By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“I’ll just come right out and admit it now: I like this snub-nosed
blaster. A lever-gun grabs me by the collar, a 16-inch barrel
snatches my eye, a big-loop lever crowbars me back to my
childhood, a .45-70 curls my toes. Put ‘em all together,
and I’m a goner.”
— Denis J. Prisbey, Tactical Life magazine,
February 13, 2019.
The very latest offering from Marlin Firearms is their recently reintroduced, Model 1895 Trapper after its first release in late 2017. This weapon was enhanced in May 2022 as (Model #70450), featuring some significant improvements. Marlin first kicked off the modern, lever-action, .45-70 Government craze in 1998 with the introduction of their Model 1895G Guide Gun. This gun had an 18.5-inch barrel and held 4+1 rounds of ammunition. It evolved over time, eventually culminating in today’s Model 1895 SBL (Stainless, Big-Loop) rifle.
It’s worth noting that Marlin Firearms was acquired by Ruger Firearms in 2020 for $30 million. All Marlin products are now manufactured by Ruger in Mayodan, North Carolina, bearing a new, “RP” Ruger proof mark on the left side, with the serial numbers beginning with an “RM” (Ruger-made Marlin) prefix. The Marlin web site states that, “Based on the same platform as the Marlin 1895 SBL (reintroduced in December 2021, with 19-inch barrel), the Marlin 1895 Trapper boasts a shorter, more-maneuverable, 16-inch barrel, offers a bead-blasted, satin-stainless finish for low glare in the field, and rapid acquisition with the adjustable Skinner Sights…This American-made, lever-action rifle was manufactured with great pride and attention to detail. You can expect the same time-honored design as the traditional 1895, combined with Ruger’s trusted reputation for producing high-quality, reliable firearms.”
This author has always been a great fan of compact, handy, fast-handling carbines. I previously owned a pair of clean, sleek, Winchester 94 Trappers, with 16-inch barrels, in .30-30 and .44 Magnum. These weren’t necessarily hunting guns, although my oldest son took a buck with the .30-30 in 2004. They were primarily used for family defense while camping in bear and mountain lion territory. For example, the night we spent in the very high (8,800 feet) Sacramento Mountains of the Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, New Mexico, I slept uneventfully with the loaded .30-30 at my side.
Unfortunately, Winchester no longer produces the excellent, classic Model 94 Trapper. Their Model 1892 Trapper model is outrageously priced at $1,860, nine times the amount that I paid for the brand-new Model 94 version in 1986. The new one is chambered only for pistol cartridges, not the more powerful .30-30 round anymore.
So, I certainly appreciate the new Marlin 1895 Trapper for its compact features. And it offers considerably more stopping power than either of my former Winchesters. In fact, it’s probably the shortest-barreled, most compact, .45-70 carbine on the market today, nearly a half-inch shorter than the 2017 Trapper SBL version.
The earlier Trapper model had a black, synthetic stock and forend, and a 16.5-inch, non-threaded barrel. The latest version has a black-laminate, wooden stock and thinner forend, with checkered grip panels, and a 16.1-inch, cold hammer-forged, threaded barrel, made of 410 stainless-steel. Both versions are constructed of bead-blasted, satin-finish, 416 stainless-steel overall. They feature highly visible, fully-adjustable (with a hex wrench), Skinner Express Sights (of St. Ignatius, Montana, 30 miles north of Missoula, in known, black bear and grizzly bear territory) for rapid target acquisition, with a receiver-mounted, peep sight (with a blued, hooded, .096-inch aperture, easily removable for a .200-inch aperture, ghost-ring option) at the rear, and a Skinner Bear Buster, white-line, ramped front blade sight.
The tubular magazine below the barrel holds five rounds. The rifle weighs in at 7.1 pounds, with an overall length of just 34 ¼ inches. The action features a spiral-fluted, nickel-plated bolt for smooth cycling, and a soft, rubber buttpad absorbs felt recoil.
Denis J. Prisbey of Tactical Life magazine tested the earlier Trapper version on February 13, 2019. He wrote that, “The action was already smooth…and the trigger pull was a surprisingly clean and repeatable five pounds, with no creep and no overtravel…the black, solid-rubber, Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad has enough give to function well under heavy recoil. The gun fed and fired everything I put through it at the range without any hiccups…The Marlin and I were still able to put three holes in under two inches now and then with a couple of the loads…That’s tight enough for hunting at practical, .45-70 lever-action distances, and perfectly fine for close encounters of the brushy kind…I saw no signs of the short-barrel muzzle flash I was expecting…Additionally, the rubber pad did its job well.”
Payton Miller also noted for Guns Magazine in 2018 that, “It’s got an industrial-strength, recoil pad…At 50 yards, we used the issue Skinner (sights) setup, and were rewarded with one-inch groups…it’s a superlative lever-gun, accurate, powerful, and reliable…The Marlin SBL Trapper is a specialty item for those obliged to hunt in wet, heavy cover in search of hazardous critters, say Alaskan bear hunters, with 5+1 rounds of high-performance .45-70 on tap.”
As the name itself implies, the Marlin 1895 Trapper is specifically designed for avid outdoorsmen, such as trappers, hikers, backpackers, explorers, or guides. It’s not intended to be a primary, hunting weapon, although the accuracy is certainly good enough for such a purpose. Accordingly, although scopes or other optics can be fitted to this carbine, the standard, Skinner iron sights do the job quite well.
The stout recoil from the powerful, .45-70 cartridge is another matter, however. While the stock recoil pad absorbs about 40 percent of the weapon’s kick, I’d personally install a Limbsaver AirTech pad ($60) instead, which absorbs up to 70 percent of felt recoil. I’d also add a small, discreet, Ranger Point Precision (of Cypress, Texas) “Comet” muzzle brake in stainless steel ($110). The Comet is only 1.65 inches long, adding a mere one inch to the overall barrel length, but reduces both recoil and muzzle flash by 25 percent. It presents the rather-stylish, aggressive appearance of a custom-ported barrel.
This new, Marlin carbine is best-suited for stopping a charging bear or mountain lion at ranges up to 50 yards. For this purpose, I’d recommend Buffalo Bore/Barnes .45-70 Government Magnum ammuntion, particularly the 380-grain, “Dangerous Game” solid-copper (twice as hard as lead), flat-nose load ($104 for 20 rounds) at 2,021 feet per second (from an 18.5-inch barrel.) Self-defense against bears is legal in most states (but not mine). The new Marlin 1895 Trapper should do the job better than most, at a suggested retail price of $1,349, but often available for as low as $1,050 (from the Marlin Firearms Store). It’s a compact, handy, “master-blaster” of a bear-defense weapon that definitely could save the day for outdoorsmen in bear country.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.