The Marlin 795 (together with its tube-fed cousin, the Model 60) is probably the second most common rifle seen on Appleseed lines, and is the 10/22’s biggest competitor in the market. The two rifles are very similar in purpose: Inexpensive, light, reasonably accurate semi-auto rifles. But Ruger and Marlin definitely take different paths to end up with similar performance. I recently acquired an older Marlin and have had a chance to compare it with our 10/22s.
Here’s a look at some of the differences (in OEM configuration, without modifications):
|Barrel fitment||Cross-pinned||Screwed-in retainer block|
|Last Shot Bolt Hold-Open||Yes||No|
|Auto bolt release||Yes||No|
|Scope mount||3/8” groove on receiver||Screw-on rail|
|Magazine||10-round stick||10-round rotary|
|Length of pull||13.875”||13.5”|
You don’t get a big variety of models with the Marlin: Just the basic rifle, in either black finish or stainless steel. If you want something special, whether it’s a compact size, target bull or heavy taper barrel, wood stock or different colors, you will be looking at 10/22s.
There are some very good action upgrades for the Marlin, specifically triggers and spring kits, which can make it more pleasant to shoot. But nothing close to the cornucopia of high-quality aftermarket goodies available for the 10/22.
In terms of reliability and accuracy, the two rifles are very close. The Marlin might even be a fraction more accurate at 50 yards. The Marlin’s trigger has a very long take-up, probably because the trigger itself is attached to the trigger guard, which is separate from the action. But at least on this Marlin, the pull weight is about the same as on a 10/22 at around 7 lbs. The bolt release lever works with a simple push, which is much more convenient than Ruger’s locking release mechanism. The dual extractors remove unfired rounds effectively even if the chamber is dirty. Because of the magazine disconnect, you can not dry-fire the Marlin unless a magazine is in place – so you’d better be 100% certain that the mag is empty.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Here’s where the different action designs between the Marlin and the Ruger become important. Simply, the Marlin gets dirtier than the Ruger and it’s a PITA to clean.
One key reason is that in the Ruger, the magazine well is separate from and forward of the trigger group. When the bolt cycles back, the trigger group remains covered by the bolt and stays clean. The Marlin’s mag well is part of the action assembly and there is a large gap behind it. Soot and unburned powder are blown deep into the action, which gets very dirty and gritty quickly.
The photo above shows (bottom to top) the Marlin 795 receiver, guide rod and spring, bolt, and bolt handle. Note that the lug for the guide rod is in the middle of the receiver – this prevents drilling a cleaning hole in the back of the receiver as many 10/22 owners have done.
Field-stripping for basic cleaning is similar between the two: loosen the action screws to remove the stock (first removing the trigger guard on the Marlin), remove the trigger assembly, then pull the bolt back and remove it. The bolt guide rod in the Marlin sits in a hole in the center of the bolt, rather than alongside as in the Ruger. Because of this, the rod and spring are separate rather than captured in a subassembly. The spring is much longer than the rod, and you must be careful not to kink that spring when reinstalling the bolt or you’ll buy a new one.
Photos above, top to bottom: Marlin 795 action group viewed from top, left side, and bottom.
The photos above show the fully disassembled trigger groups of the Ruger (top) and Marlin.
The Ruger’s trigger group design, from an engineering perspective, is efficient and elegant. The injection-molded trigger housing (cast aluminum on pre-2008 models) contains all the parts which are held in place by four pins. The trigger/disconnector/sear are in a nice subassembly, as is the hammer strut/spring. The Marlin looks like a Rube Goldberg machine, all stamped metal parts (except the hammer), pins and springs. The trigger and safety are attached to the trigger guard. The action group is an assembly of separate parts attached to cross-pins, all held together by two stamped plates fastened by several e-clips. The Ruger uses simple coil springs which are protected or captured. The Marlin’s sear spring and disconnector spring have odd shapes and won’t work right if you get them kinked while removing them. The hammer spring is not captured in a subassembly. You need to make a special tool (using a paper clip) to keep it compressed during reassembly of the action. With practice, you can put it all together in about ten minutes. But it’s still a PITA to do.
Because disassembling the Marlin action is so much fun, most owners advise not taking it apart for cleaning, but to spray it down with solvent or brake cleaner, maybe hit it with a toothbrush, and blow it out with compressed air. I tried that method and it does a poor job of cleaning. The sticky soot and powder need to be scrubbed and wiped off each surface. The gunk that collects in corners and between the metal parts is what hurts functioning, and it won’t come out with mere spraying and superficial brushing. I suppose an ultrasonic cleaner would work great – how many of us have one lying around?
The Marlin’s polymer bolt buffer is part of the action assembly. Over a few years, it will dry out, become brittle, and break, dropping pieces into the action which then malfunctions. (I have personally had to replace two of these on friends’ rifles.) A replacement buffer costs around $20. For the 10/22, you can get a Kidd or a urethane buffer from a number of suppliers that lasts forever, for about $6.
The bottom line: While the Marlin is a good-shooting rifle, from a total ownership satisfaction perspective I MUCH prefer the 10/22.