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Lever Action Love

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One of the perks of working behind a gun counter is getting the opportunity to explore many different types of firearms. When things are slow around the shop, the obvious way to pass the time is to look at and handle all different guns that are sitting lonely on the shelves.

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This is how my love for lever-action rifles began. As someone who joined the hunting lifestyle long after rifles had evolved beyond the lever-action days, this felt like a first date for me, while for many, the lever-action rifle is a symbol of wonderful days gone by. There is something about them that feels incredibly nostalgic. It begs the modern hunter to go out and “try it the old way”. The moment that the Marlin 336XLR was taken out of the box, I was smitten. Its design is both modern and classic all at once. It is truly a work of art and engineering.

Before talking about what the Marlin lever-action is, let’s first talk about where it came from. There is no doubt that the lever-action rifle is the long gun that built our American Heritage. Lever-action rifles are often remembered as an icon of American history in war, a staple of the Old West, and a favorite of hunters young and old in its day. In 1881, after being in business for several years, John Mahlon Marlin stepped into the lever-action game with the Model 1881 lever-action repeating rifle and he never looked back.

Through the years, Marlin rifles evolved quite a bit, but the quality and craftsmanship never wavered. Not long after introducing the Model 1881, Marlin developed the Model 1889, a first of its kind, with a solid top that ejected the empty cartridges out the side. This concept was applied to various models and calibers over the course of many years. In 1949, they made a few improvements to the design and engineering of the 36 and the 336 was born. The Model 336 has remained one of the most tried and true lever-action rifles since, with the addition of first of its kind micro-groove rifling in the 1950’s.

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Despite the many years that it has been around, and the evolution of long guns to standards that our ancestors could not have imagined, the lever-action rifle remains a revered part of firearm history and as in demand as ever. But how does it perform? I took both the Marlin 336 30-30 and a friend’s Model 1895 45-70 to our local gun range to give them both a try and fell even more in love. I bought 405 gr HSM, Cowboy Action ammo for the 1895, and 150 gr Remington Hog Hammer ammo for the 336.

While the 45-70 had decidedly more recoil, it was a bit more consistent. It’s more compact design makes it the perfect rifle to throw in your pack as you head out for some spot and stalk hunting. However, when it comes to looks, the 336XLR was an attention grabber. Boasting a 24-inch barrel, which is one of the longest barrels you can get on a Marlin lever-action rifle, the 336 definitely stands out in the crowd. Pair this with the black/grey laminated hardwood stock and stainless steel and you have an absolute showstopper. It also handles a bit faster and smoother than the 1895.

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Those who are in love with hunting, will always feel that fire and seek that connection to the roots of what hunting is. That yearning to take it back to the way things were, to make it simple yet divine. The lever-action rifle does exactly this. Though weaponry has evolved, the mindset and heart of the American hunter has not– and nothing beats a day in the woods with a rifle in tow.


Lynsey DavisLynsey Davis was born and raised in West Tennessee, where she spent most of her time on horseback. Her love of guns and hunting were sparked after marrying her long-time friend and high school sweetheart in 2006. Davis splits her time between shooting matches, hunting, and chasing after two rambunctious little boys. She is passionate about cooking and loves to incorporate wild game into her recipes. Davis is a contributor to North Carolina Bow Hunter Magazine. And, on top of all that- she's a full-time student, finishing up a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Science.

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