Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

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catoctinfalls
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Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by catoctinfalls »

The Winchester 1894 is most frequently compared to the Marlin 336. For example, here are three comparisons, from Field and Stream and the venerable Chuck Hawks and Paul Harrell, each of which grade the Marlin 336 slightly better.

However, this to me is in line with my assessment that Winchester produced a slightly superior lever action up through roughly the pre-war era, because the true comparison of the Winchester 1894 is the Marlin 1893, not the Marlin 36/336 which was introduced more than 40 years later. In my mind, when I do a fair apples to apples comparison of these two crème de la crème firearm manufacturers, I think of the following:
  • Winchester 1876: Marlin 1881 (First big bore chambering). Marlin action is significantly stronger and pulls ahead briefly; Winchester hires Browning to catch up
  • Winchester 1886: Marlin 1895 (Improved big bore chambering). Winchester 1886 is stronger and slicker and better made, at a significant premium. Both are two of the best lever actions ever made, we're nitpicking here.
  • Winchester 1892: Marlin 1894. (Pre-eminent pistol chambering design). Winchester 1892 has the same dual locking lugs of the 1886 and is stronger and slicker than the square bolt of the Marlin 1894. Again, both are two of the best lever actions ever made, we're nitpicking here.
  • Winchester 1894: Marlin 1893. (First rifle cartridge chambering). Winchester 1894 has a more durable and stronger action. The 1894 went on to become best-selling lever action of all time.
  • Marlin 336: NO Winchester response. Winchester had pulled so far ahead of Marlin in the rifle caliber lever action market with its Model 1894 that it continued to trot out its half-century old design to compete with the new Marlin 36 (1936) and 336.(1948). While the 336 is based off the 1893 LL Hepburn design, there were significant changes and improvements made and various online reviews grade it ever so slightly better than the Winchester 1894.
And yet, when considering the entirety of their company histories, I may be more complementary of Marlin (and Savage) overall than Winchester, and here is why: Marlin / Savage stood toe to toe with Winchester, the Hollywood famous, Colt-pairing industry leader, and didn't back down, and continued to compete on quality, with Marlin eventually surpassing Winchester with its Model 336.
  • Contrast Marlin with Remington, who competed with Winchester in the bolt action market. Remington undercut Winchester's pre-64 Model 70 (one of the last models designed and manufactured quality first without qualms about cost) with its cheaper Model 700 to compete on price and volume. Remington's downward spiral continued its irreversible path of cutting corners to maximize margins: Remington later almost destroyed Marlin when it acquired the company and started churning out Remlins.
  • Contrast Marlin with Winchester, who responded to Remington's strategy of cutting corners, by becoming a Remington clone and cutting its own corners. Unsurprisingly, this led to the embarrassment of post-64 Winchesters and the bankruptcy and shuttering of the company.
So where does this leave us in my overall assessment? Nothing quite compares to the history, nostalgia, and quality of pre-war Winchesters, but Marlin (and Savage) came admirably close in the pre-war era, to the point where we are nitpicking. However, Winchester lost its way cutting corners and trying to become Remington, and shut down in 2006. Only its namesake trademark survives and is licensed to various other manufacturers including Miroku, and it inspires more replica manufacturers than perhaps any other company. This a testament to Winchester's nonpareil history, but history is the only area where Winchester is superior: meanwhile, Marlin has continued to chug along, remaining true to its original vision despite ownership changes and producing top notch lever actions for the average American.

Overall, my two favorite firearms companies of all time, 1 and 1A!

Which one is 1 and which one is 1A, you ask? I'll reply with the following Robert Frost quote: "[New Hampshire] is one of the two best states in the union. Vermont is the other."
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by gamekeeper »

A very interesting first post...... Welcome to the campfire... :D
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Bridger »

Interesting thread! Would the Winchester Model 64 not be their answer to the 336?
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by cj57 »

Winchester was the King! Hands Down! Marlin started out with the Ballard SS, The High Wall 1885, beat all the others! The 1885 continued into the 1920s, the rest were gone!
The Marlin 1881 had the 45-70, but was not strong, 1he 76out sold the 81, 59000 to 20000. The Winchester 73 sold 750000, the 92, 900000+ The 1886 was lighter and stronger then the Marlin 1895, selling 159000 to Marlins 5000-10000.
When Marlin was sold in 1915 serial numbers reached 450000, total for all models. Winchester was in the millions!
Shotguns: Winchester came out with the 1893, it was a blackpowder gun, updated in the 1897 and it sold near a million. Marlin shotguns had many problems, the same with the rimfire pumps, not nearly as strong as the Winchesters 1890 and 1906, again the 1890 and 06 reached 900000 each, the Marlins were way less. I'm not beating on Marlin, as i own many! You just can't argue numbers! Winchester Was the King in the Golden Era of Firearms!
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Scott Tschirhart »

Where I grew up in South Texas, the Winchester 94 was the saddle rifle. But I saw Marlins that were mostly deer hunting guns and folks would mount a scope on them. This is likely a regional thing and the fact that you could buy a Winchester 94 for around $100 new when I was a kid where the Marlin was typically more.

I like them both and have enjoyed them both for many years.

I still prefer an older Winchester 94 for my own use, but I would never look down my nose at a Marlin Texan carbine!
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by gcs »

All I can say is I went to buy a lever action 30-30 in 1971, as a kid with no knowledge of the history and differences of the models.
I was handed a Winchester and the action felt clunky and rough,, Next I handled the Marlin and it was smooth and solid. I bought the Marlin.

Granted, these weren't pre war models, but the difference was night and day, I'm surprised anyone that handles both would choose the W.
but, like everything else YMMV.....
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by catoctinfalls »

Thanks for the welcome! A few thoughts and responses:

- No comparison on popularity. Winchesters sold more than Marlin and was front runner; Marlin played the role of underdog very admirably. I was focused on quality not quantity.

- Marlin continues to look to the future. Some are good, like Marlin 444. Others personally not a fan of, like synthetic stocks. But at least this company is alive and innovating, AND continues to manufacture its classics (336, 1894).

- Winchester meanwhile is all about its past (or trying to cut costs), and for the most part has been since Pearl Harbor.

- To the most recent poster’s point, I agree. My Marlin 336 action is superior to my Winchester 1894 action. Smoother and slicker. But to my point, this isn’t a direct comparison. The 336 had the benefit of 50+ years of advancement, Winchester 1894 > Marlin 1893.

My favorite model all time is Winchester 1892/1886, followed by Marlin 336, and Marlin 1894.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by AJMD429 »

.
Personally I tend to prefer the Marlins because they are a little smoother, although I think either Marlin or Winchester after having shot a thousand rounds or so can become very slick and smooth. The Winchester 92 action seems a little bit rattly and the 94 even more so, but unless you carry it with the lever down and shake It, who cares?

Scope mounting is certainly easier on a Marlin, although good aperture sights like the Williams FP or the really fast handling marbles bullseye sight are a good tank site, are nearly as practical as a scope for guns you're typically not going to expect sub-MOA groups from.

The main difference that saves me towards Marlins is the number of parts and complexity of the actions. Of course if a Winchester can shoot several thousand rounds without a malfunction, it really doesn't matter if "there are lots of little teeny parts to break or get lost", but I do like the Marlin actions (1894 and 336/1895) to the extent that they kind of resemble the 1911 pistols; not a whole lot of parts, and most of them are rather large and robust, and look like they could be made in a few minutes with a random chunk of metal and a hand file..
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Ysabel Kid »

gamekeeper wrote:
Sun Jan 09, 2022 1:33 pm
A very interesting first post...... Welcome to the campfire... :D
+1 :D
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Old Savage »

Like both the 94 and 336 in the various calibers, see no reason to choose one over the other.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by 1894cfan »

I picked up a 1977 Win 94 that had been through a plane crash and fire! The guy that salvaged the plane, my Dad, found it and asked the dead pilots wife if she wanted it back. She said you can keep it! So he sent it off to a gun smith to be re-blued and new wood put on it. Looks good as new and is slicker than snail snot! Shoots good too. Got a Williams Fool Proof on it with elevation adjustment knob on it. :mrgreen:
At one time I had a 336C in 35 Rem, but could not get used to the LONG lever throw as apposed to the W94, so let it go. Still kinda kicking myself for that! :roll:
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by pricedo »

In gun manufacturing like many other things "It's not how you start but how (IF) you finish that counts".
I own both Winchesters and Marlins but have always liked the simplicity of the Marlin action.
The Winchester 86, 92, 94, 95 not so much.
An argument could be made that the complexity of the Winchester actions caused production costs to soar with the result that despite a few bumps in the road Marlin is the only one of the two old competitors still in business.
Of course things are rarely as simple as they seem.
Truth be told several bad management/marketing decisions contributed mightily to Winchesters demise.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Scott Tschirhart »

pricedo wrote:
Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:26 am
Truth be told several bad management/marketing decisions contributed mightily to Winchesters demise.
Seems like that is the general history of gun manufacturers. Volcanic, Henry, -----Oliver Winchester bought the company cheap.

Of American gumakers is seems that only Ruger is still Ruger.....every other gun company (including Wincheser and Marlin) has gone bankrupt and/or changed hands several times.
Last edited by Scott Tschirhart on Mon Jan 10, 2022 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by marlinman93 »

I personally don't think the 1894 Win. is more durable than the 1893/'93 Marlin. Mainly because the Winchester has so many small parts to do the same thing the 1893 Marlin did with half as many parts. There are several parts in the 1894 Win. that are more fragile then the 1893 Marlins. And there's certainly no history of the 1893 Marlins having parts failures, and they were chambered in the same cartridges at the same time.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Old Savage »

In the Big Valley it was Marlin.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by JimT »

This thread is highly entertaining

BUT

everyone knows it was Winchester rifles that won the West!

Movies have been made about it.

It is penned in books.

I have yet to run across a book on the old West where the writer pens "... he raised his trusty .44 caliber Morris & Brown Conical Repeating Rifle ..." or "... they fell in front of him as he levered his .45-70 Whitney-Burgess-Morse .."

:lol:
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by pricedo »

Scott Tschirhart wrote:
Mon Jan 10, 2022 9:51 am
pricedo wrote:
Mon Jan 10, 2022 8:26 am
Truth be told several bad management/marketing decisions contributed mightily to Winchesters demise.
Seems like that is the general history of gun manufacturers. Volcanic, Henry, -----Oliver Winchester bought the company cheap.

Of American gumakers is seems that only Ruger is still Ruger.....every other gun company has gone bankrupt and changed hands several times.
Frank Kenna Sr bought Marlin for a song and the Kenna family ran it successfully for a few years before selling to Remington in 2007.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by 2ndovc »

All I can say about this post is that: in my own little corner of this world, there are 22 Winchesters and four Marlins hanging around here.
I've had quite a few Marlins over the years but most come and go. The Winchester are here to stay.


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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by pricedo »

Old Savage wrote:
Mon Jan 10, 2022 10:52 am
In the Big Valley it was Marlin.
The wife was looking over my shoulder and said "that's Ellie May Clampet".
I said "No it isn't." :D
I think her show name was Audra Barkley (played by Linda Evans).
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by OldWin »

While I own both, I own WAY more Winchesters. I think many times, it comes down to what you started with, in regards to preference. For me, Winchesters are just better natural pointers and have a better feel. I prefer straight grips, even with Winchesters. When I was young, most Marlins I encountered were pistol grip with oversized wood.
As everyone has stated, there are fewer small parts in many of the Marlin designs. However, it's not always just the size of the parts that need to be considered, but the interface of the parts in question. The lever camming surface is one such with the Marlins. The parts themselves are big, yes, but they are dependent on a relatively small point.
The bottom line is ANY of these 19th century designs are products of their time. In the case of the 86, 92, 94, and 95, JMB did a typical JMB job, I'd say. Winchester did its usual great job of manufacturing and marketing.
The sales figures say a lot, but not everything. On the other hand, Winchesters history of cartridge development is hard to deny, as is its work for the government in times of war. This, during WW1, is probably the biggest factor contributing to Winchesters economic downturn and loss of stability. Marlin's smaller size as a company was an advantage in this regard. More so than a reflection on its products.

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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by RIHMFIRE »

Old Savage wrote:
Mon Jan 10, 2022 10:52 am
In the Big Valley it was Marlin.
I think Rawhide featured marlins too
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by pricedo »

Well, we know what side of the argument Rooster Cogburn, Lucas McCain and Josh Randall stood on. :)
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by buckeyeshooter »

love them both!
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by Bill in Oregon »

I am very fond of both makes as well, but prefer the Marlin. First time I had to field strip a Model 94 came as a rude shock compared to the Marlin, where you just remove the lever screw and slide the bolt out for cleaning from the breech.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by .45colt »

I have had several of each , as I got older I preferred the Marlins for ease of takedown and scope mounting . My Holy Grail Gun would be a Bullard . Time is short. get what ever You can , and shoot them.
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Re: Proper Winchester - Marlin comparisons

Post by pricedo »

I've stripped down and repaired many a Winchester 94 ... could almost do it in my sleep.
When you throw 70 year old eyes into the mix I'd sooner not mess with a bunch of small parts that like to fall, bounce and hide behind other things on the table or floor.
I own and shoot Winchester 1886, 92, 94 and Marlin 1894, 336, 1895 and like them all.
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