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.
- 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.
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."