I once mentioned to the number one firearm mentor in my life that it seemed the lever rifle wasn’t as accurate as a bolt gun. That is the type of broad generalization the uninitiated make. Newt replied, ‘I will show you a pair of Marlin Model 336 rifles in the rack that will put them all in the same hole at 100 yards!’ He was right.
The Marlin Model 336 with its smooth-moving round bolt and microgroove rifling isn’t the average lever-action rifle. I know that most deer are taken inside of 200 yards, and I suspect most elk as well. (Most deer in my experience have fell at 100 yards or less.) Hogs are a head-over-heels type of thing and the .30-30 lever action is well suited to those big boys.
The .30-30 WCF has killing power. The problem has always been accurate delivery. Marlin solved that problem with an easy-to-scope flat-top action. I think a lot of meat has been put on the table by the humble Marlin 336. The price isn’t so humble anymore, but then, this is a well-made rifle constructed of good steel. It should not be cheap.
Sure, this is an old design, but many bolt-action rifles are based on the 1898 Mauser. The action is strong and trouble-free. The lever-action rifle is easily loaded and made ready, easily made safe, and seems never to malfunction or go out of whack. The Marlin 336 is actually a younger rifle than most lever-action rifle designs. The initial work began after World War II and the rifle was introduced in 1948.
Marlin Model 336 Features
With its solid receiver and side ejection, Marlin added a round bolt rather than the square bolt of earlier rifles. The result may correctly be termed a lever-operated bolt rifle. (A term common in military trials of the 19th Century.)
The rifle is hell for strong and makes a fine bed for conversion to the .30 Ackley Improved. The .35 Remington version has a good reputation. Marlin also gave us a modern carrier and a smooth lever action.
The Marlin 336 features one of the strongest extractors ever designed in a repeating rifle. We know Marlin went out of business, and we know that Ruger bought existing Marlin rights and machinery. Ruger is a tough, smart company with many successes. I wish them well in keeping this classic rifle going in production.
The Marlin Model 336 was available in many versions, barrel lengths, and finishes. The .30-30 WCF is the most common chambering. The rifle is not only strong — just take a look at the bolt to barrel lockup — versions since 1953 feature microgroove rifling. The design features many shallow rifling grooves that stabilize the bullet in a superior manner. The .30-30 features 20 grooves in the barrel. There is less bullet deformation.
The rifle features standard buckhorn sights. A rear sight with big wings that look like a buck horn and a hooded front post is standard. These sights are OK, as far as it goes, and young people may feel differently concerning accuracy potential. For myself and my eyes, the sure kill zone of a deer is perhaps 100 yards, and I am more comfortable at 75 yards.
The sure kill zone of a deer is something around eight inches and the rifle will group five rounds of Hornady ammunition into 2.0 inches at 100 yards, but in the field that isn’t a realistic number. The rifle holds six rounds in its tubular under-the-barrel magazine. That would be a good reserve for an emergency rifle.
The magazine may be easily topped off one at a time by loading single rounds. The .30-30 is a standard emergency rifle on many ranches and in many homes ready to confront man or beast if need be. If you are familiar with the rifle, it isn’t a bad choice at all.
Ammunition choices for the .30-30 have been limited to 150–170 grain loads. The Remington Core-Lokt and Winchester Silvertip are among the most used and successful loads. 150-grain loads clock a true 2,100 fps in a typical 20-inch barrel. The 170-grain loads usually clock over the chronograph at 2,060–2,100 fps. They run about the same velocity as the 150-grain loads. As a result, you will find the sights are well regulated for either load.
Operation and Handling
Use the six o’clock hold and the rear leaf adjustment under the sight to bring the loads to the point of aim for the chosen range. The rifle is smooth in operation with good leverage. As with all lever-action rifles, the lever is forced forward not down and the fingers go inside the lever for best results.
With a 20-inch barrel, the rifle is 38.5 inches long and weighs 7 pounds. Among the advantages of the rifle is low recoil. The rifle is an excellent workhorse as issued. I had greater plans, however.
A .30-30 rifle makes a great go-anywhere do-anything rifle providing there is some improvement in the sights. I ordered an XS sights Lever Rail. This hard anodized rail features a sturdy lock up. The rear sight of the Marlin is removed with a brass hammer and punch. The XS rail is mounted to the rifle by fitting a stabilizing block into the sight slot and also by screwing the mount down after removing the screws in the top of the receiver. (These screws are there to make mount scope bases easy.)
The rail is very sturdy and secure. A red-dot optic or a standard rifle scope is easily mounted. The XS Ghost ring is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. I like a ghost ring sight very much and find the speed and practical accuracy unequaled.
Two apertures are included along with a well-designed ramp front sight. The apertures are .230 and .191, respectively. The tighter sight allows for more precise long-range accuracy. The other sight is more useful in dim light or in close-range speed shooting.
If you have a problem with zeroing the rifle at the correct distance, alternate front sights are available and covered under the warranty. Sighting the rifle in for the standard 100 yards isn’t difficult. Note that the .30-30 WCF with 150-grain bullet will drop 9 inches at 200 yards if sighted for 100 yards.
I like to sight the rifle about 1.5 inches high at 100 yards. You need to fire on the range to confirm. For shorter-range pursuits or defense use, a 50-yard zero that places the point of impact an inch or two high is ideal. The XS Lever Rail solved any problem with accuracy potential for this shooter.
I had to file the stabilizing stand that fits in the rear sight slot to fit the Lever Rail with a solid fit. Don’t file the rifle! After getting the rail in place I elected to fire the rifle for accuracy at 100 yards.
.30-30 ammunition is a little precious at the moment, but I sacrificed some of my supply. I fired three-shot groups from a solid benchrest position using the smaller XS aperture. Results were good, very good, even surprising.
|Hornady 165-grain LeveRevolution||1.5|
I would say 1.5 inches is my limit with any type of sights. The front sight tends to subtend a small bullseye at 100 yards, so I used a red center target and held at the base of the red circle. Curious, I also fired three shots offhand in my best stabilized firing position taking my time to connect. I put three shots in five inches offhand.
I am pleased with the Marlin rifle. It is a friendly rifle and among the least likely of all rifles of any type to malfunction. Accuracy is good for most chores. This type of rifle may be the best all-around, versatile, defense/medium game rifle available.