UPDATE Marlin Firearms to Close

UPDATE: I just spoke with some officials from The Freedom Group about the fate of Marlin and they told me that while the North Haven, Connecticut, plant is going to be shut down, they will continue to produce Marlin guns in the future.

Where that's going to happen is still up in the air. I asked whether production will continue in the U.S. and was told that all options were on the table. That said, the company official told me they were going to retain the existing plant's tooling and would give the to-be-laid-off employees the opportunity to apply for work at the new facility, wherever that might be.

The company says what it is certain about is the desire to keep producing Marlins and invest in the brand with no reduction in the variety of lever guns, bolt guns and rimfires.

The timeline for the closing of the existing plant won't be set until a new location for Marlin is identified.

The Model 94 might be back but it looks as though Marlin Firearms is set to close. There's no way to sugarcoat this news: this really stinks.

A 140-year-old icon is disappearing, 256 people are going to lose their jobs and lever-gun fans are going to have to content themselves with browsing the used-gun racks.

For people like me, whose first image of a deer rifle was a lever gun, this is a black day. The virtues of a lever gun are many--they are handy, elegant, effective and, from the perspective of a gun nut, have great histories and are interesting examples of industrial design. It is discouraging to think that they can't be produced in such a way as to be profitable--especially in light of the some of the advances Marlin achieved in partnership with Hornady Ammunition in recent years.

Do lever guns still have a place in the field today? Without a doubt, yes. I used one this last fall up in Saskatchewan for deer and wouldn't have been better served by any other rifle. The compact profile of my Marlin 336C was ideal for the tight confines of the blinds I hunted from and in .35 Rem. delivered plenty of oomph for those big-bodied Canadian bucks.

The last new lever gun I purchased was a Marlin in .308 Marlin Express. I certainly didn't need the rifle from any practical standpoint--I own a dozen other rifles that will do exactly what it can--but I appreciated the effort the company was making to keep their products relevant to modern hunters. I haven't shot it much and my plan was to send it off to Jim West of Wild West Guns to have him convert it into one of his crazy-accurate takedowns. I still might do that but now I'm not so sure. I might want to keep it stock and pristine so that when I take it hunting it will remind me of what was best about Marlin in its final days.