Over the company's 130+ years of firearms production, it has been best known for its manufacture of high power, center fire, lever action, and .22 caliber rimfire rifles, as well as shotguns, derringers and revolvers. It is the owner of the firearm manufacturer H & R Firearms, and as of 2008 is owned by Remington Arms Company.
Major models of Marlin rifles include:
Marlin Model 1889 repeating rifle (featuring the 'Marlin Safety', the first side-ejecting cartridge mechanism)
Marlin Model 1893, lever action repeater, precursor of the Model 36 and 336
Marlin Model 1895 Military Repeater
Marlin Model 1897, lever action repeater, precursor of the Model 39 and 39A
Marlin Model 25, a 22 Short, 22 Long, and 22 Long Rifle bolt-action rifle
Marlin Model 39A, lever action repeater, the longest continuously produced rifle in the world
Marlin Model 60, the most popular .22 LR caliber rifle in the world
Marlin Model 1894, lever action carbines in revolver calibers — .357 Magnum (1894C), .41 Magnum (1894FG), and .44 Magnum (1894SS or plain 1894)
Marlin Model 336, one of the most popular lever action hunting rifles in the world
Marlin Camp Carbine, a discontinued model
Marlin Model 70P "Papoose", a lightweight, magazine-fed, .22 LR carbine with a detachable barrel; it is designed to be taken down for easy transport while camping, backpacking, etc.
Significant variations of many of these rifles have usually also been manufactured. For example, there are 6 distinctly different variations currently manufactured for the Marlin Model 60.
Marlin has been making lever action rifles since 1881, and in 2008, they produced their 30,000,000th lever action rifle, which was donated to the National Rifle Association.
In 1953 Marlin Firearms was issued US Patent #3,100,358 for what was named MicroGroove Rifling which was a departure from the standard "Ballard" or cut rifling. One purpose of Microgroove Rifling was to increase the speed of producing rifle barrels.
Microgroove rifling is described in the patent as having 5 grooves for every 1/10th of an inch bore diameter, and that the driving side of each land would be "tangentially disposed" to prevent accumulating fouling in use.
Marlin introduced Microgroove rifling in their .22 rimfire barrels in July 1953, with 16 grooves that were .014" wide, and nominally .0015" deep. Ballard Rifled barrels have grooves generally in the range of .069-.090" wide, and .0015-.003" deep. This change was marketed in the 1954 Marlin catalog, as having numerous advantages that this new form of rifling had, including better accuracy, ease of cleaning, elimination of gas leakage, higher velocities and lower chamber pressures. The catalog also claimed that Microgroove Rifling did not distort the bullet jacket as deeply as Ballard Rifling hence improving accuracy with jacketed bullets at standard velocity.
Designed for factory loaded ammunition, Microgroove barrels have a reputation for accuracy problems with ammunition handloaded with cast bullets due to the increased bore diameter generated by the shallow grooves. Use of oversized bullets has great effect on solving this problem, restoring accuracy to level seen from Ballard Rifled barrels. Early Marlin .30-30 microgroove barrels had a twist rate of 1 turn in 10 inches; later Marlin .30-30 microgroove barrels show a twist rate of 1 turn in 10.5 inches which improves accuracy with cartridges loaded to lower velocity than standard.
John M. Marlin was born in Connecticut in 1836, and served his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. During the Civil War, he worked at the Colt plant in Hartford, and in 1870 hung out his sign on State Street, New Haven, to start manufacturing his own line of revolvers and deringers. The outstanding team of inventors he was able to attract developed breakthrough and enduring models, such as Models 1891 and 1893. Today known as Models 39 and 336 respectively, they are the oldest shoulder arm designs in the world still being produced. The lever action 22 repeater (now Model 39) even became the favorite of many exhibition shooters, including Annie Oakley. When John Marlin died in 1901, his two sons took over the business and began a diversification program. In 1915, during World War I, a New York syndicate bought the company and renamed it the Marlin Rockwell Corporation. Marlin became one of the largest machine gun producers in the world for the US and its Allies, building the M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun and a later variant called the "Marlin gun". After the War, the sporting firearms part of the business became a new corporation, which staggered until 1923, when it went on the auction block.
The story is told that the auction of the old Marlin Firearms operation in 1924 was attended by several curious children, a small dog and a lawyer named Frank Kenna. Kenna bid $100 and the properties were his – along with a $100,000 mortgage. The Marlin Firearms Company has been owned and run by the Kennas ever since, and has seen constant change and improvements. Kenna re-introduced several of the models famous before World War I, and in 1936 established the Marlin razor blade business. His eldest son, Roger Kenna, assumed the presidency in 1947 and Marlin enjoyed steady growth until his death in 1959. When his brother, Frank Kenna, Jr. took over as President. Razor blade production was gradually phased out to focus attention on sporting firearms. Frank Kenna, Jr. became Chairman in 1995, and Roger’s son, Stephen Kenna, formerly Vice President of Operations and General Counsel, became President. In 1997 he left to pursue other interests. Robert Behn assumed the presidency in May 1997 and continues in that role today. Upon Frank Kenna, Jr.’s retirement in 1999, his son, Frank Kenna, III, became Chairman.
Seeking constant improvement has been a hallmark of Marlin engineers, and that philosophy has been demonstrated throughout the 19th-21st Centuries. Beginning with the development of the first side-ejecting, solid-top receiver (called the “Marlin Safety”) in 1889, to the 1953 introduction of the Micro-Groove rifling system for improved accuracy, and through to the 2004 introduction of the T-900 Fire Control System for bolt action rimfire rifles, Marlin engineers have set many important milestones in the firearm manufacturing industry.
Marlin Firearms labored for a century as an underdog levergun maker to Winchester (also of New Haven). However, in the 1980s and 1990s, Marlin finally began to outpace its old rival. It is currently the dominant seller of lever action rifles in North America. Its use of side ejection allows for flat-topped firearms, thereby making the mounting of scopes far easier than for traditional Winchesters. This helped Marlin capture more market share as American shooters came to rely more and more on optics. Marlins are also larger and stronger than most of the Winchester line, allowing them to use higher powered cartridges such as the .45-70. Marlin's model 1894 lever-action rifles and carbines are available in handgun calibers, including .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and .41 Magnum, making them suitable companion long guns for revolvers in those calibers.
In November 2000, Marlin purchased the assets of H&R 1871, Inc., a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of shotguns and rifles (New England Firearms branded). Founded in 1871, and now located in Gardner, Massachusetts, today H&R 1871 employs over 200 people. Marketing its products under the brand names of Harrington & Richardson and New England Firearms, H&R 1871 is the largest manufacturer of single shot shotguns and rifles in the world.
In December 2007 Remington Arms Company purchased Marlin.
Remington announced in April 2008 that it would close the Gardner manufacturing plant by the end of 2008 affecting 200 workers. There remains a manufacturing facility at North Haven, Connecticut.