Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle , A Referendum on America’s Favorite 22

Terrill reviews the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle, and finds an honest hard working gun that doesn’t pretend to be something it is not.

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- 22 caliber rifles can do much more than we give them credit for. Each of these rifles has a foot in multiple worlds, whether we are talking about competition, hunting, fun, or even defense. But at its root, the 22 rifle was the rifle for gaining meat for the pot, an art lost to many with today’s modern conveniences.

Still, good 22 rifles hang on and perhaps the best of them is the Marlin Model 60 rifle in semi-auto.

Introduced in 1960, this tube-fed semi-auto was the mainstay of paper catalogs and hardware stores. Today, the Model 60 is still prevalent, the stuff of many pawn shops and any reasonably stocked gun counter, despite the onslaught of other excellent competitive options, namely the Ruger 10/22.

The 10/22 is quite the chameleon with an aftermarket parts selection that can bridge the gap between recreation and tactical, yet the Marlin Model 60 still hangs on in mostly stock form, largely unchanged since its introduction with little aftermarket support. The Model 60 is available in a number of stock configurations between synthetic and the original birch stock, with and without sling studs, with all new models sporting the same fifteen-shot tubular magazine. The iron sights are basic though the Model 60 has a grooved receiver to take a 3/8-inch scope mount. The Model 60 has a pedestrian look with few plastic stocks, few rails, and certainly no high-capacity magazines available on the market.

In a world of cheap plastic stocks and bulky glowing sights, the Model 60 is almost a culture shock. It is traditional in every sense and with some holiday funds, I picked up a new manufactured Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle. So how is it?

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle First Impressions

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Trigger and Bolt
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Trigger and Bolt. The bolt locked in it’s half-way position. You can see the cross-bolt safety and forward bolt release.

Fresh from the cage at my local Academy Sports, my Model 60 was ready for action. The Model 60 comes in many variations including composite stocks, stainless steel furniture, with or without sling swivels, but mine is a base model. Blued steel mated to a plain walnut stock. The Model 60 has a thick nineteen-inch barrel with its distinctive fifteen-shot tubular magazine below, much like the ramrod to a muzzleloader. The stock is plain except for a semi-pistol grip incorporated at the wrist. It is capped with a hard-plastic butt plate and is matted to the barreled action via a single large set screw.

There is nothing poking out of the rifle. No rails, not even sling swivels, which was a bit of an annoyance since other models incorporate provisions for a sling. The sights are also nothing to write home about. The rear notch is coarsely adjustable for windage and elevation, and the front post can be moved for windage in its dovetail. They are plainly blued and relatively low profile compared to the 10/22 and most other new 22 rifles today. I did not expect anything fancy with such a utilitarian rifle, but I was a little off-put at the incorporation of hard polymer of trigger guard instead of steel. I would wager that such a small detail wouldn’t be a deal breaker for most, including me. What did strike me as fancy is Marlin’s “Micro-Groove” rifling in the barrel that is supposed to reduce deformation of the bullet and allow for better accuracy. The last-round hold open and bolt release are features not found on most 22 caliber rifles. In addition to the included iron sights, we still get a 3/8 inch dovetail in the receiver designed for the mounting of a rimfire scope. The manual safety is of a standard cross bolt type behind the trigger guard.

Marlin Model 60 Rifle Front Sight
Marlin Model 60 Rifle Front Sight. The sights are basic but adjustable in their dovetails. The rear sight features a slider which can be moved to raise or lower the point of impact

Despite a few beefs, the Marlin Model 60 has a durable, outdoorsy look and feel with some useful features. But in the back of my mind, I was already comparing it to the Ruger 10/22, namely because the 10/22 was my first 22 rifle. But countless people cut their teeth on the Model 60 and I was curious to see how well it performed.

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle On The Range

Loading the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Ammunition Tube
Loading the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Ammunition Tube: Loading the tube magazine. You can get speed loaders, but doing it one round at a time is the cheapest way to go.
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle with CCI 22Lr Ammunition
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle with CCI 22Lr Ammunition. A fifty-yard group with the CCI Mini Mag ammunition. 2.2 inches. I tend to favor to the left when shooting iron-sighted rifles.
Boxes of Assorted 22LR Ammunition
Boxes of Assorted 22LR Ammunition

On an icy morning, I packed unusually light and headed out to Dayton Gun Range to put the Marlin Model 60 through its paces. I brought along five hundred rounds of ammo including high velocity and subsonic 22LR varieties.

Operationally, the Model 60 is straightforward to load. I was used to the tubular magazines like those found on Henry rifles. The brass tube spring pulls out from its notch via a knurled knob at the end and you pull the tube out far enough to expose the loading port. Drop your rounds in and replace the tube. Grab the knurled charging handle, pull it back, and let it fly forward to chamber your first round.

When the gun is empty, the bolt locks half-way back for safety, but dropping the bolt release does not pick up a fresh round once you refill the magazine tube.

I decided to start off by doing a few magazine dumps to test reliability. I fired my first fifteen shots in a few seconds and the Winchester Western 36 grain hollow-points went off like a charm. On my second string, I had problems, problems typical of inexpensive bulk-pack ammo. Five shots in, click. I had a dud round. I reached for the charging handle and pulled it back halfway to re-cock the internal hammer. Click. I racked the bolt all the way to clear the round but not forcefully enough and the next round in the magazine jammed against the round still in the chamber. I had to take the magazine tube out and dump the unfired rounds to clear the jam. I reloaded and tried again. I ended up with another dud round but a brisk rack of the bolt cleared it and I was back in action. The safety is easy enough to use and the trigger is a bit ho-hum with only a little bit of take-up with a clean five-pound break.

Shooting the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle
Shooting the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle

I have had great luck with Winchester ammo in the past but two duds in the magazine convinced me to move on to other ammunition. The other ammunition I brought along included CCI Mini Mag 40 grain, Federal High Velocity Match 40 grain, and CCI Suppressor 45 grain hollow-points. Along with the Winchester fodder, I took an impromptu resting position and fired some twenty-five-yard groups. This distance is easy for a 22, and a typical small-game hunting distance. All did well but the relatively weak CCI Suppressor ammunition did the best with a .87 inch five-shot group. This subsonic offering also cycled reliably throughout testing, exceptional considering 22 caliber autoloaders tend to be sensitive to the power level of the rounds you put in them.

On a proper rest at fifty yards, I had little trouble. But it seems the iron sights, dead on at twenty-five required a bit of raising on the slider for rounds to hit to the point of aim at fifty yards. All ammunition did well, but the CCI Mini Mags bucked the wind and reached the target tightly, with a group measuring just under two-inches and favoring slightly to the left.

Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird silhouette Targets Shot with the Marlin Model 60 Rifle
Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird silhouette Targets Shot with the Marlin Model 60 Rifle. My twenty-five yard groups. Bottom left: Federal HV Match; Bottom right: Winchester Western. Top left: CCI Mini Mag; Top right: CCI Suppressor.

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Quirks A-Plenty

As the test wore on and my Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird splatter target supply got depleted, I began to realize that the rumors of great accuracy were true. All the same, I realized by then that the rifle had some quirks. The iron sights are low profile and coarse, except for the front sight which is adequately thin. I didn’t have trouble seeing my bullseyes. Accuracy was excellent, though it is going to be up for debate whether it has to do with the fact that the barrel is thicker or that “Micro-Groove” rifling.

Reliability was close to one hundred percent, though we can’t ignore those dud Winchester rounds. Clearly an ammunition problem, however that ammunition had few if any problems in other firearms used. Thus is the nature of rimfire rifles, finding loads the rifle likes. Fortunately, the Marlin digested everything else, even those subsonic rounds which I initially believed wouldn’t cycle the action.

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Butt Plate
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle Plastic Butt Plate: The plastic butt-plate is grippy enough and offers the stock adequate protection from the ground.

Aesthetically, the Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle is pleasing to look and own but it won’t win beauty contests. Nor will it win in the speed-reloading category. Without a speed-loading device, I had to put my rounds in one by one. Fine when you are indoors before a hunt, but not so fine in the cold weather. I was a bit clumsy with numb hands and I suspect the lack of sensation would extend to gloved hands as well. The magazine tube will need to be emptied in case of a double-feed caused by dud rounds, which isn’t quite as easy as dropping a box magazine and getting to work. With that said, out of the box, having a fifteen-round magazine is healthy with no additional investment and only one magazine needs to be made that works, the one on the rifle.

Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle parts breakdown
Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle parts breakdown. Take down is straightforward once you use an allen wrench to unscrew the two retaining screws at the underside of the rifle.

A Luke Warm Reception

The Marlin Model 60 Semi-Automatic Rifle was the first auto-loading 22 rifle I have played with in a long time and I spent my own dollars on it. I am aware of faster-loading propositions and I am aware reports of some new Marlin rifles not functioning well out the box. But from this test, the Model 60 is worth the $150 I paid for it. It is probably the least expensive major-brand 22 rifle still around and that price is paid in dividends on the range.

The only facets I would change on the 60 are the inclusion of a steel trigger-guard to match the rest of the rifle [after-market option available] and I feel the bolt should be configured to strip off a new round once the release is hit. Relatively minor gripes considering that over eleven million Model 60s have been produced. It is still around, in my opinion, because it doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. It is a working gun and going forward, that is how mine is going to be treated.

 


Terril Hebert
Terril Hebert

About Terril Hebert:

Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle.

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    WombatRonald TylerNorth Missouri Squirrel SlayerJames HigginbothamAnsel Hazen Recent comment authors
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    Ronald Tyler
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    Ronald Tyler

    what do I use to keep my new Marlins wood stock oiled and cleaned?

    North Missouri Squirrel Slayer
    Guest
    North Missouri Squirrel Slayer

    DIP does offer some interesting METAL replacement parts for the Marlin 60 and other Marlin rifles. The Tactical Trigger Guard and improved trigger looks like a WINTER TRIGGER GUARD… “to me”. http://www.diproductsinc.com/Products.aspx?CAT=3603
    MCARBO offers a trigger and recoil springs kit that might be worth having.
    https://www.mcarbo.com/

    Wombat
    Member
    Wombat

    I’ll second the M*Carbo trigger and spring set. My daughter shoots Sporter competition with a Marlin 60, and the M*Carbo trigger and spring change has made a huge difference.

    James Higginbotham
    Guest
    James Higginbotham

    i won three of these Rifles.
    they are great 22’s

    James Higginbotham
    Guest
    James Higginbotham

    i meant OWN NOT WON LOL.

    brad
    Guest
    brad

    I’ve significantly upgraded several Model 60’s (not that they really needed it) just for fun and I still own a couple of them that are quite remarkable, in function and looks, etc. They’ve always been one of my favorite plinker’s.

    If you want to do some great upgrades on your Model 60’s, check out DIP Products. (Diversified Innovative Products) Go to: http://www.diproductsinc.com/Products.aspx?CAT=3603

    They manufacturer several high-end parts for Marlin’s at reasonable prices, I’ve been using them for years and have never been disappointed.

    Joe in CT
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    Joe in CT

    My first firearm. Mine is branded Western Auto, bought it in ’73 for $19.95 at the auto parts store.

    Hardy Spires
    Guest
    Hardy Spires

    I ha e an Otasco model with an anniversary metal decal on the stock. I paid more for mine. I bought it around the end of the 70’s. I haven’t shot it in years. The last time that I shot it I had a lot of trouble with the lead rounds. I want to dig it back out and try it with some hard nosed CCI or some like them. Mine even came with a scope on it. I bet it hasn’t had over a couple of hundred rounds fired from it.

    Ansel Hazen
    Guest
    Ansel Hazen

    You beat me Joe, $39.95 at KMart when I turned 16. ’73 also. I still have it. Still shoot it.

    Put a cheap red dot on it Terril and it can be even more accurate.

    Patrick
    Guest
    Patrick

    My dad gave me my first gun, a Golden 39A, and ever since I have been rather found of Marlins. I bought my model 60 about 25 years ago for less than a 100 round box of 9 will cost you today. I also have a 10/22, a gift from my wife. It was four times as much, a lot “prettier” with its SS and grey laminated stock, but no where near as fun to shoot. They both almost always make it to the range, my wife prefers the Ruger, but I shoot my model 60 ten times as much… Read more »

    Jim
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    Jim

    I bought my first rifle in 1978, an 18 shot Marlin 60 and paid $28 for it brand new in the box. I shot many a 1/2″ group with a 3X9 Weaver scope at 50 yards for the first 20,000 rounds. I still have that old rifle but after about 35 to 40,000 rounds now it will only hold a 4″ group at 50 yards. Now I am giving my grandsons each their first rifle, you guessed it, a new Marlin 60.

    Hardy Spires
    Guest
    Hardy Spires

    Try giving it a good cleaning. Your barrel may have some fouling built up in it. The lead rounds are notorious for that.

    Jim
    Guest
    Jim

    I had a Model 60 back in the late 60’s. Funny I bought a 10/22 and had nothing but problems with the stock 10 round magazine. It was very very fussy. .LOL. I took it back to the store and bought a Model 60 and it shot round after round with out a problem. I shot it for years and after falling on hard times as a young married man I sold it for Bill’s.. It was some years later and several conversions later about how I just hated the 10/22 I Bought a new Marlin model 60 in Walnut… Read more »

    Don in Arkansas
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    Don in Arkansas

    I bought a Model 60 in the early 60s. It has a 17+1 capacity. Lots of rounds through that thing over the years with no problems other than the occasional dud round as noted in the article. I put an inexpensive 1-4x scope on it and any squirrel or other varmint is in serious danger. I did kill one coyote with it at about 125 yards a few years back.

    191145
    Guest
    191145

    I have an old marlin model 75. Its about 4-6 inches shorter fires s/l/lr and has same capacity as model 60.Paid &25 bucks for it 25 years ago. Love it.

    Roger J
    Guest
    Roger J

    I have owned a Model 60 for years and it has seen much use, as I used it to train college students. The white plastic buffer, visible in the action group in the field strip photo, is a weak point and prone to crack with age and continued use. I would advise keeping an extra one handy if you will be shooting this rifle a lot.

    Joe
    Guest
    Joe

    I have had the same problems with my marlin 60. A few dud rounds and failure to eject were common. After adjusting the eject wire and gently honeing the slides edges to remove any burrs the rifle works almost flawlessly.