In this episode, we will talk about the iconic Marlin 336. The gun itself has seen some ups and downs in its lifespan, but we might get a happy ending out of this.

The last remains of Marlin were bought by Ruger in late 2020 and they are getting ready to reintroduce the Merlin into the market soon. Bill Ruger would be proud of this move. He always had an interest in old guns and modern machinery. The first gun from Ruger is the Standard, which looks very much like the Luger. The first .22 revolver is the Single Six, which looked like the Colt Peacemaker. The No.1 Single Shot rifle is similar to the British Farquharson. The only difference between the pairs is that Ruger’s gun had more modern innards.

All the Marlin fans are hoping that Ruger would get it right this time. But before we discuss the future of the Marlin 336, let us look at how the gun itself compares to its competition.

Table of Contents

1. The Marlin 336 vs. Winchester Model 94

The Marlin was introduced in 1948 and has been in production since then. Suffice to say, the gun was very well received. With over 6 million units sold worldwide, this puts the gun among the most produced guns in the world. The Winchester 94 beat that number with a healthy margin at 7.5 million units sold though. What may get the Marlin 336 fans pulling their hair out is probably the fact that the 336 was a much better gun but it was the Model 94 that got all the spotlight in Hollywood.

The biggest difference is perhaps the receiver. The 336 has a solid top, so it dispenses spent cartridges to the side. It is much stiffer than the 94 which spits shells from the top. As a user, that means you can mount a scope on the 336 with ease whereas on the 94, you need a darn good gunsmith to tinker with the gun to make it work, and it never works out well.

The 336 bolt is cylindrical, which means extra durability and there is also far less machinery overall. The trigger on the 336 also gives you a great deal of tuning as well, unlike the trigger on the 94. If you take good care of the gun, it will take good care of you. Luckily, the gun is very easy to maintain. Just pop the lever off and pull out the bolt. This gives you access to the bore from the breech end, so you can scrub everything nice and clean, keeping your muzzle happy. An added bonus is that if your rifle is jammed or something, you can clear the breech in a jiffy.

In terms of performance, the 336 is much more accurate than the 94. In fact, Marlin lever guns are just much more accurate than Winchester’s. It all came down to the rifling. Marlin’s Microgroove rifling helped a lot here. Before 1950, Marlin used a hook cutter to create those grooves, one at a time, for every barrel. It took them 15 to 60 minutes to create those grooves.

Evidently, they needed a more efficient way to do this. So, they used a tungsten-carbide button which was dragged through the barrel once to create all 12 to 16 very shallow and narrow grooves. It took 2 to 5 seconds and is the main reason why Marlin lever guns are so accurate. We do not know for sure if Ruger will get this system, but I certainly hope so. It belongs to Marlin and it works perfectly.

Since the start of the production, the Marlin 336s have been made with varying barrel lengths ranging from 16 to 24 inches. 16 is too short and 24 is too long. The ideal length is 20 inches since the 336 is, by nature, a carbine. While the 336 is not light by any stretch of your imagination, it is nicely balanced and you can hoist it up and pop a round out as quickly as you can with any other gun.

2. What Ruger Can Do to Improve the Marlin 336

Praises aside, the Marlin 336 is not a perfect gun. There are some questionable features introduced from Marlin such as the cross-hammer safety. It was awkwardly placed and I am certain that fans of the 336 hoped that Ruger would remove the thing when it entered production. When you get yourself into a firefight, you tend to forget which direction to disengage the safety and a couple seconds of fumbling around could get you killed – not that you would get into a firefight these days, but you get the point.

The safety feels like something that the design team did not come up with themselves, but rather something that is slapped on at the last minute by someone of authority within the company who had no idea how guns work.

Traditionally, the safety lies in keeping the chamber empty if you do not want your gun to go boom by accident. If you expect to encounter some heat, you lever a round into the chamber and put the hammer on half-cock.

In addition, Ruger should consider removing the front-head and rear-notch sight. It was just terrible. Back then, people did not mind because they did not have the technology to improve it, and also the standard for accuracy used to be far lower. If Ruger wants to improve this thing, they should consider putting a fiber-optic sight up front with a decent hood, and a ghost-ring on the receiver. If they can accomplish that with Marlin’s barrel manufacturing technology, you can hit targets accurately up to 200 yards without a scope.

Speaking of scope, and I know that some of you would think this is blasphemous, but Ruger can also put a Picatinny rail on the 336 as well. Yes, I understand that it is sacrilegious to put a rail on a traditional rifle like this, but you cannot discount the utility of a rail, especially when you consider that most scope rings nowadays are designed around it.

Another itch that Ruger needs to scratch is the oversized and cumbersome lever loop. It might look cool in the movies, but that has no place in real gunfights. Moreover, Ruger can consider making a tactical 336. Yes, the word itself has almost lost all meaning now thanks to marketing, but the 336 is low-maintenance, reliable, more powerful, and can fire as fast as an AR with a bit of practice.

Another point of consideration for Ruger is the cartridge. Ruger should chamber the 336 in both the .35 Remington and the .30/30. They won’t win you the podium at 800 yards, sure, but both can anchor a deer just fine. If I were Ruger and had to pick only one of the two, I would go for the .35 Remington because it has a fair amount more steam.

Finally, let’s talk about the receiver. Marlin machined it from a solid block of steel. It is cool and all, but it is 19th-century tech and I know for a fact that Ruger has a cheaper and more efficient way to manufacture the receiver. Ruger re-discovered the lost art of investment casting when they designed the Number 1 Single Shot, so they will use the same technique for the Marlin 336.

And there you have it, folks. I have high hopes for the Marlin 336 project and wish Ruger all the luck and success in the world. The new 336 might not be the biggest seller for Ruger, but I know that it will be a steady one, and that is probably enough for Ruger.

If they listen to the community and make the right changes, it might just thrust the 336 back into the spotlight and receive the recognition and reverence it deserves. I know for sure that there are enough people out there who know that if a gun works, they would use it and that if it works as well as a proper 336, they would immediately grab it.

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