Marlin 1895 SBL – Expert’s Review

Marlin Firearms has been making guns in the United States since its founding in the 1870s by John Marlin.

The Marlin 1895 was first introduced in, not a surprise, in 1895 and discontinued in 1917 in favor of the newer Model 336 which continues in production today. Marlin reputation for producing lever guns is unrivaled, even by Winchester.

In 2007, Remington bought Marlin and introduced the first version of the Marlin SBL. Marlin suffered under Remington’s management and, in 2020, Sturm, Ruger & Company purchased Marlin Firearms. In 2021, an improved Marlin 1895 SBL was released. The Marlin 1895 SBL produced under Ruger leadership is a vastly improved lever action rifle.

Ruger’s influence on Marlin is easily seen. Apart from the visual changes (such as the Marlin horse logo change from blue to Ruger red), a move of Marlins assets to a new facility in North Carolina also energized the Marlin operations. The Marlin 1895 SBL represents the first of what I hope is a great evolution in Marlin firearms.

Gun for fast follow up shots

The .45-70 Cartridge and Lever Action Rifles

The .45-70 cartridge was first available for civilian use in the late 1800s. The cartridge became popular with sporting shooters because of its relatively flat shooting trajectory for the time. Still, the 45-70 cartridge was only accurate to a few hundred yards and popularity of the round waned as newer cartridges, such as the .30-06, came onto the civilian market.

Marlin had begun manufacturing a lever action rifle chambered in the .45-70 in 1895. In 1917 production of this rifle stopped. In 1972, Ruger again began producing lever guns chambered for .45-70 but based on the much more robust 336 action. There was an immediate resurgence in popularity in the .45-70 cartridge.

Most experts rate the modern .45-70 cartridge as suitable of even the largest of North American game, including the big bears. The .45-70 has been used to take trophies of the African big five including elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, lion, and rhino. When used within its ranges, the .45-70 is a powerful and efficient cartridge.

The Ruger Made Marlin 1895 SBL

The original 2007 design of the Marlin 1895 was basically sound. The 336 Marlin lever action is a time tested design that is more than adequate for larger caliber cartridges. However, the new Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL features some notable improvements and upgrades which make a good rifle even better.

Before we delve into the improvements and modifications to the new Ruger-inspired Model 1895 SBL, let’s take a look at the factory specifications of this lever gun.

Specifications of the Marlin 1895 SBL

  • Manufacturer – Marlin Firearms
  • Model Number – 1895 SBL
  • Action – Stainless Steel Lever Action Rifle
  • Finish – Polished Stainless Steel
  • Chambering – .45-70 Government
  • Barrel – Cold Hammer-forged Stainless steel
  • Barrel Length – 19 inches
  • Muzzle Threads – 11/16×24 including a thread protector cap
  • Twist Rate – 1:20 RH with 6 groves
  • Stock Material – Grey laminated hardwood
  • Rears Sight – Adjustable ghost ring rear
  • Front Sight – High visibility tritium fiber optic front sight
  • Magazine Style – Tube type
  • Capacity – 6 + 1
  • Weight (unloaded) – 7.3 pounds
  • Overall length – 37.25 inches
  • Length of Pull – 13.38 inches

The Marlin 336 action is a proven design and its use for the .45-70 cartridge is in keeping with the actions known capabilities. The 1895 SBL is no concept rifle but takes the history and tradition of the Marlin lever guns and adopts a proven cartridge to produce a heavy hitting medium range rifle.

A Model 1895 with scout scope configuration


Ruger has taken the opportunity to apply its long tradition of high quality rifle production and couple it with Marlins expertise in lever guns. The result is a remarkably familiar design with some outstanding new features that boost the Marlin 1895 SBL and Marlin Firearms to a new level.

  • The receiver, lever, and trigger guard plate are CNC machined from a 416 stainless steel forging.
  • Each barrel is produced using 410 stainless steel that is cold hammer forged with precision rifling for extraordinary accuracy and longevity.
  • The muzzle is threaded to make adapting the 1895 SBL to a modern muzzle brake or other accessories effortless.
  • A length of Picatinny rail provides a stable platform for mounting a variety of accessories or optics
  • A rear ghost ring sight and a fiber optic front sight are factory standards on this rifle.
  • A positive, push-button cross-bolt manual safety combines with a traditional half-cock hammer position for safe operation.
  • The bolt has been spiral-fluted and nickel plated for smooth and reliable action.
  • The lever loop has been expanded to allow easy manipulation of the lever even when wearing gloves.
  • Each Marlin 1895 SBL comes with sling swivel studs and an offset hammer spur.

At first glance, the Marlin 1895 SBL is a handsome rifle. I am often not to impressed with laminated stocks, especially those that feature wild or high-contract colors on the laminations. However, the subtle tones of the gray laminated stock works well with the stainless steel construction to make a visually appealing combination.

The Feel of the Marlin 1895 SBL

I know how a Marlin lever gun should feel. The first centerfire rifle I even owned was a gift from my then future wife. I still have that Marlin 336 chambered for .30-30. Forty-six years later that first rifle is still in my safe those it is now battle scarred and shows the many trips and experiences it has endured.

Picking up the Marlin 1895 SBL for the first time I noticed a few slightly different things. Everything on the rifle is in the usual place but the gun feels just a bit different. Comparing my old 336 with the new 1895 SBL, I found that the front grip on the new rifle is slightly smaller than the old style.

The weight and balance of these two rifles are quite similar. The new big loop lever takes a bit of getting used to, but I can see the advantages for winter hunting when gloves are a necessity. The Ruger made Marlin 1895 SBL is still a fast handling classic gun that shows all the quality I have come to expect from both Marlin and Ruger.

The Receiver and Bolt

Functionally, the receiver and bolt on the Ruger Made Marlin rifles are the same as the basic 336 models. On the new SBL there are some manufacturing improvements that can be attributed to Ruger’s influence. The easiest upgrade to spot is the radially fluted bolt. The bolt is nickel plated to improve operation.

spiral fluted bolt

What you can’t see are the improvements Ruger made to the processes involved in the manufactured guns. These changes include heat treating before machining and the use of a wire EDM process to craft some parts. Otherwise, the new SBL is virtually identical to the old version as far as the receiver and bolt are concerned.

Loading and Unloading

The Ruger made Marlin rifles do differ a certain amount in the way the rifle is loaded and unloaded. The loading gate on most Marlin lever action rifles is depressed with the bullet nose of the next rounds to be loaded in the magazine tube. On the new model SBL rifles, the tip of the rounds to be loaded must be used to push the rim of the loaded cartridge away from the loading gate before the gate will depress.

Unloading the new SBL is the reverse. Use an extra round to push the loaded cartridge forward to allow the loading gate to depress and then let the loaded round slide out of the magazine tube.

The Front Sight and Rear Sight

Marlin upgraded the traditional white front blade sight and U-shaped rear sight with a new ghost ring rear sight and a fiber optic front sight that makes low light hunting much easier.

In low light conditions, the fiber optic seems to glow and the ghost ring rear sight makes acquiring a target quicker.

The Stock

My original Marlin 336 has the traditional walnut stock. It has weathered the many trips to deer camp and other expeditions quite well. I love the look of a well made wood stock and have never been a big fan of the exotic looking multi-colored laminate stocks that seem to be all the rage. However, laminate stocks are much more stable and, in some cases, more durable.

Ruger and Marlin have, in my opinion, scored a home run with the choice of the gray laminated stock on the Marlin 1895. The gray coloration compliments the stainless steel satin finish on the receiver and barrel making this a handsome gun.

Many shooters find the length of pull on most lever guns to be a bit too long. I don’t have that problem, but I am blessed with long arms that adjust to this condition quite well. All in all, I think the stock on the Marlin 1895 is well done and a good fit.

Shooting the Marlin 1895 SBL

I was not able to conduct a full range test of this rifle. I did get a chance to put about 20 rounds down the barrel using factory ammunition. All I can report is my impressions of how this rifle feels and fires.

The .45-70 is by any measurement a large bullet. You notice the heft as you are loading the magazine tube. The guns weight increases quite noticeably when the tube is fully loaded.

First off, I must say this is a fun gun to shoot . I love to shoot a lever gun. It evokes images of the old west, cowboys, and a unique lifestyle. I choose a box of Hornady 325 grain LEVERevoltuion ammo. This is a unique new concept that gives lever gun shooters the performance of a bullet with a higher ballistic coefficient than traditional flat nose bullets.

Function and Fire

The test gun I used performed flawlessly with the Hornady ammunition. The action is smooth and almost effortless. Once I learned the trick to pushing the ammo forward a bit to release the loading gate, everything went as expected.

Firing the Marlin 1895 SBL is about what I expected. There is considerably more recoil than my 336 chambered in .30-30. However, the felt recoil was not excessive or uncomfortable. I attribute this to the fact that the .45-70 is a relatively slow bullet and the corresponding recoil is also slow instead of a sharp hard strike on the shoulder.

As to accuracy, there is no doubt that this rifle will shoot much more accurately than I am capable at this stage. I shot all of my test rounds standing off-hand. At 50 yards, I was able to put all of my shots inside the 8 ring on a standard silhouette target.

My Final Thoughts

I am at a point in my shooting career that one more gun in my gun safe doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

However, after handling and shooting the Marlin 1895 SBL I may be rethinking my whole gun need thing. The thought of a lever action gun and a single action revolver chambered in .45-70 is a very tempting idea. Maybe a slick cowboy style holster would be in order as well.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people’s lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.

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