Pistol-Caliber Carbines: The Marlin

Following on from Reader Brad’s escapades with his new Ruger PC-9 carbine, a couple of comments from other Readers piqued my interest.

Specifically, I’m thinking of the Marlin Camp carbine, and still more so, the Camp 45, which was chambered in (duh) .45 ACP and took (most) 1911-type mags.  (I say “most” because mine just wouldn’t load Mec-Gar 1911 mags, even after I had a gunsmith look into it.)

The good news first:  I loved my Camp 45 dearly.  It was more fun than should be allowed without the exchange of body fluids, and the 16″ barrel made the lethargic .45 ACP into, relatively speaking, quite a speedster.  (A 230-grain bullet travelling at 1,200 fps instead of the normal 850… that’s some serious owie at the naughty end.)  And that was the problem.

The Camp 45 was fragile.  Seriously fragile.  First off, any thought of shooting +P ammo should be ignored, because even with ordinary .45 ACP loads, the recoil did horrible things to the internals over time.  The plastic buffer pad (which was about as useful as a sponge) at the back of the recoil spring was constantly cracking and then disintegrating, meaning that you had to have a ready supply of replacements on hand if you were going to shoot more than a couple hundred rounds in a session.  Someone also mentioned that the stock behind the action was prone to cracking;  in my case, a quarter-sized chip of wood came flying off and dinged me in the forehead.  (No blood, no foul;  but it did give me quite a surprise.)

At one of our Feinstein-Daley Memorial Schutzenfests, I believe it was the Layabout Sailor who completely destroyed his Camp 45 by a three-magazine burst of rapid fire — I mean, I think he used the gun as ballast after that, so complete was the destruction.  (No doubt, he’ll remind me of the details in Comments.)

So here’s the thing about the Camp 45:  as I said, it was and is a lot of fun to shoot.  But as a serious self-defense weapon?  It ain’t that.  And forget any kind of combat usage;  I’d be thanking Vulcan every time I pulled the trigger and it went bang  without the gun breaking.  Even if it looked like this (which, I gotta tell ya, looks like fun too):

Feel free to contradict me if your experience has been any different, but I know only four people who ever owned a Camp 45, and none of us own them anymore — which should tell you all you need to know.

Marlin discontinued the Camp carbines in the late 1990s, which means that only secondhand models are now available.  Caveat emptor.

Afterthought:  I have no experience with Marlin’s Camp 9, by the way, which used Beretta 92-style mags to shoot (duh again) 9mm Europellets.  Feel free to add your comments if you’ve ever owned one, or shot it seriously.


  1. We acquired our Camp 9 second-second-hand. That was the filthiest firearm I ever saw outside of something bushies stole from bushies in some toilet country. We soaked the action in cleaning fluid, swishing it continually for days.

    Then we scrape and dig and fuss some more. After it reasonably resembled a firearm, we plinked some.

    No complaints with any Smith&Wesson magazines nor any aftermarket.

    Light, handy, smooth, accurate.
    Functions fine with any ammunition… including near-squib handloads to see what happens.

    The neighborhood kids and their grannies appreciate the lack of recoil.
    Our example will be an heirloom.

  2. Ouch….gotta disagree. My Camp 45 stands on guard 24×7 as the home defense gun. On advice from several sources I REPLACED with Blackjack Buffer and Wolff recoil spring rated higher than factory. Both available from the major online sources. I have had zero problems for well over 1000 rounds. With a little red dot always on sight it is light and handy for inside the home.

    Living in a slave state I picked this cause it is NOT an AR or AK. Both of which are in the safe. But I did not want to explain to a DA or jury why I used an evil black rifle. It has a totally conventional look. Has wood stock and with a juiced up 45acp round will do the job inside my house.

    Over the last couple of months been toying with replacing with my Ruger 9mm PC carbine. I literally got an answer 2 days ago from Underwood ammo regards ammo choice for 16 inch barrel. The extra 300fps+ can cause havoc with wonderful self defense bullets. HST bullets BREAK UP in gel tests. The velocity envelope for pistol bullets is very narrow. Hence looking at the Underwood stuff. Their recommendation for home defense is the 9mm+P xtreme defender ammo. Me likey this much.

  3. I got my Marlin Camp 45 many years ago after your recommendation. I loved the gun but like you I was afraid I would break the stock with that massive bolt that is in it. Recently I acquired a CMMG MKG Guard in 45ACP that takes Glock Mags (27rds). It is wonderful to shoot. The Radial Delayed Blowback bolt tames the recoil and is lightweight.

  4. I never understood making a gun that was ‘hobby rated’ vs ‘military rated’. A gun should run regardless. I own one, but it sits in the back of the safe. After fussing with it a bit, I bought a MechTech CCU for a 1911 and mounted it on a Colt Series 80 Lower (the Colt had been ruined by a would-be home gunsmith, so I got it for kibbles). The CCU has never had a problem, and runs all regular 1911 magazines (I bought a handful of 15 rounders in ’94 which I couldn’t get to work well in any 1911).

    I like the idea of pistol and rifle using the same ammo, and being able to use the same magazines is even better.

    p.s. thanks Gun Professor, I’ll look at getting and installing those upgrades, assuming they’re still available.

        1. Indeedy…I actually found the 11 lb factory spring VERY light. If one likes, go with the 16 lb spring first as an improvement over factory.

          Remember in semi auto handguns folks are always playing with or replacing springs after so many round count. The Marlin is such a simple design it begs to play with this key part.

          1. For those interested here is link to very nice video on doing the replace of buffer. But you can see also how easy the spring replace is. Also notice the WHITE factory buffer that just crumbled away. Dont know the material that they used back when but they ALL fail over time. The blue Blackjack buffer is made of Delrin a modern high performance plastic. It will serve all well to chuck the factory buffer.


            BTW…I have argued that Marlin/Remington had/has a great little pistol caliber design in its house for decades. Yes it could be reworked a bit to “modern” stds. But the proof is in the pudding. Ruger jumped into the market with not much different design and they literally cant keep the line up with the demand. That spells $$$$$.

      1. Thanks very much for the tip on the buffer. I’ve already replaced the recoil spring and yes it feeds very well.

        All I can say is that if you want my Camp .45, you’re going to have to fight my grandson for it. He told me that if I ever sell it he’s done with me.

  5. Kim, you pretty much bagged it in one, on that.

    The Marlin Factory Service people said that it was “Not Repairable”.

    For your reader’s edification, the first symptom of things amiss, was that the barrel had un-screwed itself from the receiver by more than a quarter-turn, instantly followed by the mechanism coming completely derailed inside the receiver.

    Marlin did mention that many of the polymer internals had proven to be *ahem* VERY “Sensitive” to various solvents. But, they didn’t mention “which” solvents. For the record, I’d only used Break Free CLP.

    It’d be a great carbine if someone would upgrade the specs to “duty-grade”, and make all the internals out of forged and machined steel.

    After which, it’d be priced into the stratosphere.

    Echoing JQ from above… I’m hearing lots n’ lots of good things about the Ruger Carbine.

    Conversely, I know Kel-Tec makes a 9mm Carbine. Do they make a .45ACP version though?

    *shuffles off to shop the ‘net*

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  6. I have several pistol caliber carbines. Mostly 9mm and 38/357 calibers. Rossi, Ruger and Hi Point manufacturer. The all go bang and under 50 yards they all hit the mark.

    I have wanted a camp carbine, mostly because I like the name.

  7. Test drove my new PSA 9 mm AR “pistol” today. Only managed about 50 rnds of mixed factory and hand loads but it was 100% reliable with 3 mags. Got run off by freezing rain but plan to run at least a couple hundred additional rounds through her tomorrow. So far, I really enjoy it.

  8. I have a Camp 9. The factory buffer came apart after a couple of years. Replaced the stock buffer with a Blackjack buffer, and the stock recoil spring with a Wolf 16.5# spring. Problem solved.

  9. I inherited a sad Camp Carbine 9 which cycled poorly. Following the Web links mentioned above among others, I disassembled it to find its action full of buffer-turned-to-dust and debris. Replaced same and put in a 16 pound spring. The hammer strut bridge had also failed which was easily replaced via the Web as well. Thoroughly disassembled the trigger group, cleaned and lubed same. Polished the sear and trigger surfaces and greased same. Added sling and scope. Result is good to about 2MOA at 100 yards with cheapo white box FMJ and rock solid dependability. Next step (besides enjoying it a lot at the range) is chronographing its performance with different loads and working with a local ammo manufacturer to optimize their defensive loads for its 16 inch barrel, common to so many other PCCs. Definitely not up to AK or AR performance but fun, cheap to shoot and not a “scary” rifle. Takes 10 to 30 round magazines that are available everywhere. I like it!

  10. @Kim,

    Escapades … heh. Here’s a recap of those escapades.

    I’ve enjoyed my Ruger PC-9 carbine for about a year now. It shoots well, handles well, perceived recoil is mild, is a snap to clean, etc. etc. etc. The little rifle has digested every brand of 9mm I’ve fed it. It eats 115 grain and/or 124 grain with ease. FMJ or JHP – both run just fine. As for mags, it feeds reliably from 10 & 17 round Ruger factory mags as well as from the two ProMag 32-rounders I have. A while back I added an optic, a Nikon P-223 3×32 BDC.

    If I have any complaints about the rifle, I have three …
    1) It really eats up my ammo budget because it is SO MUCH DAMNED FUN
    2) Because it’s a blow-back design, it tends to get really, really dirty
    3) Because it’s a Ruger, it’s a bit heavy

    I have to admit, #1 and #3 above are really features, not detractors. All in all, I’m VERY pleased with my little 9mm boolit-chucker. I’m starting to meet other PC-9 owners, many of whom having switched to Glock mags, giving me a source of 17-rounders on the cheap. Did I mention I have almost a dozen of ‘em? Yeah. Governor Toilet-Yanker can suck it.

    Anyway … future missives of my “escapades” to follow as time permits.

    And BTW – I’m organizing an EBR Rifle Shoot for Memorial Day Weekend. I plan to have my AR project completed by then … so … look out. The greater Chicago Northshore region will never be the same !!!

  11. My Camp 45 was purchased new. I put around 500 rounds through it early on with no issues other than it being a bit hard to clean. The manual warned about cleaning solvents so I never damaged anything. After moving to ill-annoy it was quite a few years before I took it out again, and by then the internet had info on how to make them live longer. The original buffer was in pieces, I bought a replacement from Marlin along with a spare trigger housing in case I ever melted the original, and a replacement bolt stop because the original was getting a bit beat up.

    I put another 500+ rounds through it with heavy spring and new stock buffer, then replaced the buffer with one of the urethane ones. The new bolt stop had much less deformation on it than the original, presumably due to the spring upgrade.

    It has been totally reliable except with bad ammo (A-Merc or steel case) and it is a joy to shoot. When I caught a sale on the Winchester ‘clean’ ammo it even kept the trigger assembly and bolt face very clean through 100 rounds (after a intensive cleaning); it is best to have cleaner ammo if you don’t like doing some scrubbing… It is also very accurate with a red-dot out to 50 yards (I’d bet ok out to 100 but I haven’t had it to an outdoor range since moving here).

    I would have no qualms about having it be a home defense ready gun.

    She’s a keeper.

  12. High Point has a great pistol caliber carbine. You can get them in 9mm, .40 cal & .45 ACP & 10mm. The only drawback from all of the reviews of the various calibers is that you’re limited to 9-13 rounds in the magazines. Other than that, most were shocked that the rifles were so good.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=083T0UmYmG0 TFBTV
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt4Le2SR0dQ&t=1353s Hickock45
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JixHyCKbAL4&t=3s Military Arms Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVizi9nYE1M Duelist1954

    I have one and my wife, who’s not all that much into shooting loves it. SHE keeps it by her side of the bed!

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