The Column, No. 58:

Cerberus Closes Marlin New Haven

By Randy Wakeman

John M. Marlin (1836-1901) founded Marlin Firearms. After the passing of Mr. Marlin, the company was eventually purchased by a New York group, becoming Marlin Rockwell Corporation. After World War I, the sporting arms division of Marlin sputtered, ending up in liquidation in 1923.

Frank Kenna bought Marlin in 1924 apparently with an auction bid of one hundred dollars. Frank Kenna and sons grew the business steadily and Marlin remained the Kenna family business until 2007, when it was sold to Remington for $42 million dollars. In actuality, Remington could not have purchased much of anything on its own, as the RACI Holdings owned Remington was acquired by Cerberus Group in 2007 for $118 million and the assuming of $252 million in debt, pumping much needed capital into Remington.

Cerberus Group had already closed down the NEF/H&R 1871 facility in Gardner, Massachusetts at the end of 2008, laying off some 200 workers. On March 25, 2010, Marlin employees were informed that Marlin New Haven is to be no more, with lay-offs commencing in May 2010. Complete shutdown of the plant is apparently scheduled to be completed by June of 2011 with the loss of all 265 jobs.

Cerberus Capital Management, owners of the Remington brand, is the same Cerberus that purchased Chrysler for $7.4 Billion in 2007. As reported by CNN money on May 6, 2009, the failed Chrysler-Cerberus will not repay American taxpayers the more than $7 billion in bailout money it took in 2009. Some may view the multi-billion dollar rip-off of the American taxpayer and consider the NEF/H&R 1871 and Marlin New Haven plant closings as small change by comparison; that remains an open question.

Cerberus' Freedom Arms Group was reported in October 2009 as preparing for an IPO of stock in an attempt to raise $200 million. We can only hope that the two hundred million of other peoples' money is not intended to acquire more brand names in the American firearms industry. The prior Cerberus ventures of Chrysler, GMAC, H&R 1871 and now Marlin have not done much good for American industry and American jobs. (Perhaps, but wait and see. Closing the New Haven plant may merely be a precursor to moving Marlin production out of the Northeast to a state more appreciative of the firearms industry. -Editor.)

As for what the future might be for the Marlin brand, it is a bit muddy. One would think that whatever remains of the New Haven tooling that can be used to make rifles that still show some popularity or profitability will be at one location or another in the Freedom Arms Group system.

Personally, I have had many pleasant times in the field with Marlin product. My favorite Marlin is a 39A lever action .22 rimfire. The first Marlin I ever shot was over 45 years ago, a Marlin magazine fed, lever action .22. It is the Model 56 Levermatic .22, produced from 1955 to 1964. This one was a gift from my Mom to my Dad and it still shoots extremely well. Great-Grandpa's Marlin “safety” .38-55 was the first rifle I ever carried deer hunting.

The Marlin Magnum 120 12 gauge pump was a well-made, steel, slide-action that was generally considered a successful model. The ones I owned were problem free, if lacking some of the appeal of the Winchester Model 12 it was apparently patterned after. Numerous Marlin Model 336 lever action rifles have all been very good shooters for me, along with a couple of Camp 9 autoloading carbines.

Some of the Marlin products in times past have fizzled, without much in the way of any explanation. The Marlin MR-7 bolt action rifle of 1996 held promise, but was seemingly discontinued right after its introduction for no apparent reason. The Camp 9 and Camp 45 autoloaders were pulled from the line, though those rifles were apparently well received. Rumor has it Marlin wanted to avoid the assault rifle stigma, but there never has been any clear explanation.

The reintroduction of the L.C. Smith shotgun apparently did not go as planned. There seems to be renewed interest in the centerfire Marlin lever guns along with the new Hornady LEVERevolution ammunition. Though the ammunition itself has been a success, the MSRP of the Marlin XLR336 designed with this ammunition has ballooned to around $860.

The Marlin Model 60 autoloading .22 has been called the “most popular 22 in the world”. I am not sure who conducted that survey, but certainly with over 11 million sold since 1960 it has been a resounding success. Long a utilitarian .22, the Model 60 has had a bit of price creep as well, with the Model 60SS hitting over $300 MSRP.

Recently, I tested a new Marlin XL7W bolt action .30-06 rifle. Though satisfactory, it turned out to be an immensely forgettable copy of the Savage 110. This type of “me too” product is rarely going to inspire widespread enthusiasm.

The Marlin 336, on the other hand, has always been a fine, traditional, lever action rifle. Though the name “Marlin” has never had the marketing magic that the Winchester brand enjoys, if you are going to scope a .30-30 lever gun, the Marlin Model 1894, 1895 and 336 series lever guns are the obvious choices.

When it comes to firearm companies, often there is a particular gun that defines them. In the case of Marlin, it is an easy choice. The Marlin Model 39 is the rifle that has defined Marlin for me. This all steel and walnut, takedown, .22 lever-action has been the best of its kind for a very long time. It is a wonderful firearm. Everyone should have at least one.

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