The selection of .22 LR rifles available at the local sporting goods store has changed quite a bit since I was young. Today's .22 LR rifles have become just as diverse and specialized as the center-fire models. You'll find that dedicated rimfire AR-15 semi-automatics, precision chassis bolt-actions and carbon fiber wrapped bull-barrel competition models abound! But tucked in amongst these technological wonders you'll find a handsome, affordable little semi-automatic carbine from Marlin Firearms that looks just like the rifle Grandpa had.
It's called the Marlin Model 60 and it so happens that this is the 60th year it’s been in production. More than 11 million Model 60s have been sold and they are currently available in six different configurations. Considering how many firearms have come and gone from the marketplace in the last half century, this one must have a lot going for it. To find out what keeps this rifle a top seller, I requested the standard model which is the closest you can get to the 1960s era original.
The Model 60 is a blowback-operated semi-automatic .22 LR designed by Edward Nichol. He based this rifle on the Marlin 99 but incorporated some improvements that are still in place today. The steel tubular magazine liner was replaced with brass to help prevent rust. The top of the receiver was grooved to accept tip-off scope mounts in addition to the factory installed iron sights.
But the most significant change was the use of Marlin’s patented Micro-Groove rifling technology in the bore. Typical 4-, 6- and 8-groove rifling cuts deeply into .22 LR bullets and essentially changes their shape as they travel down the barrel. The Model 60's precision-crowned muzzle and 16-groove Micro-Groove rifling system acts to stabilize the bullet without damaging it for more repeatable accuracy. The company is still standing by this unusual rifling approach 60-years later.
The 19" round profile barrel is made of blued steel and attached to a light weight aluminum receiver. The front sight blade is paired with a height adjustable rear sight. The round, knurled bolt handle is found on the right side of the receiver protruding from the ejection port. This model does have a bolt catch that causes the bolt to lock open when the last round is fired.
Unlike many modern semi-automatics, which use removable box magazines to hold the ammunition, the Model 60 still sports a 14-round tubular magazine located under the barrel. The brass magazine liner is topped with a knurled polymer knob to keep it locked in place. Twisting and pulling the liner out most of the way exposes the loading port cut into the magazine in between the barrel band and the stock. Some folks like to pull the liner all the way out and set it aside while loading. But the liner is less likely to get dropped, dinged or dirty if left part way in the magazine while fresh rounds are dropped in through the slot.
The tubular magazine is a bit old fashioned but it's certainly not obsolete. In fact, it does have certain political advantages in those parts of the country in which anti-gun administrations are working diligently to restrict or ban removable magazines. Fixed tubular magazines don't seem to draw much attention from this crowd.
The same can be said of the Marlin 60’s sleek walnut Monte Carlo stock. Some folks are all worked up about modern stocks with pistol grips and adjustable butt stocks. This stock is a solid piece of wood styled after those found on classic hunting rifles. It provides a 13.5" length of pull (LOP) with a textured black polymer butt plate to help steady it against the shoulder.
The grooved polymer trigger is housed in a rounded polymer trigger guard. The bolt catch is located at the front of the guard with a cross bolt safety located at the rear. The trigger exhibits a smooth, short stroke that breaks cleanly with 5-lbs. 5-oz. of trigger pull. It's not the lightest trigger available but it's a good all-around weight for a variety of uses and skill levels.
The overall fit and finish is better than one might expect from a budget-friendly rimfire. The metal finishes are properly applied, the metal to wood fitting is clean and tight and all of the controls operated smoothly. The Model 60 I worked with weighed in at 4 lbs. 15 oz. unloaded, giving it a handy feel and easy swing.
If you're looking to invest in a low-cost rifle, it's only logical to look for an affordable scope to use with it. At the shooting range, I took advantage of the grooved receiver to attach an Athlon Optics Neos 3-9x40 BDC 22 Rimfire Reticle (#216003) scope using Warne Maxima 1" High 7.3/22 Quick Detach rings. I was quite pleased with the Athlon because it provides a level of performance on par with $200 optics for a suggested retail price of $109.99. I know you can find rimfire optics for as little as $30, but trust me when I say that you get what you pay for when it comes to optics.
In keeping with the spirit of budget-friendly plinking sessions, the Marlin was test fired for accuracy using readily available bulk-box and practice-grade ammunition. The rifle digested these loads without any malfunctions during informal warm ups and the formal bench rested accuracy testing at 50 yards. CCI's Clean-22 40-gr. polymer coated lead round nose loads turned in a best single five-shot group of 1.53" with a five-group average of 1.66". Federal's BYOB Champion 36-gr. copper plated hollow points tapped out a best group of 1.09" with an average of 1.29". Remington’s Golden Bullet Value Pack 40-gr. brass plated hollow points printed a best group of 1.13” with an average of 1.27".
Participating in family shooting sports isn't always about the quick-trigger magazine dumps, high round counts and tactical maneuvers. Sometimes it's all about time. It’s important to take the time to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature with our kids, teach them about our heritage of owning firearms, and the simple pleasures of knocking over soup cans on a warm weekend afternoon.
Thankfully, amidst all of the technological advances the shooting industry is experiencing these days, the fine art of casual plinkery has not been lost. The Marlin Model 60 is still the same handy, reliable and enjoyable little carbine it was when it went into production 60-years ago. It currently sports a suggested retail price of $212.91 which translates into real-world prices under $200. That places this standard model among the more affordable rimfire semi-automatic rifles currently on the market. If you would prefer a few updated features, such as a stainless steel barrel or polymer stock, they're available for a bit more than this version costs.
Manufacturer: Marlin Firearms
Model: 60 (#70620)
Action: Direct Blowback Operated Semi-automatic
Caliber: .22 LR Only
Receiver: Matte Black Aluminum with 3/8" Dovetail Optics Rail
Barrel: 19" Round Profile, Blued Steel, Micro-Groove Rifling
Front Sight: Removable Blade
Rear Sight: Adjustable
Stock: Walnut-Finished Hardwood, Mar-Shield Finish, Textured Polymer Butt Plate
Trigger Guard: Black Polymer
Overall Length: 37.75"
Weight: 4 lbs. 15 oz.
Trigger Pull: (As Tested)
Length of Pull: 13.5"
Capacity: 14 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” RH
Rifle Grooves: 16
Accessories: Owner's Manual
Optic: Athlon Neos 3-9x40 BDC 22 Rimfire Reticle (#216003) $109.99
Rings: Warne Maxima 1" High 7.3/22 Quick Detach for 11mm or 3/8" Dovetail, Matte Black (722LM) $55.49