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Marlin .45-70 1895GBL: Lever-Action Powerhouse—Full Review.

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The 1895GBL in .45-70 is a classically inspired lever-action that features modern manufacturing and materials.

The 1895GBL in .45-70 is a classically inspired, large-loop lever-action that features modern manufacturing and materials.

For more information, visit http://www.marlinfirearms.com/.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=1895GBL.

If you grew up in the sixties, Westerns were a large part of your entertainment. There was Marshal Dillon (Gunsmoke), Rawhide, Have Gun Will Travel and Wanted Dead or Alive. Over the fireplace in our den was my dad’s Winchester Model 94 that was made in the early twenties. I would sit with dad and watch Matt Dillion, Rowdy Yates, Paladin and others confront evil and make the West safe. Even in black and white, the shows captured my imagination. The Colt Single Action and the Winchester won the West.

Whenever I see a lever gun, two additional memories come to mind. The first is Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) and his “mare’s leg” in the late fifties and early sixties television show, The Rifleman. The second memory is Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) in the original 1969 version of True Grit. Somehow, “fill your hands, you sonofabitch” said it all!  While Hollywood gave both McCain and Cogburn Winchester rifles, many real-life heroes carried Marlin Firearms rifles. According to the company’s website, Annie Oakley, Captain Hardy, and William “Buffalo Bill” Cody all used Marlin rifles.

Equipped with a Galco "Butt Cuff" spare round carrier, the Marlin is ready for action.

Equipped with a Galco “Butt Cuff” spare round carrier, the Marlin is ready for action.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .45-70 Gov’t
  • Barrel: 18.5 inch
  • OA Length: 37 inches
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Stock: Laminated
  • Sights: Semi-buckhorn rear, brass bead front
  • Action: Lever-action
  • Finish: Blued
  • Capacity: 6
  • MSRP: $679.99

When I deployed to Alaska in 1976, I knew that I would be spending time in the wilds of the Yukon. Having grown up in South Georgia, I did not own a rifle of appropriate caliber for the Alaskan big game. So, before flying north, I picked up a Marlin lever gun in the caliber of .444 Marlin. I was able to get a good deal on the big bore Marlin since .444 was considered a bit much for Georgia whitetails. I never took any game with the .444, but it provided me great comfort when hiking or riding the back woods. I sold it to a friend in Fairbanks when I departed for the lower 48, but always wanted to replace it. When I did replace it, I selected the Marlin 1895GBL in .45-70 Govt.

The 1895GBL is one of seven big bore models that represent an entirely modern lever gun that incorporates Marlin’s original lever action design with precision production methods and modern metallurgy. The solid-top receiver and side ejection design is Marlin’s signature and the added structural strength allows their lever actions to handle the pressures of large-bore calibers (as well as simplifies the mounting of optics). The receiver is pre-tapped for mounting optics. The 1895GBL features a big loop lever that is an asset when wearing heavy gloves. The lever operates a massive stainless steel bolt that, in turn, cocks the external hammer. The trigger on our test rifle broke cleanly with an average trigger weight of 6 lbs.

The stock and fore end on the 1895GBL is an attractive brown laminate that is not only stronger than wood, but when combined with the Mar-Shield finish is far more weather-resistant. The stock is a pistol grip design that proved more comfortable than a traditional straight stock. Both the stock and fore end are press-checkered with accent lines on the front and rear of the pattern. An 18.5-inch barrel features Ballard-type rifling that consists of six-grooves and a 1:20 twist rate. An adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight has a folding blade while the front ramp sight has a brass bead and a protective hood. The full-length tubular magazine will hold six of the large .45-70 cartridges.

The front sight of the rifle is a hooded ramp sight with a brass bead.

The front sight of the rifle is a hooded ramp sight with a brass bead.

The rear sight is an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight.

The rear sight is an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear unit.

While the 45-70 Govt. cartridge is capable of taking any game animal on most continents, the wide variety of ammunition allows the user to select a round that is suitable for their use. We tested five loads that ranged from 300 grains to 420 grains. Remington’s 405-gr. jacketed soft point was, by far, the mildest, averaging 1,047 fps.  This was followed by Black Hills’ 405-gr. flat nose, cast lead that averaged 1,172 fps. Stepping up to a modern high-performance load, Federal’s 300-gr. jacketed soft point averaged 1,695 fps while Hornady’s LEVERevolution 325-gr. FTX ballistic tip averaged 1,812 fps. However, the king of the mountain was Garrett Cartridges’ (no relation to me!) Hammerhead 420-gr. hard cast +P load. This custom load averaged 1,768 fps of pain out of the 1895GBL.

While Marlin’s solid-top receiver and side ejection allow an optic to be mounted without interfering with the standard operation of the rifle, I wanted to evaluate the basic rifle and iron sights. All groups were fired using the factory irons from a table rest at 50 yards. I limited the test groups to three-shot groups to conserve both the limited supply of ammunition and my shoulder.

Hands On

The solid-top design of the Marlin simplifies mounting an optic. Note the crossbolt-style safety with exposed red ring.

The solid-top design of the Marlin simplifies mounting an optic. Note the crossbolt-style safety with exposed red ring.

Given my aging eyes, and a 6-lb. trigger, I was pleased with my performance with the Marlin. The Hornady LEVERevolution load printed a tight 0.68-inch group with two rounds going through the same hole. The soft-shooting Remington load had a group that measured 0.71 inches overall. The Federal load produced a 0.87-inch group while the Black Hills opened up to 1.09 inch. It helps that the holes are almost ½-inch in diameter!

By the time I got to the Garrett +P Hammerhead load, I knew that the rifle was capable of a tight group. However, my tolerance level, in the pain category, was giving me doubts. I decided to add an extra layer of cushioning between my shoulder and the stock and tried not to anticipate what was about to happen. I managed to shoot a 0.83-inch group that did not include a called flyer that was the result of a magnificent flinch!

The more we shot the Marlin, the smoother the action became and, with the lighter loads, the experience was very pleasant. I did discover the importance of properly loading the rounds through the loading gate. The round must be seated completely into the magazine and not be allowed to rest against the loading gate. If that occurs, the round will not feed properly when the lever is cycled. More importantly, the action will lock solidly to the rear and require some prying to release the round.

The laminated stock of the rifle is topped off with a generous recoil pad. Note the Galco "Butt Cuff."

The laminated stock of the rifle is topped off with a generous recoil pad. Note the Galco “Butt Cuff.”

I reached out to my good friends at Galco for a couple of accessories. Any hunting rifle requires a sling, and Galco Tapered Rifle Sling proved ideal for the 1895GBL. Galco also sent me a “Butt Cuff” which gave the 1895GBL an old school safari appearance. Like the sling, the Butt Cuff is made from top-grain cowhide and is finished to Galco’s high standards. The cuff has six metal-reinforced, eyelets that are used to lace the cuff to the stock. Six stitched loops keep that many cartridges readily available for a reload. As with all Galco leather, the Butt Cuff was well executed and added a degree of class to the Marlin.

Living in the Deep South, the largest game one can expect to run into is a large feral hog or perhaps a black bear. When several of my friends examined the 1895GBL, and the ammunition, they all had the same question, “What are you going to shoot with that?”  My standard answer was “Anything I want!” On a serious note, the .45-70 is ideal for punching through brush when going after hogs or whitetail. While we were somewhat limited by the choice of using the factory iron sights, the addition of a properly zeroed optic makes the 1895GBL a potent rifle at longer ranges.

shooting-resultsFor those who want more than just replacement sights, I would suggest Grizzly Custom of Columbia, Montana. Their Brush Hawg package takes a standard 1895 and does a complete overhaul. The barrel is shortened to 16.5 inches and re-crowned and the magazine tube is cut to match the barrel. Grizzly disassembles the rifle and removes any burrs and the action is dehorned and polished for smooth cycling. The loading gate is modified for easier loading and unloading and a stainless steel follower is installed. Grizzly uses an LPA rear sight that is fully adjustable and features protective wings and an optional short accessory rail. Grizzly will also replace a straight stock with a pistol grip stock.

The author ran some Remington 405-gr. jacketed soft point through the rifle and shot a 0.71-inch group.

The author ran some Remington 405-gr. jacketed soft point through the rifle and shot a tight group.

 Garrett Cartridges’ Hammerhead 420-gr. hard cast +P load averaged just under 1,800 fps of pain out of the 1895GBL.

Garrett Cartridges’ Hammerhead 420-gr. hard cast +P load averaged just under 1,800 fps of pain out of the 1895GBL.

I am looking forward to this hunting season and trying to get on some South Georgia hogs or a whitetail. I will probably use the Federal 300-gr. JSP for the hogs and Hornady’s 325-gr. LEVERevolution for deer. Regardless, there isn’t anything I can’t go after with the big Marlin. Sometimes, bigger really is better!

For more information, visit http://www.marlinfirearms.com/.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=1895GBL.

Svelte and handy, yet still packing in .45-70 power, the Marlin 1895GBL is a great option for bear country.

Svelte and handy, yet still packing in .45-70 power, the Marlin 1895GBL is a great option for bear country.

{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Jonathan November 1, 2016, 1:47 pm

    I had read a lot of negative comments about Marlin products after they had been acquired by Remington, but I went ahead and got a GBL anyway. I can tell you, if there were problems, they’ve been fixed now. Fit and finish are everything you would expect from Marlin. The laminate stocks, while not strictly traditional, are extremely functional and good-looking. This is going to be my favorite rifle for a long time.

  • Charles November 1, 2016, 8:26 am

    I like Marlins… Win too..I do have the long Marlin 45-70. octagon bbl’d and ported. Put a peep on it. It’s my go to black timber elk shooter. Also took a pair of buffalo with it. I like the darn thing more than I thought I would. Personally I wouldn’t want a short barreled rifle. It’s is no harder to carry and is very accurate. I mostly shoot cast bullets in it. Ballard rifling

  • James Hilmers October 31, 2016, 5:47 pm

    The rifleman didnt use the mares leg…..that was Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) in Wanted: dead or alive

  • Doc October 31, 2016, 4:41 pm

    Dont’ have my Marlins here in the house so can’t tell you the year – but for those of you looking for either the guide or the full-on rifle – Marlin went through a period of ‘change of ownership’ where for several years they produced a LOT of POS long-arms. The 45-70 Guide and Rifle were among them. I have my Grandfathers old Guide and Rifle – loaned out the rife to a friend who LOVED it – so I got a new one and engraved it for him – It was one of their LONG run of POS rifles – wish I knew the years – SOMEONE PLEASE POST THE POS YEARS – He fired it thrice – and it locked up on him – back to factory, 5 rounds, a lock-up. Return, less than a box he got another lock-up. Screw Marlin’s factory he figured – 3 failures inside a year.

    Finally he had a local smithy work on it, replaced parts, polished up where it needed to be – and now it’s as smooth as my Grandfathers – AND he’s got one that’s engraved with gold and platinum inlay!!!! — (yeah, it’s always the cobbler who needs shoes) —

    SO BEWARE THE POS YEARS!!! – Someone PLEASE post them, I’d hate to see someone go out and spend good money on a ‘used’ Marlin (I hear they fixed the problem a few years ago), and then double that to have the jams and lock-ups fixed – it’s an AMAZING long-arm – And, just for those who don’t know – the 45-70 and 45-110 were the calibers that took down the American Buffalo at ranges out to 3/4 to a mile. Nothing like a rainbow arch and a piece of lead falling on you at terminal velocity from WAY out of nowhere to do the job.

    Take care – but NEVER FORGET there are several years where they did produce very real POS’s – If I had my Marlins in the house I’d be able to tell you the years – but they were several and the jams and lock-ups VERY frequent.

    • Tom Horn October 31, 2016, 7:53 pm

      Doc,

      Remington purchased Marlin, I believe, in 2009. They did have problems a first, but Remington made good on the problems if you sent your rifle back to them. I think they are making a quality product now, and I know they will make good on any problems you might have.

      If you are a purist, look for “North Haven” on the barrel. That’s a pre-Remington rifle. Can’t go wrong with a good used Marlin.

  • Erv Warren October 31, 2016, 1:52 pm

    I have this gun in 450 Marlin which is very comparable. The shells are a little more difficult to find and not many choices. I bought the gun in this caliber when it was introduced and featured in Guns & Ammo. I love the gun for hog hunting which is big here in Oklahoma. Which caliber would you prefer if ammo was readily available for both?

  • Larry October 31, 2016, 12:02 pm

    Great gun. Lucas McCain was a dandy in those skin tight pants & his tailored shirts. My buddies & I thought he might have been a little light in his loafers, I mean boots.

  • Robert Burke October 31, 2016, 11:21 am

    Hate (not really) to pop the bubble on the writers memory. The only show on TV with a “Mares Leg” was Wanted Dead or Alive! Starring Steve McQueen!! lol

    • mike schneck October 31, 2016, 1:12 pm

      you got that Right.

      • Dick Hauser November 4, 2016, 8:44 pm

        In “The Rifleman” Chuck Conners carried a big loop lever action also.

  • Rex October 31, 2016, 11:20 am

    i have the 444 marlin, what a hoss.
    lucas mcain did no carry a “mares leg” steve McQueen in wanted dead or alive did.

    • Matt October 31, 2016, 3:13 pm

      Yup, Chuck Conners carried a full sized rifle in The Rifleman, while Steve McQueen carried the “mare’s leg”…but I think Conners handled his better.

  • Max Simpson October 31, 2016, 11:16 am

    I have owned several Marlin 45/70’s and presently have a new 1895CB 45/70. We live in Northern Idaho and it is entirely possible to run into any large game and dangerous animals known to be in the US. The 45/70 cartridge properly loaded is capable of killing the largest bears, moose down to deer sized animals within 200 yards and even further. They are increasingly being used on safari type hunts in areas that will allow this cartridge.

    With a properly placed shot, the 458 bullet in a 45/70 will not blood shot animals you intend to eat as you might expect. It has plenty of penetration power and is excellent for brushy conditions for fast operation and lethality. Many guides use them as a backup rifle.

    Depending on the load, the recoil of the 45/70 can be substantial; so I think they are not a rifle for the faint of heart. My 45/70 recoil is roughly the same as a 338 Winchester Magnum (which I also own). I like the 45/70 best and carry it every year for white tail to bear. It is a very easy cartridge to reload and the Marlin is a very strong and reliable rifle.

  • im October 31, 2016, 11:00 am

    nothing punches thru brush ????????????show you know what you are writing about do not make foolish statements. A leaf defected a 460 weatherby on a elephant with Jack Oconner missing completely at close distance. jim

    • mike schneck October 31, 2016, 1:14 pm

      a leaf NO… The branch that it’s connected to will.

    • Mike Huddleston October 31, 2016, 2:38 pm

      Shows what you know about big bores, my dad shot through a 2″ branch and still killed one of the nicest bucks we have ever taken, it was not the intended but happened none the less, they will penetrate heavy brush but it is not recommended….

  • Chuck Matson October 31, 2016, 9:34 am

    I own one with ghost ring site. She kicks like a mule, but its still a favorite rifle.

  • Doc October 31, 2016, 9:26 am

    I hunted with a Marlin 45-70 Guide rifle in North and South Georgia for decades. I never had to track a deer I shot with it. It’s a great brush gun.

  • Dale Bailey October 31, 2016, 9:18 am

    The neatest Mare’s Leg I’ve ever seen in any western was in John Wayne’s boot in ” The Angel and the Bad Man ” in one scene for a few seconds , never seen again .

  • Gary Gary October 31, 2016, 8:28 am

    To bad you covered up the butt stock laminate wood which looks awesome on AK47 were it came from.

  • Norm Fishler October 31, 2016, 8:08 am

    Did I miss it? Does the rifle have Micro-Groove rifling or the Ballard cut . . . ? Just wonderin’.

  • kim October 31, 2016, 7:59 am

    Lucas McCAIN the ”RIFLEMAN” did not have a ”MARES LEG”… Josh Randall of Wanted Dead or ALIVE carried the MARES LEG

    • Bobby Graham October 31, 2016, 10:43 am

      Glad somebody else caught that. Kids these days..

  • Roger T October 28, 2016, 12:29 pm

    I wish they’d make one just like this that would take .45 ACP. Then you’d only have to buy ONE KIND OF AMMO for all my handguns AND rifle.

  • Miles Huggins October 28, 2016, 4:03 am

    I was thinking a rear flip aperture peep sight would be perfect on that sledge hammer

  • DRAINO October 27, 2016, 9:29 am

    I have a regular 1895 guide gun in 45-70. LOVE IT!! I bought it when the AF sent me to Alaska in 97. Paid $390 for it brand new. Worth a lot more now. Haven’t killed anything with it yet. Still trying to find a good load for 100 yards. But wouldn’t trade it for anything. Love the new laminate stocks!

  • JOHN MOULTON October 26, 2016, 10:52 am

    Your article covering the Marlin 45.70. Very nice, wish I had one. You made a direct reference to The Rifleman’s Mares Leg. Not so. His Winchester did have a loop lever but it was a standard WINCHESTER rifle; maybe. Steve McQueen; last known Nom de Guere was Josh Randal, carried a FOR REAL Mares Leg in 44.40 (?) with a barrel of less than a foot long and a cut down stock. Although he carried, maybe, 45.70 cartridges in his belt loops because they looked more impressive, in two TV shows. He was instrumental in creating his weapon because he had authentic gun, sorry gunny, knowledge. But Lucas’s Winchester was in an undesignated caliber, to the best of my knowledge but I’m not finished looking yet.

    • Grant October 31, 2016, 4:16 am

      The concept of The Rifleman Television show revolves around the unique weapon wielded by the title character Lucas McCain, and his proficiency with it. Customized by James S. Stembridge, Lucas McCain’s modified 1892 Winchester SRC in .44-.40 caliber

    • Mike Harris October 31, 2016, 7:54 am

      I happened to see an episode of The Rifleman recently in which Lucas McCain tells someone his rifle is a 44-40… did not say what make it was, but I assume from your comments on calibers that it was inferred to be a Marlin.

    • 33Charlemagne October 31, 2016, 12:51 pm

      The mare’s leg looks cool but really does not make much sense. Chopping the barrel and magazine pretty much defeats the advantages that an 1892 Winchester has over a 44-40 revolver, greater capacity and higher velocity yet it still requires two hands to properly operate.unlike a revolver. Of course Hollywood has also brought us wonders such as six-shooters that can fire 30 shots wihout reloading, sub machine guns that can fore continuously .without overheating and a VW Microbus that can catch a Delorean!

    • Bonjax October 31, 2016, 5:30 pm

      I can’t prove it, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m thinking Lucas McCain’s rifle was a .44-40.

  • Tom Horn October 25, 2016, 6:54 pm

    Great rifle, and, I think it is finally safe to go back in the water. I believe Remington finally got the gremlins out of their Remlins. I like the furniture on the 1895 GBL, very weather resistance, if you scratch it, it ain’t no big deal, like it is with a nice walnut stock. Short barrel is handy, and accurate (I trust it out to about 150 yds). Big loop is just perfect for my big paws.

    Highly recommend XS sight system (https://www.xssights.com/Products.aspx?CAT=8282), co-witnessed with Eotech, or other quality red dot. Great hunting rifle for large to medium size game out to 150 yds. Nice tactical rifle, too (see Marlin Owners.com).

    But, the 1895 GBL, and the 30-30 big loop are just plain fun to shoot.
    Once you go Marlin, you’ll never go back.

    • Vanns40 October 31, 2016, 10:08 am

      I’d stay away from EoTech. I loved mine but sent it back under their refund program because they’re having so many problems, all the major agencies including armed forces have dropped them, and I just don’t know if they can survive. I’d go with AimPoint.

      • Tom Horn October 31, 2016, 8:04 pm

        Vanns40,

        I’ve got an Aimpoint Patrol Rifle Optic on my 1895GBL, and an Eotech on my 336GBL. Been happy with both. No problems so far with my Eotech, but it’s not like I use it for tac op, or some such.

    • david hamilton October 31, 2016, 12:00 pm

      that is the sight rail i have on my stainless guide gun. great rifle and sight setup. i swapped my blued & ported GG for a non-ported SS rifle soon after they came out. best trade i ever made. i have 2 scopes for it, both on QD rings. one is a 1-4 leupold, the other a leupold scout scope. i dont much use the scout as i’ve found the 1-4 to be a great all-around sight system. i use buffalo bore for the big stuff and the 300 lever-evolution for everything else. my experience is 250 yards is the max hunting distance with modern loads, at least for me. i still prefer the straight stock, although i realize the pistol grip is potentially more comfortable. as to Remlin rifles, not sure i’ll ever trust them. did they ever figure out how to make the 24″ octagonal barrels? i am very glad i got all 7 of my marlins before remington ruined the line. i had wild west guns in anchorage, ak do their dangerous game/reliability upgrades. highly recommended.

      • Tom Horn October 31, 2016, 8:05 pm

        David,

        Love that SS guide gun. That’s a keeper.

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