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SHOT Show—Marlin Gun Review

Xlr Marlin XLR .45-70 & Hornady LeverEvolution ammunition

by John Snow

Another of the interesting guns we’ve seen at the SHOT Show is the new Marlin XLR series of lever-action guns. Working in conjunction with Hornady, Marlin is upgrading four of their models to take advantage of Hornady’s brand new Lever Evolution ammunition. For those that haven’t heard about this ammo, the concept behind it is quite innovative. In essence, Hornady’s engineers have produced a line of pointed bullets that are safe for use in the tube magazines found on lever guns. The advantage of this is that lever-gun fans now have the option of running bullets that are much more ballistically efficient than traditional flat- or round-nosed designs through their rifles. How it works is that the plastic material used to give the bullets their spitzer shape is soft enough so that even under heavy recoil there is no chance that one bullet will accidentally ignite the primer of the cartridge in front of it in the magazine. The material used to form the tips of the bullets deforms under pressure and then snaps immediately back to its original shape. According to Hornady, the gains in performance are significant. Cartridges like the .45-70, ,450 Marlin, .444 Marlin, .30-30 and .35 Rem. that suffer from rainbow-like trajectories after 100 or so yards can now reach out much longer distances.

In the XLR series of guns Marlin is taking advantage of this new ammo by offering slightly longer barrels (24 inches instead of the traditional 22-inch designs) that have a speeded up rate of twist. According to Marlin’s Mike Jensen, who showed me a prototype XLR in .45-70 at the range this past Wednesday, these faster-twisting barrels will give better accuracy with the LeverEvolution bullets than traditional lever guns. I didn’t have a chance to shoot for group size at the event, so I don’t know exactly how tight the XLR shot, but we were knocking around an 8-inch metal plate at 200 yards with every pull of the trigger, so you know the accuracy is pretty decent. Other features common to the XLR guns are stainless steel receivers and barrels and laminated stocks. The four new models Marlin is rolling out are chambered in .45-70, .444 Marlin, .450 Marlin and .30-30. Marlin says the .30-30 rifle—called the 336XLR—will be available first, followed by the others later this year.

As a huge lever-action fan, I think this is a very exciting development and I can’t wait to try these new bullets on pigs this spring and deer in the fall. About the only bad news is that Marlin isn’t offering an XLR rifle in .35 Rem., which is another of the LeverEvolution bullets developed by Hornady. Jensen told me Marlin won’t do it (at least right now) because the market demand just isn’t there. I hope that changes for two reasons. One is that of all the LeverEvolution offerings, the .35 Rem. is the one that realizes the most impressive performance gains, so it would be great to see a rifle that has been optimized for that load. Secondly, the .35 Rem. is just such a wonderful old
cartridge that I hate to think that it isn’t popular enough to warrant being produced in a new gun. Every November when I hunt deer in Michigan with my family more likely than not I’ve got my Marlin 336C in 35 Rem. with me. This last fall, in fact, I used it to take two whitetails. Anyone who hasn’t tried a .35 Rem. on deer, black bear or pigs is really missing out on one of the great, traditional American cartridges. Perhaps Hornady’s new ammunition will convince some of these deprived souls to give it a try.


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I planing to buy a 45-70 or a 450 marlin i can't decide . But any way i was wondering can you shoot the new leverevolution ammo in a regular 45-70 and can you shoot regular 45-70 ammo in the new marlin xlr.

Thomas Powell


Nice to read that someone else uses a 35 Rem. I've been using the 336 in 35 Rem for hunting Whitetail in North Carolina for 20 years and have never come across another hunter using that caliber.

Jonathan J.

man its good to hear from other lever action fans out there i love these guns i was thinking of getting the 444 but i just don't know much about the cartridge i was wondering your opinion on a good size i'm a young shooter and i am mainly a big game hunter i plan on using the new gun for hogs so i want one big enough to drop a 300+ boar with ease i appreciate your feed back thanks



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