The Marlin 1895

     Last February I decided to treat myself to a new gun. After considering all the possibilities and weighing the pros and cons I settled on another center fire rifle. I wanted something significantly different from the bolt-action 30-06 I already own. A Marlin 1895 is what I decided on.
     I’d always wanted a lever action rifle. A Browning BLR chambered in .358 has always been on my list. My father in law has one in .308 and I like the way it balances and handles. The larger .358 bullet is along the lines of what I was after, but ultimately the cost proved to be more than I felt I could manage. Aesthetics was another consideration. Tube-fed lever actions have an appeal that clip-fed guns never will, and for the closer-range shooting in dense cover I wanted this gun for, the improved ballistics of spitzer bullets doesn’t amount to much.
     The candidates included offerings from Henry, Winchester, Marlin and Rossi. Again, cost was a big factor, and I was not too interested in a 30-30. I have a lot of respect for that cartridge, but I already own one .30 caliber rifle and, for the sake of diversity, wanted something different. Cartridge-wise I had things narrowed down to .44 magnum and .45-70.
    The .44 seemed like a lot of fun for recreational shooting as well as hunting. It’s tough to beat the nostalgic romanticism of a carbine lever gun chambered in a pistol cartridge. I know someone for whom a .44 magnum carbine is there standard deer gun and they like it quite a bit. The only hang-up I had was the range. Just about every reference I checked stated 80 yards was the practical upper limit, and that was a bit too short for my taste. If I thought I could get a full 100 yards on any deer I was to encounter, I may very well have committed. But, the greater range of the .45-70 held greater appeal, as did the wide variety of loads that can be made.

My 1895, cleaned up after it’s first season of hunting. The fast handling of a lever-action combined with five rounds of 45-70 is a potent combination.

     After factoring in cost, ergonomics, length, weight and a slew of other attributes I settled on Marlin’s 1895. I waffled for a bit as to the particular version and was seriously considering the Guide Gun variant. But in the end I liked the longer barrel of the standard version and so went with that one. I picked it up back in February of 2014 and have had no complaints or problems. I was a little surprised by the lack of  availability of ammo, and the variety left much to be desired. Most gun shops and even the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Rutland had a few boxes in stock, but most of it was Hornady’s Leverevolution with a 325gr. flex-tip bullet. This is a great load, but I wanted a heavier bullet and, after feeding a box through my gun, concluded that the point of impact was just too high on those fast loads. With the rear sight backed to it’s lowest setting the point of impact was at least eight inches high. And that was at 50 yards.

The thick forend, grip and stock provide ample purchase and help absorb recoil

     I spent a lot of time scouring the internet and perusing gun shop’s shelves looking for 405 grain jacketed bullets to reload.I found none, anywhere, and ended up settling for a really good deal on cast-lead 405s ordered through Cabela’s. I wasn’t terribly interested in cast-lead, but bearing in mind this is the same bullet used to kill buffalo in the days of black powder, it seemed they would work fine for deer. After spending some time at the reloading bench I had a reload that was fairly accurate, generated mild recoil and had reasonable trajectory. Point of impact was just a few inches high at 50 yards, and not quite an inch low at 100.
     In the woods the 1895 was pleasant to carry. I found it compact enough to maneuver through the brush and comfortable and instinctive in terms of grip design and safety positioning. I can easily see, however, why the oversized lever loop was invented. Even glommitts we a bit difficult to cram through the standard-size loop. It performed well on the deer I shot and likely would have done even better had I considered trajectory more carefully(Opening Day 2014).
      The Marlin 1895 is quickly becoming one of my favorite guns. It doesn’t have the same reach as most other cartridges, but can shoot plenty far to get the job done. At close range with the right load, it will flatten just about any critter in North America. It handles well and shucks shells efficiently and reliably. As for fun, it is a joy to shoot and reduced loads can be done up that are surprising placid. The factory sights work well and I especially appreciate the substantial hood over the front. I once broke the blade on a front sight when I lost my footing on some ice. No chance of that happening with this gun. The receiver is, of course, drilled and tapped but I can’t imagine putting a scope on such a rifle. Now a peep sight on the other hand, that would be quite a slick rig. Maybe for next year…

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