Firearms

Marlin Model 336: The Go-Anywhere Do-Anything Rifle

Bob Campbell shooting the Marlin Model 336 Lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF with a mounted scope

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.

Brief History

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.

Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF, right profile
This is a rugged, reliable, and useful lever-action rifle.

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.

XS Sights Lever rail mounted on a Marlin Model 336 rifle, right profile
With the XS Sights lever rail mounted properly, a good rifle is much more useful.

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.

Hammer extension on a Marli Model 336 lever-action rifle
Note the hammer extension for easy cocking — especially if the rifle has a scope mounted. The new style cross-bolt safety may be used or ignored.

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.

View through the rear ghost ring sight on a rifle
A Ghost Ring sight is an excellent addition to the Marlin rifle.

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.)

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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.

Bob Campbell shooting the Marlin Model 336 Lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF
The author finds the Marlin among the smoothest handling rifles of all time.

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.

Load

3-Shot Group

Barnes 150-grain1.9
Remington Core-Lokt1.5
Winchester Silvertip1.65
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.

Three boxes of .30-30 WCF ammunition from Winchester, Barnes, and Remington
Marlin’s 336 proved accurate with a wide range of brands and bullet weights.

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.

Everyone needs at least one good lever-action rifle in their collection. Does the Marlin Model 336 top your list? If not, which one does? What do you think is the best caliber for a lever-action? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • XS Sights Mounting rail attachment schematic
  • TruGlo shotgun style 4x scope mounted on a Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF
  • Cropped image of the
  • Primary securing bolt for the XS Sights lever rail
  • XS Sights Lever rail mounted on a Marlin Model 336 rifle, right profile
  • XS Sights lever rail top view
  • Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF, right profile
  • Hammer extension on a Marli Model 336 lever-action rifle
  • View through the rear ghost ring sight on a rifle
  • XS Sights white stripe front sight
  • Ghost Ring sight
  • Three boxes of .30-30 WCF ammunition from Winchester, Barnes, and Remington
  • Remington Core-Lokt ammunition and green box
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Marlin Model 336 Lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF with a mounted scope
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Marlin Model 336 Lever-action rifle in .30-30 WCF

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. I must agree that the Marlin 336 is a great rifle that had been a quality affordable rifle for all its production run from Marlin and Remington. I find it disheartening that Ruger has increased the cost of their Marlin to the point that it is out of the reach of the average hunter. In fact, it is more expensive than the Henry sidegate levergun. I realize that Ruger only offers the 1895 in 45-70 currently and have plans to release the 336 in the future, biut even the basic Marlin 1895 in 45-70 was an affordable option for those needing a more powerful cartridge for hunting bear or elk. I personally cannot justify spending that amount of hard-earned money for a weapon that could be produced by its original at half the cost, thatwas of the same quality. Hopefully Ruger will seek to recapture the affordable hunter market.

  2. I have a 336CS in .30-30 that I’ve carried around for a long time and It’s never let me down.
    Coupled together with a old antique
    W.T.C-15 3.5 to 10
    power scope it is built like a tank and a straight shooter that you can depend on no matter what situation arises.

  3. Have four lever guns …
    Winchester 94 in 30-30 Winchester
    Winchester 94AE in 44 Rem Mag
    Marlin 1895 in 45/70
    Browning BLR in 358 Winchester

  4. Got my 336 at K Mart for deer hunting (1972) for $78. Had to put it in lay-away…. Couldn’t hardly wait to get it paid off!! Been carrying it for fifty years and the only failure was the extractor. Happened on a hunt and left me with a broken gun. Got it replaced and nothing else stops this jewel.

  5. Never liked the 30-30 cartridge and like this even less, now that it’s more expensive.
    Give us 35 Remmington, 35 Whelen, 327 Federal, 338 Federal, 44 Rem Mag, 45LC+, 444, 45-70, 45-90.
    500 S&W.

  6. I bought my first Marlin, a 336C, Gold Trigger 30-30 New in 1961 for $57.00, and my second a Gold.Trigger .22 cal. Lever rifle in 1962 for $63.00, i still have both and they are still like new.

  7. Love my Marlin 30-30. It does roll hogs well over 100 yds. I have a red dot mounted for fast acquisition and the open sites are spot on.

    Smooth lever action and durable. Great brush rifle when stalking game.

  8. Dumbest thing I ever did when I was young (early 1980s) was to sell my Marlin 336 .30-30 to use the money for a Remington 742 in .30-06. I should’ve just kept saving my money to ADD a rifle, kept the Marlin (and bought a Remington 700 instead of the 742.) That Marlin was really nicely made, and handled like a dream. Oh well, live and learn. Great article as always, Bob.

  9. Of all the rifles I own, the one I’m happiest to pick up and walk the woods with is the Marlin 336Y. This is the shorter youth version with a 16 inch barrel. I agree with the author: it is smooth, reliable, light – even with a scope. Mine is a Remington Marlin – so it was not necessarily the smoothest action and finish, but it only cost $199 brand new from Walmart in 2014. I upgraded it with a full Ranger Point Precision parts group and now it feels like a custom rifle.

  10. My first rifle was a Marlin 336C in 30-30 that I bought for $99 when the KMart had their grand opening in 1970 in my town. It puts them in under an inch at 100 yards and was my go to deer gun for many years. The 150 Grain Remington PSP always got the job done.

  11. I am the happy second owner of a GLENFIELD model 30A, in 30.30 WCF. This was the bargain rifle from the Marlin Corp. back in the day. I hand load rounds of hard cast coated bullets , standard jacketed bullets and my hunting rounds 165gn. mono flex bullets from Hornady. My rifle shows wear of many years in the field and on the range. I have never had a failure of any kind. This is truly a rifle to rely on….

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