1 8 9 5 G U N N E R.C O M




Review of the Ruger-Built Marlin 1894 .44 Magnun

Review of the Ruger-built Marlin 1894 .44 Magnum



by Scott Crawford - August 30, 2023


The Model 1894 was the first rifle with a flat-top, side-eject receiver. Originally patented on August 1, 1893 by L.L. Hepburn

The lever gun community has been waiting patiently for Ruger to release their first model 1894 and they've made a ton of folks happy by issuing the .44Spl/.44Mag. The deep cut checkering in the stock & forearm adds to the beauty of the walnut furniture blending in with the satin bluing of the metal surfaces. The "Classic" Marlin look is back in a big way.

It had been too long since I opened the box of a new Marlin 1894. I never bothered with the Remington made rifles after the horror stories of their early years. After all, I had several very nice JM Marlin 1894's to keep me happy. Jump forward 23 years from my last 1894 purchase and here we are, looking at another very fine American made classic.

The Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum
The New Ruger-built Marlin 1894 .44 Magnun

---- Find a Range Near You ----

Find a Range Near You

I've probably owned seven or eight different model 1894's over the years and my last two were the factory ported model 1894P's in .44 magnum. They were limited edition, very nice rifles. I've owned them since 2001 and have put a ton of jacketed and cast ammo through them both. While they were decent shooting 1894's, they never approached the same accuracy that I'm experiencing with this new release. That may have something to do with Ruger's cold, hammer forged barrels. Whatever the difference is, I'm very impressed with the groupings with both factory jacketed and my jacketed hand loads. More on that later.

The Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum
The Marlin 1894 Classic is everything we expected!

Initially the Classic is only available in .44 caliber however my friends at the Marlin factory have indicated that a .38 caliber rifle will be coming soon. I know that there are a ton of lever lovers out there waiting to buy their next .38Spl/.357Mag lever gun. Not sure which configuration it will arrive in first however I'm sure soon enough, there will be varying models. Some in American black walnut, some in composite or dark colors with threaded barrels and so on. But let us get back to this release, their first 1894.

This rifle comes with a rear adjustable buckhorn sight and a hooded blade front sight. Although I eventually installed a scope on it, I wanted to do initial testing just as it came from the factory. Besides, nothing screams "Classic" more than an iron sighted, straight stocked lever gun.

The Cross Bolt SafetyThe Cross Bolt Safety
Pictured above you can see the Cross Bolt Safety in the safe and firing position.

Lever action rifles were designed with a hammer safety or otherwise known as at rest, halfcocked and fully cocked positions. These three positions are noted below as in the Marlin safety manual that is published on their website. This is what a true lever action fanatic grew up with back in the day and what so many buyers still want today. The “add on” safety such as the Cross Bolt Safety (CBS) satisfies corporate lawyers but make many lever action lovers crazy. I'll note that the Cross Bolt Safety has been part of the Marlin rifle design since introduction back in 1984, not a new design by Ruger!

The Marlin Hammer Safety

These three hammer safety positions should be practiced without a live round in the chamber until you are very practiced in the use of the firearm.

The Ruger Made Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum
Wood to metal fit is well done on these Walnut Stocks

On with the details. The Classic holds 10 .44 Magnum and 11 .44 Special rounds in the magazine tube which should get about anything you need done. The side loading gate is very easy to depress (burr free) to load the rounds. Thank you to the engineering team once again in Mayodan, NC. for an improved design over previous Marlin manufacturers.

The lever is a comfortable fit for non-gloved hands however it was stiff while working the action for probably the first 100 rounds. After a thorough cleaning and lube job I found the action much smoother for the next range trip.

The Recoil pad on the butt of the rifle stock easily cushioned the factory loads I used making this rifle comfortable to shoot standing or seated at the bench. I never really felt like the model 1894's had that much kick anyway.

The Ruger Made Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum Rear SightThe Ruger Made Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum Front Sight
The Front & Rear Sights on the Classic model 1894

The stock and forearm are constructed of American black walnut with deep cut checkering. The wood to metal fit was good for a "production line" rifle and the fore stock seems to be slimed down from previous manufacturer's versions making for a comfortable grip.

The Ruger Made Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum

As with their previous model releases, all parts that come in contact with fingers and palms are smooth with zero burs, tumbled prior to final processing steps such as bluing.

1st Range Day with the Classic

The rifling twist on this model is 1:20 Right Hand which works well for a .44 caliber projectile. I found the rifle to be very accurate, when sighting in on paper I was able to maintain a .650" grouping at fifty yards with a front only rest from the bench. (Note) during testing I found the rifle liked .430 diameter coated cast 240-grain bullets as well as it liked the Hornady 265-grain Interlock hand loads! More on this later.

The muzzle on this rifle is a typical non-threaded, with a Cold Hammer-Forged Alloy Steel round 20.25" long barrel. While many shooters prefer the ability to readily add a can or muzzle brake this rifle lacks that ability without modification. Ruger indicated that there will be future 1894 releases that will carry the threaded barrel.

The Ruger Made Marlin 1894 Classic .44 Magnum

.44 Mag Hand Loads used on Range Day

Now let’s talk ammo. Initially I shot factory rounds from Remington, however due to lack of availability I quickly moved to my hand loads. The 1894's of my earlier days very often did not like cast bullets. This new rifle on the other hand seemed to love them in the .430 diameter class. It also loved my loads of Hornady 265-grain Interlocks which are no longer available from Hornady. I am lucky enough to have a large stock on my bench! I loaded the Interlocks over 10.0 grains of Hodgdon HP-38 powder in Starline brass with Winchester Large Pistol primers. That said, these were not overly warm loads, just comfortable target or light to medium game rounds. The rifle sure liked them.

Ready to Load

The Square Bolt Was a Bit tight out of the box
The Square Bolt Was a Bit tight out of the box.

At 6.40 lbs., naked, this model is about average for a lever action. At 37.75" overall length, this rifle is about the perfect size for deep woods, tight brush or tree stands.

The price is on par for most new lever action rifles of good quality, and I found the rifle to be worth every cent. The MSRP for this rifle is $1,239.00

I was extremely pleased with the performance of the rifle at multiple range trips. As I mentioned previously my earlier JM manufactured 1894's did not care for cast as much as they liked jacketed rounds. I played around with varying weights and diameters and never found a good match. I was so pleased when I was able to load up a couple hundred 240-grain coated cast and this new rifle loved them. I did not slug the barrel so I cannot attest to the diameter however the rifling from Ruger really kept a tight grouping in both cast & jacketed.

Parting Shots Parting Shots

I wanted to summarize what I thought of the overall package compared to my older JM built 1894's which I absolutely love. Number one on my list is functionality. This meets that requirement and looks good doing so. That said, initially right out of the box I found the action/Square bolt to be very tight and "stiff". After my initial range trip and putting a hundred rounds thru it I took it down and cleaned and lubed. After that, the action was much smoother and more to my expectations. The easy to load side gate & medium trigger pull were very welcome findings and I prefer nice checkering which both, the stock and forearm have. I was easily on target with the factory sights, no adjustment required and no jams period after several hundred rounds fired. The wood to metal fit is also genuinely nice.

Overall I'd say this new Ruger-built Marlin rifle handles well (with great balance), provides very good grouping and ranks high on my list as an iron sighted, mid-range rifle. Although I did mount a Bushnell Banner 1.5 X 4.5 optic on the rifle for completing the "Test & Evaluation", I'd probably stick with the factory iron sights for real world hunting conditions in NW Georgia. That or place a nice Skinner sight system on it.

Would I buy one? Yes, indeed I would if I didn’t already own several. I'm saving my money for when Marlin releases the 38 caliber 1894 models. I have always wanted one and can't wait.

Technical Specifications
  • Model: 1894 44 Magnum"
  • Caliber .44 Magnum/.44 Special
  • Capacity 10/11
  • Stock American Black Walnut
  • Satin Bluing on Receiver
  • Barrel is Round with Satin Bluing
  • Adjustable Rear Folding Buckhorn Sight
  • Blade, Hooded Front Sight
  • Weight 6.40 lbs.
  • Overall Length 37.75"
  • Length of Pull 13.63"
  • Barrel Length 20.25"
  • Barrel Cold Hammer-Forged Alloy Steel
  • Twist 1:20" 6-groove RH
  • SKU: 70504
  • MSRP: $1,239.00

Marlin Model 1894 Schematic & Parts List

The New Marlin 1894 Schematic

The New Marlin 1894 Parts List

Marlin Firearms Ruger Firearms Bushnell Rifle Scopes Starline Brass Hodgdon Powder Hornady

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