2023 Editor’s Choice Award – Marlin 1894 Classic

Marlin 1894 Classic

Marlin reinstates another one of its timeless workhorses

Marlin rifle fans had high hopes when Ruger acquired Marlin from Remington in 2020. They weren’t disappointed when Ruger resurrected the Model 1895 and Model 336 to rave reviews. Now Ruger has done it again with the Model 1894 Classic.

Identifying a Ruger-made Marlin is simple, as “Maydan, NC” will be engraved on the barrel. Finish on the receiver and 20.25” cold-hammer-forged barrel as an attractive satin blue. Iron sights consist of an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear and hooded gold-bead front; the receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount. The capacity of the tubular magazine is a generous ten rounds (or 11 for .44 Special.)

My first impression of the 1894 was that this is one beautiful rifle. The black American walnut stock has nice figure and crisp, contrasting checkering on the forend and straight buttstock, which has a soft rubber recoil pad. The checkering is attractive and practical in providing a sure grip. The bluing of the receiver and barrel is dark, even, and lustrous. Fit and finish are considerably improved over Marlin rifles produced under Big Green’s ownership.

The fit and finish of the Ruger-made Marlin’s is night and day better than the rifles produced under Remington’s tenure, with precision tolerances and smooth edges found everywhere it counts. The familiar cross-bolt safety is still present on the current crop of rifles.

As its name implies, the 1894 was a true classic. While the original was chambered for a dozen different cartridges, the new rifle is initially offered in 44 Rem. Mag (it will also digest 44 Special). Chambering for a potent handgun cartridge is a big part of the 1894’s appeal, but it also presents a challenge to manufacturers in producing a gun that will reliably feed the wide array of bullet styles and sizes in modern 44 Mag ammo. Although I only had time to test three loads, they all fed without issue.

The robustly built action, operated with a square finger lever, cycles smoothly. You can run this gun with authority. The action is mated to a 20.25-inch cold-hammer forged alloy steel barrel with 6-groove rifling and a 1:20 rate of twist. Beneath the barrel, a tubular magazine holds ten rounds of 44 Mag. and 11 rounds of 44 Special. Atop the barrel, you’ll find a brass bead with hood front sight and an adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight.

Fitment and figure of the American black walnut buttstock and forend of Marlin’s Classic Series — which now includes 336 and 1894 offerings — is outstanding, with clean and crisp checkering found on both. The buttstock is fitted with a soft brown rubber recoil pad, which helped take the sting out of stout 44 Mag. loads

My aging eyes do not do well with such sights. I would have preferred an aperture rear sight, but this gun is called “Classic” for a reason. For us iron sight-challenged shooters, the compact, flat-topped receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting an optic of your choice. Ruger includes a hammer extension with the rifle that makes it easier to manipulate the half-cock hammer with a scope mounted on the gun (the rifle also has a cross-bolt safety).

Ruger’s acquisition of Marlin brought improved manufacturing processes and a renewed focus on quality control, and this gun is produced with tight tolerances. That was reflected in the fact that extraction with one of the hottest tested loads was a little sticky, but that seemed to ease up some by the time I finished testing.

The 1894 Classic proved to be quite accurate for a lever gun chambered in 44 Rem. Mag. At 50 yards, the rifle turned in 1-inch average groups and a best group of 0.69 inches with Federal’s 240-gr. Fusion load.

One thing that could use some improvement is the trigger. It broke at a pull weight of 5 lbs., 5 oz., with an inconsistent bit of takeup. You won’t notice it when snapping off quick shots at whitetails in the woods, where this rifle is most at home, but you’ll notice it with a slow trigger pull.

Tested ammo included Hornady’s 225-gr. FTX LEVERevolution, Federal’s 240-gr. Fusion and Federal’s 270-gr. HammerDown loads. Velocities ranged from 1,643 fps to 1,894 fps for the lightest load. Since this is not a precision rifle and 44 Mag. is not a precision cartridge, I conducted accuracy testing at 50 yards with a Weaver scope mounted in Talley rings. All three loads shot 1.5-inch or better average groups, but the Federal Fusion load stole the show with 1-inch average groups and a best group of 0.69 inches.

If you listen closely enough, you can hear the satisfying sound of the 1894’s action cycling with a level of smoothness and precision not seen in a long time. Tallying the score, the 1894 is a great shooter, balances well and points quickly, and is about as reliable as it gets for a close-quarters deer rifle.

I’ll take that sort of accuracy all day with a 44 Mag. lever gun, especially one in a handy, well-balanced package weighing just 6.4 pounds. With an MSRP of $1,239, the 1894 does not necessarily fall into the “inexpensive” category. Still, given the improvements in fit, finish, and function since production resumed under big-red, this rifle can be considered a lifetime purchase, and your great-grandchildren will certainly appreciate you spending the money. See the Editors’ Choice Award-winning 1894 Classic at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact Marlin; Tel.: 336-949-5200; Web: www.marlinfirearms.comMike Dickerson


Caliber:                      44 Rem. Mag.

Action Type:               Lever

Barrel:                       20.25-inch Cold-Hammer Forged

Rate of twist:             1:20”

Finish:                       Satin Blued

Stock:                       American Black Walnut

Capacity:                   10+1

Sights:                      Adjustable Rear/Gold-Bead Front

Weight:                      6.4 pounds

MSRP:                       $1,239