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Tweaking the Marlin 880

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Tweaking the Marlin 880

Postby practice-more » Sat Mar 25, 2017 2:47 pm

I have a Marlin 880 from about 20 years ago when I was a kid. It has dispatched its fair share of squirrels and pop cans for sure.

With all the target shooting I have been doing lately, I got interested in shooting it again. A friend had just picked up a Ruger American 22 as an inexpensive alternative to shooting our other centerfire rifles. This seemed like a great way to get some more trigger time without spending much money.

Shooting the gun a few weeks ago, with a variety of ammo, it produced several different 50 yard 5-shot groups in the 1.5"+ range. There were a few under that and quite a few over. The first thing that was very noticeable was the terrible trigger, heavy and slow. The second was that the 4x scope on the gun completely covered a 1" target dot at 50 yards.

This left me thinking about a new 22 to "one-up" my buddy. But first, I thought I would see what my old Marlin was capable of.

I'm still amazed at what you can find on the internet. I found a couple options for replacement triggers, but I also found a couple tutorials for doing a trigger job. It looked like a pretty simple trigger to work on so I thought I would see what I could do about the 8 lb gritty trigger it had. I used a 1000 grit stone and smoothed out all the faces of the mechanism, looking to reduce any friction. I also worked on very carefully smoothing out the sear contact surfaces. This was a big improvement, and coupled with replacing the trigger spring, I got a much smoother trigger with what I would guess is a 3 lb pull.

Only one problem, with the smooth, lighter trigger, now I could feel a ton of travel. This was improved by installing a shim to decrease the sear engagement by approximately 0.012". A shim was a less permanent modification than simply filing down the sears themselves. The felt travel was greatly reduced and, by my standards, the gun is still safe. The safety works as designed and the gun does not fire when the bolt is slammed or the gun is bumped on the buttstock.

I shot the gun again this morning and I'm really happy with how it turned out. Prone with a rear bag, at 50 yards, 3 of the 7 types of ammo I had printed 5-shot groups under 1" with the best two being 0.6" and 0.7". I was fighting an 8 ish mph cross wind so I think at least one other ammo shot well but the group appeared strung out horizontally.

Overall I'm very happy with how it turned out and how the gun is shooting. I think this test shows the gun is a capable shooter is justifies some better optics. Right now I'm leaning toward the Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x40 AO. It might be a little more than I need on this gun, but it would be a great basic scope that I could move around if I needed to.

I'll post a couple photos later when I get them off my phone.

Mitch
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Re: Tweaking the Marlin 880

Postby practice-more » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:47 pm

I tried 7 different types of ammo. The first 2 are high velocity and the rest were "target" type loads with are typically considered standard velocity.

Remington Thunderbolt
Winchester SuperX, Super Speed Hollow Point Copper Plated
CCI Standard Velocity
RWS Target Rifle
SK Standard Plus
Aguila Rifle Match
Eley Target

The Remington is the cheapest, followed by the Winchester and CCI and then the rest are fairly close in price at around $7/100.

I was happy about how the Rem Thunderbolt shot, especially since I have 2 500 round bulk boxes of it. The Eley shot well, as did the RWS. I think the CCI's will also shoot well and the large group is due to wind.

Here are a few of the 5-shot 50 yard groups with a quarter for reference.

Mitch
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Re: Tweaking the Marlin 880

Postby Fitter » Mon Mar 27, 2017 2:14 pm

Cool. You mention trigger pull.

Back when I was young, several of my first guns, purchased from paper route money, were old clunkers to be sure.

The one thing I always noticed was the difference in the trigger. Especially on a 30-30 I bought for my first rifle with money from my own pocket. Now, I didn't actually know it went beyond the trigger itself. I just thought all guns were different. I never thought to mention to my dad and I'm not sure he would have known there was an issue we could have addressed anyway.

I was still too young to deer hunt so I would shoot with my dad during the summer months. But after the first season of target practice the bolt began sticking. Off to the gunsmith's to look for a fix. I began hating this gun. It didn't shoot nearly as nice or accurate as Dad's 243. Either of us could shoot the top off a milk jug at 100 yards with his gun. Good luck getting those results with my 30-30. I was kinda feeling like I got ripped off.

Anyway the gunsmith was able to fix the bolt and he cleaned the gun and adjusted the trigger. When I heard this it made me nervous and dad cautious so he asked about the changes. I don't remember the explanation, but when I shot that gun for the first time again it was like a different gun. The biggest change was the trigger. It felt smooth as glass. And that improved my shooting.

Ironically, the only deer I've ever shot, firearm or bow, that I didn't recover took place when using that gun. Enormous 8 point buck dropped like a rock, got back up and staggered into the woods. Hardly ever bled more than a drop for nearly a mile before the trail ran cold.

That damn deer still haunts me. :evil:
What you do in the dark will someday come to light.
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Re: Tweaking the Marlin 880

Postby practice-more » Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:33 am

Triggers make a big difference, I'm not a fan of super light triggers, but minimal creep and a clean break are a must.

Funny that you should mention the ole 30-30. That is going to be my next project. I have a Henry that I plan to load some very low recoil cowboy action type loads for using Hodgdon Trail Boss powder. I'm hoping to get 150 grain bullets down to about 1200 fps. I know it won't be a practical hunting load, but is should be a ton of fun to shoot all summer.

Oops, I just hijacked my own thread. I'll start another on the 30-30 progress once I get it going.

Back on task, who else likes shooting their rimfires, what work have you done to them, and what groups are you getting?

It would be fun to plan an informal meet and greet this summer. Any chance we could get a group of us together somewhere for a weekend, camping, shooting and telling stories ....

Mitch
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Re: Tweaking the Marlin 880

Postby practice-more » Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:10 pm

I decided that this gun is worthy of some better optics. I ended up putting on a Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x40AO.

The adjustable objective is really a necessity for the range of shots with a 22. There is a much larger objective focus change required between 25 and 50 yards than there is at longer ranges outside of 100. This scope will focus down to 10 yards, just perfect for the application.

Got it all mounted up on Friday night and put it though the paces on Saturday morning. The CCI Standard ammo from the previous tests shot well. I also found a good deal at L&M a few weeks back and I picked up 1,000 rounds. I'm sure it won't last long.

I shot a couple 50 yards groups that were in the 0.75" range. Once I had a good 0, I put the data into StreLok (phone ballistic app) and dialed the turret to a 7.25 moa come up. It was a little breezy, but groups at 100 yards were about 2.5", plenty good enough to ring the 3" and 4" gongs my friend had brought over.

I even got my wife involved. She shot 4/5 on the 4" gong at 100 yards and 5/5 on the 1.5" gong at 50 yards. The scope seems to track consistently when going back and forth between the two distances.

Now I just need to build a couple more gongs. We have found that 1/4" plate steel works just fine for standard velocity rimfire ammo.

Mitch
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