Marlins and Pawnshops
By Jim Force
During 40 years of hunting and using firearms, my guns had been acquired as gifts when young and through happenstance. (Such as my brother-in-law’s 16 gauge shotgun, which my sister no longer wanted I her house, liberal that she is). Several years ago, I again became more serious about hunting and decided to assemble the personal collection of weapons that fit my needs and desires.
Two years ago I started my search on the internet and last year I was able to fill two important slots in my battery, a new “Shot Show Special” Browning A-bolt Medallion in .308 with a Sightron Big Sky II 3x9x40mm scope for deer and a new 20gauge AyA #2 for doves. Alas, there were still some holes in my collection.
2009 found me looking for a .22 squirrel rifle. I had been using a .22 pistol and could not take long shots. Another deer rifle also seemed in order, as I hunt a variety of locations and terrains and sometimes have guests in need of a loaner. A further consideration for these two guns was searching the used market, as my discretional hunting funds were rather depleted from the purchase of the Browning and AyA.
All of my hunting is in Eastern North Carolina, in woods and over fields, and at my age and level of eyesight I never shoot at a deer over 200 yards away. After research on the net (including several articles on Guns and Shooting Online), I was drawn to the 30-30 as an excellent all-around caliber. With that in mind, I narrowed my selection to a Winchester or Marlin lever-action. Both have been manufactured in vast quantities and there is page after page of examples for sale on the various retail/auction gun web sites. Considering my need for optical sights, the Marlin 336 became the most obvious choice.
When considering used weapons, the internet has several disadvantages. Number one is that you cannot hold the actual gun and therefore condition is always suspect. Then, on top of whatever price is agreed upon, there are shipping and FFL fees. Therefore, I decided to investigate our local pawnshop market. There are at least seven pawnshops in my community with small gun racks. There are never more than 10 or 12 guns on display and one has to become a frequent visitor if you hope to find any particular make and model. What I fortunately discovered was that, because so many Marlin 336’s have been made, examples showed up regularly.
What I decided I really wanted was a pre-1983 Model 336 without the cross-bolt hammer safety, in good condition, with a walnut stock. During the search, I made the acquaintance of a particular pawnshop owner and one day when I walked in he immediately called me over and told me that his mother’s pawnshop, about 30 minutes away, had just what I wanted. I drove there and was shown a 1981 Marlin 336, the plainest model without even the gold trigger. Never the less, I could tell that the gun had sat in a closet for most of its life and probably had fired fewer than 200 rounds. A little surface rust aided my negotiations and I walked out with my new-to-me rifle for less than the cheapest internet price. My extended search was well worth it and have since thoroughly cleaned the gun and mounted a new Sightron 4x32mm scope. Last weekend I sighted-in the 336 and achieved a 2” group @100 yards. For me, that is very good. I was shooting from a campstool using a homemade tripod as a rest.
Oh yes, the .22. During my random and somewhat haphazard stops at the local pawnshops, I saw a Marlin model 60 and Marlin Glenfield 60 on the rack. During my internet search, I had decided on a tube-fed, semi-auto .22 as my first choice. The Browning and Remington examples both have nice wood and good reputations, but more Marlin Model 60's have been produced and sold than any other .22 autoloader and I figured it could not be all that bad, despite its “canoe paddle” stock.
The model 60 on the rack that day was another closet queen and showed minimal signs of use with the usual minor surface rust and dings and scratches on the stock. It was mounted with a broken Bushnell scope and missing the front trigger guard screw. I knew the screw could easily be replaced and I wanted a new scope anyway. I decided to negotiate and walked away with the gun for under $100. What a deal! I mounted a new Bushnell 4x rimfire scope and it has performed perfectly, shooting 2” groups at 70 yards.
If one is careful, does the research and is a good judge of condition, purchasing a high quality, American made firearm at a pawnshop can be extremely worthwhile. No buyer’s remorse and complete satisfaction. My hat is off to the Marlin Firearms Company for their ability to mass-produce such excellent rifles!
Copyright 2009 by Jim Force. All rights reserved.