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The Marlin 336C Rifle Review

by Payton Miller   |  October 2nd, 2010 24

The Marlin 336C in .35 Remington

Buyer’s remorse can be bad, but if you’re a shooter, seller’s remorse can be infinitely more bitter. Is there anyone among us who can’t remember unloading a classic in a moment of financial desperation?

It’s even worse when you’ve sold off  an exceptionally cool rifle simply because it didn’t mesh with the fad and fashion of the time. Sad stories like this are a dime a dozen in the shooting fraternity, but here’s mine anyway

Back in the early 1970s, my uncle Carl used to scour estate sales and pawnshops for used guns. One weekend when I was visiting him, he gave me a rifle he’d acquired. An immaculate mid-1960s Marlin 336 in .35 Remington. Granted, it wasn’t your typical California deer/hog rig, but it shot great, knocked stuff down,  and did everything I needed a rifle to do.

A couple of years later I began working for this magazine. At the time everyone was into the flattest-shooting magnum bolt guns available…or so it seemed. My boss, by way of conversation, asked me one day, “What do you shoot?” I told him. Being a devotee of  belted screamers, he was shocked. “Nobody out here shoots a .35 Remington. Hell, I don’t know anybody who owns one.”

Not wanting to appear uncool, I  bought a bolt gun. Chambered for a caliber that was in kissing distance of the then-magical 3,000-fps benchmark.

The upshot of this sad tale is that I sold that Marlin. I didn’t really regret it until well after my uncle died. But a lot of times I’d be hunting, lugging some 3-9X scoped mega-blaster, and thinking how much more sensible that old .35 would have been. There’s been a lot of ink spilled over long-yardage shooting, but the fact of the matter is, most big-game animals are taken at under 125 yards. Sometimes well under.

Several months ago, I decided I wanted back what I’d sold so long ago and picked up a new Marlin 336C in .35 Remington.

With the exception of the cut-checkering and maddeningly redundant cross-bolt safety, it’s pretty much the same gun–full-length magazine tube, 20-inch Micro-Groove barrel and American black walnut pistol-grip stock. My first move was to mount a Weaver Grand Slam 1.5-5X variable on it with Weaver rings and rail.

Yes, I know there are those who think it’s heresy to scope a tube-magazine lever action. I used to feel the same way. Right up until my eyes—both of them—reached the downhill side of 50. Anyway, the Grand Slam is reasonably compact, and although that top-end 5X setting isn’t much use on this particular rifle’s real-world hunting applications, the 1.5X low end is ideal. Next thing I did was to lose the front sight hood (something I’d’ve done with an aftermarket aperture sight anyway) and put a side spur extension on the hammer.

By .35 Remington standards, the ammo I managed to round up represented a fairly diverse assortment. The classic 200-grain round-nose soft-point loading was well represented by Federal (Power-Shok), Remington (Core-Lokt) and Winchester (Power-Point).

My other selections were a bit racier Hornady‘s LeverEvolution 200-grain and Buffalo Bore’s 220-grain Heavy. And since I envisioned using this rig for California hogs, I had to take the state’s new “lead free” Condor Zone mandate into consideration. I ordered two custom loads from Quality Catridge consisting of a Barnes TSX 200-grain and 225-grain bullet respectively. Unlike the “Flex-Tip” Hornady stuff, these pointed projectiles are not to be lined up nose-to-primer in a tubular magazine, and would, of course, turn the Marlin into a  “two shot” repeater.

The efficiency (and reputation) of the .35 Remington, of course, rests on that .358 bullet, which pretty much replicates 170-grain .30-30 trajectory if you’re talking about the traditional 200-grain loading. I found in grouping my particular rifle, however, that the Buffalo Bore 220-grain Heavy was pretty spectacular, beating everything else in terms of group size and velocity despite the additional throw weight. Recoil was only slightly stouter than with the easy-to-absorb standard loads.

It should be noted, however, that all the loads I tried delivered more-than-acceptable accuracy for shooting within the limits of the cartridge (see accompanying table). It’s not a .358, although the Hornady LeverEvolution offering somewhat approaches that level in the 24-inch barreled, Ballard-rifled XLR variant.

Shooting the rifle off the bench was exceptionally pleasant. The trigger broke at a reasonably clean five pounds, which is fine with me. Naturally, I’d expect more out of a varmint rig, but if anyone used this rifle for that purpose, it would be because that’s all they had on hand at the time. Functioning, as I expected, was flawless. Marlin has been making lever guns since well before the turn of the 20th century and, in my opinion, the 336 is the premier traditional specimen to be had. The Winchester Model 94 may be slimmer and sexier, but I’ve always preferred the Marlin.

The 336C is currently the only production rifle offered in .35 Remington (Remington’s Custom Shop Model 7 bolt action can’t really be classified as a mainline offering).  But there are a lot of old and new Marlins out there, along with old Remington 14, 141 and 760 pump guns, not to mention really old Remington Model 8 and 81 autoloaders.

The Marlin 336 has been with us since 1949; the .35 Remington cartridge, since 1908. It’s a classic combination, and when something has been around that long there’s usually a pretty good reason for it. If you want a lever gun with a bit more thump than a .30-30, and you don’t want to step up to a .45-70, a 336C in .35 Remington may be what you need.

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