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Marlin 1895 MXLR

Risking life and limb as ever for his beloved readership, Pete Moore pits himself against the mighty 450 Marlin in a rather fancy looking lever-action of the same name

If you live in the wilds of Alaska and need a rifle the recommended shooting iron is a Marlin 1895 lever-action chambered in 45-70 Government. Introduced in 1874 as a blackpowder military load the 45-70 has never gone out of favour and today in strong weapons running on smokeless loads and with modern bullets it’s a devastating, short range performer. Like I said in Alaska it’s ‘big medicine’ on big bears…

I’ve had a love affair with the 45-70 since 1975 and in that time owned various BPCRs and lever-actions; including a Marlin 1895. Today I do not have a 45-70, but reckon some form of repeater would make an awesome, driven wild boar and dangerous game rifle.

Silver & grey

What I have here is Marlin’s latest take on the 1895 and a design that would seem to fill that bill – the MXLR chambered in 450 Marlin, which certainly offers a bit more than the old 45-70!

The XLR series, as it’s available in other calibres too is distinctive by the fact it’s all-stainless with grey laminate furniture. Apart from that it’s the standard 1895, though all models have a 24” barrel as opposed to the maximum 22” of the 1895 family. This as I discovered is to get the best out of a new range of ammunition that Hornady have designed in conjunction with Marlin. Called Leverevolution it allows the use of a more ballistically efficient, pointed bullet in a tube magazine.

Up until now the problem of stacking pointed bullets tip to primer in a tube mag were insurmountable as recoil could induce a chain detonation; I have seen this happen and it’s impressive but not pretty. So you could only use a flat-nosed design, which was fine up close but not amazing further out. Hornady got around this with their Flex Tip technology, which uses a flexible/Elastomer pointed tip that compresses under recoil and eradicates the possibility of a chain detonation. The end result is a projectile that gives improved ballistics and down range performance, as I was to discover. 

Although new to the UK, the Flex Tip ammo and rifles have been out for some time in the rest of the world, but getting them over here has not been that easy. I have had 450 Marlin ammo for a year now and with Edgars taking up the Marlin agency recently finally saw a Marlin 1895 MXLR arrive. More of the ammo later – now let’s look at the rifle.

Better by design

Though Winchester has the rep for lever-actions; there’s little doubt in my mind the Marlin is the better design. The receiver is a closed top build with side ejection as standard; this not only makes for greater strength but also offers an easy place to mount a scope. The bolt is tubular and fluted, doubtless to improve reliability in adverse conditions. It locks at the rear by a rising lug and the operating lever assembly feels solid and secure. Loading is by a gate on the right side of the action and fills to a capacity of 4+1 in 450 Marlin.

The hammer is external and offers two positions - half and full cock; the first allowing a carry with no pressure on the firing pin but fast to thumb back for the shot. Marlin also include a detachable, 90º spur, which can be fitted when you use a scope as it protrudes to the side making hammer manipulation easier. Along with this is a cross-bolt safety at the rear of the action this pushes right to left to FIRE and reverses for SAFE. This is purely a hammer block device and has no affect on trigger operation.

Sights consist of a ramped blade up front with a removable hood, with a fold-down, elevator-wedge, semi buckhorn U-notch at the rear. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Best here is a one-piece base with U-channel and QD rings so you can take off the scope and still use the irons.

The furniture is nice as the grey laminate is attractive, the butt features a full pistol grip and thick, rubber recoil pad and the forend is quite rounded. Both these areas are aggressively chequered and there are QD sling studs front and rear. Overall this is a good looking gun and handy too, as it weighs 7lbs (un-scoped) and measures 42 ½”. However, I was a little concerned about recoil as the 450 Marlin is more powerful than the 45-70 and I can recall testing an 1895 using Federal’s 350-grain loads many years before and that was not nice…

450 Marlin

Over the years Hornady has been responsible for a lot of new calibres, often launching them in conjunction with a rifle manufacturer. They have done a bit with Ruger – 204, 300/338 RCM, 375 and 416 and also Marlin; with the 308 and 338 Express and the 450. The latter shows a tapered/straight wall design with a belted head that provides the head space and it looks not unlike a slightly larger 45-70.

Hornady offers two loads for the 450 Marlin – a 325-grain Leverevolution and a 350-grain flat-nose, I had the former and they quote these figures:

Bullet (grains)  325 FTX / 350 flat-nose
Velocity (fps) 2225 / 2100
Energy (ft/lbs) 3572 / 3427
                                 
By comparison their 325-grain FTX 45-70 load is doing this:

Bullet (grains) 325 FTX        
Velocity (fps) 2050
Energy (ft/lbs) 3032
                                 

Of the two 450 loads the 325 FTX shows the best figures and also shoots flattest out to 300-yards and retains more energy. Without doubt it’s an improvement on the 45-70 version of the same weight. However, how does it do in real life?

I teamed up the MXLR with the latest Leupold scope, the VX-7, in this case a 1.5-6x24 in Warne, QD mounts. An excellent choice for closer range use, but as I was to discover this rifle/ammo combo shot a lot better than I expected and could be used at medium ranges. So something more conventional in terms of spec like a 3-9x50 would be of equal if not more use!

Down, test & grit your teeth

I own a number of what I would term the heavier calibres – 270 & 300 WSM and 300 Win Mag, 8.5x63mm, 375 Ruger and 12-gauge slug and you tend to get used to big recoil. However, I was a little concerned about the 450 Marlin. On the range I showed the round to my friends and suffice to say their comments were not printable, but the gist was; gosh they are quite big, I would not want to flipping shoot them… So number one was standing just to get a feel.

Big yes, but far better than I expected and in fact not too bad at all, though the gun does recoil quite high; which is hardly surprising. The next step; does Flex tip technology work? Glad to say it does, but the thought of even those soft rubber points banging into the primer of the round above is a bit ‘butt clenching’ for the first few shots.

With all that out of the way it was time to zero and check group. Shooting prone off a range bag the MXLR/450 Marlin really impressed as it was printing an inch at 100-yards. Here recoil was a bit snappier due to position… But the gun’s ability to shoot tight for what is a big bore was impressive, so taking the generic lever-action well out of the short range, brush buster category it has always had!

Hot stuff

However, one aspect came to light and that was primary extraction. The test day was quite warm and after I’d put about 10-shots through it, lever-operation became very hard. Obviously the round generates a lot of heat, which causes expansion and stiff extraction. Doubtless you’d not be firing 10-shots at anything, but a point worth consideration given your geographic location and season. After all if you can’t kill it with five then it’s time to re-think your game plan, or run…

With accuracy proved and the gun’s shootability established it was time to crunch some numbers. Over the chrono it averaged of 2125 fps/3225 ft/lbs, so a bit less than the factory quote. This is not surprising as it’s rare with any make of ammo and rifle that real time results match what is achieved in controlled and ideal conditions. However, with this in mind it still aces the 45-70 by a good bit and as I recall is a bit better behaved too.

Overall Marlin’s XLR series is doubtless improved by the use of Hornady’s Leverevolution ammo, hardly surprising as they were literally made for each other! For me I’ve never had a full bore lever-action shoot so well. I’d like to try their 308 & 338 Marlin Express FTX in an XLR as that could be very good and a whole lot more useful…

The downside as with all things is the price of the rifle; at well over a grand it’s not cheap and for that money you could get a decent bolt-gun and scope.

My thanks to Hornady for the ammo, Warne for the mounts and Leupold for the loan of the scope.

We Reckon:
• Best traditional lever-action design looks even better
• Hornady Leverevolution ammo really improves performance
• A bit specialised for the UK, but a surprisingly good shooter

Technical Specifications
Name Marlin 1895 MXLR
Calibre 450 Marlin
Capacity 4 + 1 (tube mag)
Barrel 24”
Length 42 ½”
Weight 7lbs (un-scoped)
Sights Y
Drilled and tapped for bases Y
Finish stainless
Stock grey laminate
Price £1241
Ammo £200 per 100

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • Great review pete, always liked this rifle and now its more readily availible im seriously considering one in 45-70. Do you know if Hornaday make the leverevolution ammo for this calibre? Thanks David

    Comment by: David     Posted on: 14 Mar 2010 at 11:43 AM

  • David yes they do and the people to speak to are Edgar Brothers (01625 613177) as they now handle Hornady in the UK. However and though a long term 45-70 fan; if you want it for hunting I'd go with the 450 Marlin as it does offer more performance and is not that bad to shoot either. The accuracy potential really blew me away too.

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 16 Mar 2010 at 10:53 AM

  • Hello Pete,

    I never owned or fired this particular Marlin, but I have owned one of their model 336 (in 30-30 caliber) back in the early 1980's - similar but much more tame to shoot, and a more realistic caliber for most areas of the US than the .450 Marlin. I also own one of their Model 39A rifles ( a .22 LR which also shoots .22 shorts and .22 longs) and is a very pleasant gun to shoot. 19 rounds before reloading and the gun takes down into two parts for compact storage- it is also Marlin's oldest lever rifle, dating back to the 1890's (with just a few design changes over the intervening years). By the way, this is a great review of the newer Marlin rifle.

    Comment by: Curtis Norman     Posted on: 16 May 2010 at 04:29 AM

  • Try these guys for all your Marlins, I have just saved over £100 on mine

    www.dssrifles.com

    .357 Marlin Stainless Steel is on special offer this month at £739.00

    Comment by: lee     Posted on: 30 May 2010 at 07:30 PM

  • Pete, thanks for a good read, this looks like a fantastic rifle. I am on the look out for a big bore lever gun for driven wild boar and a bit of paper punching. Although the .450 clearly offers a performance advantage in factory ammo, is the .45-70 not just as good if you reload?

    I am also torn between a longer rifle like this one and the more compact guide gun which looks very handy. Would the longer rifle be more accurate and/or more pointable?

    Many thanks!

    Comment by: henry     Posted on: 09 Jun 2010 at 11:04 AM

  • I think the 450 Marlin is the better cartridge either way, it's certainly less kicky than a comparable 45-70 in an 1895 or MXLR. Barrel-wise, I'd have to say that a longer tube is better and as cute as the Guide Gun is they are a bit barky... Though they do carry, handle and point well, but I feel performance is a bigger consideration. Plus the shorter tube will bleed velocity too, so to a degree wasting power and reducing gun control and slowing down subsequent, accurate shots.

    Let me know what you end up with.

    Good luck
    PM

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 09 Jun 2010 at 02:21 PM

  • Howdy! How does this round compare to a 338 win mag? Would you use the 450 in the place of a 338 win mag on a brown bear if given the chance? And finally, is this round strictly short range? Or do these new lever friendly, spitzers have killing-power at medium ranges?

    Thank you for your time,
    James

    Comment by: James     Posted on: 01 Nov 2010 at 12:47 AM

  • "450 Marlin ... certainly offers a bit more than the old 45-70!"

    Really? As henry suggests, the .45-70 offers slightly more power in both hand-loaded and semi-custom production ammunition (e.g. Garrett's "Hammerhead").

    It's a matter of physics: the case capacity of the .450 is about three grs less than the .45-70.

    Comment by: Wayne     Posted on: 18 Nov 2010 at 11:57 PM

  • Would be nice to see a review of a Marlin in 357 if you have done one wink
    looking for one to use at my local range want somthing that will not jam up
    on me.

    Comment by: Simon     Posted on: 15 Feb 2011 at 03:37 PM

  • I have an 1894 stainless in 357 Mag in the pipe line. If you are looking for a decent, pistol-calibre lever-action this is undoubtedly it - strong, closed top receiver, drilled for scope bases and reliable; not much to complain about here...

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 20 Feb 2011 at 09:19 AM

  • Ya i think thats what i need, will have to load then down to 350 ftlbs for my local range. would be nice to see a review, thanks.

    Comment by: Simon     Posted on: 21 Feb 2011 at 03:57 PM

  • No problem, but it won't be this month as I have already selected and tested the rifles for the next issue, but I'll try and get it in after that.
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 21 Feb 2011 at 04:19 PM

  • Look forward to the review mate thanks you.

    Comment by: Simon     Posted on: 24 Feb 2011 at 07:59 PM

  • No problems

    Cheers
    PM

    Comment by: peter moore     Posted on: 25 Feb 2011 at 09:54 AM

  • Sorry to bug you, did you do the review for this, have i mist it.

    Comment by: Simon     Posted on: 13 Jun 2011 at 08:22 AM

  • I own (1) Marlin 1895 Guide gun in 450 Marlin and in the 45/70. The 450 Marlin Guide gun is ported and it is much more plesent to shoot. I can easly drop ferrel hogs at 200 - 250 meters with the guide gun that is ported. In 2011 I bought a new All stainless steel 1895 MXLR in 450 Marlin. I reload all of my own ammunition. I cast my own bullets for all of the before mentioned firearms. The 24" barrel on the MXLR is a great +. But I am going to have it ported as it doesnt seem to affect the performance of these firearms. But as mentioned earlier this rifle is brutal on the shooter. If you set the zero at 3" high at 100 meters it is still 1" high at 200 m and about 17" low at 300 m. Hornady advertises that the Levereolution 450 Marlin 325 gr FtX as 3" at 100 yds, - 2.2" at 200 yds and - 21.3" at 300 yds. My rifle shoots the Hornady ammo with better results. Maybe the extreme heat here in Texas has something to do with that, I dont know. I have loaded my MXLR 450 Marlin with (.458) Dia 350gr flat point with a 200 meter (O) and it would shoot+ 2.5" @ 100m, (O) @ 200m and -11" @ 300m. now that is pretty good folks. But it hurts on both ends. A ferrel hog can be devastated by this bullet. And in Texas that is what we want to happen to them. The hogs are are in the millions here and they ruin our pastures.

    Comment by: Michael L Morris (United States) In Texas     Posted on: 12 May 2013 at 02:03 PM

  • This is all well and good but has no one anything to say about Marlin reliability of late? I really did like the idea of buying one but I'm seriously doubting their quality now that Remington make them.

    Maybe Mr Morris from Texas could comment?

    Regards

    Maek

    Comment by: mark bennett     Posted on: 19 Jul 2013 at 03:12 PM

  • I know just what you mean so I went out and got the Rossi Rio Grande in 45-70 only £500 from my local shop very happy with it. shoots very nice and
    save a lot of cash. There is full review on this site mate.

    Comment by: Simon     Posted on: 20 Jul 2013 at 08:40 AM

  • Simon: I did have a look at them and they do get a reasonable review with only the purists frowning.

    I have just bought a Browning B92 44 magnum so I don't really need yet another rifle - I already have about 10. I just sort of liked the looks of that Marlin with the ghost sights, but with the price they are asking and the general feeling of poor quality at Marlin in recent times I have decided to leave Marlin - unless a decent classic passes my way. I'll check out that Rossi though,

    Appreciated, Mark

    Comment by: mark bennett     Posted on: 20 Jul 2013 at 10:10 AM

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