MY MARLIN CAMP CARBINE 9
by AK Church
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Some rifles you want, then go out and get. Some you look for over a lifetime. Some you sort of have thrust into your face. My Marlin M9 "Campus Carbinus" is one of the last type.
I probably never would have gone out and purchased one of these. I took it in on a payday loan to a co-worker as security. A default made it all mine. I got into it cheaply enough that I figured it might be easy to turn it for a slight profit at the next gun show, especially since it is a terrifying;
These rifles were introduced by Marlin back around 1985. They were a substantial departure from the company's line of lever rifles, .22s and bolt action turkey guns. Intended as a light security firearm for wilderness use, they also see considerable use as centerfire plinkers using cheaper ammo than the once ubiquitous SKS. These excel as plinkers, and 9X19 will toss the can far higher than a .22lr is able. A limited number also apparently serve as patrol carbines for rural police officers, a role for which they might not be ideal. It would serve as a small to medium game rifle, but would not be my first, second or eighteenth choice for the role. You could kill a deer with it if you had to, but that doesn't make it a deer rifle. Despite the federal classification as a dread assault weapon, it would not be my first or ninetieth choice to carry in an infantry assault.
Mechanically, these are 9X19 caliber, blowback operated semiautomatic carbines feeding from a box magazine. Barrel is just past the 16" Federal minimum. Length overall is a compact 35 ½", and Marlin declares weight @ 6 ¾ pounds. Mine weighs, in stock trim, a full ¼ pound more, leading me to believe that my piece of New England birch is especially dense. 7 pound 9 m/ms sure don't kick much.
The safety is in the front of the trigger guard, and mimics the arrangements of the M1 Garand or Ruger Mini 14. This is a great manual safety, and works well with bulky gloves. The rifle also has a magazine safety, alas. Note: The trigger guard and magazine well are constructed of a plastic compound which can be DISSOLVED by several commercial cleaning compounds including Birchwood Casey's GunScrubber.
Marlin builds another variation of this rifle in .45 ACP as the Model .45. These are thoughtfully set up to use cheap and abundant M1911 magazines. I've never shot one of these, but they have an appeal. Next to .38 Special, you see more cheap reloading components at gun shows for .45 ACP than any other cartridge. Rumors abound of a version in .40 Smith. This would involve some serious engineering as bolt velocities on the 9 m/m version are already pretty severe. My money says it won't happen.
The condition of the early (1986 from the sales ticket) production carbine was nearly mint. The previous owner had equipped it with a Weaver K4 scope, one Marlin factory hi-cap mag, (interchanges with good quality specimens of the Smith and Wesson M59 series magazines), and a surprisingly functional 15 round Ram-Line brand magazine.
The latter purveyor also provided a truly ugly folding stock
It's not my favorite to shoot, but it does render the little carbine noxious to our nation's tooth-fairy politicians (who in turn are noxious to real Americans). The prominently protruding pistol grip and magazine render this firearm into an assault weapon under the definitions of the dishonest 1994 "Crime Bill". While I love offending the sanity impaired with this configuration, the actual shooting of it is more enjoyable with the factory's "walnut stained hardwood". I occasionally do attach the folder to the rifle, and do not rob liquor stores, shoot up fast food dives or schools with it.
As often happens, I got interested in how the little pistol caliber rifle performed. The previous owner claimed to have less than 100 rounds through it, and a disassembly seemed to bear that out. I advise you to have the takedown & reassembly instruction section of the owners manual in front of you the first few times you detail this rifle. They are easier to disassemble than any Moisin-Nagant or Winchester 1897, but there are a couple of intersections where you can get lost trying to put it back together. Unfortunately, reassembly requires several pivoting things around the chamber and ejection port be reinstalled in exactly the right sequence and position. If the hammer strut on your Ruger Mark II frustrates you, this will frustrate you more
The rifle required a brief break-in period of less than 100 rounds. During that period I had a couple of stoppages, both of the failure to feed persuasion (Remington's disappointing 115 JHP), and a stovepipe. Then it settled in, and hasn't bobbled since, save one magazine related exception. I got rid of the 'scope, the fold-o-matic commando stock, and commenced using the good factory stock and marginal factory irons. Accuracy was 1-2 inches at 50 yards, and it demonstrates the nice quality of printing half a dozen sorts of hardball at more or less the self same 50 yard zero. It hates Winchester white box generic, and throws buckshot patterns with it. Feed it Russian, Fiocchi Nato, UMC, S&B, Federal, or PMC, and it will print 2 inches or less. After the break-in period, my sole failures to function came from a cheapo hi-cap mag I had mail ordered. It now sleeps with the fishes. I now have one Marlin factory 12 rounder, one JamLine (the only reliable one I've ever seen) , and half a dozen Model 59 mags of actual S&W manufacture. The rifle now is as reliable as a Honda Civic.
I have a couple of boxes of CorBon's wunderbar +P 115 jhp. The Marlin Corporation is OK with +P ammo in this rifle, but not +P+. I'd love to zero the rifle with CorBon, and chronograph it. It is so expensive to replace I haven't been able to brave doing that. I suspect if I were using this as a primary house gun instead of a Model 10 Smith, I'd just bite the bullet and zero it in with CorBon.
I ended up with a quantity of Winchester's encapsulated 148gr subsonic load. I'm not a fan of slow bullets in this caliber, and the non-expanding nature of this bullet is another minus point. That said, this stuff will go in at 50 yards only about ¾" apart, and do it reliably. I don't just shoot my supply of this stuff up. I have 3 rifles which will group their best with some Winchester factory load.
The factory open notch iron sights are, to my thinking, marginal. They lack a lot of adjustment, and aren't very visible.
I've replaced them with a Williams Foolproof aperture rear sight.
The receiver on these is tall, it makes the Williams sight sit way up there. A taller front sight is called for.
In the end I've used the tallest front ramp and FireSight bead they make. These sights are vast improvement in both visibility and precision. I recommend this setup. It will probably prove useful to Loc-Tite the mounting screws on the rear sight. It sits right over a bolt moving at atomic velocity, and screws do want to loosen up.
Trigger pull is acceptable. Mine is slightly long, awfully spongy, and surprisingly light. I have no trigger pull gauge, but I'll guesstimate 6 pounds. It's no Canjar, but it's no real hindrance to decent work, either. My Mossberg 500 shotgun has a worse trigger pull.
I've read someone state that the 9 m/m cartridge will reach its maximum velocities at somewhere around 10-12 inches of barrel, and that past that the extra barrel will start slowing things down through bore friction. I can't lay my hands on the data, but the one time the Miles Fortis and myself chronographed this rifle against his Browning Hi-Power and ten inch Uzi subgun, the Uzi beat the Marlin on all velocities. The Marlin was about the same speed as the Browning. This with several factory loads of 115-148 grains.
(note from the Miles Fortis: Following is a table from a test performed several years ago by the webmaster at sixgunner)
9 mm Velocity Comparisons
Colt Combat Commander vs. Marlin Camp Carbine
Colt Commander (4 1/2" barrel) Marlin Carbine (16 1/2" barrel)
LOAD VELOCITY VELOCITY Difference
115 gr. JHP 1175 fps 1318 fps +143 fps
124 gr. JHP 1098 fps 1292 fps +194 fps
147 gr. JHP 962 fps 987 fps + 25 fps
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
115 gr. JHP 1145 fps 1205 fps + 60 fps
124 gr. JHP 1148 fps 1296 fps +148 fps
147 gr. JHP 1017 fps 1047 fps + 30 fps
147 gr. FMJ 930 fps 1050 fps +120 fps
113 gr. JFP 1235 fps 1369 fps +134 fps
The Carbine averaged 107 fps faster than the handgun.
Here's the plus to that velocity situation. Expanding bullets designed around handgun velocities are still basically moving at handgun velocities. They shouldn't over expand or under penetrate.
Reliability has been good, and I have around 1500 rounds through this rifle now. I wouldn't hesitate to use this with a good expanding bullet load as a house gun, at least within the limits of the cartridge. Be aware, Marlin states that this design requires a detail strip and thorough receiver cleaning around every 250 rounds. I've never run mine that far before cleaning, but the rifle will for a fact get absolutely M16 filthy inside after less than 100 rounds, especially if you shoot European ammo with mucho graphite in the powder. The AMERICAN RIFLEMAN test review ca. July-August '85 had their bolt hold-open fail out slightly past 250 rounds, owing to it being choked on powder crud.
I do very little reloading in this caliber. I know of at least a couple of acquaintances who reload "nine em-em" in carbines. Powders well regarded for the purpose include Blue Dot and Accurate Arms #7. Friend Mic McPherson regards AA7 as the powder of preference. Be aware that the Micro-Groove rifling has a mixed reputation with cast bullets. I retain a beloved but dog rough 1949 vintage half magazine Marlin 336SC in .30WCF precisely because it is of the ancient and forgiving Ballard rifling, and likes cast bullet loads. I've not tried cast lead reloads in this 9 m/m Micro-Groove rifle, and likely never will.
I like this rifle. It's fun for plinking. If I lived in a more remote location, I'd consider it as a house gun, even the primary house gun. Accuracy is surprising, and my Marlin will shoot rings around the one Ruger PC I've fired. That may be the huge aperture on the Ruger rear sight however. The Ruger is mechanically simpler to clean.
One other down side to the rifle is the spare parts availability-and that's a pretty big down side. I like a spare extractor, firing pin, spring set, retainers, and easily lost anything, but Marlin restricts availability of parts pretty intensely on this rifle. I'm working on non-Marlin sources.
I live in a state which is not Class 3 friendly, and which has a governor who loathes gun owners. That takes in a lot of them, doesn't it? Those persons living in Free America should be aware that variations of the Model 9 are produced (outside of Marlin) with suppressors and much shorter barrels. I have heard a few were converted pre '86 to select fire. I've not seen or shot these, nor do I know anyone who has. If you have done so LEGALLY, write me and tell me about it. The suppressor variants seems especially intriguing, but my concerns about the need to clean and detail strip rear up in my mind. Suppressed guns are noted for getting internally filthy in a hurry.
SMALL ARMS REVIEW, one of the coolest gunslicks in the US, carries advertising from quiet Marlin builders on occasion. Subscribe to it.
As set up, my rifle carries 2 spare magazines on a buttstock caddy,
a cheap gun show M14 sling, and the Williams iron sights. Ready to go this setup weighs over 7 ¾ pounds but, is pretty self contained. No gunsmithing at all has been done to this rifle. I transport it in a discontinued Galati padded case designed for the similar sized M1 carbine, which is nearly perfect for the job.
It's a keeper.
Since this article was written in late 1999, Marlin has discontinued production of the series. It is my suspicion the Ruger 9 m/m PC carbine has everything to do with this decision. For more fan information regarding the Camp Carbine, click here: http://members.aol.com/fourn6/camp9.html.
A K C
AK likes to attach useful or interesting letters from readers to his articles. Please state in your letter if he may use your correspondence. He can do this with or without your name or address, according to your wishes. Email him here. NOTE: Author Church regrets that he is unqualified to do appraisal, and cannot establish a value on your gun.
Email recvd by AK Church on 29 Aug 2002:
Enjoyed your article on the model 9. I have one that needs the the whole bottom end........the one you stated that would melt. I have a good barrel, bolt and stock. Do you know where I can buy these parts? Thanks for your time.
Gun Parts Corp carries most, perhaps all Camp Carbine parts.
I don't know if it's legal over there in the USA (it is in Belgium), but you can easily fit 20 or even 25 round magazines made for the CZ-75 in it... It takes minor modifications but it looks ugly. Another item that will dress up your carbine is a "slip on" muzzle break from Choate. I don't have one of these cause nobody seems to import them in Europe.
(email withheld by request)
Email received on 30 Sept 2002:
Found the link to your Camp 9 article via WevFerret (a search tool).
Thanks. Good, real, hands-on info. I've been thinking about one, for me. Interesting unit. I especially like the S&W mag compatibility. I've a Daewoo DP51 that also accepts (and likes!) the S&W mags. My feeling is that the Camp 9 would make a good companion arm for the DP51.
Two weps, one loadout. Handy. Simple.
(name withheld by request)
Posted 31 January 2003:
I read your article on your camp carbine and noticed in the viewer feedback at the end that someone else who wrote you mentioned they had a Daewoo dp51. I was wondering if you could supply me with the email address of the 9/30/02 respondant or give my email to that person. I would like to ask them a few questions about the Daewoo. Thank you very much for your help.
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