This is a scarce Model 1888 Marlin Rifle with the top-eject action. Marlin manufactured (1888-1890) just 4,800 of these before adopting the Model 1889 rifle with the side-eject bolt and frame. Both the 1888 and 1889 models were designed by L.L. Hepburn of Colton, New York...who previously worked for Remington Arms. Model 1888 rifles don't turn up very often and seldom in such nice condition. This is only the second one we've had since the website began six years ago. The last one we had was around 2006 which in website terms translates to around 700-800 items ago. See link:
This one has a standard 24" octagon barrel with full magazine and crescent buttplate in caliber 38-40. The original cost of this rifle back in 1889 was around $19.50. The barrel has the Marlin 2-line address with the single 1887 dated patent which reads:
*-> MARLIN FIRE ARMS CO. NEW-HAVEN. CT. U.S.A. <-*
PATENTED OCTOBER. 11. 1887.
The top flat of the barrel nearest the frame is marked "38-W" for 38 Winchester, a.k.a. 38-40. The serial number is in the 23,000 range.
We placed a call to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming where the original Marlin records are housed confirmed this rifle's configuration as follows:
Marlin SN 23652
Barrel: 24 inches
Date shipped: 5-11-1889
Please read the physical description of this rifle carefully. While this rifle is exceptionally nice, it does have a few cosmetic blemishes which have influenced the price...otherwise, this would be a $4,000+ gun. The overall condition of this rifle is NRA Antique Fine+. It shows very little wear with most of the finish remaining on the gun...even high wear areas like the upper tang still have most of their original blue. The frame has 80-85% original blue while the barrel and magazine tube show 80% original blue with the balance toning to a smooth brown patina. Top of the bolt still shows 80-85% lustrous original blue with most of the fire blue visible on the extractor. Lever has mostly aged to a smooth brown patina with case colors in the protected areas. Hammer has 35% case colors.
When we acquired this rifle, the gate that covers the loading port...which is basically a long spring...was broken in half. This is fairly common on early Marlin rifles and it's our guess that someone without a lot of experience handling guns attempted to take the gun apart some years ago. From our estimation, it appears that person was unsuccessful and most likely gave up...but not before inflicting some of their frustration on the gun. For starters, they used an improperly sized screwdriver and boogered the heads of several screws...a shame as most of these fasteners still retain much of their original blue finish. They also tried to pry the lower tang out of the frame (probably with the screwdriver) leaving a small but deep blemish to the corner of the frame (see photo) and some minor chipping to bottom of the forewood. We were able to straighten out a few of the slots on the screws but did not want to continue further so as not to harm the original blue on the heads. We were also able to find an original Model 1888 loading gate...which don't exactly grow on trees. We were VERY LUCKY. The replacement gate, even though original was not in as nice shape as the gun. We carefully polished it taking great care to keep the edges sharp and had it fire blued. The results were fantastic...but really too nice and so bright that we had to tone it down so as not to outshine the gun.
The wood is in Fine+ to Excellent condition...still a light orange-red in hue and retaining 80-90% original varnish. It even has a little fiddleback or curl towards the back of the fore-end and some faint striping on the stock. Nice wood-to-metal fit overall...still good, tight and even but with some minor splinters missing around the edges of the upper tang. The contrast between the light walnut and the original blue on the frame and barrel gives this rifle a really pleasing contrast...couple with the wear around the edges and soft patina...it's a wonderful combination of condition mixed with character.
Mechanics are excellent with hammer still working on both full and half-cock position. The bore is in Fine condition...still fairly bright with with strong lands and grooves. Original sights include the long style Marlin Ballard rear and Rocky Mountain front with German silver blade.