American Rifleman | Marlin Tops Lever-Action Best Seller List in 2020

by Guy J. Sagi –
Saturday 20th March 2021

2020 was a dramatic and stressful time of change, although many proven devices weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than many modern devices. Marlins 1894 is among the tough veterans that thrived. He managed to maintain his runner-up sales position on leverage acquired through FFLs using’s services over the past year. Without its younger sibling, the 1895, it would have received the highest award.

The term adaptable may not come to mind when you think of the gun, but the famous rifle also survived the Spanish flu outbreak more than 100 years ago. However, what made the 2020 performance even more remarkable was the fact that the Marlin plant stalled at the end of the year when its parent company, Remington Outdoor, went through bankruptcy. Adding salt to the financial wounds was the fact that Marlin celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.

Ruger now owns marlin, his intellectual property, and his machines. The equipment has been relocated, the teams put together, and we can expect new models to come out of the factory later this year. Factory Fresh is a more accurate term, however, as Ruger has announced that he won’t change anything dramatic about the old designs – at least not in the near future. It intends to honor Marlin’s legacy while improving quality control. The famous Centerfire lever actions will be the first to reappear on sporting goods shelves, including the 1894.

The rifle was introduced more than 100 years ago with a side ejection and the tube magazine known today. It had a short receiver for chamber pistol cartridges – the versatility obviously still appreciated by pistol owners – improved the one-piece trigger and brand new locking bolt.

Its appearance, chambers, and style remained largely the same throughout its history, but in 2018 the company introduced two new versions – the CBSL and the CST. Both remained loyal to their pistol chamber in 357 Mag./.38 Spl. The magazine capacity was eight cartridges, the receivers were stainless steel, but the stocks were either laminated wood or lacquered wood. The look was a departure from the company’s traditional American walnut furniture. Both carried 16.5-inch barrels, one of which was threaded for muzzle devices. MSRPs were around $ 1,200 at the time, though there’s no word whether we can assume either of the models will be coming out of the factory anytime soon.

The 1894 Dark, recently reviewed by Frank Melloni for American Rifleman, was another big comic change. With ghost rings, rail receiver, and .44 mag. The all-black version had an MSRP of $ 1,099. “The tactical lever arm may not be for everyone,” he wrote, “but the concept has its place and the features of Marlin’s Model 1894 Dark make it one of the most powerful options on the market.”

Octagonal barrels, rustproof or blued metalwork, folding buckhorn visors (on select models), and various wood surfaces offered a variety of options in the 1894s. There’s no shortage of versions, although we’ll have to wait to see exactly which ones come out of the new factory first.

In the meantime, you can find some of the old models still available. Lightly used models in their original packaging fetch over $ 1,500 if you’re lucky enough to find one you want. The 1894s that are heavily used are less depending on the state.

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