America’s 1st Freedom | Marlin Turns 150 and Reminds Us Why a Love of American History is a Good Thing
When I was 12 I saw this iconic ad for a marlin in one of the three major hunting magazines of the time. People over a certain age need to remember the ad. It showed a cowboy on a chestnut horse caught in the movement of a quick stop. The cowboy had the front of his hat like John Wayne in “Rio Bravo” (1959) and a red headscarf around his neck. His face was averted slightly and he had a Marlin lever rifle in hand. I had to have one.
My older brother Henry had a Winchester Model 94 – a model before ’64. He kept telling me it was the biggest rifle ever made. It had that musical click-clack sound when you flipped its lever. It was wonderful. But he had to mount a telescopic sight on the side because of the top ejection opening. So yeah, I thought the 94 was wonderful, who wouldn’t? But I wanted the Marlin 336 with pistol grip and side ejection.
My family didn’t have much so they asked a lot. But after months of pleading – more than Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” (1983) had ever done for that Red Ryder BB rifle – and after doing extra chores and handing over my birthday money, I got my Model 336 in .30- 30 chambered. I killed my first dollar with this rifle and a few more in the years that followed. After a .22 rifle, the Model 336 will be the first rifle I give to my son.
Now Marlin is 150 years old – can you believe it, a century and a half to make his classic weapons? – and they released two rifles to commemorate an anniversary few companies have ever reached.
One is a semi-automatic model 60 in .22 LR that looks cute. The other, and I want this one, is leverage in .444 Marlin. It has a 24 inch half octagon, half round barrel, engraved receiver with gold inlay, and much more.
When I look at photos of this rifle with avid I know that I feel something that is quite normal for people across America, as it is a simple desire to own a quality weapon that has a very historical lineage. I am aware, however, that this wish is often misunderstood by many in the media and by some in politics.
While guns are inanimate objects by definition, they are so much more. Guns Bang! They make precise and beautiful mechanical noises when we turn a bolt, open an action or operate a lever. Weapons aren’t just steel, wood, and polymer, they’re not uncommon. They have an aura, a feeling and metaphorically they have personalities in our hands. They have memories and are often passed down through generations. They are tools full of personal and family stories. They are mechanical marvels that house exploding gunpowder that brings projectiles into range faster than we can see.
Gun control advocates sense and fear all of this as this nostalgia, this love for American freedom that is held in our hands is a powerful and liberating force. So they try to make something bad out of it. They act like guns are actually whispering terrible things to us. It’s like they’re trying to project a film noir plot onto American gun owners. Even so, they know it’s not working and it scares and annoys them.
The rest of us knowing how to handle guns is not a bad thing.
For most of us, guns are simply very functional tools for sports or self-defense. Guns can of course also be works of art and bring back memories when we handle them. Guns have a feel, a smell and an aura, but so do classic cars – the essence is actually no different, as both can be dangerous if someone does not behave responsibly.
So yes, like classic car enthusiasts, gun owners know that the sound a lever rifle makes when a cartridge is spring loaded from the barrel magazine and loaded into the chamber is actually a complex series of mechanical innovations perfected in America as that nation grew to an industrial power plant. When we hear these clink and clink, that knowledge mixes with memories of hunts or days on the range with our fathers or friends, and it’s good.
We know that no western film is whole without the leveraged repeater. After all, it was used by every actor who ever rode a horse and wore a cowboy hat. From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, this type of rifle was also featured in every sports magazine.
We also know that when we shoot them, guns humiliate us, teach us, show our strengths and weaknesses on the track and in the field, and even become part of us in the course of a lifetime. We know that they are both symbols of freedom and actual tools of freedom.
Marlin understands this just like so many other weapons manufacturers. That is a good thing. It is something worth protecting and teaching.