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




Review of Ruger Built Marlin 1895 Dark Lever Action

Review of Ruger-Built Marlin 1895 Dark Lever Action

by Scott Crawford - November 6, 2023


This model 1895 is a Ruger/Marlin at Mayodan, NC fourth issue. A re-introduction of the Marlin 1895 Dark series. While it may not be the shiny stainless SBL variant or the satin stainless Trapper, this rifle is what a lot of people have been asking for. A black rifle with a threaded barrel and lever and chambered in the venerable .45-70 Government cartridge. This series was initially made available by Remington/Marlin in 2019 and it's back by popular demand.

The Ruger built Marlin 1895 Dark
The Ruger built Marlin 1895 Dark

No doubt this model 1895 Dark doesn't look like your granddaddy's lever gun, however in most respects it still handles the same but with some enhancements. It's still a lever gun, it's still the oldest lever gun cartridge yet it's all dressed up differently. This will not be for everybody however the numbers are growing, and Ruger/Marlin are showing just how in-touch they are with market drivers.

Remington made the Dark series popular and now Ruger/Marlin are taking it to a new level. This new series opener (yes there will be more models & calibers) is breaking ground with the nylon-reinforced polymer stock with included but removable cheek riser and the anodized aluminum handguard both with M-LOK attachment slots.

This rifle also includes a threaded barrel and goes beyond that by factory installing a Marlin made radial muzzle brake. I can attest that this lightweight big bore handles much better with it installed than off. The brake does its job although if you don't want the brake installed the rifle also ships with a thread cap to protect the threads.

1st day of Test & Evaluation at the range

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

Find a Range Near You

Moving along, I really appreciate the extended Picatinny rail, same as what was offered on the earlier release of their 1895 SBL model. It comes with another Hi-Viz Ghost Ring setup and the front fiber optic sight with a tritium ring for excellent visibility in low light conditions. This setup worked great out of the box on my range with steel plates tucked back in a narrow tree lined shooting lane, very similar to real world hunting conditions.

The Ruger built Marlin 1895 Dark, bolt & lever sport a nitride finish
The Marlin 1895 Dark, bolt & lever sport a nitride finish

The quality of this lever gun goes beyond what previous manufacturers offered. Newer, more up-to-date manufacturing processes allow better functioning rifles right out of the box. The Bolt and Lever on this rifle feature a nitride finish for superior wear protection and from my experience an even smoother lever throw.

Beyond functional improvements Ruger has added some design enhancements that just take the looks of the rifle to a new level. I especially like the Marlin Horse & Rider under the pistol grip and in this case, it is black on black for the Dark series.

Like all of the previously released Ruger/Marlin lever guns, the barrel is cold hammer-forged providing precise rifling that provides exceptional accuracy. I've put multiple bullet types with varying velocities and weights through this rifle and all have performed extremely well with excellent groupings. From heavy weight coated cast bullets to medium weight jacketed and even brass solids this rifle liked them all. This rifling doesn't seem to be as touchy as very early JM Marlin's with Micro-Groove or even the proven Ballard rifling. This rifling just likes them all!

The Marlin 1895 Dark Stock with M-LOK slots
The Marlin 1895 Dark Stock with M-LOK Slots

I believe Marlin intends to market a line of accessories made specifically for the Dark series rifles to include M-LOK attachments for the stock and handguard. I can't wait to see what they will be offering.

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.

On with the details. The Marlin 1895 Dark holds five rounds of 45-70 Govt. 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 & unload the rounds. I found this loading gate as well as the previous new Marlin releases to be more user friendly than any other factory gate I've ever loaded / unloaded. Kudos to the Ruger engineering team on this detail!

The lever when worked with deliberate forceful action is as smooth as any lever gun (maybe smoother) I’ve operated out of the box. Be deliberate and you will love how the action handles & sounds! I especially like the medium loop lever and the flare on the bottom making for a more comfortable lever throw.

The Marlin 1895 SBL Rifle

The Marlin 1895 SBL Rifle

These pictures show the main parts of a Marlin® Model 1895 rifle.

The SBL Elevation Adjustment
Elevation Adjustment

The SBL Windage Adjustment
Windage Adjustment

The Ghost Ring Rear and and tritium fiber optic, high visibility day/night front sightThe Front Sight

The Medium loop

The metal fit and finish on this particular model is very clean and well done. The surface finish is very smooth on this and the Graphite Black Cerakote finish is perfect. The sights sit plumb on the barrel, not canted to one side, the hardware isn’t scratched or mangled from assembly and the whole rifle looks to be a quality-built unit.

Graphite Black Cerakote finishThe Wide Bottom Medium Lever

The rifling twist on this model is 1:20 Right Hand which works well for a heavy .45-70 load and did very well with this short barrel measured at 16.17" long.

The muzzle on this rifle is a non-typical threaded, round barrel for a suppressor or brake. This rifle is fitted with a Marlin muzzle brake, and it certainly helps tame warm loads in this short barreled big bore.

The Threaded Barrel & Included Muzzle Brake

Starline Brass 405-grain coated cast hand loads

At 7.0 lbs., naked, this model is on the light side for a big bore Marlin rifle sporting a shorter barrel than standard rifle length. At 35.50" overall length this rifle is short enough to be utilized comfortably in a ground blind or in a tree stand. The black cerakote finish and nylon reinforced polymer stock are made for the swamp, woods and winter deer stands wherever you hunt. The recoil pad did its job under heavy recoil from warm loads and that coupled with the muzzle brake easily handled everything I put through it.

Parting Shots Parting Shots

I wanted to summarize what I thought of the overall package compared to my other Ruger/Marlin built lever guns which I absolutely love. This rifle is the lightest to date in .45-70 Gov't. and this platform offers new, innovative sight mounting options, muzzle jump reduction, and the M-LOK unlimited possibilities using factory and aftermarket products.

Overall I'd say the newly released Ruger-built Marlin 1895 Dark handles really well with its relatively light weight for a big bore, provides excellent groupings at 50 & 100 yards and is ready right from the factory to modernize even further with the M-LOK attachments slots both forward on the armguard and in the stock. Marlin really hit the mark including the threaded muzzle brake and the removable cheek riser. I'd like to give credit to the entire Marlin team but especially the engineers, machinists and assembly workers at the Ruger Mayodan, NC plant for their dedication and attention to detail. That barrel mark "Marlin-Mayodan, NC-USA" is still proving that quality is built in!

The 1895 Dark Picatinny Rail

The 1895 Dark Picatinny Rail


  • Receiver, lever and trigger guard plate are CNC machined from Alloy steel
  • Barrel is cold hammer-forged which results in ultra-precise rifling that provides exceptional accuracy and longevity
  • Threaded barrel, with factory-installed match polished radial muzzle brake, has a 11/16" x 24 pattern to accommodate other barrel accessories. Thread protector also included
  • Major components feature enhanced durability due to graphite Black Cerakote finish
  • The bolt and lever feature a nitride finish for superior wear protection
  • Five-round, tubular magazine with a loading gate located on the receiver
  • Nylon-reinforced polymer stock with M-LOK attachment slots for mounting of accessories
  • Cheek riser included for an optimum sight picture when using an optic
  • Generous recoil pad that effectively absorbs recoil
  • Picatinny rail provides a stable mounting surface for scope rings and a variety of optics
  • Fiber optic front sight with a tritium ring for improved visibility in low light conditions
  • Anodized aluminum handguard features M-LOK attachment slots for mounting of accessories
  • Flush cup sockets for Quick Detach (QD) sling swivels located on buttstock and the muzzle end of the handguard allows for comfortable carry with a two-point sling
  • Mid-sized finger lever has a unique flare on the bottom for more comfortable cycling
  • Reliably feeds a wide range of .45-70 Govt factory ammunition and bullet types
  • Positive, push-button, cross bolt manual safety and traditional half-cock hammer

Technical Specifications
  • Caliber .45-70 Govt
  • Capacity 5+1
  • Stock Strong, nylon re-enforced polymer
  • Material Alloy Steel
  • Finish Satin black Cerakote
  • Front Sight Fiber Optic with Tritium Ring
  • Rear Sight Adjustable Ghost Ring
  • Weight 7.0 lbs.
  • Overall Length 35.50"
  • Length of Pull 13.50"
  • Barrel Length 16.17"
  • Thread Pattern 11/16" x 24
  • Thread Cap
  • Barrel Cold Hammer-Forged Alloy Steel
  • Twist 1:20" RH
  • Grooves 6
  • MSRP: $1,379

Marlin Model 1895 Dark Schematic & Parts List

Model 1895 Dark Schematic

Model 1895 Dark Schematic

Model 1895 Dark Schematic

Model 1895 Dark Schematic

Model 1895 SBL Schematic

Model 1895 SBL Parts List

Marlin Firearms 1895 Dark Owners Manual Ruger Firearms Starline Brass

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