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Thread: Marlin Issues.

  1. #1
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    W.R.Buchanan's Avatar
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    Marlin Issues.

    Many of the common issues with older Marlin Rifles have had "Fixes" that are fairly well known for decades.

    Most all of these came from Cowboy Action Shooters and were listed in the Marlin Section at Paco Kelly's Leverguns.com website. (www.leverguns.com) I have been using many of those mods for years on my own guns and the good thing is that you can go as deep as you feel comfortable or all the way to "Full Race." Anything you do to the gun improves the way it runs.

    I have added a few tweaks of my own and have also conversed with Eric Lundgren at Ruger/ Marlin and they were all incorporated in the new guns coming off the line.

    The biggest one was "Chamfering the Chamber Mouth" This has been discussed many times here and there is a "Sticky" at the top of this page on the subject.

    Next: You need a .01-.015 Radius on the Point of the Snail Cam on the Lever. This has been sharp until the Ruger take over. This will eliminate the "Marlin Jam" which is caused by that point digging into the bottom of the lifter over time. However this will take literally hundreds, if not thousands of rounds to show itself.

    The fix for this has been known about for 30 years but nobody did anything about it until Ruger. I did it in 2005 when I got mine.

    Next: To smooth out the Lever travel back and forth, the top edge of the hammer needs to be radiused so that the cam on the bottom of the bolt that pushes the hammer back sees the same area on the hammer when it goes forward. As the hammer is pushed back it must go past the Sear. When the bolt moves forward it has to push the hammer down past the sear again, but since the bolt is moving forward the hammer face hits the ramped portion of the cam. By putting a radius on that portion of the hammer it smooths out the closing stroke a lot.

    Next: The groove on the side of the bolt that the Ejector rides in, is notoriously rough or more properly wavy from the Saw Cutter that is used to cut the slot. This could have been by an out of round cutter blade or just a high tooth. Take a Flat File and use the edge to smooth out the bottom of that slot. This has a surprisingly large effect on how the bolt moves back and forth.

    Next: Reduced Power Hammer and Trigger Springs. Brownell's sells really neato Trigger Spring Kits for about $10-12. They work great and reduce the amount of effort to open and close the bolt.

    If you do these simple things your gun will run smooth as silk and feed every kind of boolit known to man. And there are several other things that can be done to improve the gun even more, but some of them are not for the inexperienced owner, as they require skills that are not commonly known about... I draw the line at messing with Trigger Engagement and Stoning on Sears etc. as the gains to be had are miniscule and the possibility of screwing it up or making the gun unsafe are real and easy to drift into. I avoid them simply because they don't do me any good. I can get a more noticeable gain in function by changing the Hammer Spring, as opposed to doing a "Trigger Job." The Spring costs $10 and takes 10 minutes to accomplish, and anyone can do it. The trigger job not so much.

    Continue on.

    Randy
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    Last edited by W.R.Buchanan; 12-24-2022 at 04:04 PM.
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  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have two Marlins , one made in 1887 and another built in 1896. I don't have any of those problems. I have always been underwhelmed by modern Marlins.

  3. #3
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    stubshaft's Avatar
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    Great tips!
    Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway!

    When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master smkummer's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting. I think a lot of us AND Marlin didn’t know about Marlin issues until we ran them in SASS. And many thanks to Ruger if they address those issues on production guns. Even if someone never does cowboy action, it’s good to know the gun will work for a long time down the road. I still like my Marlins over a 73 when and if it’s issues are address because how easy it fully comes apart for its annual cleaning.

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    GregLaROCHE's Avatar
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    Great tips. Thanks. I would add putting in a solid firing pin.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master popper's Avatar
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    My 336 30/30 works just fine without any fixes.
    Whatever!

  7. #7
    Boolit Master smkummer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by popper View Post
    My 336 30/30 works just fine without any fixes.
    I believe few experience issues with the 336, 444 and 1895 because most ammo is loaded close to recommended OAL or Max OAL. Cowboy shooters especially .357 and 44 mag run shorter ammunition such as common 38 special cases. AND few of the 336 shooters run the action fast with a full 10 rounds under full spring tube pressure. If a SASS shooter competes monthly in just his local matches, that’s 720 rounds per year. A year. What might a 336 shooter shoot? A box of 20 a year including sight in shots? Maybe 40 if he goes plinking once during the year? Just my .02.
    My well used waffle top 336 in 35 rem. that I bought used a few years ago experienced the Marlin jam when I loaded Lyman’s 358430 (195 gr.) to the shorter recommended OAL. The problem didn’t surface when I loaded Lee’s copy of the 358-200RF RCBS bullet. I was able to bend the carrier a slight bit to compensate for the worn carrier and the issue went away with the shorter bullet.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    It does seem to be more of a problem( the Marlin jam)with the 1894 rather than the 336 or 1895 but you can make any run smoother.

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master

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    It seems that some 1894's are pickier than others. Also, I believe it is the .44 mag. version that has the most problems at least from what I read.

    My 1894 in .44 mag. was picky!

    I made the mistake of buying the Lyman 429421 mould for my first .44 mag. mould because everyone raved about the Keith design... but of course that was for revolvers.

    I didn't realize at the time that not only did the mould cast small at 0.429"/0.430" with wheelweights but the crimp to meplat length puts the loaded rounds over Marlin's COAL limit. They fed but often jammed going into the chamber. No letting two through. I also got bad leading because of the Marlin 0.431" geoove diameter and shooting an undersize boolit.

    Once I figured out the over length issue and undersize boolit issue I made a mould to cast at 0.432"+ and with RNFP nose then seated to correct COAL. That worked pretty well.

    Some time after I did some 3D design work for Dale53 for the H&G #503 group buy from Mihec and Dale gifted me a mould. Well, it fed a bit better than the 429421 and was casting at 0.434" so fat enough and I wanted to be able to shoot it. So I did some research and found that it is easy to increase allowable COAL by filing the cartridge stop on the carrier. I did that an it worked! Yay!

    However, afterwards I still got jams with the meplat hitting the breech face of the barrel. I had read that the "new" Marlin carriers were modified to level out the incoming cartridge as it went into the chamber. My gun tipped the cartridge up at a steep angle and the meplat was overlapping the chamber mouth so I decided to file the carrier to lower the nose of the incoming round. That worked. Good!

    After shooting some I started getting two through like with the dreaded Marlin jam due to peening of the underside of the carrier. My gun hadn't been shot enough to cause that wear so I assumed my carrier mod had lowered the carrier nose just enough to cause grief. I added a shim under the carrier to get the nose back up a hair but that cause chamber feeding issues again.

    I went around in cirlces and would have bought a new carrier if I could find one but none to be had that I could find.

    So I kept messing with the gun.

    Recently I looked at the carrier again and how the loaded cartridge sits on it as it is deliveed to the chamber. For my gun, even after I had lowered the carrier nose a bit, the incoming round was tipped up very high so that any relatively large meplat would hang up on the chamber mouth. I decided to try putting a shim on top of the carrier to lift the rim a bit. That worked with every bullet I have except the Mihec 434640 which has a large meplat and is over the Marlin COAL. At this point even the H&G #503 was feeding well and it is over the Marlin COAL. When I watched the feeding of the 434640, the nose was high enough that even with abevel on the chamber mouth the meplat hit the breech face because the rim hadn't lifted enough to level the cartridge. I decided to try seating 0.010" deeper but no go. I went another 0.015" and that did it!

    So a combination of issues with large meplat and long COAL. SO far it seems to be feeding fine but I have to confirm at the range.

    And briefly back to the dreaded Marlin jam of feeding two through, while I was working on the carrier, I got frustrated and decided to disassembly the entire action. I got to taking things apart and found the the front trigger guard plate screw had backed out a bit... not loose but backed out a bit which allowed the front og the trigger guard plate to drop a few thou. At that point I that maybe that was the reason for letting two through. I decided to loosen the stock retaining screw then fully tighten the front trigger guard plate screw and watched the trigger gaurd plate rock forward some, then I retightened the buttstock retaining screw. The letting two through jam stopped!

    I am hoping that was the problem with letting two through all along but have to get to the range and run some rounds through the gun to be sure.

    This was a frustrating journey and really was the result of me wanting to be able to shoot SWC boolits from the gun. Had I left well enough alone I would have been fine but many people manage to shoot SWC's so I wanted that too.

    I suspect that tolerances came into play here because it seems some Marlin 1894's with feed almost any boolit shape and COAL within reason and some do not. It does not take much wear to affect timing.

    I'll report my range results and some more details in my fix. Maybe it will help someone.

    And yes, Randy's tips/recommendations are good to do!

    Longbow

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master FergusonTO35's Avatar
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    Very good information here! I have run thousands through my 1982 .357 and fortunately no issues yet.
    Currently casting and loading: .32 Auto, .380 Auto, .38 Special, 9X19, .357 Magnum, .257 Roberts, 6.5 Creedmoor, .30 WCF, .308 WCF.

  11. #11
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    How the Marlin Lever Action works.

    OK: This is the way this thing works,,, Cartridges are loaded thru the loading gate. Note:, that the last cartridge loaded is partially on the Lifter but prevented from going all the way on by the Cartridge Rim being forced/wedged into the notch in the loading gate. It is half on and held in place by the lifter and the loading gate.

    As soon as the Lever is moved the cartridge pops on to the lifter and is pushed on to the lifter by the Magazine Spring. However it can only go as far as the Tang on the Lever that moves the bolt allows it to. The Lifter is pushing against the bottom of the cartridge and as soon as the cartridge is on the lifter and the bullet is out of the mag tube, it pops up blocking the next cartridge from coming along. Failure to do this will result in the dreaded "Marlin Jam." The way this system works allows many different lengths of cartridges to successfully feed in the gun.

    The Snail Cam on the Lever is pushing against the bottom of the lifter and if it has got a Sharp Edge it will Wear the bottom of the lifter which will eventually corrupt the timing. Putting a radius on the point of the Snail Cam eliminates this problem, or more properly pushes it so far down the road that it won't become a problem for 99% of users. The last 1% (CASS guys)will have to replace the Lifter at some point.

    Next, as the Lever is Closed the Lifter is forced up by the Snail Cam Pinning the cartridge against the top of the Receiver as the bolt pushes it into the chamber. This is where Wide Meplat or Stepped Boolits ran into problems. They would invariably get stuck on the Sharp Chamber Mouth as it dug into the top edge of the boolit.

    Previously the back edge of the Chamber was left Sharp. As the cartridge was pushed forward the Large Meplat or Step on a SWC Boolit would catch on the sharp edge of the Chamber Mouth stopping forward progress. IE: it is jammed. Sometimes opening the Lever slightly or just shearing the offending part of the boolit off would allow the cartridge to feed. Most all Jacketed Bullets fed properly because they wouldn't get gouged into by the Chamber Mouth and their rounded Ogives allowed the bullet to pass by the Sharp Chamber Mouth resulting in a successful cycle.

    Then the Trigger is pulled, the Hammer drops, the Cartridge Fires and then the Lever is cycled, The Bolt moves back and as soon as the Ejector is exposed it Ejects the Spent Case... The Hammer is cocked at the same time. As the Lever is Closed the cycle is repeated.

    There is a few other things going on inside these Actions during Lever Operation but none of them pertain to the Feeding Process. There is the "Bolt Locking Block" which is moved up and down by the Hook on the Lever, and when fully engaged also pushes the Firing Pin Safety Pin into alignment with the Firing Pin, which pushes the end of the firing pin out far enough so that the Hammer may contact it and fire the gun.

    That's pretty much it! OH,, I forgot,,, 1895's and 336's work EXACTLY the same way, and can benefit from the same tweaks.

    Hope this helps.

    Randy
    Last edited by W.R.Buchanan; 11-16-2022 at 12:48 PM.
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  12. #12
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    @W.R.Buchanan Any chance you can post some pics of exactly where you are saying to radius the snail cam and the hammer? Maybe before and after?

    I did experience a jam the other day where the round just wouldn't come up in my 93 38-55. Had to take the lever out, remove the bolt to get it back to working. Does this mean that it is too late to prevent the jam in the future? I also have a 336, 1895 and 1894 and have never had this happen with any of them. Should I do the radius on them as preventive maintenance?

    Thanks,

    Rosewood
    Evangelical, deplorable redneck and proud of it.

  13. #13
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    Here's pics of the Hammer Radius. compare it to a unaltered one and it is easy to see.

    The Snail Cam on the Lever is the curved portion that is directly above the pivot screw hole. It terminates at a sharp edge and goes strait down at right angles to the top edge of the curved surface .

    That sharp edge is what digs into the bottom of the lifter and all you do is take a file to it and put about a .010-.015 radius on it, thus removing the Sharp Edge that digs into the bottom of the lifter.. Problem solved!

    Hope this helps.

    Randy
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    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"
    www.buchananprecisionmachine.com

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Thank you!
    Evangelical, deplorable redneck and proud of it.

  15. #15
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    I've done Coyote Cap's Cure a couple of times on well-worn cowboy action guns using a tig welder.

    http://marauder.homestead.com/files/Marlin94Fix.html
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 12-10-2022 at 09:46 PM.
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  16. #16
    The Brass Man Four-Sixty's Avatar
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    Is there an ETA when new 336's will be for sale? I need to know how soon I should be putting some funds aside.
    "...journalism may be the greatest plague we face today - as the world becomes more and more complicated and our minds are trained for more and more simplification"
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  17. #17
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    As far as I know the 1894's are next and should be Released about now, or soon? They might be saving them for the SHOT Show. I am going to the SHOT Show in January and I will be finding out everything there is to know about these guns.

    Randy
    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"
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  18. #18
    The Brass Man Four-Sixty's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing Randy. I am excited to find out.
    "...journalism may be the greatest plague we face today - as the world becomes more and more complicated and our minds are trained for more and more simplification"
    Nassim Taleb
    'Fooled by Randomness'

  19. #19
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    Thank you, Mr. Buchanan! I have a couple of Marlin's with .35x bores -- a Marlin Model 1894 1979 manufacture, 21,xxx,xxx serial numbered lever which has ".357 Magnum" inscribed as its calibre. The second I have is Marlin 1894 Cowboy Limited Model 1894CB, 1997 manufacture, serial number 0302xxxx which has .38 Special added to its .357 designation.
    Some years back, a range trip with my younger son, we ran out of the .357 cartridges we brought, and I was the idiot who chambered a .38 S&W Special (a lead semiwadcutter) in the 1979 manufacture rifle.
    To make a lonnnng story short, my gunsmith had it for a month before he gave up and passed it to another who managed to get it un-jammed.
    Is this the "dreaded Marlin jam" you refer to?
    Now -- no lie -- I have a Brother QL label glued on the '79 rifle, "NO .38!" adjacent to the loading port.
    Reading this thread, however, got the wheels turning, so to speak: IS there a "fix" so .38 S&W Special rounds may be shot in this 1979 labeled for .357 firearm?
    geo

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    It has a lot to do with cartridge overall length. If you load 38 to .357 length, they will function. The timing of the carrier does not rise fast enough to stop the second shorter round from entering the action. Hence, letting in two, causing the jam. Raising the nose of the carrier causes it to lift earlier and prevents the second round from leaving the magazine. Hope this helps.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check