Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Great Ranch Rifle: The Marlin Model 336

So what's my idea of a great ranch rifle?

Well, I believe a ranch rifle is any rifle of sufficient power that it can be used to bring down game, both big and small. Lever-action rifles are probably the most common "ranch guns," also known as "truck guns" and "ranch rifles," out there.

Sure there are those out there who are going to write to me. I can just imagine the amount of e-mail that I'll get from well-meaning folks out there wanting to "educate me" on the superior attributes of the Ruger Mini-14, the SKS, the AR-15, and a host of other rifles.

It is more likely than not that I will be told about how the Ruger Mini-14, Mini Thirty, and Mini-6.8 are all small, lightweight semi-automatic carbines built by one of my favorite U.S. firearm manufacturers, Sturm Ruger.

The Ruger Mini-14 can fire both the .223 Remington cartridge and the similar military 5.56x45mm cartridge. The target model Mini-14 rifles are chambered only for the .223 Remington cartridge. The Mini Thirty uses the 7.62×39mm, and the Mini-6.8 fires 6.8 mm Remington SPC. Of course, being semi-automatic, they can handle 5, 10, 20, or 30 round factory box magazine. Numerous aftermarket magazines and drum mags, believe it or not.

In 2008, Ruger began marking many Mini-14 rifles as "RANCH RIFLE" instead of Mini-14 on the receiver.

Why, you ask? Well, these rifles are the most basic models. They generally come in a wood rifle stock and features an 18.5" tapered barrel - although some are available with a 16" barrel. These rifles feature an adjustable ghost ring rear sight and winged front sight. They are sold with a 20 round detachable magazine. However, in some states like California, where high capacity magazines are illegal, they are sold with 5 round magazines instead.

The Ruger "Ranch Rifle" variant has scope bases integrated into the receiver and an ejector that ejects the spent cartridge case at a lower angle to avoid hitting a low-mounted scope. The old original Ruger "Ranch Rifle" rear sight was a folding-type aperture, which would fit under a scope, and lacked a winged front sight. This model will chamber both .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition.

So now you're asking, what's wrong with the Ruger -- after all, it sounds like a great rifle?

Yes, it is a great rifle! While a Ruger Mini-14, like an AR-15 or an SKS, obviously has higher capacity and removable mags, for a Ranch Rifle, I think that it comes down to a matter of taste like most things, preference, and practicality.

If it were a simple matter of choosing a home defense or self-defense weapon, I would prefer a pistol or shotgun for close-quarters defense and a semi-automatic rifle for longer ranges. Because I see a "Ranch Rifle" as more of a "Livestock and Game Rifle" that can also be used as a self-defense weapon, I prefer a lever-action rifle .44 magnum or the heftier .30-30 Winchester cartridge.

Since being involved with Cowboy Action Shooting, I've seen folks have problems with their pistol caliber lever-action rifles. Yes, parts do give out. But remember, most participating in Cowboy Action Shooting put thousands of rounds through their lever-action in a few months of competition. That's not the case for the average American.

I doubt if my Marlin 336 .30-30 has seen 500 rounds over the decades. Yet my 1894 Marlin chews up at least a few hundred rounds a month. That sort of wear and tear takes a toll on any piece of machinery, and after all, that's what a rifle is. Like all firearms, a rifle is a piece of machinery. It's a tool.

But unlike a semi-automatic rifle, which has a higher probability of something going wrong, lever-action rifles are less complicated and simply have less to go wrong. Simplicity is the ticket that makes lever actions reliable.

So let's talk ammo!

Ammunition is a concern. Since I don't foresee myself getting into a firefight with a rogue deer or terrorist mountain lion, I don't see needing more than a few rounds.

Also, round availability is a huge concern these days. While people are buying up the .223 supply because of fear of the government outlawing some rounds, .30-30 ammo is pretty much available anywhere. In fact, in my area that is definitely rural America, hardware stores always have .30-30 ammunition. And yes, I'm sure that's the way it is with the hardware stores in your part of rural America.

Since availability is a huge concern these days, I can testify from experience that I'd be more likely to find what my grandpa used to call a "common cartridge" such as a .30-30, .30-06., or .308, and .270 rounds for rifles, and .45 ACP, .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, and .38 caliber rounds for pistols, than "exotic rounds."

More of what I call "exotic rounds," such as a 7.63x39 round for an AK or SKS, aren't usually available from local hardware stores. Not every hunter needs such a cartridge.

The two most popular rifles in the world, the Winchester Model 94 and the Marlin Model 336 are fast handling lever actions that are considered nearly perfect for woods and brush country hunting like we have around here. Both are chambered for the very effective .30-30 Winchester cartridge. Out to just over 200 yards, a .30-30 is all that is needed to bag most of the world's antlered game.

The .30-30 is a living legend and is certainly one of the most effective game cartridges ever designed. The .30-30 Winchester or .30 Winchester Center Fire cartridge was first marketed in early 1895 to be used in the Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle.

The .30-30, "thirty-thirty" as it is most commonly known, was the USA's first small-bore, sporting rifle cartridge designed for smokeless powder. Because it was chambered for the Winchester Model 1894 carbine and rifle, it was also known as .30 Winchester Centerfire or .30 WCF.

When the cartridge was chambered in the Marlin Model 1893 rifle, rival gunmaker John Marlin used the designation .30-30 or .30-30 Smokeless. The added -30 stands for the standard load of 30 grains (1.9 g) of early smokeless powder, according to late-19th century American naming conventions for black powder-filled cartridges.

Marlin and the Union Metallic Cartridge Company later dropped the Winchester appellation "WCF" on their rounds as they did not want to put the name of rival Winchester on their products.

The modern designation of .30-30 Winchester was arrived at by using Marlin's variation of the name with the Winchester name appended as the originator of the cartridge. However, the .30 WCF is still seen occasionally. This designation also served a purpose in avoiding a lot of confusion with the different yet similarly-shaped .30-40 Krag, which has been referred to as ".30 US" and ".30 Army".

The .30-30 is considered the "entry-class" for modern big-game hunting cartridges. It is common to define the characteristics of cartridges with similar ballistics as being in the ".30-30 class" when describing their trajectory. While it is very effective on deer and black bear-sized game, most commercial loads are limited in effective range to approximately 200 yards.

In Canada and the U.S., the cartridge has also been used on moose, caribou, and pronghorn. One source says that modern opinions in Canada on its suitability for moose are mixed. Yet, it appears many moose have been taken with the 30/30 to rule it out as good for this purpose as well.

In both Canada and the U.S., the .30-30 cartridge has a long history of use on moose. But at the same time, it is pretty much agreed that the .30-30 is not a good choice for hunters who wish to shoot animals at longer ranges.

The reason is that the cartridge, with its flat or round-nosed bullets, does not meet the minimum energy standards required for moose hunting in many places. In fact, while the .30-30 is legal for hunting moose in Newfoundland, Canada, game authorities do not recommend its use.

One of the primary reasons for the .30-30's popularity among deer hunters is its light recoil. Average recoil from a typical 150-grain in a 7.5-pound lever-action rifle is about half that of a comparable rifle chambered for the .30-06 Springfield.

Because most rifles chambered in .30-30 are lever-action rifles with tubular magazines, most .30-30 cartridges are loaded with round-nose or flat-nose bullets for safety.

What does this have to do with safety? Well, round-nose or flat-nose bullets prevent a spitzer-point bullet from setting off the primer of the cartridge ahead of it in the tube magazine during recoil, resulting in potentially catastrophic damage to both firearm and shooter.

When the Savage Model 99 was introduced in 1899, it came with a rotary magazine to avoid that issue. A notable exception to the "no pointed bullets" guideline for bullet selection in rifles with tubular magazines are the new flexible "memory elastomer"-tipped LEVER Evolution cartridges as produced by Hornady.

The soft rubber tips of these bullets easily deform under compression, preventing detonations while under recoil in the magazine, yet also return to their original pointed shape when that pressure is removed, thus allowing for a more efficient bullet shape than previously available to load safely in such rifles.

The more aerodynamic shape results in a flatter bullet trajectory and greater retained velocity downrange, significantly increasing the effective range of rifles chambered for this cartridge. Yes, the new type of round increases the hunter's range.

The .30-30 is by far the most common chambering in lever-action rifles such as the Winchester Model 1894, the Savage Model 99, and the Marlin Model 336. However, the .30-30 is by no means the only option left to someone who is in the market for a lever-action Ranch Rifle. Lever-action Ranch Rifles can be had in pistol calibers as well.

Marlin Model 336 Lever-Action Rifles

From my experience, among lever-action rifles out there, Marlin Firearms Company lever-action rifles simply can't be beaten. From deer to mountain lions, from wild hogs to bears, Marlin lever-action rifles have been proven successful for generations.

It all started with John M. Marlin. He was born in Connecticut in 1836 and served his apprenticeship as a tool and die-maker. During the Civil War, he worked at the Colt plant in Hartford, and in 1870 hung out his own sign on State Street, New Haven, to start manufacturing his own line of revolvers and derringers.

With an outstanding team of inventors, they developed breakthroughs and enduring models, such as the Model 1891 and 1893 rifles. Both were updated as Models 39 (.22 caliber) and Model 336 (.30-30 Win).

When using the word enduring, we should understand that these two models are the oldest sporting shoulder arm models still in current production by their original maker. In fact, the lever-action 22 repeater, which is now the Model 39, was the favorite of many exhibition shooters, including Annie Oakley. 

The Marlin Model of 1893, later designated the Marlin Model 36, was heavier than the Winchester 94, which was then the dominant lever-action hunting rifle. It also featured a semi-pistol grip wooden stock and solid top receiver with side-ejection, in contrast to the Winchester 94 carbine's straight grip stock and top-ejection receiver.

The Model 36 was updated as the Model 336 in 1948, continuing the main differences with the Winchester. The solid, flat top receiver and side ejection of the Model 336 allowed Marlin to sell to the growing number of American hunters who preferred optical sights over the traditional iron sights.

The Model 336 is a direct development of the Marlin Model 1893 rifle which was produced from 1893 to 1936.

In the mid-1950s, Marlin incorporated its proprietary Micro-Groove rifling system into the Model 336. Microgroove rifling with many shallow grooves was designed to work better with jacketed bullets than more traditional rifling with fewer but deeper grooves originally developed for use with lead bullets.

The design of the Marlin 336 allows the user to remove the lever pivot screw with a common screwdriver, allowing the removal of the lever, bolt, and ejector for maintenance. This design allows the user to clean the barrel from the breech, like a bolt action rifle, avoiding wear to the muzzle.

Disassembly of the Winchester 1894 usually requires the services of a gunsmith. Anyone who has tried to take apart a Winchester '94 realizes very quickly why they say a user seldom disassembles the rifle and usually cleans the barrel from the muzzle.

American black walnut pistol-grip stocks with fluted combs, cut checkering, rubber butt pads, and sling swivel studs. They also have adjustable, semi-buckhorn, folding rear sights and ramp front sights with brass beads and Wide-Scan™ hoods, which are standard features on a Marlin.

Their solid-top receivers are tapped for scope mounts. 20" barrels have 12-groove Micro-Groove® rifling.

The Model 336C
Marlin Model 336C
The Model 336C, this rifle is truly the flagship of Marlin's Model 336 family. This rifle is known for its rugged styling, pinpoint accuracy, ease of use, and incredible dependability. This popular "pistol-grip" or "Monte Carlo grip" carbine has a flat, solid-top receiver and hammer-block safety.

The 336C has become one of the most popular rifles in North America. In addition to .30/30 Win., the 336C is also available in .35 Rem., a cartridge favored by many hunters because of its reputation as a hard-hitting brush-buster.

The Model 336W
Marlin Model 336W
The Model 336W is a no-frills hunting machine. And yes, I love mine.

The Model 336W is chambered for 30-30 Win. and features a 20" Micro-Groove® barrel with adjustable rear and ramp with hood front sights. Plus, its receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The walnut-finished hardwood stock and fore-end have cut checkering and come with a padded nylon sling included. The rifle is also available with a factory-mounted and bore-sighted 3-9x32mm scope.

Among its other 336 models is the Model 336SS. This is a foul-weather rifle because foul weather won’t faze this stainless version of the field-proven Model 336 chambered in .30/30 and .308 win. Most of its major metal parts are machined from forged stainless steel. Others are nickel-plated.

Marlin has also made many of these lever-action rifles for mass marketers like Sears, Western Auto, K-Mart, and Wal-Mart. These models have walnut-stained hardwood stocks instead of American Walnut stocks and were sold for significantly lower prices than standard Model 336's.

Other than the less expensive wood, these rifles are mechanically identical to the Model 336. Many of these rifles were sold under the names Glenfield, Glenfield Marlin, or Marlin, as Models 30, 30A, 30AS, and 30AW. The Model 30AW package includes a gold-plated steel trigger, a 3-9x32 factory-mounted scope, a padded sling, and an offset hammer spur. It is identical to the current Marlin Model 336W. The new Model 336BL is a big-loop lever for faster, more efficient chambering and ejection with gloves on, plus striking laminated woodwork that improves weather resistance and adds aesthetic appeal.

Its 18½" barrel is handy in the brush, and the full-length magazine tube gives you six rounds of .30-30 Winchester assurance at the moment of truth.

The Model 1895
Marlin Model 1895
This is a great gun! And yes, I own one as well!

Introduced in 1972 and named in honor of the Marlin Model of 1895, which was produced from 1895 to 1917, the current Model 1895 rifle is based on the final design of the Model 336.

The difference is that it is enlarged and strengthened for more powerful, big bore cartridges. It was initially chambered in the .444 Marlin developed specifically for the new Model 1895, then in the traditional .45-70.

As for today's Marlin Model 1895 in .45-70, well, in my first-hand experience, my Marlin 1895 in .45-70 is a tried and true configuration of this famous 45–70 rifle. It features a 22" barrel with deep-cut Ballard-type rifling and an American black walnut pistol grip stock with cut checkering and swivel studs. The .45-70 was originally a black powder cartridge, and most factory ammo is loaded moderately for safety in older rifles, including the original Model of 1895 way back when.

Today is a different story. With increasing numbers of modern .45-70 rifles built with high strength actions - including the current Model 1895, the Ruger No. 1 single shot, the Browning BLR, or the Siamese Mauser conversions.

Reloaders and specialty ammunition makers like Hornady, Buffalo Bore, and Garrett produce high intensity big .45-70 loads that may equal or exceed the power of the .444 Marlin.

Some approach the power of the .458 Winchester Magnum and are effective against dangerous game up to and including elephants. Use of such loadings in older .45-70 firearms is dangerous and should not be attempted. For that reason, Marlin introduced the .450 Marlin, a belted version of the .45-70 cartridge that will not chamber in older .45-70 rifles.

Many .45-70 Model 1895 owners like myself chose to use the traditional .45-70 Government round for deer-sized game and elk. Of course, my Marlin Model 1895 gives me the option of using beefier .45-70 loads for the more dangerous game like the bear in Alaska.

For me, while the .45-70 Gov't is a traditional round that was once a US Cavalry issue used for everything from buffalo to attacking Indians, the big .450 Marlin is too much gun as a Ranch Rifle. Besides, most of us don't have problems with raging elephants.

One recent innovation growing in popularity is the Marlin 1895 "Guide Gun" concept. The name most probably originates from the types of long arms favored by Alaskan hunting and wilderness guides as a defense against attacks by bears.

The Guide Gun concept consists of a handy, short-barreled (usually 16-19") lever action in a large caliber such as .45-70 or .450 Marlin with a 3/4 length magazine tube. These guns are usually fitted with fast open sights such as ghost rings or express sights. Frequently these sights make use of tritium or fiber optics.

Marlin's Guide Guns are usually equipped with a scout rail allowing the mounting of optics such as long-eye relief scopes or parallax-free optics such as reflex sights or holographic weapon sights.

Marlin 1895 actions are popular bases for this type of firearm. Marlin itself offers the 1895G, 1895GS, and 1895SBL fitting this mold. Previously offered models such as the 1895SDT and 336SDT also fit the mold.

All have roots in the Model 336, so yes, without question, the Marlin Model 336 Series of lever-action rifles is the way to go when looking for a Ranch Rifle. 

The Marlin 336 is, without a doubt, one of the most popular hunting rifles in North America. Offered in one of America's favorite cartridges, the .30-30 embodies Marlin's dedication to dependability, pinpoint accuracy, good looks, and rugged reliability.

The Model 1894
Marlin Model 1894
In 1963, Marlin added the .44 Magnum cartridge as an optional chambering in the Model 336T carbine, which featured a straight grip, a 20-inch round tapered barrel and a full-length magazine. However, the rifle experienced continuing problems in loading and chambering the short .44 Magnum cartridge, so in 1964 Marlin abruptly dropped the .44 Magnum option.

Marlin was well aware of the continued demand for a lever-action carbine in .44 Magnum and began searching for a replacement. Then in 1969, Marlin introduced the New Model 1894 in .44 Magnum/.44 Special.

Now, let's clear up something one reader wanted me to clarify, the New Model 1894 is not based on the Model 336 mechanism. That is, instead, it uses the old short-receiver Model 1894 action incorporating the flat-profile bolt, which received minor improvements before being reintroduced in .44 Magnum caliber. The decision to use the original Model 1894 action, a design originally designed to accommodate pistol-length cartridges such as the .38-40 and .44-40, proved a complete success.

For me, I have owned a few Marlin lever-action rifles in my time. I absolutely love the feel and balance of my Marlin Model 1894 in .45 long colt, which I use for Cowboy Action Shooting.

For those who think the .45 long colt cartridge is gone the way of the dinosaur, folks should know that the .45 long colt remains in use 140 years after its introduction.

Besides in sport shooting like Cowboy Action Shooting, it is still used as a hunting load on animals the size of deer and black bear. Of course, depending on the load, heavier loads will take the same range of big game animals as the .44 Magnum. The short action rifle is the part of the design based on the Model 336.

The Model 1894 is chambered in rimmed calibers commonly associated with revolvers such as the .38 Special/.357 Magnum, the .44 Special/.44 Magnum, and the .45 Colt.

This model is popular with Cowboy Action Shooters, as well as ranchers in rural areas where carrying a lever gun and a revolver in the same caliber is pretty common. The concept of a dual-purpose handgun/rifle cartridge has been popular since the Old West, with cartridges like the .44-40 Winchester, whose "High-Speed" rifle loads were precursor magnum loads. 

Some past dual-purpose cartridges, like the .44-40 Winchester, gave their manufacturers trouble when people loaded the "High-Speed" versions designed for rifles into handguns. Since the .44 Magnum was designed from the start as a revolver cartridge, such issues are moot, and SAAMI-compliant ammunition should fire from any handguns or rifles chambered for the .44 Magnum.

As a lever-action rifle or carbine cartridge, the .44 Magnum is sufficiently powerful for medium-sized game yet fits easily into a compact, lightweight package. As with the Marlin Model 1894, with significantly longer barrels than revolvers, they will generate a significantly higher velocity than a revolver loaded with the same ammunition. 

The Model 1894 in .44 Magnum is well-suited for the game up to elk size. With deep penetration, it has even been used to take the larger game. In addition to beating the ballistics of the old .44-40 rifle loads, long considered a top deer cartridge year ago, the heavy, flat point bullets typically used in the .44 Magnum have an additional advantage. 

As you can see, Marlin's Model 336 design is the gun for all seasons. It is the quintessential woodland hunter and a great self-defense weapon.  

Your choice might be the tried and true .30-30 for livestock and game control, or you may opt for a .44 Mag/.44 Spl dual rifle/pistol combination that fits your concerns for self-defense. The choice is there when choosing a lever-action rifle.

Fact is, loaded with performance and accuracy features, a Marlin lever-action rifle will help you put meat in the freezer, protect your herd from predators, or defend your family in a tight situation. All with one rifle.

I believe any Marlin Model 336 in .30-30, or a variant like the Model 1894 in .44 mag, would make a great Ranch Rifle. And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


  1. the marlin 1894 is Not based off the 336 action. it is based off the original marlin 1894 design.. however Marlin did make a few short action 336 rifles round bolt, but none were ever released for sale to the public.they were put into Marlins vault were they remained until Remington took over. no idea were they are now.

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  3. Great article....my newly acquired 336 .44 magnum has a serial # prefix AC, indicating 1967. Also sports a gold saddle ring and trigger. Another article I came across stated they were produced '64-66', I believe. Hard to remember as there seems to be much confusion concerning the early 336 .44. Just a heads up. Lastly, it is just "336", no T, or any other letter.
    Thanks, Greg

  4. Of course it is possible someone did their "thing" and it is not in original form. If anymore info is desired I'm at gturtura@yahoo.co m, Thanks again, Greg.

    BTW, I haven't fired it yet, hoping for tomorrow! Also got a TW 100 30-30 win. (sears), slight freckling on receiver but nice shape, and a Rossi 92 chambered in 357 and 38 spl, large loop lever. Can't wait to shoot all three
    Also came across a site explaining the serial number system by Marlin, if I find it again will pass it along.

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