Ruger Making Strides in Rebooting Marlin Lever Guns
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Ruger has only had three years at bat in the lever gun game, plunging headfirst with the acquisition of the damaged old Marlin brand, but they are well on the way to a win.
The Marlin Firearms Company is legendary, at least when it comes to lever-action “cowboy” style rifles. Formed in 1870 by the eponymous gun engineer John Mahlon Marlin, the company made everything from bicycles to machine guns over the years and picked up a bunch of smaller brands along the way including Hopkins & Allen, H&R, and New England Firearms before Remington Outdoors bought the whole concern in 2007.
Then, “Big Green” proceeded to run the business into the ground over the course of a decade, closing Marlin’s traditional factories in New England and moving production to labor-friendly Kentucky, losing untold tribal knowledge on how the guns were made in the process.
Remington then tried to fix it by transferring the old SAE designs from the days of slide rules and hand-drawn blueprints into a modern CNC format for the first time, enabling programable machines to attempt to make up for the loss of the “magic dust” department. Complaints skyrocketed as guns often just didn’t work. A further move from the troubled Kentucky plant to one in Alabama with an even worse track record didn’t help.
In the end, Rem-Lin closed down as part of the greater implosion of Remington Outdoors in the summer of 2020, ironically right after the company announced a line of rifles celebrating the company’s 150th anniversary.
For the court-approved bid of $28.3 million, Ruger acquired the Marlin name, social media accounts, websites, patents, and 100 tractor-trailer loads of tooling, machines, components, and spare parts starting in November 2020, moving them from Remington’s plants in Alabama and New York to a Mayodan, North Carolina where Ruger would attempt to breathe new life into the brand.
The first Ruger-made Marlin, an M1895SBL in 45-70 Gov’t– the gun made famous in the hands of Chris Pratt in the Jurassic World franchise– was debuted in late 2021.
The M1895 Stainless Big Loop, in .45 Government, was Ruger’s first Marlin, announced in October 2021, just 11 months after the company acquired the scrapped Marlin line from Remington.
Then, in 2022 came the reintroduction of the more compact Marlin 1895 Trapper, with improvements including a receiver-mounted Skinner Sight system and suppressor-ready barrel as well as the more classically styled Model 1895 Guide Gun– both keeping with the hard-thumping .45-70 caliber.
This year has seen Ruger step up production and add pages to the new Marlin catalog with three new rifles in what the company is calling the Classic series. The Model 336 made a reappearance— the first new Ruger-Marlin in .30-30 Winchester– as did the Model 1894 in both .44 Mag/Special and .357/.38 Spl.
Also making a reappearance this year is the Dark Series, which is optimized for use with a suppressor and uses a nylon-reinforced polymer stock and aluminum handguard with M-LOK attachment slots.
The Dark Series was introduced in late 2023 in 45-70 Govt (Model 1895 Dark) and will be available in 2024 in both .30-30 (Model 336 Dark) and 44 Mag/Special (Model 1894 Dark).
Pricing has been all over the place on these as Ruger has MSRPs ranging from $1,239 for the Guide Gun and Classic line to $1,379 for the 1895 Dark, $1,449 for the Trapper, and $1,479 for the SBL.
With limited availability and allocation sales (“if you buy 25 LCPs, we’ll let you get a Marlin” etc.) via distributors and retailers, these prices often went higher to match demand.
However, you are now starting to see some models hover around the $999 mark brand new, so there is hope to see the market stabilize in 2024 as more guns enter the pipeline. This puts them closer to the price of Henry’s Wisconsin-made lever gun lines and often less than the new Japanese-made Winchester 1894s.
Further, reviews thus far on the Ruger-made Marlins are good, which bodes well for the future.
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