My first Marlin 1895 GBL in 45/70 was an off the shelf model that made the trip to Africa in 2007 with some hand loaded bullets and little more. It is still being carried today by one of my fellow PH friends and sees more work than his 500 Nitro double rifle while he undertakes the anti-poaching patrols at Mushingashi Game Conservancy in western Zambia.
However over the last few years and many Marlins later I have realized there are a few enhancements that make the gun more user and Africa friendly - yet these do not need to be fancy and expensive additions. Since my first Marlin I have now worked on and customized roughly 20 guns that have made the trip with me to both Mozambique and Zambia where they have found work in the camps and arsenals of my professional hunter friends - so impressed are we all with these "little Big Bores".
Marlin & Skinner Sights
OK, the new Remlins have a shoddy iron sights system, the back sight flies off if you shoot heavy loads and the front sight on many does tend to lean to one side. However the solace is this - if you are a proud Marlin owner - you're going to replace the iron sights anyway, be it with a scope or one of the red dot or holographic offerings OR better still open or iron sights So don't stress too much about the sights unless you're a PH like me who makes his living off shooting with an open iron sight at fast biting creatures!
Now you see, us Africans are used to those very wide flat rear express sights, the kind they used to put on the fancy English doubles, and we have grown up to snap shoot with those since knee high. Yet most of the American folks tend to think peep or ghost sights when you mention iron sights and this is what I started out trying - namely the offerings from the folks at Skinner Sights - an excellent line up of levergun as well as other rifle sights. What I liked about Skinner was the genuine hand made feel of their machined sights and each one felt perfectly balanced. At first I opted for a sight mounted on the 2 rear receiver screw holes sitting closer to your eye when aiming - I left the front sight the same.
Skinner sell sight sets with the front sight being adjustable by filing it down to suit your rifles particular needs, but being a hard headed African PH I didn't heed their advice (I should have!)This is where the next problem arose! Shooting the heavier bullets (400 plus grains) I kept hitting the target extremely low and could not adjust the sights any further to reach a higher level. Solution was to lower the front sight - and this turned out a little testy and required me buying a whole set of different front sights to try out - most of which did not work out.
Skinners barrel mounted peep sight which worked extremely well, yet still I had the issue with the front sight being too high. From my past experience I tried a new approach, a new stainless front sight ramp which I manually drilled and fixed with a smaller sized shotgun bead and this turned out to be perfect - the ramp itself was slightly lower then the original and this made the difference. What I learned here was that it was very much a scenario of self judgement and trial and error to get the iron sights into synch and it will differ from shooter to shooter. The best bet here is to buy your peep sights from Skinner as a complete set rather than trying to save with just the rear aperture sight.On my next Marlin, a shiny stainless SBL, I tried