Back in the Saddle: The “New” Marlin Debuts the “New” Model 1895 SBL

Marlin Firearms made big news recently by launching its first rifle since being acquired in 2020 by Sturm, Ruger, and Company: the Marlin Model 1895 SBL chambered in the potent .45-70 Govt., and manufactured in Mayodan, North Carolina. Ruger, as was widely reported, purchased Marlin after the Remington Outdoor Company declared bankruptcy and its assets were sold, including the Marlin brand.

A fan of the Remington-owned Marlin, I asked for and received a new SBL. It is a first-rate lever action, and Ruger has clearly invested substantial time, money, and manufacturing expertise in this rifle.

The new Model 1895 SBL from Ruger-owned Marlin.

I keep reading about how lever actions are great for home defense and I would certainly use it for such if it was my lone option. But, first and foremost, the SBL is a hunting rifle and this rifle and big bore caliber are a perfect match for big game at distances of 200 yards or less. 

Out of the box, the first thing I noticed about the 1895 SBL was the long Picatinny rail atop the receiver and extending forward to nearly the midpoint of the barrel. The rail measures a full 11-inches and represents a nod to the reality that, while the lever action’s roots are in the Old West, these rifles are frequently being outfitted with optics nowadays. The longer rail allows for a traditional rifle scope to be mounted or a scout-type scope with long eye relief.

The SBL’s rail can also handle a thermal or night vision optic.

The “S” in the SBL stands for stainless and the SBL’s barrel, receiver, and lever are manufactured from nicely polished stainless steel. The bolt is nickel-plated and fluted, for a distinctive look. The rifle’s open sights feature a ghost ring rear, adjustable for windage and elevation, and tritium fiber, high visibility day/night front sight.

The Model 1895 SBL features a receiver and lever made of stainless steel, plus a nickel-plated and fluted bolt.

The “BL” stands for the SBL’s big loop lever, and it worked smoothly throughout my time with the rifle.

That’s a BIG loop!

Ruger made the wooden forend a bit thinner than the original 1895 for a more secure grip. Forend and stock are made of laminated wood done in a grayish, weathered-looking finish. Checkered panel grips are cut into both sides of the forend and grip.

The SBL features a threaded barrel for a suppressor and a thread protector cap.

The 1895 SBL’s barrel is threaded at 11/16″ x 24 for a suppressor or muzzle brake, another nod to modern shooting, and sports a factory-installed thread protector.   

A high-visibility front sight and adjustable ghost ring rear sight are standard on the SBL.

I first fired the Model 1895 SBL with open sights and had no problem pegging three-shot groups of approximately two-inches at 50 yards. To truly test for accuracy though, the SBL required an optic, so I mounted one of my favorite scopes for shorter to mid-range shooting, the Z6i 1-6×24 made by Swarovski

For accuracy testing, McCombie mounted a Swarovski Z6i 1-6 rifle scope onto his 1895 SBL.

I was just a week from heading to West Texas and I wanted my hunting partner to use the SBL on some Lone Star hogs. So, I zeroed the SBL and the Z6i at 50 yards using Barnes VOR-TX .45-70 Govt. ammunition firing a 300-grain TSX copper bullet. It took a half dozen shots for me to get on the bullseye; I let the rifle barrel cool down and then shot three times at a new target.

And I was semi-stunned to see that all three shots were touching, with a group that measured just .30-inches.

At 50 yards and shooting from a rest, the SBL and Barnes .45-70 produced this three-shot, .30″ group.

Once in Texas, good friend Randy Schiferl took down two hogs with the SBL and the Barnes ammunition, a 225-pound boar at 80 yards and a 180-pound sow at 60 yards.  Both dropped where they stood from a single round of the Barnes sledge hammer load.    

Author’s friend Randy Schiferl with one of two wild hogs taken on a recent West Texas hunt using the Marlin SBL.

Back from Texas, I returned to my outdoor range here in Wisconsin and took the SBL through its paces at 100 yards for accuracy testing. I started with the Barnes and after a couple of shots realized I needed to adjust the Z6i scope for distance, did so, and then began shooting three-, four- and five-shot groups. 

Using Barnes VOR-TX ammunition, the Marlin SBL produced this four-shot, 1.3″ group (left) at 100 yards, and drilled three rounds into nearly the same hole (right) at 50 yards.

My best four-shot group with the Barnes measured 1.3-inches, my best five shot at 1.57-inches.

Then, I switched to two Hornady brands: LEVERevolution firing a 250-grain Monoflex bullet and LEVERevolution launching Hornady’s 325-grain FTX bullet.

The 250-grain Monoflex rounds averaged right at two-inches for four- and five-shots. The 325-grain FTX rounds punched four shots into a 1.4-inch group, with Shot #5 widening the group to 1.9-inches.

Hornady’s LEVERevolution rounds pegged four shots at just 1.4″ at 100 yards, with the fifth shot expanding the group to 1.9″.

Of note, LEVERevolution launching the 325-grain FTX bullet upped the recoil significantly over the other two rounds, which already provided stout recoil. Of course, I was shooting a .45-70 centerfire rifle, not plinking along with a .22LR, and no one shoots this big-bore expecting a slight push to the shoulder. 

Think, recoil similar to a 12-gauge pump shooting 3-inch shells on the Barnes and Monoflex rounds, and a 3.5-inch turkey load for the FTX.    

I didn’t chronograph the .45-70 rounds. I simply didn’t have a great deal of it on hand. It’s become a caliber that’s harder to find, and I wanted to save rounds for future hunting this fall. But given how badly the Barnes wrecked those two West Texas hogs, I figured the ballistics were big game suitable!

As far as functionality, the lever action on the Model 1895 SBL worked smoothly the whole time I’ve used the rifle. I put a drop of oil on the lever screw and let it work its way in when I first unboxed the rifle but that was the extent of lubrication to that area of the rifle.

Loading rounds into the rifle’s loading gate was easy, requiring only to push down the gate with the tip of the round and then a nudge forward. Even with some finger and hand flexibility issues, Schiferl had no issues loading the SBL and the big loop lever also gave him additional leverage to chamber rounds. By the end of our hunt, and some additional range time, he decided to buy his own 1895 SBL.

The trigger on the SBL averaged 3 pounds, 3 ounces of pull, according to my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. I would not rate the trigger pull as crisp, exactly, but there was no staging or hesitation between a firm squeeze and the sear’s release.

The SBL’s checkering on the rifle’s pistol grip wore down significantly in McCombie’s relatively short time using the rifle.

As to the gray weathered-look finish of the laminated wood stock and forend: liking or not liking this color scheme will fall under the heading of “personal preference.” To me, it looks like the side of an old barn. No go. I’d much prefer a standard hardwood with a semi-gloss finish or even a composite stock and forend.

But that’s about preference and has nothing to do with the rifle’s functionality. 

However, the laminate wood itself struck me as too soft, as the checkering on both sides of the pistol grip wore down noticeably, especially on the right side. This, with under 200 rounds through the SBL. 

For the collector and general fan of the lever-action, the Model 1895 SBL, and all other Ruger/Marlins rifles to come have distinctive characteristics to separate them from previous Marlin models. To start, the Ruger-made Marlins have the location of manufacture on the barrel which reads, “Mayodan, NC,” and a new “RP” proof mark located on the left rear of the barrel.

Ruger-made Marlin’s now sport a red and white bullseye on the rifle stock, not the black-and-white bullseye of past models.

Serial numbers on Ruger-made Marlins begin with the serial prefix “RM.” Plus, the traditional black and white Marlin bullseye located on the bottom and rear of rifle stock is now red and white.

There is also a stylish Marlin “Horse and Rider” logo laser engraved on the bottom of the stock’s grip.


One issue concerning the new Ruger-made Marlins has to do with a narrative bouncing around in recent reviews of the SBL and the social media landscape: that narrative suggests the Marlin acquired through the bankruptcy sale was a struggling manufacturer turning out lousy guns, and Ruger has “rescued” the brand. 

Yes, Ruger has certainly done very good work with the new SBL, made changes and additions that have resulted in an improved rifle. However, pre-Ruger Marlins were some pretty damned good rifles, too.

Marlin stopped being a stand-alone brand in 2007-2008 when it was purchased by the now-defunct Freedom Group, which was the parent corporation of Remington. Eventually, Freedom Group became the Remington Outdoor Company (ROC) and it included not only the Remington and Marlin brands but Advanced Armament, Bushmaster, and DPMS.

Once it became an ROC brand, ROC moved Marlin production from its historic New Haven, Connecticut, facility to the Remington factory in Ilion, New York. Soon afterward, numerous complaints began to surface about the quality of Marlins coming out of Ilion, including the structural integrity of the wood, poor stock-to-receiver fit, and ammunition feeding malfunctions.

All true. But two larger realities concerning the Marlin brand received little attention.

First, and before it was sold to ROC, Marlin was at a point where it either would have to spend millions of dollars upgrading old and worn-out machinery and manufacturing processes at New Haven or sell. Marlin’s quality was already beginning to suffer. So, Marlin sold to ROC.

Second, once it had purchased Marlin, it was ROC that began spending those millions of dollars to upgrade Marlin’s tooling and processes. It took time. But eventually, Marlin was making much-improved rifles of a higher quality than the 2007-2008 versions.

Contrary to some media reports, pre-Ruger Marlin produced some very good rifles, including this Dark Series 336 30-30 owed and used by McCombie.

Case in point: the Marlin Dark Series rifles, launched in 2019. More tactical in looks than traditional Marlins, the Dark Series sported black painted wood stocks and forends, threaded barrels for suppressors, and long Picatinny rails atop the receivers. The big loop levers were wrapped in black paracord and the rifles came with black paracord slings, too.

I used and reviewed three of the Dark Series rifles and still own two of them (the Dark Series 336 in 30-30 Win. and the 1895 chambered in 444 Marlin), and they are fine lever actions, accurate and reliable. The lever action and triggers on all three rifles I used and reviewed worked smoothly and without a single malfunction, at the range, and during my big game hunts.

So, Ruger, in this writer’s opinion, did not buy a wart-covered frog in need of a prince charming makeover.

In Marlin, Ruger bought a rifle maker on the upswing, albeit one in need of additional corporate support, and Ruger, with its market presence, manufacturing expertise, and available cash, is clearly providing that support.

Ruger and Marlin have made a fine start with the Model 1895 SBL and given the Ruger track record, lever-action fans should see many more quality lever actions stamped “Mayodan, N.C.” for years to come.

The Marlin “Horse and Rider” logo is engraved on the bottom of the grip of Ruger-made Marlins.

Specifications: Marlin Model 1895 SBL

Model#: 70478

Caliber: .45-70 Govt

Capacity: 6+1

Barrel: Cold Hammer-Forged 410 Stainless Steel

Barrel Twist: 1:20″ RH Grooves 6

Barrel Length: 19″

Barrel Thread Pattern: 11/16″ x 24

Receiver, Lever and Trigger Guard Plate: CNC machined from 416 stainless steel forgings

Stock and Forend: Wood Laminate, Weathered Gray Finish, Checkered

Receiver Material: Stainless Steel

Front Sight: High-Visibility Tritium Fiber Optic

Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring

Weight: 7.3 lbs.

Overall Length: 37.25″

Length of Pull: 13.38″

Safety: Push-button, cross bolt manual safety and traditional half-cock hammer.

INC: Polished Thread Cap, 11” Picatinny rail atop receiver/barrel, sling studs, and soft rubber butt pad.

Suggested Retail $1,399.00.

Marlin Firearms

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Christopher Johnson May 29, 2022, 10:39 am

    I own many of the old Marlin rifles from the different manufacturers throughout their extensive manufacturing history. Several that I have purchased and the rest I inherited. Never (yes, I said NEVER) had a single incident with any of them. That’s with thousands of rounds put through. Second, the same goes for Ruger. I own many of them and love to shoot every one of them. Both are top notch products.
    I was very excited to see Ruger acquire Marlin. It was a given fact that Ruger would give Marlin the new life that it deserves and has so majestically earned. This SBL is just the first example of the great flipper gun that I expected Ruger to make to put Marlin back on its great path of glory. And start a new era of the lever action love.
    As with any new release it is a first production and will be improved on throughout its manufacturing line.
    I am very glad to see that the accuracy is still there, even in the large bore.
    Let’s talk about this instead of crying because there is a little round piece of metal up on the receiver. Something that’s been there since 1978. It has Never caused me our any family member to not shoot or hit what we were aiming at. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you if they work or not. (Always use the 1/4 cock of the hammer as my safety even when stalking)
    The Government required the dummy switch because someone cried it’s not safe to have a weapon for untrained people to possibly shoot themselves. We call those people Liberals. Those that think they must own everything but won’t get trained on how to properly handle anything.
    so why get heated about it? It is only a mechanical item that you don’t even have to give any attention to. It’s not like certain other manufacturers dummy switch that automatically moves to safe and requires the shooter to manually move it back off safety to fire the weapon. Don’t get why it is a deal breaker to purchasing a firearm. Seems like a petty excuse to throw out because you either can’t afford it or you can’t find anything else wrong to complain about the firearms. See it all the time. A superb firearm is released, can’t find anything bad about it, so let’s complain because it still has a safety. Guess what Bubba, your government says that it has to be there or you can’t manufacture and sell the firearm. Are there better types of safety mechanisms for firearms? Sure, but this safety has been in the same spot for for over 40 years. Why would you prefer a manufacturer to focus on redesigning the safety of a new weapon over the whole functionality of the weapon? Requires more research and engineering thus increasing cost that has to be passed to us the shooter. Exactly the same kind of crying you expect from a Libtard. Let’s distract the manufacturers from making the finest shooting firearms to focusing on all the red tape to make the firearms safer.
    People are already complaining that the rifle is too expensive. REALLY??!!!
    The funniest part is all of you that are throwing out prices of previous models sold at cheaper prices. Yet, the most recent price that any of you have provided is at least 10 year old. Even then the prices are close to $1k. And that was from an inferior manufacturer. Get real. A lot has happened to the firearms industry in the past 10 years. Actually more in the past 3 years (COVID and post Covid). All manufacturers have increased their MSRP.
    Instead why not look at it this way….10 years ago you had to pay $1k for a rifle built by an inferior manufacturer (ROC).
    Now you have a rifle that has been revamped by one of the oldest and most reputable firearms manufacturers not only in the US, but in the world. Why wouldn’t you expect it to cost a bit more??
    I purchased the new SBL. It is a big game slayer!! It shoots just as great as my old 45-70. Little bit heavier (stainless) but still an accurate big bore meat getter at 100 yds.
    Here’s my only negative to the rifle. Although the grey looks pretty good, I would prefer either standard wood or synthetic stock. But that’s just cosmetic. This rifle “functions” exactly as expected, which is why I purchased it. I love shooting it because everything that has been down range drops in its tracks. Guess what……that little dummy switch never entered the shooting equation a single time. 🤔😉

    Thank you Ruger for acquiring Marlin and giving it fresh breath, not letting it die like a fish on dry land!!

    Can’t wait to see all the future releases of the New Marlin lever gun.

  • Todd May 27, 2022, 12:11 pm

    I really like this trend of threaded muzzles on hunters these days, the stainless and useful rails are a plus too.

    The rear sight looks sketchy for a knock-around gun as my own .45-70 Marlin is. Too, I miss the Micro-Grooviness of old Marlins.

    Safeties don’t bother me much. Even if aesthetically unappealing, they can have their uses. I’ve used mine on Winchesters when switching position with a cocked rifle. I’ll use it on them but have none on my Marlins and don’t really care if they are not present but have used them if they are.

    As to the stock – I’ve removed every laminate that I’ve ever had due to looks and weight so that is in no way an advantage to me, personally. And the *soft* rubber butt-pad would have to go as well – likely leaving too short a stock for guys like me.

  • Frank May 23, 2022, 4:36 pm

    People with WAY more dollars than sense are paying nearly a grand over MSRP for these Rugerlins. To each his own, but I wouldn’t trade my worst JM Marlin for one of these… and the originals weren’t nearly as expensive. P. S. The only one I have that had the stupid-assed lawyer button, wears a nice delete in its place. It’s tolerable now.

    • shrugger May 27, 2022, 6:37 am

      The Remington was hot garbage but I’m hearing this has a couple nice improvements over the JM.
      If the price ever comes back from full retard I’ll consider one.

  • mrpski May 23, 2022, 2:30 pm

    A friend who lives in W texas tells me they go out shooting hogs and get 5 or 6 at a crack. When I inquired about the meat he told me they are considered vermin in Texas and they just leave them for the scavengers.

    If this is true it breaks my heart. I hunt Javelina in AZ & most people really do consider them not worth eating yet in Arizona they are a game animal requiring a license. Not all in the west approve of trash hunting. If you have too many wild boar shooting them is fine but I guarantee there are lots of mission based organizations that would make good use of the meat. Leaving them to rot is a sin.

    • Johnny N May 27, 2022, 11:53 am

      Somewhat have to agree that leaving all that meat isn’t ideal however, those great intentions you mentioned about bringing it to a shelter is no longer an option allowed at least here in California…the state with 50% of the nation’s homeless population.

      It was always a great feeling to be able to do a depredation job, help out that farmer then take a little extra time to do some cleaning and skinning and (on one occasion) being able to deliver almost 1000lbs of freshly processed wild boar to those in need. The shelter LOVED seeing the truck back in when we’d show up.

      Come (I think) 2009-ish, made a call to the same shelter saying that we had just over 500lbs we wanted to stop by with to deliver and were told “thanks but, we are not allowed to bring in any meat from an unlicensed purveyor anymore.”

      Good intentions that some law makers felt was a bad idea. It is California after all so, if this makes zero sense to you right now…you have read this correctly🙄

      • Christopher Johnson May 29, 2022, 9:25 am

        As for sharing meat with the needy,
        The same thing has happened nationwide. We live in Alabama and hunt in multiple states throughout the year. We used to do the same thing with our extra meat, hog and deer. We even went as far as taking the animals to our processors and paid for the processing and packaging. But still were not allowed to give to the needy.
        It is so government regulated it’s ridiculous.
        Now no licensed food service provider (rescue missions, restaurant, senior centers, soup kitchens, etc) are allowed to accept meat from any place that is not government licensed and inspected.
        So we have to do the same thing. We have to be very selective (way more than used to) in our culling/management of the deer herds on our properties. And leave the swine we eradicate to the scavengers as mentioned above.
        So sad, we have this great opportunity to feed our hungry citizens but our wonderful (sarcasm) government would rather let them starve and die!!!! Yet have no problem sending our money and goods to a foreign country that doesn’t have these restrictions on what they feed their people. Send them our abundance of hogs and keep our money here if you won’t allow us to feed our starving with it. Yes i am talking about Ukrain. Yes I believe in helping any country that needs it!! And I am repulsed at the atrocities that are happening there. But to starve our people is as bad if not worse than what is happening over there.
        Just because you are too lazy to implement new standards is just Libtard at its finest. Instead we could create a new food staple opportunity for our own starving people just with the “vermin” excess of swine in Texas!!
        Pure liberal power hungry stupidity. “I care about you, but I don’t care if you starve to death!!”

  • Mike in a Truck May 23, 2022, 2:29 pm

    I love this rifle! Im happy Ruger bought Marlin and is now producing them.The lawyer safety dosnt bother me…no one says I have to use it. I carry my Marlins like I always did- and just thumb the hammer back. Just like on my single actions. But then I come from a generation that grew up on 1911’s. We learned how to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time at about 2.5 years old. The price? Everything is expensive nowdays and wont get cheaper. Buy what you want now before the next Depression hits- soon.Hey Ruger – bring back the Papoose in 22 magnum!

  • DArin DeGnath May 23, 2022, 11:22 am

    I agree with Will Drider. Well said Sir

  • DD May 23, 2022, 11:19 am

    It needs to be like the original Marlin if you know what I mean. I had to leave it off comment because they won’t let me post it

  • DD May 23, 2022, 11:18 am

    It looks like it still has the safety. I’ll take a pass. I’ll buy one when they get rid of that ridiculous push button crappy looking safety. Make it like the originals and I’ll buy 2 or 3

  • Joe Ferguson May 23, 2022, 9:48 am

    Brian,
    Thanks for the article. Unless I missed it, I didn’t see where you commented on the factory trigger pull and/or whether or not the trigger pull is adjustable.
    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Poster May 23, 2022, 11:40 am

      Trigger notations (just over three pounds average) are in the article, right above/before the photo of the stock checkering.

  • Jon May 23, 2022, 7:15 am

    Glad someone picked these up but hopefully the price come way down when they start producing the standard field guns. 1300 bucks for a lever gun is what to much. Own three marlins and didn’t cost anywhere near this.

    • G Paul May 23, 2022, 9:06 am

      The 2010 Marlin SBL (made by Remington at the time) had an MSRP of $978.45, which in all fairness was TWELVE YEARS AGO & before the skyrocketing “Bidenflation” we’re experiencing now in 2022. Besides, ‘ve seen & handled the new Ruger made 1895 & there’s no comparison between the shoddy workmanship of the Remington made rifle to the new 1895 SBL.

      • G Paul May 23, 2022, 9:13 am
        • Christopher Johnson May 29, 2022, 10:57 am

          A $1k a decade ago by an inferior manufacturer!!!🙄🙄 Yep you are the genius here!!
          You are so hilarious!!
          Yeah, keep doing that awesome web crawling. 🤣🤣

      • Christopher Johnson May 29, 2022, 11:04 am

        Exactly.
        This rifle is far better, feels better, is just as accurate if not better than my (JM) 45-70.
        Sure, there has been several more boxes shot out of the old one, but it still holds 2” groups consistently at 100 yds.
        The new SBL gave me a tighter group at same distance holding at 1.75” at 100yds.
        Both with 3 rounds each group.
        So yeah, it may be a little bit pricey, but I know that I got exactly what I paid for in 2022. Not 10-12 years ago. Lol

  • Will Drider May 21, 2022, 6:30 pm

    The ownership change would have been a great time to get rid of the “Safety Button”. Winchester has the same type safety. Henry lever guns will keep gaining market share with the old fashion trigger Tab and 1/4 hammer notch. How long until the lawyers push for User Manuals to state “Do not Chamber a Live cartridge until you are ready to fire.” Enough is enough, It’s a GUN!!!!

    • Christopher Johnson May 29, 2022, 12:12 pm

      🙄
      Why would you expect Ruger to change the safety style? It’s same type that they have been in most of their rifles since the government safety mongers said all firearms had to have safeties.
      It is currently a mechanical device that allows you to decide whether or not to use. U got Big Boy Pants, right??? Use them and decide whether or not you wanna put the rifle safety on.
      Or they could just put in an auto safety like some other manufacturers have that requires you to disengage the safety every time you want to pull the trigger.
      Sure I love my pre safety rifles, but the push button safety on Marlins and Rugers have NEVER been an issue with operation of any of their firearms I own.
      If we are made to have to accept government overstep (which is not going away in this case), I would rather deal with something that I can still control myself. It’s my choice whether I want the little red ring around that little button showing all the time. 😉
      Just my personal opinion.

      Teach someone new how to shoot. Expand by education on the range!!
      B safe.

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