by Ron Spomer
You’ve probably heard Marlin is dead. (The firearms manufacturer, not that kid you knew in high school.) File that misinformation with Elvis living in Argentina and Sasquatch stealing hogs in Arkansas.
“Dead” Marlin just published a 2016 catalog and displayed several rifles at the SHOT show in Vegas. They are even offering custom guns tweaked at the Dakota Arms facility in Sturgis, SD. Case-colored receivers. Exhibition grade walnut stocks. If this is a dead rifle company, I’ll take it.
Marlin is alive and kicking — and improving every month thanks to new manufacturing facilities at Remington’s Ilion, New York, plant. After Remington Arms Co. (Freedom Group) bought Marlin and closed the old New Haven, Connecticut, plant, folks thought they were burying a great American gun maker that had been around since 1870. Production slowed, quality sucked and several production models were (temporarily) dropped from the line. Manufacturing just couldn’t keep up, given the need for new machines, new tooling, new blueprints and training new workers. Marlin’s strategy seems to be bringing production quality of one model “up to snuff” before cranking out more.
Lever-action rifles are more complicated to make than bolt-actions. Precision parts and tight tolerances are necessary for proper function. Doing that while keeping costs reasonable is a big challenge. MSRP on current M336 rifles runs from $548 to $969. Compare this to $1,229.99 for the Winchester M94 base model. Or about $1,300 for a Pedersoli M86, $2,500 for a fancy Navy Arms M73 or $2,500 for a Big Horn Armory M89 big-bore. We’re not saying these lever-action are all equal, just listing some typical costs.
Marlin may have been close to death, but it’s now being revitalized. The M336 custom rifle pictured here (from recent SHOT show display) proves as much. We’ll wait until we’ve handled and shot a few of the latest production Marlins before pronouncing the company fully healthy, but from this vantage the prognosis looks good.
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