Review: Marlin Model 39A

Marlin lever-action rifle

Among the most respected gunmakers in America is Marlin Firearms. They are well-known for a long line of rifles and shotguns.

The single most famous rifle they make is the Marlin 39A .22-caliber rifle.

This rimfire has been in production longer than practically any other rifle in America.

This rifle has always been appreciated by those needing an accurate and reliable small-game rifle.

The piece is well-suited for target shooting, practice and training young shooters.

Since about 1910, the sameness of society and manufacture underwent a tremendous change.

Mankind in developed nations could no longer expect generations to live out much the same life among grandparents, parents and children.

Change became the rule, but the Marlin 39A remained the same.

lever-action rifle
The Marlin rifle is well-made of good material and always accurate.

The Mountie Version

My rifle is a carbine version known as the Mountie. This rifle is a little shorter than the usual 24-inch barrel Marlin 39.

The Mountie is practically as accurate as the full-size Marlin and a fine handling rifle.

These are pretty ordinary rifles in a way with a bead front post and adjustable rear sight. The standard sights are fine for most uses to 50 yards.

I think the Skinner Sights aperture sight is a great improvement for any lever-action rifle.

The magazine may hold as many as 17 rounds of ammunition.

This is a pleasant amount of reserve when plinking and all you will need for most days of hunting squirrel or rabbit.

Not running rabbits, but bedded rabbit. I have taken quite a few in this manner.

marlin sights
Simple fixed sights give good results.

Features and Function

The rifle loads by means of the typical under-the-barrel magazine.

Take the spring-loaded inner tube out of the magazine tube and drop cartridges straight down the tube, or simply move it to the spot where you may load cartridges into the opening in the loading tube body.

.22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, CB caps, .22 Short, shotshells — they all feed effortlessly in this lever-action rifle.

The leverage of the short-throw rifle is excellent.

Considering the design has changed little since 1892, this is a neat operating system that has proven trouble-free.

The rifle was modified into a takedown design a few years after its introduction.

When many traveled to the hunting grounds by buckboard or horseback, a takedown or folding rifle was an advantage.

Simply unscrewing the takedown lever allows the rifle to be separated into two pieces.

You don’t need a tool for turning the takedown screw, a coin will work fine.

The rifle we know as the Marlin Model 39 rimfire rifle was finalized as far as design is concerned in 1921.

The Marlin 39 has been universally acclaimed as a reliable and accurate rifle.

Work the lever pressing forward, not down, and the hammer is cocked and the rifle is ready to fire.

If you are going hunting, carefully lower the hammer by keeping the thumb on the hammer as you press the trigger.

Simply cock the hammer fully to the rear and you are ready to fire.

Fit and finish have remained remarkably consistently during the Marlin’s production life.

And this has ensured the Model 39 will never be a cheap rifle. Fit of the internal parts and the fit of the wood to metal is excellent.

My rifle has been well taken care of and, while it was manufactured in 1955, it remains a great all-around rifle.

Marlin Model 39
The lever throw is short and fast.

How It Fires

Lever-action rifles are not famous for having great trigger actions.

The Marlin trigger is usually crisp with the typical lever-action take-up, while it breaks at 3.4 pounds in my example.

I have fired the rifle for accuracy at a long 50 yards. Results were good before fitting the Skinner Sights aperture, and excellent afterward.

A five-shot group of 2.0 inches at 50 yards was achieved with the Winchester 37-grain Super X.

The new Winchester Silvertip posted similar results. The Marlin 39 is a great rifle, a classic with much to recommend.

What do you think of the historic Marlin 39A? Let us know in the comments section below!

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
Rifle Magazine
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 (22)

  1. I purchased a 39A about 2 years ago from a friend. It’s very good condition. Not ejecting or feeding properly. Accuracy is excellent. Any recommendations on gunsmith in Albuquerque, New MEXICO or in our state?? Would like to know year made??

  2. I inherited my father’s 1974 Marlin Golden 39A five years ago. What great memories plinking with dad. I used it as a child and decline to say how many squirrels, birds, and water turtles I killed way back then. What an awesome and dependable little shooter! Mine is scoped-in with Bushnell 4X and its so much fun. I’ve seen several recent examples of sale but it would be very hard to let it go for any amount. It is so very special.

  3. I’m in my 70’s and have had a Marlin Golden 39-A Mountie since I was a boy. I’m not sure when it was manufactured, but its serial number is W 8663. Its overall length is 36.5 inches with a barrel length of 19.5 inches. I used to hunt with it with my dad who passed away in 2017. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

  4. I have a Marlin Golden39-A Mountie. Shooting today and all was good. Suddenly the cocking lever would no longer move. Disassembled rifle and all parts seemed intact and lever and parts move fluidly. Checked bolt and , intact, firing pln looked good. Reassembled and still won’t move or cock rifle. Any ideas?

  5. During my senior year in high school in 1966, I was at a friend’s house. He showed me his Marlin .22 Carbine. I always wanted a .22 lever action rifle and immediately wanted to order one. He suggested I purchase something different from his. I purchased the Marlin 39A Golden Mountie. I still have the rifle and the original order form. Last year I bought my friends Marlin .22 Carbine from him to remember our plinking days.

  6. I was given a Marlin 39A for my 12th birthday by my dad in 1957. I still have it. It is my most prized possession. All three of my sons learned to shoot with it. I would not take $10,000 for it. Some things have value beyond their worth!

  7. I acquired my Golden Mountie 39a from my uncle about ten years ago. My first lever gun. Absolutely love it. It had a cracked stock that was taped up. Repaired it as best I could but looking for a replacement. I shot it some with the open sights and was pretty accurate but eyes being what they are I just installed a 4x scope.

  8. I got my first marlin golden 39a mountie in the early 60s at the navy exchange in Norfolk about 1970 it was stolen from my home I replaced it with another one from Lazarus it is in mint shape will never sell it love it

  9. I have a few very nice examples of the 39 and 39A Marlin .22 Lever guns . Along with a original surviving Marlin 1894 .30-30 Carbine, a beautiful Marline 336 chambered for the .35 Remington.

  10. I inherited my 39A from my grandfather when he passed. He was given it from his father. It was beautifully engraved while my great grandfather owned it. Had the opportunity to fire it for the first time a couple days ago. I was on target on my very first shot. I feel so blessed to have received this beautiful rifle. I hope to pass it down to my daughter when the time comes!

  11. I got a 1954 Marlin 39a in mint condition in 2018 for $475 + $45 tax.
    The rifle has a feature of the extractor moves out of the way for bore cleaning.
    If this feature is not disabled, the rifle will not extract.
    I think the feature kept this rifle out of use for 64 years.

  12. The Marlin 39A Golden Edition I have Just brings back lots of great memories. Very accurate, I used CCI Stingers in it. A long shooting rifle. Very well made.

    I bought it in August of 1977 at K-Mart, Pueblo CO. The sale was for $89.99. I wish I would have bought 10 of them and saved them for later. That rifle has taken more game than I can remember. Cotton tails at the top of the list and lots of Jack Rabbits and squirrels. I dispatched several varmints too. Coyotes, Raccoons, a Badger.

    I wouldn’t sell it for $1000.00 today.

    My Grandfather used it to hunt with also. He liked it lots but preferred his J.C. Higgins .22 Semiautomatic. I have his rifles now. The good ole days. ^_^

  13. I have a 39A that was handed down to me, it is about 48 years old and still looks great and shoots as good as it did when it was new. All the rifles I have is either a Marlin or Henry except my 30-06 and I would not take anything for them.

  14. I have a 39A Golden Mountie Carbine that I purchased New in 1964 and it looks as good as the day I bought it. I was attached to it the day I purchased it and I still am and have no interest in ever selling it. Whenever I am in my Gun Safe I always take it out and admire it. It is also Great that the Sturm Ruger Company purchased Marlin and will continue to make those fine Firearms.

  15. I got one from my grandfather 50 years ago it was modified for smaller shooters they cut the stock I love this guy and still have it I was wondering if anybody out there knew where I could get a replacement stock we had a 3030 the same model and we would switch it from the 22 to the 3030 for smaller shooters the 3030Was stolen a while back I would love to have a long stock on it now thanks

  16. I’m privileged to own my Dad’s Marlin 39. He bought the rifle in 1946 when he returned from WWII for $46.00! We have put thousands of rounds through it over the years and it is still as accurate as ever. We have always joked that if you miss with the Model 39, it’s certainly not the rifles fault! This Marlin is a family treasure and I will pass it on to my son along with its story and history. One of the best firearms we have ever owned.

  17. The Marlin 39A was my first rifle and I bought it myself for about $70 as I recall from a Western Auto Store in Buffalo, NY. That was in 1950 I believe. I had that beautiful gun, the Golden model, for many years. It was stolen during a house break-in while I was away in the Army. I’ve thought about replacing it many times but never did but I still think about it.

  18. I own my Dad’s 50’s vintage 39A with an octagon barrel. I also have the Article 2 commemorative model my Dad gave me for my Birthday in the early 70’s. Many squirrels were taken by both guns. Even at age 70 my Dad shot a clump of mistletoe out of the top of an oak tree with a single shot.

  19. I enjoyed this write up.
    I own a Marlin Model 336 from my Father. There is no serial number am I correct? The rifle is a 30/30 lever action with the gold trigger

  20. Can’t remember when I bought it; but I think it was sometime in the 80s. It was a beautiful 39 with the pistol grip. I took it to a local gunsmith and had it parkerized. It was a great shooter. I am a big Marlin fan; and this was the first of my Marlins. I gave it to my son some years back; and he likes it as much as I. He liked it so much he put a scope on it. It is one of his favorites. A while after giving it to him I replaced it with a MAS45 that I cherish as much as the 39A.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading