Eastwood Marksman 5
Price: $999 (retail)
Reviving great and unusual designs from the past has been the focus of Eastwood Guitars since their inception in 2001. For well over a decade now, Mike Robinson and his crew of guitar fanatics have resurrected classics from the likes of Airline and Mosrite. In doing so, Eastwood makes available modern renditions of some of the great, esoteric guitar designs of the twentieth century, obviating the need for enthusiasts to scour pawnshops or the dreaded black hole that is the Internet. But there’s an added bonus: Unlike their vintage inspirations, these instruments will intonate and not require major repairs or modifications to be gig-worthy.
In considering the Marksman 5, one might wonder why Eastwood would choose to spotlight the guitar design of a manufacturer better known for their amplifiers. The answer is that the Magnatone Mark V which inspired the Eastwood Marksman 5 was created with the help of one of the fathers of the solidbody guitar, Paul Bigsby.
The Marksman 5 utilizes two large-pole-piece single-coil pickups along with a standard setup comprising volume, tone, and a three-way pickup selector. The body is chambered mahogany for weight reduction, and a set mahogany neck features a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays. The guitar’s 1.625″ nut width and 24.75″ scale length give it a friendly feel, while the hardware includes a roller bridge, a Bigsby vibrato, and a smooth-feeling set of open-gear tuners.
The Marksman 5 was tested using a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Vox AC15, along with an assortment of effects. Out of the gate, the guitar boasted a great feel and setup with well-dressed frets. The neck is full and round without being excessively large, and the Marksman 5 is neither body- nor neck-heavy. The vintage beauty of its ’60s-style three-tone sunburst more than adequately showcases the nicely grained mahogany body. Another classy touch is the guitar’s set of Waverly-type tuners, which, despite their period-correct look, gave a substantial and positive feel while tuning the instrument, yet did not load down the headstock with excessive weight. Eastwood deserves kudos for a fine fit and finish and its choices in hardware and appointments.
Beginning with the selector on the neck pickup, the Marksman 5 was quite round and clear, producing a pleasant and soothing tone. Switching to the bridge pickup, the tone became brighter, as one would expect, but retained the smooth, round quality of the front pickup. The sound of both pickups together was great for fingerpicked parts, with its fine mix of clarity and warmth. No matter the pickup or tone setting, the Marksman 5 impressed with its roundness and complete lack of harshness. But don’t think the Marksman 5 is not versatile – it could certainly get bright, or bassy, yet it exhibited an old, round sweetness to everything that was played through it.
The Bigsby and roller bridge worked just as well as one would hope, allowing everything from delicate flutters to hopped-up whammy action without throwing the instrument horribly out of tune. Of course, delay or reverb enhanced the dreamy quality of the guitar, while adding drive enabled the guitar to create a great wash of sound perfect for a rhythm track. The Marksman 5 was especially fun to play with a germanium fuzz, its sweet and round tone making the fuzz react in a kinder, less spitting fashion that was pleasing to the jaded ear. Overall, the guitar certainly handled effects well, and proved adept as a less “in your face” tonal choice.
The Eastwood Marksman 5 is a great instrument for those who want a Kalamazoo/Gibson feel, with perhaps a more subtle and introspective vibe. Thinking of it as a Melody Maker with a less bluesy tone, along with a handy Bigsby vibrato to enhance its otherworldly vibe, begins to give a good picture of the Marksman 5’s capabilities. The guitar’s roundness of tone, regardless of the area of the neck played or the choice of pickup position, should pull any player in from the get go.
This article originally appeared in VG February 2014 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.