First Look: Hornady's LEVERevolution .308 Marlin Express

By Chuck Hawks

Hornady .308 Marlin Ammunition.
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Manufacturing Co., Inc.

The Hornady LEVERevolution ammunition line includes a new, 21st Century cartridge named the .308 Marlin Express. This new cartridge was designed for use in the Marlin 336 (.30-30 length) action and uses an improved version of the 160 grain Evolution boat-tail spitzer bullet introduced in 2005 in the .30-30 LEVERevolution load.

Hornady press information makes the following points about the .308 Marlin:

  • The most advanced lever gun cartridge ever.
  • Performance that rivals the .308 Winchester, but with less recoil.
  • The Evolution bullet provides a dramatically higher ballistic coefficient and affords dramatic velocity increases over traditional flat point loads. It also delivers devastating terminal performance over a wide velocity range.
  • Advanced jacket/core construction that provides exceptional expansion, deep penetration and weight retention.
  • New propellants provide maximum muzzle velocity at conventional pressures for flatter trajectories and greater downrange energy.
  • Highest quality cases and primers for consistent shooting in the field.

The .308 Marlin is based on a new case, not a necked-down version of any previous case, although it is very similar to a .307 Win. case with the shoulder set back .0998". It is a rimmed cartridge with somewhat greater performance, as factory loaded, than the .307 Winchester and it comes close to the .300 Savage. Its advertised ballistics fall between those cartridges.

The new .308 Marlin takes advantage of Hornady's development of the LEVERevolution flex-tip spitzer bullet concept. This has been re-optimized specifically for the .308 Marlin, to give a flatter trajectory and greater retained velocity and energy down range. The new 160 grain .308 Marlin Evolution bullet has a longer ogive and a higher ballistic coefficient (BC .400) than last years .30-30 Evolution bullet. (The 160 grain .30-30 Evolution bullet has a BC of .330.)

The newly revised 160 grain Evolution bullet has already proven to be very effective on a variety of big game animals. You can visit the Hornady web site at to see the results of hunts using this bullet.

Hornady ballistics tables for the new .308 Marlin call for a 160 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2660 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 2513 ft. lbs. Here are the down range velocity and energy numbers: 100 yards = 2430 fps/2111 ft. lbs.; 200 yards = 2226 fps/1761 ft. lbs.; 300 yards = 2026 fps/1457 ft. lbs.; 400 yards = 1836 fps/1197 ft. lbs.

The trajectory of the new load looks like this for a rifle with a scope mounted 1.5" overbore: +3" at 100 yards, +1.7" at 200 yards, -6.7" at 300 yards, -23.5" at 400 yards.

The new .308 Marlin kicks less than the .308 Winchester because it burns less powder and fires its bullet at slightly lower velocity. On the other hand, it does not quite equal the performance of the .308 Winchester. The latter is factory loaded by Hornady to drive 165 grain bullets at MV's between 2700 fps and 2880 fps, depending on the specific load.

The .308 Marlin Express is the newest, fastest, flattest shooting and most versatile of the rimmed hunting cartridges intended for use in lever action rifles. It elevates the Marlin 336 rifle to true "all-around" status for hunting CXP2 (deer class) and CXP3 (elk class) game. A Guns and Shooting Online review of the new Marlin Model 308MXLR rifle in the exciting .308 Marlin caliber can be found of the Product Review Page.

Note: There is a full length article about the .308 Marlin as well as cartridge comparison articles that include the .308 Marlin on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.