Petzal: Rifles of Interest, Vol. 2

Last October, I wrote about a new version of the Marlin 1895G, the much-hotrodded .45/70 Guide Gun. The new version is designated the 1895SBL, and it incorporates the best of all the modifications that custom gunmakers have used to enhance its older cousin. To wit:

*Everything is stainless instead of blued steel.

*The original, worthless iron sights have been replaced by the excellent XS Ghost Ring huge rear peep and highly visible front post.

*A Picatinny rail is standard equipment, giving you huge latitude in mounting a scope.

*The standard lever has been replaced by a large-loop lever so you can slide a gloved hand through with ease.

*The straight-grip walnut stock has been replaced by a laminated pistol-grip stock (which I much prefer) and the wretched recoil pad that comes on the 1895G has been superceded by a real one.

*The four-round magazine has been replaced by a six-round tube.

Usually, I get to shoot one test rifle, but in this case I was able to shoot a prototype and a final-production rifle, which is what I'm reporting on here. My test gun weighs 7 ¼ pounds, has a 4-pound, 4-ounce (clean) trigger pull. It is also one of the two most accurate lever-action rifles I've ever used, matched only by my much-beloved Jim-Brockman-modified 1895G.

Here's how it ran (three-shot groups at 100 yards):

Garrett Cartridges 510-grain cast-lead bullet--2.369"
Ultramax 405-grain cast lead bullet--3.321"
Garrett Cartridges 405-grain cast lead bullet--2.868"
Buffalo Bore 405-grain jacketed bullet--.995"
Remington 300-grain JHP bullet--.920"
Remington 405-grain jacketed bullet--1.281"

This is not a reflection on the ammunition; the prototype rifle shot 2- and 3-inch groups with the Remington ammo and MOA with the Garrett and Buffalo Bore.

All things considered, the 1895SBL is much more than the sum of its parts. It is a far, far better rifle than the 1895G. It's also extremely versatile. With the Remington 300-grain ammo it's a light-recoiling deer gun that will spoil very little meat.

With Hornady LeveRevolution spitzers, or with the 405-grain Buffalo Bore or Garrett rounds it's good out to 200 yards. With the heavy BB or Garrett bullets it can set any animal you care to name back on its haunches.

Now a couple of cautionary notes. Before you buy a bunch of the high-power Garrett or BB ammo, bear in mind that even with a scope this rifle weighs only 8 ½ pounds, and it really, most sincerely, is going to kick.

Second, you want a low-power scope (a 1X-4X is about ideal) because it's a short-range gun and because you are going to need all the latitude of adjustment you can get. Depending on bullet weight and velocity, different kinds of ammo can print 2 feet apart. Yes, feet.

The 1895SBL costs around $900, which is quite a bit more than the original Guide Gun, but it is more than worth the difference. The rifles are just now getting into the pipeline, so you may have to look a bit and I would not expect any discounts. So what? For what it is, this is a damn near perfect firearm.