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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.