New Marlin Model 1895 Cowboy 45-70 Lever-Action Rifle

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 10th, 2014


Click pictures for a larger version.







Wood-to-metal fit is not perfect, but very good.









Crossbolt safety blocks hammer from contacting the firing pin.







Marlin is back! I've been waiting a long time to make that statement. It is not that Marlin ever really went away, though it seemed as if it was teetering close to the edge for a while. What went missing for a period of time was Marlin quality. I remember from the days of my youth the Marlin advertisements in the firearms and outdoors magazines. Those ads emphasized the quality of the fit and finish on Marlin leverguns. When the Freedom Group bought Marlin, they shut down the factory in North Haven, Connecticut  and began production in Ilion, New York; quality suffered, and it has taken some time to get Marlin quality back to where it should be. Opinions vary on the topic. Some say that the Freedom Group ruined Marlin, but a good argument could be made that the Freedom Group saved Marlin from extinction.

Over the course of the past few years, I have had several conversations with Marlin executives and engineers, and they have been very forthcoming in acknowledging the problems. They told me that they were wrong when they thought it would be easy to scrap the old worn-out tooling in North Haven and produce the rifles on modern equipment in Ilion. However, they also took action to correct the quality problems, and effectively shut down production until they were confident that the rifles they were shipping would not come back. They halted production on the many variations of the Marlin levergun, and are bringing them back one model at a time.

In the interim, I told the good folks at Marlin that I would be the first to announce that Marlin was back, and that I was sure rooting for them to make it. Marlin is one of our oldest brands of American rifles left, and it would break my heart to see the brand die. The levergun is an American design, and there is perhaps no other weapon that epitomizes the American way of life than does the levergun. With Savage and Ruger no longer making lever-action rifles, and the Winchesters no longer made in the US, Marlin, Mossberg, and Henry are the last levergun makers left standing in this country, and for a while, Marlin was not standing on very solid footing.

Over the course of the past eighteen months or so, I have noticed a slow progression of quality improvement in the Marlin leverguns that I have seen in gun stores and at gun shows. In September of 2013, while visiting my friends Al, Lori, and Megan Anderson in the U.P. of Michigan, we took a trip into town to load up on cheese curds and to stop in at Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming, to coon-finger whatever interesting guns were on display. Usually, we look only at the used firearms, as we see the new stuff at trade shows, and because I normally don't get to wanting a gun really badly until it is no longer in production. Anyway, on the new gun rack we spotted a handy little Marlin carbine; the 336Y. This is a Youth model, which means the stock is a bit shorter in pull-length than on a standard rifle, which is a plus in the U.P., as folks tend to wear a lot of bulky clothing during their eleven and one-half months of winter up there, so the short stock is much quicker to get into action.

After we fondled the new Marlin a bit, Al and I were both impressed enough with the quality of the carbine that we decided to spend Al's money and take it home. Back at his place, we blasted quite a bit of ammo through the Marlin, and it performed exactly as it should, feeding and firing 30 WCF (30-30) cartridges as fast as we could stuff them into the magazine tube. When I got back home, I called and ordered a 336Y for myself, and it too exhibited much-improved quality of fit and finish, compared to the earlier Ilion guns, so my hopes for the survival of Marlin were running pretty high.

Still, I was cautious; not yet ready to declare that Marlin had completely corrected the quality problems which it had suffered. Over the course of the next couple of months, I talked to gun shop owners, gunsmiths, and firearms wholesalers, to gather their opinions on the improvements in Marlin quality. They all reported positive thoughts towards the improved quality control at Marlin. In the meantime, I started working with the 1895CB shown here, and just today, I made another call to Davidson's, a large firearms wholesaler that is showing several new Marlin leverguns in stock, and their response to my quality questions was also positive, and this brings me the long way around the barn to my opening statement; Marlin is back!

The rifle shown here is their Model 1895CB; the "CB" standing for "Cowboy". These rifles are very popular with Cowboy Action Shooting competitors who participate in the long range events. The 1895CB wears a twenty-six inch tapered octagon barrel. Many times, an octagon barrel means that it is going to balance like a pig on a shovel, but the Marlin barrel tapers from .85 inch at the receiver to .695 at the muzzle. With the huge forty-five caliber bore, the barrel is not excessively heavy at all. The rifle weighed in a just a fraction of an ounce under seven pounds on my scale. The balance point on the empty rifle is about one inch forward of the receiver, and the rifle carries and handles beautifully. The sights consist of a Marble's semi-buckhorn ladder-adjustable rear with a dovetailed front post with brass bead. This makes for a good sight picture for hunting. The receiver top is drilled for scope mounts, and aperture sights are available from XS Sights and from Skinner Sights which will fit using the same screw holes. An offset hammer spur is supplied for scope use, if desired. The rear sight does not fold, so keep that in mind when choosing a scope and mount.

The 1895CB wears satin-finished straight-grained American walnut buttstock and forearm. The wood-to-metal fit is very good. It is not perfect, but it is very good, with no excessive gaps nor excessively proud wood. The steel is finished in a polished blue, with a bead-blasted matte finish on the top and bottom of the receiver. The barrel is well-finished in a polished blue, with the full-length magazine tube extending to within four-tenths on an inch of the muzzle. The mag tube holds nine cartridges, for a ready-to-go capacity of ten. The 1895CB has Ballard-style rifling, so it can accurately fire both lead and jacketed bullets. The buttstock is of the straight-grip style with a square-back lever, and it looks great on this Marlin.

As stated above, the rifle handles very well. It has a slight forward balance, but not excessively so, even when fully loaded. With the twenty-six inch tube, the overall length is still only forty-four inches, and the rifle comes to the shoulder quickly. The trigger pull on this 1895CB is very crisp, as it should be, and releases with four and one-quarter pounds of resistance. The rifle wears Marlin's crossbolt safety, which blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin. The operation of the action is very smooth, with no hint of grittiness nor stiffness. It operates as a good levergun should, and functioning was perfect throughout all shooting, with various brands and styles of ammunition, with both cast-lead and jacketed bullets, ranging in weight from 300 to 430 grains. Every cartridge fed, fired, and ejected smoothly and perfectly. Loading the magazine tube was easy, even when loading to full capacity.

Accuracy testing was done from the bench at a distance of fifty yards. Past fifty, my eyes do no good shooting open sights on a rifle. I did not want to mount a scope atop this beautiful rifle, as I think that most users of the 1895CB will leave it as is, or mount an aperture sight. I have a low-powered Leupold scope on my 1895GS 45-70 Guide Gun, but for the CB, I like it without a scope. Firing three-shot groups from a rested position, the 1895CB proved to be very accurate. Shown are pictures of representative groups, along with one lucky group, shown just for entertainment purposes; mostly mine. I believe that the rifle is capable of one-hole groups at fifty yards, but with open sights, I am not. I was able to keep every group fired under the two-inch mark at fifty yards, again, with my eyes being the limiting factor.

Many shooters mistakenly dismiss the 45-70 cartridge as merely a short-range proposition, which it is not. Using modern ammunition, like the Buffalo Bore 45-70 Magnum ammo with the 300 grain jacketed softpoint bullet, the 1895CB can reach out and harvest game efficiently. Leaving the muzzle of this 1895CB at just over 2500 feet-per-second (fps), this load has 4262 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle, and retains over 1000 ft. lbs. of energy out past 300 yards. With a 200 yard zero, the bullet drops only seven inches below the line of sight at 250 yards, so harvesting big game at that distance is very easily within the capability of this rifle and cartridge. Other good ammunition is available on the market from mild whitetail loads up through ammo that will harvest any game animal on Earth. The Buffalo Bore 430 grain bullet retains almost 1700 ft. lbs. of energy at 300 yards. An excellent mild load that is safe in all 45-70 rifles is the Garrett 420 grain cast lead load, which leaves the muzzle of this Marlin in excess of 1380 fps. This load is easy on both the rifle and the shoulder, yet will penetrate very well to get the job done on large game.

Along with this 1895CB and the 336Y rifles, Marlin also has in production  the 1894 rifles once again. They are bringing more rifles online one model at a time, as they seem to have everything running correctly right now on the modern equipment. I can find no fault at all with this new 1895CB. It is a smooth, accurate, handsome, and reliable rifle, deserving of the legendary Marlin brand. As of the date of this review, the suggested retail price on the Marlin 1895CB is $839 US.

Check out this and other Marlin products online at

For the location of a Marlin dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the 1895CB online, click on the GUN GENIE at

To order quality 45-70 ammunition, go to,,, and

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.









Buffalo Bore makes an excellent 300-grain 45-70 load that offers a lot of power.



This Garrett 420-grain cast load exhibits excellent penetration, in a load that is safe in all 45-70 rifles.



These fifty-yard groups are the best that the author can do using open sights. The groups are typical of the performance of each load. Also shown is one lucky group, which was not typical of the rifle's performance in the author's hands.



Receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.



Hammer extension is removable, and makes it easier to cock the hammer with a scope mounted atop the receiver.