The Marlin Models 308, 336, 444, and 1895

By Chuck Hawks

Marlin 336SS
Illustration courtesy of Marlin Firearms Co.

The heart of the Marlin centerfire lever action rifle line includes the Model 308 (.308 Marlin Express), 336 (.30-30 and .35 Rem.), Model 444 (.444 Marlin), and Model 1895 (.45-70 and .450 Marlin). The latter two models are big bore versions of the basic Model 336, while the Model 308 is merely the 336 chambered for the new .308 Marlin Express cartridge.

The Model 336 is the foundation of Marlin's success in the centerfire rifle market. It is their best seller, and one of the all-time best selling hunting rifles ever made. Total sales are well into the multiple millions.

There are currently four basic models in the 336 line, and a couple of minor variations. The main models are the 336C (the standard version with walnut stock and 20" barrel), 336SS (a 336C with stainless steel metal parts), the 336A (an economy version of the 336C with a walnut finished hardwood stock), and the XLR (stainless steel barreled action, 24" barrel and laminated wood stock). The Model 308MXLR is identical to the Model 336XLR except that it is chambered for the .308 Marlin Express cartridge instead of .30-30. All stocks currently feature a pistol grip, cut checkering in a hand filling diamond point pattern, and a satin Mar-Shield finish. All 336 models have a traditional deep blue metal finish except the 336SS and XLR, which have a satin silver finish.

The 336C is currently produced in .30-30 and .35 Remington calibers. All other Model 336 variants come in .30-30 only.

The basic specifications of the 336C, 336A, and 336SS are as follows: approximate weight 7 pounds; 20" Micro-Groove barrel with full length magazine tube; 6+1 cartridge capacity; overall length 38.5"; hammer block safety; adjustable folding semi-buckhorn rear sight and hooded ramp front sight with brass bead; tapped for receiver sight and scope mount; detachable sling swivel studs; comes with an ambidextrous off-set hammer spur for scope use.

The Model 444 is based on a 336 action modified to handle the .444 Marlin cartridge. The .444 case is fatter (0.469" compared to 0.422" base diameter) than the .30-30 case and has a 0.012" larger diameter rim; the .444 case is also 0.13" longer. Visually, the 444 action is virtually identical to the regular 336 action.

The 444 was introduced in 1965 and is still being manufactured. The Model 444 features the checkered black walnut, pistol grip buttstock of the 336C with the same Mar-Shield finish, a 22" barrel with open sights and deep-cut 6 groove rifling, and a two-thirds length 5-shot tubular magazine. This rifle is 40.5" in overall length and weighs 7.5 pounds. Detachable sling swivel studs and a rubber rifle butt plate are standard. Over the years different barrel lengths from 18.5" to 24" have been tried, and the 22" barrel has proven to be the best compromise. It balances well, carries easily, reduces muzzle blast, and provides decent ballistics.

The Model 1895 action (not to be confused with the original square-bolt, case colored Marlin Model 1895 discontinued in 1915) is a further development of the 336 action modified to accommodate the even larger .45-70 cartridge. The .45-70 case has a rim diameter of 0.600", a base diameter of 0.500", and a case length of 2.105", which required that the 336's ejection port be enlarged to pass the empty cases. This larger ejection port makes it easy to tell a Model 1895 action from the Model 336 and 444 actions.

The new Model 1895 appeared in 1972, chambered for the .45-70 Government cartridge. Today the Model 1895 line has been expanded by the addition of rifles in .450 Marlin caliber. All 1895 models feature genuine walnut stocks with cut checkering, recoil pads, and a Mar-Shield finish. Also standard are detachable sling swivel studs, open sights, 4-shot tubular magazines, and barrels with deep-cut Ballard-type 6 groove rifling.

The standard rifle with a 22" barrel and a pistol grip stock is the Model 1895 (.45-70). This rifle is 40.5" in overall length and weighs 7.5 pounds. Except for the enlarged recoil port it appears identical to the Model 444.

The 1895 carbines, called "Guide Guns," feature straight grip buttstocks and attenuated 18.5" barrels with integral muzzle brakes to help reduce the fearsome recoil (at the expense of greatly increased muzzle blast). A unique variation of the Guide Gun type is the Model 1895GS, a .45-70 that features a stainless steel barreled action.

All of the Guide Guns are 37" in overall length and weigh 7 pounds. They are muzzle light and kick like the devil (over 37 ft. lbs. of recoil in .450 caliber!). They sound like the clap of doom when fired and the short barrel results in considerable velocity (and therefore energy) loss. These are clearly rifles designed to be carried a lot and fired very little, and then only in desperation at very short range, just as their name implies. Despite the popularity of the Guide Guns, they are not the best choice for the typical recreational shooter and hunter, who would do well to stick with the rifle version of the Model 1895 or the Model 444.

Perhaps the biggest advantage possessed by all of the Marlin lever action rifles is their solid top receivers, which strengthens the action and allows a telescopic sight to be mounted low and overbore. Other desirable features of the 308/336/444/1895 rifles include fast repeat shot capability, ambidextrous operation, and quick handling. The flat action makes these easy rifles to carry, and they are naturals for transporting in a saddle scabbard.

Marlin has always believed in wood stocks and solid steel parts, which gives the 308/336/444/1985 rifles a quality look and feel plus legendary durability. Unless there is a change in ownership, I doubt that Marlin will ever allow inferior quality parts in their centerfire lever action rifles. (Can you spell "integrity"?)

I have been a fan of Marlin lever action rifles for many years. Regardless of caliber they are good rifles made of top quality materials. They look right and they shoot right. They are chambered for calibers well proven for hunting North American game ranging in size from small whitetail deer to Alaskan moose and the great bears. What more could a woodsman ask for?

Note: Full reviews of the Marlin Models 336SS, 336XLR, 308MXLR and 444 rifles can be found on the Product Reviews Page.

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Copyright 2003, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.