Marlin Dark Series Model 1895: Rifle Review

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In 2019, Marlin introduced the Dark Series. These were lever-actions with a mid-sized finger loop, an XS Sights’ Lever Rail, and a threaded muzzle. The “darkness” came from the black Parkerized finish and the black-painted hardwood stock. They sold well, sadly not well enough to save Marlin or its parent company. In mid-2020, Remington went bankrupt. Ruger—like the phoenix in their logo—resurrected Marlin from the ashes and have substantially enhanced the quality of their rifles. Just a few weeks ago, Marlin announced the return of the Dark Series with a reimagined Model 1895. It is a substantial step forward for the lever gun and everything the original Dark Series should have been. Enter the Marlin Dark Series Model 1895.

Marlin Dark Series Model 1895 Description

Photo of Marlin Dark Series Model 1895
The wrist/grip area of the rear stock on the Marlin Dark Series 1895 has textured inserts. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

This 1895 is fitted with a 16.17-inch cold hammer forged barrel that has a 11/16-24 threaded muzzle. It also has a radial muzzle break, that unlike with some factory installed breaks, is easy to remove. A thread protector is provided. Atop the action and barrel is Marlin’s proprietary 23-slot, 11 1/4-inch rail. At the rear, there’s a fully adjustable ghost ring sight and at the muzzle there’s a fiber optic front sight with a tritium ring for enhanced visibility in low light. The action and barrel are finished in graphite black Cerakote.

The butt stock is made from nylon reinforced polymer and reattains the traditional lines of the Marlin Guide Gun. At the wrist are textured grip inserts and the butt is capped off with a thick rubber recoil pad. The center section of the stock is dished out and has three M-Lok slots. At the upper rear there’s a steel stud to accept QD sling swivels, but the stud serves another function. The comb of the stock is configured for use with open sights, but you can snap on a polymer cheek riser—it snaps to these studs and the detent in the stock—and it raises the comb for optics use.

In place of a wood forend, there’s a 13 5/8-inch anodized aluminum handguard with M-Lok slots along the bottom and sides. It conceals the magazine tube that holds five rounds of .45-70. On both sides are QD sling swivel attachment points located 3 inches from the forward end. The rifle is also fitted with a gracefully tapered, mid-size finger lever, which, like the bolt, has a nitride finish. Just as with all modern Marlin lever-action rifles, there’s a cross-bolt safety and the traditional half-cock hammer.

Marlin Dark Series Model 1895 Specifications

  • Length: 35.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.0 pounds, 13 ounces (actual)
  • Barrel: 16.17 inches, 1 in 20 RH twist
  • Action: Lever action
  • Trigger: 5.0 pounds (as tested)
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • Finish: Graphite Black Cerakote/Nitride
  • Stock: Nylon reinforced polymer butt stock with anodized aluminum handguard
  • Chambering: 45-70 Government
  • Price: $1,379.00

Marlin Dark Series Model 1895 Shooting Results

Photo of Marlin Dark Series Model 1895
Marlin’s new 1895 Dark Series rifle is light and handy and would make a great rifle for deep woods hunting or bear defense. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

I’ve tested every new 1895 rifle that’s been introduced since Ruger took over and they’ve all been superb. This rifle was no different, it cycled with just the right force and seemed to lockup like a vault. It also functioned perfectly. In addition to the listed loads, I ran several others of varying bullet weights through the rifle without a hitch.

This rifle is noticeably lighter than the other 1895s. When you pick it up, you’ll think it feels more like a Model 1894. It also balances well and finds the shoulder quickly. Without the cheek riser the comb is perfect for use with open sights and with the riser it put my eye in the center of the scope while allowing for a good cheek weld. Snap-shooting at 50 and 100 yards was fun, fast, and effective, with or without the riflescope. The stock and handguard take the rifle out of the traditional realm, and both are solid advancements in terms of shooter interface.

What I really liked about the handguard was the lack of a sling swivel stud to dig into your support hand during recoil, and the ability to sling up tightly to aid with off-hand accuracy. Often, if you snug into a shooting sling tightly with a traditional lever gun the torque on the forend/magazine tube alters bullet impact. I shot the rifle a good bit while slung up from the seated position and did not experience this.

I had two complaints. The trigger broke crisp and consistently at about 5 pounds but there was a little hitch in the pull right at the beginning. Based on the other new Marlins I’ve tested, this trigger was an exception as opposed to the rule. Also, while fiddling with the comb attachment roughly—maybe to the point of abuse—I managed to break the clip on the forward edge. It still held solidly in place, but Marlin might want to revisit this method of attachment.

Chart of ballistics recorded with Marlin Dark Series Model 1895

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Fantastic shooter interface
  • Reliable
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Trigger needs some work
  • Most expensive new Marlin to date
  • Questionable comb attachment

Final Shots

Photo of Marlin Dark Series Model 1895
The rail on the Marlin Dark Series 1895 comes with a fully adjustable ghost ring sight and will allow for the mounting of a wide variety of optical sights. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

With the Dark Series, Marlin has significantly evolved the traditional lever-action rifle. The butt stock is easily adaptable for use with open or optical sights, and the rifle comes with great open sights but can be configured to run a variety of optics. With quick release rings, you can have it all. They’ve also revolutionized the forend on this attractive and lightweight rifle for accessory attachment and the use of a shooting sling.

Out of the box it’s ideal option for bear defense, especially with its high-visibility tritium front sight. Sight versatility also makes it adaptable to any application a .45-70 is suitable for, from deer to African buffalo. And now, with the versatile handguard, it will also interface with a wide assortment of bipods or tripods. It’s clearly the lever gun of the new millennium.

Dark Series configurations for the Model 336 and 1894 should be out in early 2024. But I’d like to see Marlin expand the concept and offer an identical version in flat dark earth and call it the “desert series,” as well as another iteration finished in old-style camo that they could call the “woodland series.” Regardless of what Marlin has up their sleeve, with the quality and innovation they’re demonstrating, I doubt you’ll be seeing Marlin or Ruger going bankrupt anytime soon.

Tactical or Not

Photo of Marlin Dark Series Model 1895
The easy to attach comb riser snaps around the rear QD sling swivel sockets and the forward section of the recess in the stock. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Tactical has become a buzzword to describe any firearm that does not have a traditional look or that’s blacker than normal. I’ve never understood this because if you’re using a gun—especially for hunting or personal protection—you better be employing some tactics, and your gun better be compatible with them. Whether you’re trying to sneak up the ridge and shoot a big buck or fight it out with a pissed off grizzly, tactics matter, and a non-tactical gun might be best described as a toy.

No, this is not your granddad’s lever gun. It’s well adapted to help a hunter do things with a traditional lever-action rifle that were mostly impossible before. If there’s a single rifle that represents the American spirit, it’s the traditional leve-action and the new Dark series lever guns from Marlin represent the most notable advancement of that rifle we’ve ever seen. Tactical? Maybe. Practical? Absolutely.



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