STEVEN TRACY – MARLIN LEVER SCOUT
Col. Cooper’s Scout rifle concept appealed to me due to my affinity for short rifles. Back almost thirty years ago, a fellow officer on my police department heard that I liked Marlin lever actions and offered to sell me his Model 336 chambered in .35 Remington. He bought it in 1970 for deer hunting but never got around to firing it for his intended purpose. He was happy to sell it to me for the same price he paid when he bought it new and I was happy to buy the handsome rifle. It even had a brass medallion inlaid on the right side of its stock commemorating Marlin’s 100th anniversary.
My dad and I already had matching Marlin 1894s in .357 Magnum. My father had cut both our barrel lengths down to 16 1/8-inch. He was a basement gunsmith and he crowned the muzzles by hand with tiny files. We quickly set to work with our trusty hacksaw and shortened my newly acquired 336 to just over 16-inches too. I’ve found that carrying a short rifle over my shoulder works much better for me in heavy woods than hiking around with a longer barrel sticking up over my back. I’m 6’ 5” and rifle muzzles seemed to get into quarrels with tree branches pretty often.
I read Cooper mention that a lever action could certainly work as a Scout rifle if one was more inclined to its mechanics instead of a bolt’s throw and a detachable magazine. Many years down the trail and after my dad had passed away, I attached one of the original Ashley Outdoors, forward mount rails to my Marlin and tightened down a Leupold 2.5 IER Scout scope. A custom leather butt stock cover holding extra rounds made for a compact hunting package. My best friend liked my setup so well he put a Leupold Scout scope on his .44 Magnum Marlin 1894 (but with a standard length barrel) and we finally fulfilled a prolonged desire to hunt wild boar in Tennessee.
The property owner where we planned to hunt wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing and that our rifles were sighted in. He looked at our scopes kind of funny and asked about them. I handed him my shortened Marlin and asked him to shoulder it at a low ready. I told him to look at a spot about 50 yards away while leaving both of his eyes open. Then I told him to bring the rifle up. He did and was impressed with how well the low power Scout scope worked. Standing next to him, I wiggled my fingers off to the side of his head and asked if he could see them. He could and I explained how the Scout scope allowed him to keep his peripheral vision. He understood by this example how the use of a standard scope (with one eye closed) cuts off the ability to see to your side. He instantly understood that isn’t a good thing when hunting wild boar that often move together as a sounder.
Once up in the hills west of the Smokey Mountains, the thick woods would most likely only give a shot of 50 yards or less. We had sighted in at 50 yards and practiced until we could hit well from a standing, offhand position. My friend and I spent a few hours in a tree stand before realizing the boredom of was not conducive to our impatient personalities. We climbed down and stalked through the woods instead. As dusk began, we heard the sounds of wild boar but couldn’t see them. They sounded like they were right on top of us, but they were ghosts we couldn’t lay eyes on. It turned out they were on the next hill over, but at our same level and their grunts and gnashing carried through the air like the boar were right with us. We watched them but decided it was too late in the day to climb down our hill and up theirs.
As we headed back to our cabin, a large sow confronted me at about 15 yards, blocking my path. She had piglets and had gone down her hill and up ours to come after us (the reverse of what we had not wanted to do…she had serious intent). I had my camera in my hands so I sidestepped while my friend lined up his Marlin on the angry female boar. We backed away and she stayed where she was. We didn’t want to shoot her and luckily she went back to her youngsters.
The next morning we were back in the hills and a sounder moved along a ridge. I set up behind a small tree and picked out a 200+ pound male with thick brown hair through the reticle of my Leupold. When he paused, I fully cocked my Marlin Scout’s hammer and settled my crosshairs on his shoulder and pressed the trigger. He went down right where he stood. I used a laser range finder from my position by the tree and it measured exactly 52 yards to where the red board lay dead. Later, when butchering the boar I found the 200-grain Remington soft point had punched through the left shoulder bone, through the left lung, directly through the heart, through the right lung, and then out the right rib cage.
My friend shot his boar with his Marlin .44 Magnum and was impressed with how well the Scout scope worked. While taking photos of our game, the sow from the previous night came after us again. She chased our guides up trees while we ran up the hill to get away from her, menaced again by her anger.
The Scout concept worked in the real world of hunting in thick woods. There were about twenty or so wild boar around us that day and keeping both eyes open at all times is a smart idea. Hiking through those thick Tennessee woods in the cold air of early December, my shortened Marlin’s barrel never got caught on any branches. The gun was light and easy to carry and fast to get into action. The Scout scope worked perfectly, especially for my aging eyes when iron sights aren’t as effortless to line up as they used to be.
My friend and I still marvel at the experience and talk about our ten hour drive to the Volunteer State, our three day stay, and our ten hours back home while only firing one shot each. But with my short barrel Marlin Scout rifle, one shot was all I needed. And we also marvel at how delicious our fresh wild boar breakfast sausage tasted with our eggs the morning we left to drive home.