6 Reasons to Cheer the Return of Marlin's Classic 336

This old-school blued steel and walnut lever gun is still an ideal option for hunting.

by posted on August 22, 2023
Horman Marlin 336 001 (1)

Founded in the 1870s by John Marlin, Marlin Firearms has been making the Model 336 lever-action rifle since 1948. At one time, the Glenfield version was a familiar sight at stores like J.C. Penny and Sears. The 336 has been available over the years with a variety of barrel lengths and stock configurations with more than 4 million making their way into outdoor enthusiasts’ hands.

The Marlin 336 helped to establish the .30-30 Win. cartridge's popularity with American hunters.

When Marlin’s owners (Remington Arms Company) declared bankruptcy a few years ago, some wondered what would happen to this iconic carbine when the factory's doors were closed. But this year the Model 336 Classic has made a comeback and here are a few reasons to cheer its return!

Now Made by Ruger
It was September of 2020 when one of America's top gun makers, Sturm, Ruger & Co., chose to purchase Marlin Firearms and breathe new life into the brand. Once production was up and running again, early models to return to the market included the stainless steel and laminated stock Model 1895 SBL in .45-70 Gov’t. with variants including the Trapper and Guide Gun versions.

The Classic version of the 336 sports a matte blued finish and checkered American Black Walnut furniture.

The leadership at Ruger has been quite careful about preserving the Marlin brand and offering the same models that have been pleasing fans for decades, like the 336. However, they have given these rifles a manufacturing face lift. For instance, the Ruger-built rifles feature steel receivers, levers and trigger guards which are CNC machined from forgings for added durability. And they are paying attention to the fit and finish details. The result is as a strong, cleanly built, American-made rifle with the trade-off of higher price tags than these models sported in the past. Nevertheless, the prices remain in line with other brands in this class.

The blued steel receiver is fitted with a standard size lever loop, a gold-finished trigger and a round-button cross bolt safety.

Traditional Lever-Gun Features
Modernized lever guns with polymer stocks, MLOK handguards and Cerakote camouflage finishes are all well and good and they certainly have their place in the market. I've worked with a couple of guns in this class that I like quite a bit. But there is something special about the look, feel and heft of a traditional lever-action carbine that has yet to be duplicated.

Leupold's more compact VX-3HD 2.5-8 x 36 CDS-ZL scope is an ideal fit for this gun.

The Classic version of the 336 is wholly constructed of blued alloy carbon steel with a matte blued finish. Ruger did a great job of not “fixing” the features that weren't broken. The rounded fore-end and pistol-grip shoulder stock are carved from American Black Walnut, just like Grandpa's gun. The 20.25" round-profile barrel is paired with a familiar 6-round fixed magazine tube. 

This gun looks and handles like Marlins of the past with an unloaded weight of 7 lbs. 8 oz. But Ruger did make a few small changes to visibly differentiate their product. This 336 has a red and white shoulder stock inlay, just in front of the rear sling swivel stud. This is a nod to Marlin's black and white bullseye inlay but in Ruger's signature colors. The barrel is stamped “Made in Mayodan, NC USA” and the serial number features an “RM” prefix.

Still Configured for Hunting
Many of those who have eagerly awaited the return of the 336 have done so because of this rifle's usefulness as a compact hunting gun. Ruger made sure that popular features for use in the field are still in place on the Classic model.

The hooded front sight features an easy to see polished brass bead.

The hooded front sight blade is fitted with a polished brass bead for improved visibility. The rear sight is of the fully adjustable semi-buckhorn variety. The receiver ships drilled and tapped for optics. Inside this rifle's box you'll find a removable knurled hammer spur extension which makes thumbing the hammer much easier with a scope installed. The gripping surfaces of the forend and stock are checkered for improved purchase. Other features include front and rear sling swivel studs and a brown rubber recoil pad.

This handy lever-action carbine is configured for hunting making it a good fit for harvesting deer, feral hogs and black bears.

Rifle scopes are ever improving but some of the more recent options are just too big for a handy brush gun like this one. After an informative conversation with the good folks at Leupold, I lined up a 1" tube VX-3HD 2.5-8 x 36 CDS-ZL optic to use for the range evaluation. It provides a just-right balance of size, weight and features for this gun. It was mounted to the 336 using Leupold's low aluminum Back Country cross-slot rings (#175116) and a Midwest Industries6" long, 16-slot aluminum MI Marlin 1895 Scope Rail (#MI-1895R). I won't be surprised if this scope finds its way onto some other lever guns I plan to test drive. 

Tried & True .30-30 Win.
Introduced in 1895, the .30-30 Winchester cartridge has garnered a reputation for bagging more whitetail deer than any other rifle caliber. Some might challenge these numbers but what can't be contested is that the Marlin 336 is one of the reasons that reputation continues to this day.

This gun and cartridge combo produces moderate levels of felt recoil suitable for a wide range of experience levels and body shapes.

When fired from more compact carbines, it’s proved to be comfortable to shoot for a variety of body shapes and skill levels. It's a top-notch option for hunting feral hogs and black bears as well as deer with an effective range of between 150 to 200 yards. If a quality rifle like the 336 is stoked with modern polymer-tipped bullets and topped off with a good, magnified optic, then those distances can be stretched out a bit more to around 250 yards. 

Traditional soft point and modern polymer-tipped bullets are both effective for bagging game at moderate distances.

Good Looking and Functional
The Model 336 Classic is, well, a class act to take to the shooting range. The just-right 13.38" length of pull stock shoulders comfortably and the rifle balances nicely. This rifle's gold colored trigger exhibited firm resistance before breaking cleanly with 4 lbs. 12 oz. of trigger pull. The other controls, including the lever, cross-bolt safety and the hammer all cycled smoothly. The closest thing I had to a malfunction while working with this gun is that the third round being fed into the tubular magazine through the right-side loading gate could be a bit sticky and need a little wiggling to go in. Other than that, it was smooth sailing.

Formal, bench-rested accuracy testing was conducted at 100 yards. Using three loads from Hornady and Remington, five 5-shot groups of each load were fired down range along with 10 more shots fired next to a LabRadar chronograph to clock the bullet's muzzle velocity. Here is how things panned out:

The More the Merrier!
There was a time not too long ago where it seemed that lever guns were on the verge of fading out from common use and into the limited role of anachronistic shooting at single-action competition events. But even as modern sporting rifles (i.e. AR-15s) continue to grow in popularity, plenty of sports shooters are discovering the fun and utility of lever-actions like the Marlin 336 Classic chambered in .30-30 Win.

I'm glad to see Marlin back up and running and offering popular models like this one. More model options mean even greater exposure to a rifle type that's still relevant today despite its long history. This type of gun and cartridge combination has successfully harvested game for more than 125 years! Why stop now, especially when a top-notch Ruger-made 336 is available? For more information, visit marlinfirearms.com.

Model: Marlin Firearms Model 336 Classic (#70504)
Manufacturer: Sturm, Ruger & Co.; 271 Cardwell Road, Mayodan, NC 27027; (336) 949-5200; marlinfirearms.com
Overall Length: 38.625"
Barrel Length: 20.25"
Length of Pull: 13.38"
Action Type: Lever-Action, Center-Fire Rifle
Chambering: .30-30 Win.
Receiver: Blued Alloy Steel
Barrel: Round Profile, Cold-Hammer Forged Blued Alloy Steel, 6-Groove, 1:12" RH Twist
Magazine: Fixed Tube, 6+1 Rounds
Trigger: Gold Finish, Single-Stage, 4-lbs. 12-oz. Pull
Sights: Front, Rear, Drilled And Tapped for Optics Rail
Accessories: Hammer Spur Extension, Lock, Owner's Manual
MSRP: $1,239


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