Buyer Beware: Marlin Dark Series Model 1895 45-70 Lever Gun By: Mitchell Graf

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Cowboy holding the Marlin Dark Series Model 1895

Introducing the Marlin Dark Series Model 1895, a formidable addition to the world of tactical lever actions. Chambered in 45-70 Govt with a 5+1 capacity, the Model 1895 offers power and modularity in a sleek package. Its nylon-reinforced polymer stock, equipped with a removable cheek riser, ensures comfort and adaptability for various shooting configurations. The anodized aluminum M-LOK handguard provides ample space for accessory attachment, while the integrated Picatinny rail offers additional versatility for mounting optics or other accessories. You have stumbled into the right place for those looking for a modern tactical lever action. 

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Table of contents

  • Marlin Model 1895 Specifications: 
  • The Model 1895 Out of the Box 
  • Stock
  • Handguard
  • Lever
  • Sights
  • Barrel On The Model 1895
  • Precision
  • Handguard Issue
  • Marlin Model 1895 Performance
  • Summary Of The Model 1895
  • Caliber: 45-70 Govt
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • Stock: Nylon Reinforced Polymer
  • Material: Alloy Steel
  • Finish: Satin Black
  • Front Sight: Fiber Optic with Tritium Ring
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring
  • Weight: 7 lb.
  • Overall Length: 35.50″
  • Length of Pull: 13.50″
  • Barrel Length: 16.17″
  • Barrel: Cold Hammer-Forged Alloy Steel
  • Thread Pattern: 11/16″-24
  • Twist: 1:20″ RH

Marlin ships out the Model 1895 from the factory with an offset hammer spur, cheek riser, muzzle brake, Allen wrench, gun lock, stickers, and an owner’s manual. The Dark series is currently available in 45-70 Govt, and 30-30 Win with 44 Rem Mag being added in the near future.

Unboxing The Marlin Model 1895
The Marlin Model 1895 with all included accessories

While I didn’t use the included offset hammer spur, some people will appreciate its addition.

The Model 1895 features a nylon-reinforced polymer stock that can nearly do it all. Utilizing a removable cheek riser, I was able to have a comfortable cheek weld whether using an LPVO or the iron sights. The one downside here is that it’s either on or off, and it’s a very snug fit to attach or remove the cheek riser. It’s got a large rubber butt pad that helps absorb the recoil of the mighty 45-70 cartridge. I could tell that the recoil pad made a difference. Near the trigger, the grip also features mild texturing to help maintain a solid grip. Also, the stock includes a steel QD socket for mounting a two-point sling. Steel inserts are the way to go for durability. I have had aluminum QD inserts waller out with time, but steel holds up great. 

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Camo gun sitting in the trees
Lightweight polymer stock featuring a cheek riser, QD sling insert, M-LOK slots, and more

When it comes to modernizing a lever gun, adding an M-LOK handguard is probably the most visual way to do it. The Model 1895 uses an anodized aluminum handguard which has M-LOK slots at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Towards the front, it also features additional M-LOK slots between 3 & 6, and 6 & 9.

M-LOK slots on lever action gun
Additional M-LOK slots are located between 3 & 6, and 6 & 9 o’clock

This allowed me to mount two Midwest Industries shell holders, a Valhalla Tactical weapon light, and then my QD sling all to the handguard. Accessorizing firearms is the modern thing to do, and this slim and lightweight handguard gives you options. 

The Marlin Model 1895 with ammo next to it
2-round shell holders from Midwest Industries

Hiding discreetly beneath the handguard is the shell tube of the Marlin Model 1895. With a capacity to hold up to 5 rounds of the formidable 45-70 caliber, this tube ensures shooters are well-equipped for any task at hand. Its concealed placement maintains the rifle’s sleek profile while providing quick and easy access to additional rounds when needed.

5 rounds of 45-70 on lever action gun
The tubular magazine can hold 5 rounds of 45-70

The receiver, lever, and trigger guard plate are all CNC machined from alloy steel and feature a graphite black Cerakote finish. It also utilizes a push-button, cross-bolt manual safety, and traditional half-cock hammer. The mid-sized lever feeds well and is comfortable to quickly operate. 

Lever on the Marlin Model 1895
Robust mid-sized lever for the Model 1895

One of the great features of this lever action is the inclusion of a lengthy top Picatinny rail section. This provides a solid surface for mounting a variety of optics. My one complaint is that at around rail slot 7, two screws get in the way. This caused me to remove the rear sight to avoid mounting a one-piece scope mount further forward than I would have liked. 

picatinny rail and screws on lever action gun
Top Picatinny rail with screws blocking the ideal placement of my one-piece scope mount

The Model 1895 features a ghost ring rear and green fiber optic front sight. The front sight has a tritium ring for improved visibility in low-light conditions as well. While I mainly used the Vortex Venom 1-6 for this review, it is nice to have a solid set of irons ready to go right from the factory. 

ghost ring and sights on Marlin Model 1895
Ghost ring rear, and green fiber optic front sight

The 16.17″ cold hammer-forged barrel did its job and comes with 11/16”-24 threads for attaching muzzle brakes or suppressors. Its 1:20″ RH twist with 6-groove rifling effectively stabilized projectiles ranging from 250 to 430 grains. While it comes with a radial brake, I opted to use this rifle with a suppressor. The threaded barrel adds a modern touch to the lever gun, and shooting it suppressed was a pleasant experience. My SilencerCo Hybrid surprisingly did a good job reducing the noise of this 45-70 rifle.

muzzle and barrel on lever action gun
The included radial brake attached to the Model 1895

Throughout this review, most of the ammunition used was supplied by Buffalo Bore. They are the official ammo sponsor for this review and offer many types of munitions. They sent out some 300, 350, 405, and 430gr ammo, and it all ran flawlessly. While I have never hunted buffalo, I fully believe these rounds could live up to the company name and be effective for this planet’s largest game. 

Besides shooting steel and running some drills, I aimed to test the precision of the Marlin Model 1895 using an assortment of various Buffalo Bore and Hornady ammunition. I proceeded to shoot 3-round groups from 50 yards. I was able to get a few sub-inch groups with Hornady 250gr MonoFlex but most types of ammo got closer to the 1.5″ mark. However, for a 45-70, this seems plenty reasonable to me. I took a beating shooting this lever gun and would believe that it could group even tighter in the right hands. 

AmmunitionGroup Size (inches)
Buffalo Bore 300gr JHP1.296
Buffalo Bore 350gr Barnes TSX-FN1.040
Buffalo Bore 405gr JFN1.790
Buffalo Bore 430gr Hard Cast LBT-LFN3.511
Hornady 250 gr Monoflex0.727
Hornady 325gr FTX1.162
Marlin Model 1895 next to target and boxes of ammo
Groups shot from 50 yards

During this review, I ended up breaking this lever gun. Now it wasn’t anything that would keep it from running, but the handguard broke off twice… After firing just 12 rounds, the tenon that goes between the shell tube and the barrel sheared off on both sides. This caused the handguard to be completely detached from the Model 1895. 

parts for gun sitting on marble counter
The bottom is the intact handguard tenon, the top is the one that sheared off on both sides causing the handguard to fall off

Thinking it was a fluke, I reached out to Marlin’s customer service and they sent me out another tenon which proceeded to only last for 8 rounds before shearing the right side of the tenon, and the screw head on the left side. 

Blue steel on Marlin Model 1895
The tenon, positioned between the barrel and mag tube, features threaded inserts for securing the handguard

After 4 months of back and forth, Marlin told me that though they couldn’t break a tenon replicating my setup (lots of accessories mounted to one side of the rail), they are now shipping the Model 1895 with a stronger upgraded tenon. While this wasn’t great to find for myself, I am happy that Marlin took it seriously and worked to find a solution. However, I have been waiting for an additional 3 months since they told me they had new tenons to get a finished rifle back out to finish testing. I still have yet to receive it, which leads me to believe Marlin seemingly doesn’t have them in hand yet so buyer beware.

Two guns next to each other leaned against Ranger
Modern vs classic

In the process of the handguard breaking it also bent the shell tube which caused feeding issues. However, these were not present beforehand. Besides the obvious problem of the handguard issue, the Marlin Dark Series Model 1895 ran pretty well. I spent the majority of my time shooting it without a handguard even attached which was boring, yet very sleek and lightweight.

I was able to achieve around 2 MOA groups which are good enough precision for any distance I would intend to shoot 45-70 anyways. When working properly, the full-length M-LOK handguard offers a lot of versatility to truly modernize a lever gun. It is easy to add shell holders and weapon lights. Also, in my mind being able to shoot suppressed is a huge win. The Model 1895 shoots quite with a suppressor and subsonic ammunition due to the action only moving when the user decides to actuate it.

READ MORE: Smith & Wesson Model 1854 Review: A Modern Take on an American Classic

Person in black shooting lever action gun
Putting some rounds downrange while it was snowing

When it comes to tactical lever actions, the Marlin Model 1895 gives you all the functionality you could ask for. It maintains the slim and lightweight profile lever guns are known for while incorporating a threaded barrel, M-LOK aluminum handguard, Picatinny rail, and a cheek riser. Other than the handguard tenon issue, this lever gun performed well and handled 250-430gr ammunition with ease. It sounded great suppressed, and the 45-70 variant I tested packs a punch. However, it’s worth noting that while the MSRP sits at $1429, the current street price hovers around $1800, which might give some potential buyers pause.

man and kid holding Marlin 1895 in a cow pasture

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