Marlin Model 336XLR .30-30 Rifle
By Chuck Hawks and Nathan Rauzon
The Marlin Model 336 is one of the most popular hunting rifles in history. Given the recent demise of the Winchester Model 94, the Marlin 336 is the all time best selling centerfire hunting rifle in production today. And the Marlin 336 shows no signs of slowing down.
The newest member of the line is the Model 336XLR, designed to exploit the advantages of Hornady's new LEVERevolution .30-30 ammunition. Of course, all standard .30-30 ammunition can also be used. This distinctive looking model features a stainless steel barreled action, gray laminated hardwood stock with a semi-beavertail forend, 24" barrel and a half magazine.
Other less obvious touches include a fluted bolt, deluxe recoil pad (feels like a Sims), and an absence of barrel bands. The fluted bolt is for appearance, the recoil pad is for comfort, while the barrel bands can degrade accuracy and are well dispensed with. Oddly, the pistol grip cap that is standard on most Model 336 rifles was omitted on our XLR. The overall fit and finish of our test rifle are good.
Here are the specifications for the Model 336XLR rifle:
The 336XLR has a 24" barrel to maximize the potential of Hornady's new LEVERevolution .30-30 load, which features a 160 grain spitzer boat-tail bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2400 fps. We have covered this breakthrough ammunition in a previous article, so we will only hit the high points here. (See the "Ammunition and Cartridge Articles" heading on the Rifle Information Page for more information.)
Basically, the improved trajectory of Hornady LEVERevolution .30-30 load makes the .30-30 a 250 yard deer and general CXP2 class game cartridge with a high chest hold. The LEVERevolution bullet is traveling about 400 fps faster and carrying 400 ft. lbs. more energy at 250 yards than a conventional 170 grain flat point bullet.
Here are Hornady's .30-30 LEVERevolution velocity/energy figures taken in a 24" test barrel: 2400/2046 @ muzzle, 2150/1643 @ 100 yds, 1916/1304 @ 200 yds, 1699/1025 @ 300 yds. With this ammunition the good old .30-30 is suddenly a different cartridge, delivering more energy at 300 yards than traditional loads deliver at 200 yards.
Due to the miracle of a greatly improved ballistic coefficient, the .30-30 LEVERevolution spitzer boat-tail bullet also shoots flatter than either the traditional 150 or 170 grain flat point .30-30 loads. Here are the Hornady trajectory figures for those loads, based on a rifle with a scope mounted 1.7" overbore and zeroed to shoot 3" high at 100 yards: +3" @ 100 yds, +0.2" @ 200 yds, -12.1" @ 300 yds.
One of the nice things about the .30-30 cartridge is its proven effectiveness coupled with moderate recoil. It kills game, not the hunter's shoulder. Lower recoil translates to better shot placement, and precise shot placement is, by far, the most important factor in killing power.
The extended range capability of LEVERevolution ammunition means that more emphasis must necessarily be put on accuracy and ballistics, and Marlin has done just that with the 336 XLR rifle. That explains the 24" Ballard rifled barrel, half magazine, and lack of traditional barrel bands. It may also explain the better than average trigger in our test rifle, which released at a reasonably clean 4.25 pounds as measured by our RCBS Premium trigger pull gauge. This is the first Marlin 336 in recent memory that hasn't required a trigger job right out of the box.
We mounted a 2-7x32mm Bushnell Legend scope on our XLR test rifle using a Weaver base and Millet rings. This seems like an optimum type of scope given the capabilities of the rifle and cartridge, combining as it does a very wide field of view for woods hunting with the magnification to allow a 300 yard shot across a canyon if necessary. Bore sighting was easily accomplished with the aid of a Bushnell optical boresighter.
Marlin representatives told us that in their testing these XLR rifles were routinely shooting 1" groups at 100 yards from a bench rest using Hornady LEVERevolution factory loads. Of course, the Marlin technicians are probably better shots than we are, but we were curious to see what we could do with one of these new XLR rifles.
So, it was with considerably excitement that we headed to the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene, Oregon with a quantity of Hornady .30-30 LEVERevolution ammunition and our newly arrived Marlin 336XLR test rifle in hand. This outdoor range provides covered shooting positions and solid bench rests. For once it wasn't raining and wind was not a factor. The high temperature was about 62 degrees (F), a beautiful Spring day in Western Oregon. Assisting Nathan and Chuck with the shooting chores were Guns and Shooting Online staff members Jim Fleck, Bob Fleck, and Rocky Hays.
Naturally, we were interested in the XLR's performance with the Hornady LEVERevolution factory loads for which it was designed and which Steve Johnson at Hornady had graciously provided to Guns and Shooting Online. We also had on hand some of Cor-Bon's new DPX Hunter rifle ammo in .30-30, generously submitted for testing by Cor-Bon's Pete Pi, Jr. This load uses a 150 grain Barnes TSX bullet at a MV of 2300 fps. The Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet is an all copper hollow point design known for virtually100% weight retention after expansion and relatively deep penetration.
Winchester (Olin) sent along samples of their Super-X Silvertip 150 grain (MV 2390 fps) and 170 grain (MV 2200 fps) ammunition. These are standard priced loads with an excellent reputation for quick, humane kills on deer and black bear and with which I have had good results in previous Marlin (and Winchester) .30-30 rifles.
The last load we tried in the 336XLR is a handload that has given good accuracy in a number of .30-30 rifles and is representative of conventional flat point .30-30 reloads. It uses a 150 grain Sierra FP Pro-Hunter bullet in front of enough IMR 3031 powder to yield a MV of 2364 fps from a 24" barrel.
After getting the rifle zeroed-in at 100 yards for testing, we fired multiple 3-shot 100 yard groups on Outers ScoreKeeper targets with all of the various types of ammunition. A Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with 50 pounds of lead shot helped us hold the rifle steady.
Here are the shooting results:
AVERAGE GROUP SIZE FOR ALL LOADS TESTED = 1.622"
This is fine accuracy for any big game hunting rifle, and particularly a traditional lever action. Chuck shot the smallest overall group at 9/32". He admitted that is the smallest 100 yard group he has ever fired with any lever action rifle. We happened to be testing the Marlin 336XLR along side a new Sako 85 bolt action rifle. Despite the Sako's 1" at 100 yards 3-shot group accuracy guarantee, the Marlin shot the smallest individual groups and the smallest average group size with all of the loads tested. Do not sell the accuracy of this lever action short!
Not only is the new Marlin 336XLR an extremely accurate rifle, it is also an extremely reliable rifle. We suffered no malfunctions of any kind during the course of our testing.
Any hunter seeking a fast shooting, accurate, deadly, reliable and weather resistant rifle for hunting deer and other CXP2 class game should seriously consider a Marlin Model 336XLR. This is one traditional lever action rifle that can hold its own in any company. And the .30-30 cartridge won't kick the shooter out from under his or her hat.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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