This is a wonderful and very early example of a Marlin Model 1894 Rifle in the highly desirable caliber 44-40. Standard sporting rifle configuration with 24" octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent rifle buttplate. Frame is color case hardened while the barrel and magazine tube are blued. Walnut stocks even have most of their original varnish present. The original finish on this rifle is really something to behold at this level of condition. Standard sights include the long Marlin Ballard rear sight with original elevator and Rocky Mountain front sight with German silver blade.
During the 1880's, Winchester Repeating Arms discovered a young inventor in Ogden, Utah named Jonathan Moses Browning. They bought almost every one of the designs he came up with from the 1880's up until the 20th century. Suddenly, Winchester had Browning's single shot design known as the Model 1885 Hiwall but he turned the lever action market on its head with the Model 1886 Winchester lever action rifle and its scaled down younger brother, the Model 1892. Other companies that competed with Winchester in the lever action market either closed shop or went in a different direction. The Whitneyville Armory, Spencer, Burgess, Bullard, and Evans all tried their hand at the lever action repeating rifle market and folded in the late 1870's thru the 80's. Colt gave up their short-lived attempt at marketing a lever action with the Burgess Rifle. By the end of the 1880's, one of the only companies left besides Winchester that was producing a lever action rifle was Marlin Firearms of New Haven, CT. Marlin only had one gun, the Model 1881, which was designed by John Marlin and Andrew Burgess in the late 1870's. The Marlin 1881 was a great gun and it was the first lever action design which could handle the government's 45-70. The biggest repeater Winchester had then was the Model 1876 but it still worked on S&W's toggle link principle that dated back to the early 1850's. Winchester had improved it over the years, made it stronger, made it larger, but the design was now entering its fourth decade and was maxed out. As big as it was, the action of the Model 1876 simply didn't possess the stroke length to feed the 45-70. What's more, a lightweight version of the Model Marlin 1881 appeared that could handle longer bottleneck cartridges in smaller calibers like 32-40 and 38-55 which were popular with hunters and single shot enthusiasts. For five years, the Model 1881 had a great run until Browning sold Winchester the design for what was to become the Model 1886 Winchester. The 1886 could handle the 45-70, the 45-90, 50-110, it was stronger, and was downright handsome as well! It pretty much put everybody out of business and left Marlin staring at a very bleak future. How in the world could anybody compete against Winchester and the Browning brothers?
Well, as it turned out, there was a man named Lewis L. Hepburn who could. Like Browning, he was a gun builder and inventor and had spent several years working for E. Remington & Sons in Ilion, NY. In the single shot world, Hepburn was the stuff of legend. He not only designed single shot rifles such as the Remington Hepburn rifle, he was one heck of a great shot and played an important role in the 1874 International Shooting Match between the United States and Ireland:
The only problem for Hepburn was that the original Remington Company which had been around for decades was in serious financial trouble by the mid-1880's and had fallen into receivership. Recognizing his talents, Marlin scooped up this Remington refugee and put him to work redesigning its line of lever actions. Hepburn's first design was the Model 1888 rifle which was a medium frame lever action rifle that would compete directly against the famous but still toggle-link driven Winchester Model 1873. The 1888 was a top eject rifle that was a good start for Marlin but Hepburn soon made more improvements resulting in the first side-eject Marlin known as the Model 1889. Once Hepburn came up with the Model 1889, the concept was scaled both up and down for various calibers resulting in the .22 Caliber Model 1891, 1892, and 1897, later, the Model 39, the 1893 later a.k.a. 336(offered in 25-36, 30-30, 32-40, and 38-55, the Model 1895 was offered in just about all of the big boys found in the Model 1886...(45-70, 40-82, 50-110, etc). The result was an avalanche of competition for Winchester and these models were built in one form or another for over 100 years. The Model 1894 was essentially Hepburn's revisit to the Model 1889 with various minor improvements made. The Model 1889 was still manufactured for another five years following the introduction of the Model 1894 and based on my experiences, I've found far more 1889's than 1894's under the roughly 175,000 serial range cutoff for all Marlin models. The 1889 was finally phased out around 1899 and so only the 1894 saw the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. That is quite a run for any mass-produced product! This rifle represents the Model 1894 in its earliest 19th century form and the quality and case colored frame are absolutely stunning!
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Excellent. Frame retains 92% bright original case colors, 95% on the bolt, 95% on the hammer, and 50% remaining on the lever. Screws and loading port still show most of their original nitre blue. Barrel and magazine tube retain 95% original blue with some light specks of patina. Forend cap retains 85% original blue w/ balance light patina. Buttplate has remnants of mottled case colors but has turned mostly to gray/brown patina with nice original blue still remaining on the screws. The wood is in Excellent condition retaining 98% original varnish with a few nicks and scratches. Excellent mechanics. Excellent bore is bright and shiny with strong rifling. An exceptionally untouched Marlin 1894 with a hard to find antique serial number (Marlin built far more Model 1889's in the 1890's than the 1894), a great configuration (.44 caliber w/ octagon barrel), and Excellent Condition with great case colors! This is easily the best standard 1894 we've offered in a decade on the site!