Ruger Marlin Review 45 Colt

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Trapper Jim

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Dec 18, 2012
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This review is on another favorite duo. The Ruger Birdshead Model Ruger Vaquero® Blued Single-Action Revolver Model 5153 and the Marlin Cowboy Model 1894CB 45 Colt | Marlin Firearms in .45 Colt. Took them both out today and put them through their paces on a freshly fallen shroud of snow. Peaceful.

I set up a ten inch plate at 65 yards and all I had with me was white paint. This made an interesting target. First up is the Ruger. This gun has give me fits. Not in shooting or working properly, but in ownership. Not to be a “one gun Gary” or “single reason Roger” I got this piece to for it’s uniqueness. Let me tell you what this roller coaster is about. When I first got it there were things, that I did not like about it. The dark Laminate grips that came with it were not fit well nor did I like the color and shape of the grips. The ejector rod housing had Rugers standard finger lever which must have been designed by an engineer with no fingers. So, I traded it and a little cash at a LGS for a used Marlin 97 made in 1903. Got my new purchase home and started restoring that rifle when my guts started turning. I couldn’t sleep for missing this plain unique Ruger Birdshead. So, the next morning, I went over and bought it back. I know crazy, right? I shot it occasionally and just felt better having it to carry with My Marlin. Until a few years later I decided that it was available anytime I may want another one so I sold it to an INGOER and said goodbye a second time. You got it, a few months later I woke up missing this thing again. Luckily for me the gentleman was kind enough to sell it back to me. Well, after my grip fitter made me some Marbled Maple with just the right amount of shape through out the grip and I installed a better more user friendly ejector rod Ejector Rod Assembly : RUGER EJECTOR ROD ASSEMBLY | Brownells , this thing is sweet to shoot and it isn’t going anywhere.

The .45 Colt is a fantastic cartridge. My favorite Cowboy loads are a 260 Grain LRN on top of 6.5 Hercules Unique. Alliant Powder - Unique. They travel about 700FPS and are very accurate. I regulated my sights for the correct elevation as it was already lined up for windage from the factory. My drill this morning for the plate was 6 Rounds (safe to carry six in this Ruger) from my leather holster with a duelist style (one hand) at my 10 inch plate from 15 yards. My par time for all six hits was set for 12 seconds but I had a few to spare when I holstered. Being a long time member of both SASS SASS - Home of Cowboy Action Shooting (sassnet.com) and NCOWS, Welcome to NCOWS, this gun is very easy to run with the closer larger steel targets used in these sports. I know that to be competitive many run smaller calibers, lighter loads and trick guns, but I hold my own with the more conventional Cowboy Equipment. In spite of some myths that short barrel birdheads are not accurate, this thing will print 2 ½ inches at 25 yards with factory Winchester loads. Note, that using crude fixed sights requires some fundamental focus

Long before Ruger invented the Vaquero we used real Colts and Blackhawks on the farm. The Colts were much more fragile than the Blackhawk but more accurate when it was needed. We had a few of the Blackhawk convertibles that had an aux cylinder in 45 ACP. I never used the ACP in a SA revolver and remember throwing them away. Wow, I wish we would have had ebay back then.

One day I was glad to have the Blackhawk as it would take hotter rounds than the Colts. I was helping our neighbor turn some ground one spring. I was on our Allis WD45 (not an oil product) which is where this old zinc framed hard use Blackhawk in .45 Colt resided in the tractor tool box. Getting ready to hook up his John Deere H, the sliding door pulleys came off the tracks and was clearly rusted to a point of no return. So my neighbor gets on his small tractor to go up to the his garage to get the torch and tools to disassemble the rusted froze up mess. While he was dilly dallying around, I leaned the door upside down agin a tree and proceeded to remove the rusted bolts with my 45 Colt Bolt Remover tool. I stepped back about 10 yards and put the first round in the dirt but made contact with two rounds on the first pulley bracket and spent all three on the second bracket. I was pretty proud of myself when he came hurrying down the hill to see what all the shooting was about. He brought with him (luckily) a replacement board (I damaged the top rail) with new pulleys that he already had in the works. Turns out, I shouldn’t have grandstanded like that but it was fun and the 45 Colt slugs did the job

The Marlin sidekick used today is another one of my Post 2018 Marlins made in NY by Remington. The drill I used for this was the same 10 inch plate, painted white, at 65 yards. On the signal I shouldered the fully loaded 1894 Cowboy (10 + 1) and levered all 11 shots into the plate. My three runs averaged 9 seconds and I had to throw out what would have been my fastest string because the plate fell off the stand on the 8th shot. With no work done on this action, I was able to smoothly lever through all 10 shots after the first shot fired without dismounting the gun. Smoooooth. This is typical of every post 2018 Marlin I have handled.

I love the sights that come on these rifles. Marbles Gun Sights - Fiber Optic Sights, Catch .22, Gun Sights (marblearms.com). The front all steel post sight is well regulated, strong and easy to see within the semi buckhorn rear sight. I know, the kids like Skinnards, peeps, ghosts, dots and such, but in my tests and experience, nothing is faster than these open sights. I can get precision and speed out of these quite well. Not to mention a vast amount of elevation and windage adjustment. I know when my eyeballs give out all together, I will need to glass everything but for now at age 69, these sights are an easy picture for me.

The 20 Inch Ballard style tapered octagon barrel is cut and finished very good and points with rigid authority. The balance of course is perfect. It should be pointed out that Marlin (Remington) quit stamping the warning paragraph on the right side of the barrel starting in the last half of 2018. Ironic. Warnings don’t bother me as if they save one life then they are worth it. However, warnings for me are a constant reminder of a brain deficient cesspool of idiots with guns. Just me.

One of my older JM Marlins in 45 Colt (some collector owns it now) had the worst carrier ever, I sent it in to the factory 3 times and it finally took WGS Rifle Gunsmithing at Williams Gun Sight Company to finally fit it right. I never saw two inside frames alike on any JM Marlin. Rough cut and dimensions were wide. However, if you got a good one then they shot pretty good. Key word being IF.

Everything that is anything is always compared to something. A house is only as good as it’s foundation. There are many variations for the gun owner today. Evolvement will continue to happen with a market that is flooded with inexpensive choices, regarding looks, quality and longevity but the test of time will always be the standard in which we consider to be the rock.



Good Shooting INGO.

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