The Marlin Firearms Company has been around for well over a century. During that time they have made many firearms, but they are best known for their lever action rifles. Several million were produced, which is comparable to Winchester and Savage, their main competition. The Marlin has a well deserved reputation for quality and durability. I have several in my collection and they all shoot well. A couple of them will give the average bolt action a run for their money in the accuracy department. The 30-30 has been in my collection for over 40 years and still shoots very well.
Fairly recently Remington bought the Marlin Company. Marlin has released a bolt action centerfire hunting rifle. In the past they had tried to produce a bolt action, but those efforts failed. The first was released in the 1950's on imported Sako and Mauser actions. It was a short lived project due to the micro groove rifling that was incorporated. It did not work with high intensity cartridges, and accuracy and barrel life suffered. In 1996 they released the MR-7 which was a capable rifle, but failed commercially so it was dropped. After about three years in development they came out with the XL7. The engineers borrowed some good features from various rifles and incorporated them in this model. Since it wasn't a revolutionary design I would guess that it didn't cost as much to design. This would help keep the cost down, which is a requirement for this model.
Marlin released the bolt action XL7 rifle in 25-06, 270 Winchester and the 30-06. At this time they do not offer any other chamberings. Since it is considered a basic hunting rifle I don't see a big problem with that. All three calibers are proven performers given proper loads and bullet placement. I requested and received a sample rifle in 30-06 which I consider the most versatile caliber in existence. When I first took it out of the box my first impression was that it's light at 6 1/2 lbs and well balanced, which is a good thing for me. Since I am a bit handicapped I can appreciate a lb or two shaven off a rifle. It sports a 22" barrel with no sights and a black synthetic stock with a basic recoil pad. While not as good looking as wood, the synthetic is a more practical stock for hunting. The stock is checkered at the wrist and forend which aids in gripping it, especially during rain. The nylon reinforced stock also has sling studs that will not come off like some of the older designs have done. You can also get a camo stock if desired for a few dollars more and both stocks are pillar bedded for accuracy. The bluing is decent but not real shiny which is an asset in my view. A shiny stock and barrel can spook away game, as it isn't a normal thing in the woods. If a deer sees a glint he isn't going to stick around to examine it, especially if he has a nice rack. Deer don't get nice racks by being stupid or overly curious. While not a beautiful rifle I wouldn't hesitate to take on a rugged backcountry trip involving bad weather and other difficult conditions. It is made to stand up in rainy and cold weather, which is something we all encounter more often then not. Another thing that impressed me, there were no obvious tooling marks anywhere on the gun.
Stock of Marlin XL7
$300 retail, this rifle has some features found on more expensive models. First,
the muzzle is crowned to protect it from damage that might affect the accuracy
in a negative way. The barrel looks like it comes off pretty easily, similar
to a Savage 110. It came with Weaver bases, which I installed with a Redfield
3 X 9 Tracker scope. An instruction manual and the ever present child proof
lock is included in the package. The bolt is fluted which might aid in cooling,
though it wouldn't affect the weight much, but aids in smooth feeding. The flutes
also might pick up dirt from the action and keep it there until you have a chance
to clean it. It has two forward locking lugs with a plunger type of ejector
and a competent looking extractor. The extractor looks like a post 64 model
70, while the ejector reminds you of a Remington 700.
Front of receiver and barrel. The removal resembles a Savage 110.
Bolt for the Marlin XL7
Close-up of Marlin bolt head
Top view of Win 70 Left, Rem 700 & Marlin XL7
Left Marlin XL7, Rem 700 and Win model 70 bolt heads for comparison
There are vents to route out harmful gas in the unlikely event of a case rupture. There is also a bolt shroud in case of a rupture or blown primer, so a shooter can feel confident that it is a strong and safe rifle. The blind magazine holds four rounds plus one in the chamber and isn't a drop down type. This isn't a problem as far as I am concerned. It is a push feed system as opposed to a controlled type and both work well given proper design. The two position safety allows the bolt to open but prevents the gun from unwanted discharges. As always never point a gun at something you don't wish to destroy as a safety is a mechanical device and can fail. The trigger, a Marlin design Pro-Fire is adjustable though it comes from the factory at 2 1/2 to 3 lbs which is fine for hunting. It resembles a Savage Accutrigger but works differently. The manual contains instructions for adjustment in case it is wanted. Adjusting is simple and can be brought down to 2 1/2 lbs in complete safety. For my money I don't want a trigger much below 3 lbs on a hunting rifle.
Trigger showing adjustment
Trigger reminds you of a Glock type
Trigger guard and magazine innards
For the first trip to the range I took some old left over ammo that was lying around. The purpose was to sight it in and get acquainted with it. Despite its light weight, recoil wasn't objectionable at all. The soft recoil pad without much doubt had something to do with that. The trigger is a thing of joy, breaking cleanly and crisply all the time. I deal with a lot of firearms and this has one of the best factory triggers I have run across in awhile. I have a couple of accuracy loads that I intend on trying in the near future, that have worked well in other 30-06s I own and have shot.
|Remington 150 grain factory load||100 yards||1.27" average||2911 FPS||ok|
|Sierra Game King 165 grain handload||100 yards||1.88 average||2826 FPS||poor|
|Remington 180 grain handload||100 yards||.81 average||2694 FPS||very accurate|
Typical 165 grain Sierra bullet group
Typical 150 grain Remington factory load
Typical 180 grain group Remington bullet handload
I shot three loads for accuracy, doing 5 groups of three shots each and averaged them. The 150 grain was a Remington factory load while the 165 was a Sierra Game King and the 180 was a handload using Remington bullets. The surprise was this rifle didn't like the Game Kings, at least with the load I was using. It goes to show you that each rifle is different in what it likes and you have to try out several combos to see which one works best. I am planning on a couple hunting trips and will fine tune the loads that I will take. As expected there were no malfunctions of any kind. I didn't do anything special to break in the barrel just scoped and shot it as a typical hunter would do. I did allow ample cooling time between groups.
Marlin XL7 Bolt Action Centerfire
Calibers: 25-06,270 and 30-06 (tested)
Barrel: 22" 1 in 10 twist
Magazine: blind box 4 round capacity
Sights: none, drilled and tapped Weaver bases provided
Trigger: single stage adjustable
Safety: two position
Stock: synthetic black or camo
Overall rifle length: 42 1/2"
Weight: 6 1/2 lbs without scope
Accessories: scope base mounts & trigger lock
MSRP $300 depending on location
Bob Shell has been around guns all of his life and enjoys handloading and hunting especially with obsolete guns. Life member of the NRA & NAHC, he also belongs to POMA & OWAA which are outdoor writer associations. Bob has written for various publications, as well as two books and is working on a third. He has an ammo business specializing in hard to find ammo www.obsoleteammo.com .