The Used Gun Review: Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in Stainless Steel


by Kelly Watkins

photography by Kelly Watkins

November 30th, 2008




Some men feel as though they live in the wrong century. At times I feel that I am one of them. Yes, I appreciate all of the amenities that our modern world provides, yet I yearn for the days of old when the buffalo freely roamed the ranges, to see the wind blowing across the prairie grass and to feel the thump of the rifle against my shoulder as a distant buffalo falls. Those days are long gone and besides, I live in Florida where the only buffalo are managed on ranches, definitely a far cry from free roaming game. My firearm of choice is the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in 45-70 Government, equally distant from the 45-70 Sharps used in the days of the buffalo. Still, just holding the grand old 45-70 cartridge in your hands makes one wonder at the history.

According to Marlin Firearms, the 1895 Guide Gun in stainless steel (also available in blued steel) is a hybrid of the Model 336 series lever action with slight updates made to accommodate the 45-70 cartridge. Even though the barrel is a relatively short 18.5 inches, it offers enough power to take on just about any game in North America, and most certainly in the lower 48 states. So why, do you ask, do I own a rifle so powerful in a state where a 120 pound deer is considered large? The answer lies in one of the liberties afforded to us. Because I can.

Technical Specifications at a glance

Caliber 45-70 Govt.

Capacity 4 +1

Action: Lever Action with hammer block safety

Barrel: 18.5” with 6 groove Ballard-type rifling

Sights: Adjustable semi buckhorn folding rear with brass bead front sight

Overall Length: 37”

Weight: 7lbs

Stock: American black walnut with straight grip and recoil pad.

The Marlin Guide Gun is in my opinion a very handsome gun that does indeed fill a unique niche in the gun market. Lets take a closer look and examine the individual features of this rifle.


The stainless steel contrasts nicely with the dark honey colored stock that came on my individual rifle. The finish is a brushed type finish that allows for the corrosion resistance of stainless steel, yet somewhat dulls the reflective properties of the finish. According to Marlin, the receiver, barrel, lever, trigger guard plate, magazine tube and loading gate are made of stainless steel. The remaining parts appear to be carbon steel left in the “white”, continuing with the stainless look, however, there is a slight color change in these parts. This is most evident in the forend cap.


My particular specimen was fitted with a dark honey colored buttstock and forend. Both parts were finished in a flat non-reflective finish. The deep cut checking is offset with diamond patterns in the buttstock and forearm and offers a good grip. The wood is relatively straight in grain and is purely functional rather than fancy. The rear sling swivel stud is slightly recessed into the grain and has a somewhat puzzling white dot with a black center approximately 1 inch forward of the stud. I have yet to find out the purpose of this dot. The ventilated recoil pad is wide enough to help distribute the recoil and the stock also is of sufficient length to prevent the dreaded half moon over the eyebrow from the scope.

Barrel and magazine

Although the barrel is 18.5”, it feels much shorter. This is perhaps due to the bull barrel feel of the rifle due to the relatively large caliber. Early models of the Marlin Guide Gun offered barrel porting, however, later models did not retain this feature. The rifling crown is rounded and slightly recessed, offering a little protection for the rifling. Instead of using a barrel band, Marlin decided to used a dovetail wedge to secure the barrel to the magazine. The magazine ends approximately 4” from the end of the barrel, leaving one to wonder if an extra round of capacity would be gained by extending the magazine tube the full length to the end of the barrel. Given that there is 4” of room from the end of the barrel and the .45-70 cartridge measures approximately 2.5“, this theoretically would leave 1.5” of room for the follower and compressed spring. It looks as though Marlin decided to leave the dead space out of the design of the rifle. However, it would seem that a slight barrel length increase to 20” would have left enough room for one more round. The magazine follower is red and can be seen by depressing the loading gate while looking into the magazine. This provides positive confirmation that there is not a round stuck in the magazine. The front sling swivel stud is also attached to the forend cap rather than the wood.

Hammer, safety and trigger

I decided to combine these three because they are interconnected with each other.

Lets start with the hammer. The hammer spur is serrated to help provide a positive purchase, however, a factory supplied hammed spur extension is a great aid when using a scope. This extension is attached to the hammer spur by sliding it onto the spur and tightening a tiny set screw with the supplied wrench. I found that a dot of blue Loc-Tite to the screw was necessary to keep it in place, otherwise it would work loose every few shots.

The safety is a push button safety located just forward of the hammer. Pushing it to the left puts the safety in the “fire” position with a red indicator showing. Pushing the safety to the opposite side places it on “safe”. Although there is no color indicator to show “safe” the safety button has a circular pattern in the metal to aid in pushing and perhaps offering a tactile indicator. The button on the opposite side is left smooth. Engaging and disengaging the safety is positive, with no worries about the safety engaging during severe recoil. One note that I will add is that in addition to the safety, Marlin retained the half cock feature of the rifle. Personally, I could live without the safety as it serves no function except to prevent the hammer from contacting the firing pin. It does not prevent the hammer from falling, so you will get a surprise if you forget to remove the safety before firing. There is nothing like the sound of the hammer falling and nothing happening to alert your prey. Coincidentally, it’s also a fine time to find out you have a nasty flinch!

The trigger face is slightly rounded and polished smooth. However, it does retain a bit of an edge. Although I would not call this a sharp edge, I would say that it is a “hard” edge. The trigger pull is very reasonable, and although no trigger pull gauge was available, I’d estimate it at 5 pounds with a good release. My only complaint is that it does have the “trigger flop” which is noticeable when you shake the rifle. This is more of a glitch in the design that has no affect on the function or safety of the rifle.


The sights on the rifle are serviceable with a brass bead up front and a semi buckhorn rear that folds down for scope use and is ladder adjustable for elevation. Both front and rear sights are blued. The sighting system also utilizes a protective front sight hood. Although the front sight could be seen in good light, the rear is left colored black. Given the nature of the rifle, I would have preferred an express gun sighting system rather than the one supplied. I decided to forego the sights altogether and mount a scope for hunting use.

On this particular rifle I mounted a Nikon 2-7 x32 shotgun scope on a standard Weaver mounting base to aid in accuracy. One note to add is that the front and rear of this scope utilizes the same Butler Creek rear scope cap. I found this beneficial and mounted a rear scope cover on both the front and rear. This would allow me to use a lever to flip with front and rear caps, something useful when wearing gloves.

Handling Characteristics

The Marlin Guide Gun is designed to be a fast handling short to medium range rifle. Used as the name implies, it is a secondary implement to back up a client in the event of an emergency. The short barrel length combined with the straight stock give it the pointing characteristics closer to a shotgun than a rifle. In fact, the Remington 870 with a 18” barrel is approximately 1“ longer than the Guide Gun. Although it is extremely fast to put into action, engagement of long range targets are definitely more of a challenge. The stock is of sufficient length to allow enough room when using a scope. My only complaint is that the relatively narrow lever loop may cause some problems when wearing heavy gloves.


The very fact that I’m using a Marling 1895 Guide Gun in stainless steel instead of the 1895 Cowboy version proves that I’m not a purist. To even further my chances of obtaining the best accuracy out of the guide gun I used Hornady’s LEVERevolution 325 grain ammunition, a polymer point bullet designed specifically for lever action rifles. The guide gun did not disappoint! I was amazed and pleasantly surprised at the 1.5” groups at 100 yards. Shooting the 45-70 lets you know that you’ve just touched off some serious firepower, with the accompanying muzzle blast. After shooting 20 rounds I began to wonder…Since the .45-70 cartridge at one time was the official military cartridge, am I am wimp when compared to our early soldiers? Overall, the recoil is significant enough to not want to train a novice on this rifle, yet it should be easily handled by the experienced shooter. Just don’t sit down and expect to bench a couple of boxes comfortably. Feeding, extraction and ejection is positive with no problems encountered.


I give the Marlin Guide Gun two thumbs up. Due to much of the terrain being comprised of mixed woods and planted pines here in Northwest Florida, the guide gun serves as a superb hunting firearm due to the short length and ease of handling. Given the size of some of our local feral hogs, the 45-70 cartridge gives some measure of confidence that you will not become the victim of an angry hog. In addition, our black bear population in NW Florida is also very healthy, reaching nuisance status on managed lease lands. All the more reason for a little extra protection. If you are wanting something unique that is sure to turn a couple of heads at the local range when they realize that you are not shooting a 30-30, then the Guide Gun is for you.

Kelly Watkins

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Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in stainless steel, fitted with a Nikon 2-7x32 shotgun scope.





The Guide Gun is a bit shorter than an 18" Remington 870 "riot gun".





Hornady's LEVERevolution .45/70 load (right) compared to a .308 Winchester cartridge (left).