The Marlin 1895SBL has a special place in my heart. So I’ve really been looking forward to doing this Marlin 1895 SBL Review. The reason for this is not the type of gun that I typically mess with. I bought this gun because I saw it in a movie. I know that sounds crazy but I saw this gun in both Jurassic World and Wind River.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s just something cool about a .45-70, but seeing this gun in those movies just took it to a different place with me. After seeing it there, I wanted one of my own but didn’t have the funds.
One day I walked to my gun shop and they had one sitting on the wall and fortunately, I had enough cash in my pocket to make the deal happen.
This is one of those guns that I definitely will never regret buying. That said, it’s not perfect and it may not be your first choice in firearms for a couple of very specific reasons. This is what you’d call a .45-70 thumper.
Being a large yet relatively lightweight gun, this is not going to be for everyone. The good news is that there are a variety of .45-70 cartridges that are going to allow you to tailor the recoil level to your needs.
Table of contents
If you’re hunting Kodiak bears in Alaska you’re obviously going to want a different round than if you’re shooting subsonic suppressed bullets into a berm in the lower 48. Or maybe you’re chasing dinosaurs on a tropical island that doesn’t exist. (If that’s the case, I hope you’re shooting ammo we don’t know about that has a lot more knockdown power than anything that exists in real life.)
This gun is pretty darn versatile. It can be used to hunt predators or prey. You could maybe even take down an elephant with it, although I would suggest something larger than a .45-70 for that.
This gun can allow you to hunt pretty much any big game in North America. It doesn’t have the longest range but it definitely has knockdown power, and it’s just fun to shoot.
This is a lever gun, so the ergonomics on it are going to be a bit different than most of the guns that we usually review. I mostly review tactical-style guns like AR-15s, Stribogs, pistols, etc. and that’s most of the guns that you guys are probably dealing with.
There aren’t as many lever guns around today as there used to be. If you’re not used to shooting a classic gun like this, you might have a little bit of getting used to it. Let’s talk about those features.
Originally, the Marlin 1895 did not have a safety attached. This was something that was added later and personally, I’m not the biggest fan of it. It’s a crossbow-style safety and when you have the hammer cocked back to the rear and the safety engaged, the hammer will still drop. All it does is block the hammer from hitting the firing pin.
While that’s a vital point, it might allow you to get a little bit comfortable and the safety itself could easily be knocked off.
When you’re carrying this gun, I prefer to carry it with the safety off and the hammer in the half-cocked position. I think that’s the safest way to use the gun for my personal use. You could also carry it in the half-cocked position with the safety engaged, which would work quite well but I’m not the biggest fan of that as you’re likely to forget when you might have to make a crucial shot.
There are safety-delete kits out there, which legally I probably wouldn’t suggest using but that might be something that you are interested in. I will say having the safety is somewhat reassuring when you’re dropping the hammer to half-cock when there’s a loaded round in the chamber.
There’s a nice loading gate located on the right-hand side of the firearm. It’s fairly easy to feed .45-70 shells into the gun. That said, it’s not as easy as loading a magazine into a semi-automatic rifle. This is something that might take a little bit of getting used to and it’s definitely a slower process. That said, it’s very rewarding. You feel like the hero in a John Wayne movie when you’re loading this gun.
Find New and Pre Owned
Something unique about the Marlin SBL is that it has a big loop lever. The big loop lever is a cool-looking feature when you look at the gun, but I’m not sure it’s completely necessary. It looks cool but it really doesn’t do anything to speed up your times when operating the firearm.
If you have gloved hands, it might allow you to operate the lever a little bit easier, but overall, it’s just for looks and doesn’t really add any other benefit. You can’t actually spin it around as you would think in the movies. I haven’t tried and I wouldn’t suggest trying that.
The handguard on the gun is just a standard lever-action-style handguard and it’s very ergonomic. Depending on the length of your arms, you can get it as far forward as you want or as far back. I think Marlin did a good job and the furniture on this gun looks absolutely excellent. I really like the laminate stock with stainless steel.
The trigger on the Marlin is a little bit weird. The trigger itself has a lot of slop in it when you’re just pushing it around. Cocked, the trigger has a ton of slop that you feel shouldn’t be there, but it’s a lever gun so it’s just a little bit different than what you’re probably used to dealing with the semi-autos.
Now, when it comes to the trigger pull itself, it’s fairly heavy but there’s no real creep and fairly short.
Again, this is a lever gun, so we’re not going to really talk about reset since you’re taking your finger out of the guard when you’re running the gun itself. Considering the use of this gun, I see no reason to get trigger work or try to improve the trigger pull itself. With the distances you’ll likely be shooting, this trigger will be perfectly serviceable.
The stock on this gun does have a fairly long lead to pull. Personally, it doesn’t bother me but I wouldn’t mind seeing the shorter option. I’ve grown up shooting AR-15s and other more tactical-style guns with a more squared-off stance. If you’re used to that, this is going to be a little bit of a change but not that much of one.
When I initially pull the sights upon the gun, everything seems natural and I find myself blading the target more. It really comes down to personal preference. I don’t see an issue. But if you want the gun a little bit more compact, a shorter stock would be nice.
Mounting accessories to the Marlin 1895 is not something a lot of people will necessarily do. We’re going to cover it anyway.
Optics Marlin 1895 SBL Review
There’s a Picatinny rail section going from the receiver to roughly halfway along the barrel. This gives you a lot of options for mounting optics. You could mount a red-dot on this, a scout scope further forward, a traditional low-power variable optic, or something like a three-by-nine.
Your optic options are almost limitless. In Jurassic World, Chris Pratt used the gun with a pistol optic, but it was mounted to the rear, so it actually wouldn’t work due to the eye relief. I kind of hate that because I love the look of that gun but can’t find something that’s actually practical. That particular scope has also been discontinued by Leupold, so you’re stuck trying to find one on eBay or GunBroker, which can get quite spendy.
Most lever guns come with a blade leaf-style sight, but this gun is a little bit different with excess-style sights. The front sight has a white stripe on it and a fairly wide profile. These are definitely not target sights; they’re quick shooting-style sights. The rear sight is a peep sight and is incredibly quick to get up and on target.
It also works well in fairly low-light conditions. As long as you can see that front sight, you’re going to have a fairly easy time making a shot. It really is great for snap-shooting.
Marlin 1895 SBL Review Lights
Now I know mounting a light to a lever gun isn’t traditional, but it’s definitely doable with this piece. Due to the 12 o’clock Picatinny rail running across, you could mount something like a Modlite on a ModButton or any offset light you may desire. Something like a SureFire G2 or Modlite on an offset mount where the tail caps would work just as well. It really depends on what you’re looking for. I probably won’t mount a light to this gun myself, but it’s nice to know that I have the option.
Mounting a sling to this gun is also fairly straightforward. Considering the tactical-style setup of the rail on the top of the receiver, I would have liked to have seen the ability to carry this gun similar to an AR-15 slung across the chest. Unfortunately, you’re going to be stuck with a standard two-point sling that is more of a hunting style. It’s going to hook up to one of the two sling mounts on the front and rear of the gun, which are mounted at the six o’clock position. This is going to be a sling setup that you’ll likely want to carry on your shoulder.
Shooting Experience Marlin 1895 SBL Review
When you take this gun to the range and start loading rounds into the magazine well, you get a certain feeling of nostalgia. This gun is just freaking awesome and it really is a modern version of a cowboy gun. You feel like you have a certain amount of power in your hands and when you’re loading those large .45-70 rounds into the gun, it just feels good.
Find New and Pre Owned
There’s almost a primal experience to it. When you go to rack the round in the chamber, again, you get that old-world feeling. You feel like you’re somewhere with your great-grandfather or grandfather, maybe getting ready to go on a hunt. You just feel like you’re in a different time. That’s the great thing about these firearms: they can transport you to a different age. An age in a bygone era that we all miss (yet we’re glad we don’t actually live in).
When you pull the gun up on target and go to press the trigger, you really don’t notice the trigger pull, as this isn’t the kind of gun that you feel that with. But when that hammer drops, depending on the round you have loaded into the gun, you’re going to feel some recoil.
This gun bucks — not in an unmanageable way, but in a way you definitely want to make sure it’s held tightened to your shoulder. Those shooting lessons with your dad or grandfather back in the day start coming back to you and you remember the little things. This gun really is almost like a time machine.
Running the lever is fairly smooth and authoritative. It’s a fun gun to shoot. The action is just very fun but if you’re shooting very heavy loads, this isn’t a gun you’re going to want to shoot all day. It’s a gun you might enjoy shooting just 5-10 rounds off of at the range. I’ve often said some of the cheapest guns to shoot sometimes have the most expensive ammo and this is one of them. You might pay a dollar or two a round, but you’re going to feel fully satisfied.
You’re going to have fun while also feeling satisfied when only shooting a half-box of ammo.
Final Conclusion Marlin 1895 SBL Review
This gun is priced right around a thousand dollars and I personally think it’s a great value at that price. This gun really is almost like a time machine with a great mix of modern and old technology. That feeling it gives me when I shoot it makes it all worth it.
Is this a gun I take to the range every time? No, but it’s a gun that I pull out and bring to special range events and it really makes me happy. It’s one of those guns you’ll want to savor. It’s not a gun you’re going to shoot thousands and thousands of rounds through, it’s something that’s meant to enjoy slowly, like a good glass of wine or fine bourbon.
Is this gun for everyone? No, but if you’re reading this article, then I think it’s likely to be a good option for you.
- Looks fantastic
- Lots of ammo options
- Stainless finish
- Good sights for reaction shooting
- Easy to mount accessories
- Nothing like a lever gun
- Decent aftermarket
- Good balance
- High recoil
- Limited application
- Expensive ammo
- Not built for smaller people