the production line. This Marlin 1895 rifle is without question the best Marlin ever made. 

The smooth lever action offers the reliability of a bolt gun with very fast cycling and reloading speeds beneficial for follow-up shots and defensive situations against large animals. The .45-70 round even with solid cast lead bullets is proven as a game stopper and with new options like Hornady LeverEvolution and Underwood Lehigh Defense solid-brass-bullet rounds offering just under 4,000 ft./lbs. of energy. 

The 16.1-inch barreled and iron-sighted 1895 Trapper is not a gun that is going to sit on sandbags at the bench. It will most likely be treated badly, scraped through the woods, fired from awkward unsupported positions in heavy brush, and typically fired at moving objects closer than100 yards. Accuracy has already been proven on these new Ruger-produced Marlins to reliably deliver 1-inch or better 100-yard groups. Considering the 1895 Trapper model also does not have an out-of-the box method of scope attachment to replicate similar testing, I tested the 1895 Trapper in more realistic scenarios. Testing included shooting a 12-inch steel plate at 200 yards and cans of corn at 25, 50 and 100 yards in a variety of standing, kneeling and sitting positions at various speeds to simulate realistic target sizes and positions. Fast transition shots on 3-inch corn cans at 25 to 100 yards proved to be both easy and extraordinarily dramatic when a Hornady 250-grain FTX LEVERevolution round hit the cans. 

The weight and slim handguard profile made the handling comfortable throughout testing with the thick buttpad and additional Wilson muzzle brake helping to make the process less painful. For normal hunting and woods carry, a brake is not required and actually quieter to shoot; however, adding the brake is very nice for extended shooting sessions. One of the seriously fun rounds likely to become most shooters’ favorites are the Hornady 410-grain Sub-x Sonic rounds, which have very little felt recoil but still deliver nearly 900 ft-lbs of energy at 100 yards. 

Ruger has clearly preserved the Marlin DNA. Most shooters will be excited to see what the new Marlin division of Ruger will deliver, including the Model 336 in .30-30 and .35 Remington, and the Model 1894 expected in a variety of calibers.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.