Getting right to the point, I like the Marlin X7 rifles. The Marlin received for the review was the XS7S, a short action .243 Winchester with stainless barrel/receiver and black synthetic stock. Taking it out of the box and shouldering it for the first time, my first impression was 'this rifle feels good'. The rifle is solid and does not have the feel of something that was put together hastily to save on production cost. It is surprisingly light weight and has a nice balance. This rifle looks very nice and is aesthetically clean in appearance. Sliding in the bolt for the first time also gave the impression of a good, solidly built rifle. I began to wonder, is this really an 'entry level' rifle?
Marlin has been producing the X7 model since 2008 with the XS7S just being introduced this spring. It is also available in camo/blued and synthetic/blued. In addition to the short action (XS7), Marlin does have a long action version (XL7), a youth version (X7Y) and a varmint version (X7VH).
The barrel screws into the breech and is secured in place with a locking nut. This method of attaching the barrel to the breech allows for headspace clearance to be adjusted to the tightest tolerances and makes a good, rigid connection, both of which improve accuracy.
The slightest little nick at the muzzle on the edge of the bore can dramatically affect accuracy. Recessing the crown is a common way to protect the muzzle and provide the greatest potential accuracy. The Marlin X7 has a very nice recessed target-style muzzle crown. The crown is recessed about 1/32" and then chamfered at 45 to the bore opening adding another 1/32" to the recess of the bore opening from the end of the barrel.
Surprisingly, the barrel is not free floating. Instead, the X7 stock has two small square pads on the inside of the forearm that provides stock to barreled action alignment. These pads help the barrel settle back to the same place that contributes to shot after shot accuracy.
Worth Noting Of the four rifles reviewed, this is the only one not offered in a package with a scope. It does come with a single piece scope base that attaches in front of and behind the breech, and is already attached from the factory. The staff at Bushnell recommended a Trophy XLT with a Multi-X reticle for this review; it is better quality than most packaged scopes and still has a street price around $100-$120.
The Soft-Tech recoil pad is about 1" thick and has a slight crescent shape. Soft-Tech is a proprietary material used by Marlin for their recoil pads.
The receiver is pillar bedded using two steel pillars mounted in the stock. Pillar bedding is another way to maintain consistent accuracy in a rifle over one that is not.
The synthetic stock is checkered at the forearm and handgrip areas, with a slightly raised cheek piece. The Marlin X7 stock feels more substantial due the wall thickness in certain areas. The visual texture of the material has a very subtle and nice appearance, and it feels good to the touch.
The sling mounts are metal studs screwed into the stock. While it is becoming more common to see synthetic stocks that have integrated holes for attaching sling swivels, I prefer the metal screw-in sling mounts.
The Pro-Fire trigger is user adjustable and has a trigger release to prevent the rifle from accidentally firing if the rifle is dropped. From the factory, the trigger on the evaluation rifle was set at 3 lbs., 2 oz. It can be adjusted down so the sear will break at 2 pounds. Marlin states that there is nearly zero creep in the trigger; on the evaluation rifle, there was a little creep before the sear released.
The bolt is fluted with 2 locking lugs and slides in and out smoothly. The bolt release is on the left side of the action beside the bolt shroud. Pressing down on the release allows the bolt to be removed. Reinstalling the bolt does not require pressing the release.
The safety is behind the bolt handle and to the right of the bolt shroud. It moves very easily forward (fire) and backward (safe) with the thumb. A red 'cocked' indicator is easily seen below the bolt shroud.
The rifle is light weight. Except for the varmint version, the X7 rifle weighs in at 6 to 6 pounds. With a Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40, the XS7S only weighted 7.68 pounds.
Since the magazine is enclosed, loading is done through the ejection port. While the one-piece weaver mount works perfectly fine, I prefer a 2-piece mount on bolt action rifles with an internal box magazine. This gives more room to load the cartridges. To unload, the bolt must be cycled for each round. A trap door for unloading would be nice.
Of the four rifles reviewed, this is the only one not offered in a package with a scope. It does come with a single piece scope base that attaches in front of and behind the breech, and is already attached from the factory. The staff at Bushnell recommended a Trophy XLT with a Multi-X reticle for this review; it is better quality than most packaged scopes and still has a street price around $100-$120.
At the Range: After the initial scope alignment was done with a Bushnell Professional Bore Sighter, the rifle was fired at 75 yards to start. As expected, it was on the paper and easily adjusted to get in the bullseye. During the sighting in process, I noticed that the first two shots were consistently tight and the third shot would float as the barrel got hot. The Marlin produce it's best 3-shot group at 75 yards measuring only .4" using Barnes Vortex 80 gr. Tipped TSX BT.
CONCLUSION: Installing a scope and rings adds to the investment in a Marlin X7. The trigger is very good except for the slight creep. Even as such, this rifle has the look and feel of a rifle costing a couple hundred dollars more. It may have the price of an entry level rifle, but a Marlin X7 would be a good rifle for anyone.