Text & photos by Glen I Voorhees Jr.
Western Field Editor
Marlin, the nation's largest rifle manufacturer, has taken its popular 1895 lever action to a new level, one that will please hunters who stalk the heavy brush country. Lever action rifles have long been a favorite with the woodsman and woods hunter. Their major characteristics are fast handling and follow-up shots that can be accomplished with little disturbance to the position of the rifle on the shooter's shoulder.
This means that the sight picture can be maintained shot after shot. Quickness and reliability have been their hallmark for the past century, and improvements like the new Marlin 450 will help launch the lever rifle into the 21st century.
In the days of yore, there was a need for a large caliber that could be used against larger and sometimes deadly game found out West and in Alaska. Marlin and Winchester both came out with 1895 Models to answer the needs of the Westerner.
The first production run for the 1895 Marlin, the largest rifle made by Marlin, lasted from 1895 to 1917. There were 18,000 produced in seven different calibers. The .45/70 was the most popular. I don't have any way of knowing what the regional distribution for the 1895 was, but it would be my guess that most of the rifles ended up in the West.
Up until 1876 when Winchester introduced the .45/75, lever guns were chambered for pistol-size calibers. In fact, Colt produced Single Action Army revolvers to chamber most of the cartridges that Winchester introduced for their 1873 Model.
Upswing in Interest
In the mid-1970s, Marlin saw an upswing in shooter interest in old style guns. This was a time when European replicas started to cross the pond to a willing US market. Why not cash in on the fad? Bring the 1895 back in .45/70 and add the then new .444 Marlin?
By then, Marlin had their newly designed rifling system called Micro-Groove. Micro-Groove was expected to bring new accuracy to the 100-year-old .45/70. If you are going to use only jacketed bullets, Micro-Groove really is an improved system.
But those of us who like the .45/70 know that the only way to get better performance is to handload, and the best bullets are cast bullets. Much to our dismay, cast bullets didn't function too well in the new Micro-Groove barrels. Reloaders brought this to the attention of management at Marlin.
One of the reasons Marlin is so successful is that they listen to the market. Because of the comments by handloaders, the early 1990s saw Marlin going back to the old deep Ballard-type rifling. Several outdoor writers were invited to try the new/old Marlin. Randy Garrett provided his hard cast super bullets. It was soon obvious to the writers who were at the shoot that the teaming of these two new products was a home run.
The modern Marlin 95s have a solid receiver that is capable of handling higher pressures than the .45/70 produces. Garrett and Cor-Bon have developed some great loads for the cartridge but, because of pressure limits on some of the older rifles, you can only go so far. The solution: build a new .45 caliber round for the 1895 that can't be loaded into any .45/70 rifle. Thus the new 450 Marlin was born.
Marlin teamed up with Hornady Manufacturing to develop a belted case that is built for the higher pressures of the 450. The .45/70's working pressure is in the mid-30,000 psi level, while the 450 has a working pressure of 43,500 psi. This new belted case is the same length as the .45/70, and water displacement tests show that they hold the same amount of powder.
Hornady chose their 350-grain Flat Point Interlock Bullet, super charged with 47.5 grains of H-4198. Advertised feet-per-second (fps) out of an 18°-inch test barrel is 2,100 fps.
I achieved similar velocity when testing with my Oehler 35P Chronograph. My average for 5 shots was 2,064 fps, with a high of 2,279 fps. At 2,100 fps, the 450 delivers 3,427 foot pounds of energy (fpe). That is impressive from the 105-year-old design of a lever action rifle.
Hornady has also been experimenting with their 300-grain JHP with a test velocity of 2,200 fps. This should deliver 3,225 fpe. I am sure that there will be future loadings offered with the 300-grain JHP bullet as well as a 405-grain flat point bullet.
The 1895 Marlin 450 is in the Guide Gun series of carbine-length rifles. Its 18°-inch ported barrel has deep cut, Ballard-type rifling. With an overall length of 37 inches, it is a very handy "deep woods" rifle. Its straight grip and wide forearm make it a fast-pointing, easy-tracking gun. Quick detachable swivel studs and a rubber butt pad help set off the checkered American black walnut stock. Marlin's Mar-Shield finish is a cross between a gloss and an oil finish. It is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds and it is very attractive.
Arguably, Marlin installs the best iron sights in the industry. The semi-buckhorn rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation has clear, defined edges and is sturdy enough for heavy outdoor usage. It folds to allow for a low scope mount. The Marlin 450 is drilled and tapped for a scope. The front sight has a low hood, (Marlin calls it a Wide-Scan hood) and a brass bead post. For quick shooting, it is a dynamite combo.
The tubular magazine holds four rounds and, with the hammer block safety, it is safe to carry one in the chamber while hunting on foot-never on horseback. The 450 is almost a pound lighter than the standard 1895 rifle. If that doesn't sound like much, wait until the end of a day.
At the range, it didn't take long to realize the value of the ported barrel. Recoil is tolerable if you don't plan on shooting too many rounds at a time. And, it goes without saying that hearing protection is a must. I shot on three consecutive days and exhausted all but one box of the 100 sample rounds I received from Hornady.
As would be expected, the more I shot and got used to the rifle, the better my groups became. Toward the end, I was shooting 2-2°-inch groups. That is pretty good shooting for a lever gun with iron sights. Don't misunderstand me, I am putting the credit squarely on practice and a fine shooting Marlin.
The Hornady load makes the 450 a 200-yard gun on anything that walks the American continent. Longer shots can be made, of course, but the hunter is safe at that range. At 2,100 fps and a rifle zeroed at 150 yards, you will be 2.06 inches high at 100 yards and 5.4 inches low at 200. Extending the range to 250 and 300 yards, you will be -14.81 inches and -35.2 inches respectively.
Some who have written about the 450 claim it is what the .45/70 should be. This, of course, is not possible because of the potential of loading the .45/70 to pressures that older guns simply could not handle. I think this new Hornady cartridge is Marlin's management deciding to take the 1895 to the pressure levels that it is capable of handling.
They haven't improved the .45/70, they have improved the 1895.
|Marlin 1895 450 Guide Gun|
|Barrel:||18° inches, deep Ballard-type rifling.|
|Stock:||Straight grip, checkered American black walnut, rubber butt plate, Mar-Shield finish, quick detachable swivel studs.|
|Sights:||Brass bead front with Wide-Scan hood, semi-buckhorn folding rear adjustable for windage and elevation.|
|Features:||Hammer-block safety, solid receiver tapped for scope mounts or receiver sights, offset hammer spur.|
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