December 20, 2021
By David Draper
It’s taken a little more than a year, but lever-action fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Ruger recently announced a new Marlin lever-gun offering under their ownership. The Marlin 1895 SBL lever-action rifle hits the market to much anticipation and fanfare, and from what we’ve learned so far, lives up to the combined legacies of both gunmakers. You can expect to read a full review of the new Marlin 1895 SBL in a future issue of Petersen’s Hunting, but what follows is a brief history lesson of how we got here and our initial thoughts on the first lever-action Marlin under Ruger’s ownership.
The Lost Decade
When the firearms manufacturer is formerly known as Remington finally imploded in July 2020, much of the worry among lever-gun fans was what would happen to Marlin. That collective concern was well-founded, because the last group that owned Marlin didn’t do the storied gunmaker justice. And that’s putting it lightly. In case you don’t remember, Cerebrus, a.k.a. The Freedom Group, a Wall Street firm that owned Remington at the time, bought Marlin in early 2009. I’m sure they had grand plans to update and improve Marlin, which honestly did need a little help. Time had passed by the manufacturing floor at Marlin, and it was no longer easy, or cost-effective, to maintain the type of quality control Marlin fans demanded. At least, not at the price they demanded.
Give credit to the hard-working employees of Freedom Group-era Marlin. They really tried to update and improve the product but were hamstrung by Wall Street’s bloodthirsty demands for immediate profit. Quarterly numbers were more important than quality control and a lot of “new and improved” Marlin lever-actions went out the door with some serious issues, including sloppy fit and finish and unsolvable accuracy problems. Not coincidentally, the same thing happened to parent-company Remington, which got us where we were in mid-2020, when everything went up for sale.
Ruger Buys In
In late September 2020, the auction gavel sounded its final blow and for the cool sum of $30 million Ruger won the assets assigned to the Marlin side of the business, including some 80 pages of machines, tooling, and components. It took about a year for Ruger to move all that equipment from Marlin’s original factory in New York and Remington’s former facility in Alabama, and get it up and running in Mayodan, N.C. Finally, in October 2021, a new Ruger-made Marlin rolled off the assembly line in Mayodan to much fanfare.
"The moment you've been waiting for is finally here,” said Chris Killoy, CEO and president of Ruger. “We are proud to share with you the very first production-built Marlin Model 1895. Congratulations to the entire Marlin team in our Mayodan, N.C. facility on this major milestone. Stay tuned for the official release of these production rifles later this year!"
The New Marlin 1895 SBL
True to the company’s word, those rifles are now ready to ship to retailers around the U.S., just in time for Christmas. The first model of the Marlin lever-action rifles to hit the shelves is the popular, big-bore Marlin 1895 SBL with the distinctive oversized loop lever. Chambered in the classic .45-70 Government, it would be a great choice for bears, cats, deep-timber whitetails, and other close-up work. The original Marlin 1895 SBL was a favorite of Alaskan guides in need of a tough, hard-hitting back-up gun for bear defense. The loop is not only distinctive looking, but it handles well when wearing gloves.
The forged and polished stainless-steel receiver is mated to a stainless 19-inch barrel. In a nod to the modern practice of screwing a suppressor onto everything, Ruger threaded the muzzle in 11/16x24. And before you purists scoff, let me tell you, suppressed lever-action rifles are definitely a thing, and once you shoot the short-barrel .45-70 with a silencer in place, you may never go back.
Underneath the barrel is the standard 6-round tubular magazine loaded via the side gate on the right face of the receiver. And yes, Ruger did maintain the cursed crossbolt safety that traditional lever-action fans love to hate. Unfortunately for us, the lawyers just love them. Admittedly the additional safety does add an extra ounce of prevention against misfire, particularly with those new or not familiar with the working of a hammer-fired gun. The whole package is set into a black and gray laminate stock. This rifle is built for hard use, not for hanging over the fireplace.
In another nod to the modern, the receiver is topped with a Picatinny optics rail with an adjustable rear sight and green fiber-optic front with tritium ring in place from HiViz. Optic ready, the Marlin 1895 would be the perfect companion for an Aimpoint or other heads-up style sight, or a quick-acquisition, low-power scope such as the Leupold VX-Fredoom in 1.5-4x20, making it the hog-hunters dream set-up.
While I haven’t had the chance to handle the new Marlin, Petersen’s Hunting publisher Kevin Steele did have a brief encounter with the rifle.
“On an October hunt for free-range scimitar-horned oryx in West Texas, I was afforded the opportunity to put a few rounds downrange with a pre-production Ruger-made Marlin M1895,” said Steele. “My initial impressions were quite favorable. The new Marlins are being made using the latest technology in Ruger’s state-of-the-art Mayodan, N.C. factory. Every aspect of the new rifle is top-notch. Trigger pull was crisp and clean and cycling the rifle’s lever action was smooth as a baby’s bottom. I’m certain it would have brought a smile to Chuck Connor’s face.”
The price for the Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL is set at $1,399, a competitive and fair price for this quality new rifle. Killoy, and the entire team at Ruger, doesn’t do anything in half-measures. With some confidence, I can say these Marlin’s will rival those of the pre-Remington days as Ruger gets back to what Marlin was originally known for—accuracy and reliability.
Model 1895 SBL Specifications
- Model #: 70478
- Caliber: .45-70 Govt
- Capacity: 6+1
- Stock: Gray Laminate
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Finish: Polished Stainless
- Front Sight: High Visibility Tritium Fiber Optic
- Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring
- Weight: 7.3 lbs.
- Overall Length: 37.25"
- Length of Pull: 13.38"
- Barrel Length: 19"
- Thread Pattern: 11/16" x 24
- Thread Cap: Match-Polished
- Barrel: Cold Hammer-Forged Stainless Steel
- Twist: 1:20" RH
- Grooves: 6
- Suggested Retail: $1,399.00
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.