Rifle Review: The New Marlin 336 Classic Is the Coolest Rifle of 2023

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For almost all my life I could walk into a gun store and find a new Marlin Model 336 rifle on the rack. It was comforting to know that no matter what, a good rifle was always available. But between 2007 to 2011 and since 2020, there were no new Model 336 rifles to be had. This year, that’s changed. During our 2023 F&S Rifle Test we got to thoroughly evaluate one of the first reintroduced Marlin 336s off the assembly line.

There are three periods of Marlin history. Rifles from 1870 until 2007 could be called Blue Marlins, which was the color of the logo before Remington came along and turned Marlin Green. Now, under Ruger, the Marlin logo is Red, and those three colors are probably the best way to differentiate between the firearms Marlin has and will produce. I’ve been able to test every new Red Marlin rifle, and they’ve all been as good or better than any of the Blue or Green Marlins before them. The new Marlin Model 336 Classic in 30-30 Winchester is not an exception.

Marlin Model 336 Classic Specifications

Marlin Model 336

marlin rifle balanced on post with trees in background

  • Length: 38.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.21 pounds (actual)
  • Barrel: 20 inches, 1-in-12 twist
  • Action: Lever action
  • Trigger: 4.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Finish: Satin blued steel
  • Stock: American black walnut
  • Chambering: 30-30 Winchester
  • Price: $1239.00

The reintroduced Model 336 is essentially the same rifle Marlin has been building since 1948. Through the years it’s been offered with varying barrel lengths and stock configurations, and more than four million total have been sold. For a time, you could even buy the affordable Glenfield version of the Model 336 at J.C. Penny or Sears.

This new rifle is dubbed the “Classic” and features a 20-inch barrel and an American black walnut stock with a pistol grip. The stock was very nicely figured and sported the now Red Marlin standard white and red dot inlay on its belly. The wood is machined checkered at the wrist and along the now very slender fore-end, and there’s also a very tasteful black grip cap with a silver Marlin Man logo medallion. A thin, brown rubber recoil pad caps off the stock and a sling swivel stud is located about 3 inches from the butt with another that’s integral to the centrally located barrel band.

close-up of marlin rifle sight
The rear sight on Marlin’s reintroduced Model 336 Classic is drift adjustable for windage and step adjustable for elevation. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

The blued metal has a satin finish that has been flawlessly executed and stands out against the rich, chocolatey colors of the walnut stock. The barrel is cold-hammer-forged alloy steel and has a 1-in-12-inch twist rate. It’s banded just behind the muzzle and at about the center of its length, near the end of the fore-end. Marlin outfitted the 336 Classic with a ramped and hooded brass bead front sight paired with a folding leaf-style semi-buckhorn rear sight that’s drift adjustable for windage and step adjustable for elevation. The receiver is drilled for scope bases in the same pattern as Model 336s of the past. This means that common 336 scope bases will fit and that aftermarket aperture type sights from XS or Skinner will as well.

Marlin advertises the rifle at 7.5 pounds, but our test rifle weighed in at 3.36 ounces less. To the dismay of many, the cross bolt safety has been retained. And while some consider it a travesty on a traditional lever-action, it does allow you to unload the rifle in a safer manner. Our test rifle’s trigger had a tiny amount of take up but broke very crisp and consistent, right at 4.5 pounds.

Test Results and Review for the New Marlin 336 Classic

shooter holding marlin rifle runs lever action
During our 2023 rifle test, we shot the reintroduced Marlin Model 336 Classic more than any other rifle, mostly because out of all the rifles we tested, it was the most fun to shoot. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Pros

  • Excellent workmanship
  • Beautiful wood
  • Smooth action

Cons

Though I’d never mount a 14X scope on a lever-action 30-30 rifle and attempt to hunt with it, that’s the riflescope we used when we tested the rifle from the bench. We fired multiple five-shot groups using a 150-grain loads from Hornady and Remington, and overall, the rifle averaged 2.24 inches for all the groups fired. It’s best five-shot group measured 1.67 inches and was fired with the Remington Core-Lokt load. This is about par for the course when it comes to a Marlin lever-action rifle in 30-30 Winchester.

Rifle Review: The New Marlin 336 Classic Is the Coolest Rifle of 2023
Richard Mann

But if you want to play at shooting itty bitty groups, you need to buy a different type of rifle. The Marlin 336 is designed for prowling timbered ridges and busting through thickets where fast-action shots at boars, bears, and deer are common. For the rest of our test, we removed the riflescope and used the factory open sights, and then ran this rifle as it would likely be used by a hunter. Inside 75 yards, we shot the rifle well. We did struggle a bit to hit an 8-inch plate nestled in the shaded timber at 100 yards; the sights were just too coarse to make that a sure thing. Ideally, for the best results some sort of aperture sight or low-power riflescope would be better.

Most important, over the course of shooting several hundred rounds, we experienced no issues. The rifle was easy to load even to its six-round capacity, the action was easy to cycle, and there were no sticky extractions. The ejection of fired cases was also flawless and consistent. Had we set a five-gallon bucket beside us when we were shooting, it could have been positioned so all the empties would have landed in it.

Final Thoughts on the Marlin 336 Classic

Some consider a lever-action 30-30 rifle a beginner’s rifle, but I’ve never felt that way. It’s true that a lever gun has been the first gun for many new deer hunters, but I’ve always believed them more of an expert/experienced hunter’s rifle. It’s a rifle you need to practice with so that you can operate it safely, swiftly, and efficiently. It’s also a rifle that with practice you can top off or reload as you shoot. And it’s a rifle of limited reach, so hunting and stalking skills become more important. Sure, you can start a new hunter out with a lever gun, but for them to be successful with it, there are a lot of lessons to be learned.

close-up of marlin rifle action with remington cartridges in front
The best-shooting load we tested in the reintroduced Marlin Model 336 Classic was the 150-grain Remington Core-Lokt. It averaged 2.17 inches for multiple five-shot groups. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

For the skilled hunter who wants a quick-handling, classic American hunting rifle, or for the hunter or shooter who wants to connect with that little bit of cowboy that’s in every American, Marlin’s latest Model 336 Classic is a rifle that will allow both. Though I understand the “classic” concept of this specific model, if it were mine, I’d swap out the sights for Leupold’s 2.5×20 FX riflescope in Skinner’s combination scope mount/aperture sight base.

Aside from my preferences on sights, I do believe that the new Marlin 336 Classic this is the best lever-action 30-30 rifle being built at present. It may not be a tack driver, and it’s clearly not a sniper rifle, but it’s for sure a classic and the coolest new rifle of 2023.

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A Note on Price

Folks are upset about how much the new Red Marlins cost, partly because they don’t realize how difficult it is to build a reliable lever gun, and partly because when Blue and Green Marlin were in operation, they were practically giving rifles away. Red Marlin has to make money, or they’ll fade into a colorless void. (There’s a reason Blue Marlin was sold, and Green Marlin went bankrupt.) Thank of it this way: The new Marlin 336 only costs 15 percent more than a similar Henry 30-30 lever action, but it’s probably a better rifle by 30 percent or more.

Complain about the price all you want, but it’s once again damned comforting to know that you’ll soon be able to walk into a gun store and see a brand new Marlin Model 336 on the rack like I’ve been able to do for most of my life. Inflation might have finally caught up with the 336, but it’s still available, it’s still dependable, and it’s still 100 percent American.