By Joe W. Gorman
I've yet to talk to anyone who had good things to say about Remington's purchase and management of Marlin Firearms. I only received one Remlin rifle to review, and it was so disappointing that I didn't even review it. Suffice it to say, while some shooters got lucky with Remlins (sic) that worked well and shot accurately, I was not among their number.
Last year, when Ruger announced it would buy Marlin, 99 percent of the shooting world cheered with anticipation. Ruger has earned a solid reputation by offering products that punch way above their weight class and offer customer service second to none. I had high hopes that Ruger would return Marlin rifles to their former glory. In the halls of the executive offices at Ruger, I'm confident that this expectation, that Ruger would bring quality back to Marlin, weighed heavily on those charged with reviving the iconic American brand.
Ruger also set an aggressive schedule to bring back one of the most popular rifles in the Marlin line-up and believed it to be a good sign when the team at Ruger met their self-imposed deadline. It was a better sign when guys who'd been lucky enough to get one of the first runs of the 1895 SBLs reported they were better finished than the original Marlins and incredibly accurate.
In January, I finally received a test sample and noticed the svelte forearm, the smooth action, and the excellent finish of the stainless steel. The action was noticeably free of action glitches that plagued the Remlin I'd tested several years ago. From all initial appearances, Ruger had hit a home run. Of course, I would have to shoot it. I, fortunately, had brand new glass from Burris and Leupold and .45-70 ammunition from Remington and Hornady on hand.
The first shooting test was to sight in the iron sights on the 1895 SBL. Ruger's Tritium front sight is the most easily visible sight I have on any firearm. The steel ghost ring rear sight adjusts for elevation and windage and allows a tremendous amount of light through. Throwing the rifle over some Caldwell sandbags, I was able to quickly zero the 325 gr Hornady FTX LEVERevolution ammo, and I was routinely getting 1.5- to 2-inch 3-shot groups from 100 yards. When I switched to the 250 grain Hornady Monoflex LEVERevolution ammunition, my group sizes printed identically! I loaded up some of the old school Remington 405 gr Core-Lokt ammunition, and, while the point of impact was much lower, I could dial up the rear sight to zero it, and the groups were under 1.5-inch!
My personal .45-70 rifles prefer Hornady 325 gr FTX loads for accuracy. I expected they would be king of the hill when I switched to serious accuracy testing with a scope. I mounted the new Burris XTRIII 3.3-18 x 50mm 34mm tactical scope with XTR signature rings. The Burris scope I was using, equipped with an SCR MIL first focal plane reticle, allows an incredible 120 MOA of elevation. Yes, it is an enormous, crazy-solid, tactical scope mounted on a lever action. It may look a bit out of place. But I am very impressed with the glass clarity of the new XTRIII. The XTRs have always been rock solid with zero return after dialing up mad amounts of elevation and windage, and they still are. With the advances in the XTRIII series, the glass clarity is top of the class at this price point. I could read the small print on my targets at 100 yards.
After getting the XTRIII dialed in, I broke out the Hornady 250 grain Monoflex ammunition to see how it shot. I was rewarded with a .5-inch 3-shot group! That is the tightest 3-shot group I had ever fired from a lever-action rifle. Holy cow. When I shot another group with the Remington 405gr ammunition, I bested that previous group by .1-inch for a 3-shot, .4-inch group measured center to center! This is crazy accurate.
Bench rest shooting the 1895SBL from 100 yards with the Burris XTRIII mounted, the author was able to score numerous sub MOA 3-shot groups. This is incredible accuracy from a lever action rifle and factory ammo.
Both Hornady 325gr FTX and the Remington 405 gr Core-Lokt ammunition turned in some incredible 3-shot groups, ie, under 1". This is impressive accuracy. Given the clarity of the Burris scope and the precision of 1895, maybe the tactical glass isn't so crazy!
I next mounted the new Leupold MARK 3HD 1.5-4X20 with FireDot BDC. I have used a Leupold VX*R Patrol 1.25-4 x 20mm scope for years on my deer rifles as it provides perfect magnification for the 80-160-yard shots I encounter. The Mark 3HD appears to be similar to my old Patrol scope, but the new Mark 3 HD glass is improved. The Mark3HD glass allows a tremendous amount of light into my eye at late dusk. The FireDot reticle will enable me to see where to hold in the light conditions I typically encounter during deer hunts. The turrets are covered, so they can't be accidentally bumped walking through the woods. With the BDC, I can zero at 100-yards and take deer out to 200 yards if conditions are right. With the Leupold mounted, I could still manage 1" groups! Of course, I couldn't make out the crazy detail I could with the Burris XTRIII because of the magnification difference. But, no matter. The little Leupold is the perfect size for a deer getter.
I noticed I had quickly shot up 60 rounds of ammunition. Hornady 250gr and 325gr bullets were intended for modern sporting guns and boasts the stout recoil to prove it. The Remington ammunition was loaded to lower pressure but still maintained a deadly 1300 fps velocity while being super fun to shoot. Any of the variety of ammunition I tested was incredibly accurate from the new Marlin 1895 SBL and would take a deer, boar, bear, or elk at 100-yards given proper shot placement.
I love my old Winchester 1886 rifles because of their history. I think the new Marlin 1895 SBL has just relegated them to the fun-to-shoot group of rifles in my safe. Come deer season, this new Marlin will be with me. In conclusiong, Marlin's new 1895SBL is everything you'd hoped it would be!
Early on in this story we mentioned how this venerable rifle has been reborn. The new Marlin, built by Ruger, boasts tight tolerances, resulting in a reliable, attractive rifle. Multi-layered quality control procedures, include daily function and accuracy audits and multiple inspections, result in a high-quality firearm.
The threaded muzzle's match-polished, factory-installed thread protector's 11/16"-24 pattern accommodates a muzzle brake or other barrel accessories.
The host ring rear sight adjusts for windage/elevation. The Tritium fiber optic, with its high visibility day/night front sight, allows quicker target acquisition in low light.
The nickel-plated bolt, replete with spiral flutes, adds a distinctive, classy look and an action that cycles as smooth as silk.
The updated Picatinny rail lends a stable mounting surface for scope rings and a variety of modern optics. Notice the new Marlin rollstamp on the barrel
|Capacity||6+1 Tubular magazine|
|Action and Barrel||Polished Stainless|
|Front Sight||High Visibility Tritium Fiber Optic|
|Rear Sight||Adjustable Ghost Ring|
|Barrel||Cold Hammer-Forged Stainless Steel|
|Optic||Burris XTR III 3.3- 18x50mm|
|Reticle||SCR 2 MIL|
|Weight||1 lb., 14 oz.|
|Eye Relief||3.5 in. to 4 in.|
|Optic||Leupold Mark 3HD 1.5-4x20 FireDot|
|Objective Lens Diameter||20 mm|
|Magnification||1.5 - 4X|
|Tube Diameter||30 mm|
|Eye Relief||4.2 - 3.7 in|