Back in 1978 I finally scrounged up enough money for a centerfire rifle. Herter's--remember Herter's ?--put out a catalogue which was my only source of info about guns except for reading Sport Afield in the barber shop. Magazine subscriptions cost too much money and nobody in the family was interested in guns.
Herters advertised a Marlin 336T which I thought was the ultimate rifle and for about $90 as I remember. I ordered one, but it never came. Herter''s keept making excuses and apparently Marlin was working on government contracts, so I couldn't find anyone who had them in stock. I went into the Air Force and the BX got a Mod 94 Antique--octagon barrel and some scroll work engraved on the sides of the receiver. I was ignorant about what Winchester had done to cheapen the Mod 94 in 1964 and also ignorant of hand loading. Through service and law school I didn't have much opportunity for shooting, but when I moved to Asheville I joined the local rifle club and rapidly met a fellow who, among other things was a collector, cast bullet shooter and handloader. Most of what I know about these things Ron Kiser taught me.
I learned about old fashioned American craftsmanship and eventually bought a pre-64 mod 94 and more than one Marlin. I was saddened when Winchester closed its doors and I cringed at what happened to Marlin. Now if one wants a lever gun he pays a fortune for a Japanese Mod 94 (I'm sure it's a well made and accurate rifle, but I'm afraid the damn thing will attack my 03A3 on every 7th of Dec. From what I've read whoever now owns Marlin has spent far too much time working on a trigger safety to set up a quality control department.
There is another way to get a beautiful real Marlin or Winchester. There are some 100-year-old rifles out there with nice bores, no cracks in the stocks, and no dings in the metal for the price of a new lever gun. Personally I much prefer the 1893 to the model 94--much prettier, can accept a scope, and cleans from the chamber. If these are well taken care of the value is not harmed by shooting. Particularly with cast bullets some will shoot with anything made today. I just bought a mod 94 made in 1906 for less than the price of a new Win. It shoots as well as I shoot a Japanese Win, and I just feel better shooting something made in America.