Marlin's Model 39 Turns 120
Rifle|May - June 2020
Let’s be clear: I never, not even in childhood, longed for a Marlin Model 39.
Terry Wieland

Although I spent many hours poring over the 1965 Marlin catalog, sipping coffee and listening to Gordon Light foot, my attention was always directed at either the Model 336 (a real deer rifle) or the modern (and modernistic) short-throw Levermatic Model 57 .22 Long Rifle. I doubt that I ever cast more than a glance at the pages extolling the virtues of the Model 39A.

To my callow and untutored eye, the 39A was both old-fashioned and ungainly. The barrel was too long, the action too small, and the overly generous forend seemed out of proportion. It vaguely resembled the lever actions of the television westerns, but not in a way I would like. I never gave it a second thought.

Today, the Model 57 I so admired has been consigned to the scrap heap of history, discontinued in 1965 as an intriguing concept that didn’t work out, while the old Model 39A is still with us, still being made (albeit as a custom proposition) and, while a used Model 57 sells for relative peanuts even to its minor cult following, Model 39 variations are collector’s items that sell for good money, sometimes big money. Obviously, a lot of people knew a lot more than I did about what was a good rifle and what was not.

If that statement needs reinforcement, consider this: At last count, the Model 39A and its antecedents had been in production almost 130 years, and Marlin has sold more than 2.2 million of them. By comparison, the Model 57 was in production a mere six years, during which time fewer than 35,000 were made. During its 130 years, the 39 has chalked up a number of firsts: It was the first lever action for the .22 Long Rifle, and the first to be able to handle .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle cartridges interchangeably in its (also revolutionary) tubular magazine. This magazine was also the first to offer loading from the front rather than being fed through a gate in the action.

The rifle began life in its earliest form in 1891. Designed by Lewis L. Hepburn, a famous target shooter and highly respected gun designer, it was called the Model 1891, was modified and renamed in 1892 and then again in 1897. It remained the Model 1897 until 1921, when it was renamed the Model 39. More changes were made in 1939, when it became the Model 39A and remained so henceforth. Tracing this lineage, it has been in continuous production since 1891, except for brief pauses when Marlin turned to military production during the two world wars. This makes it the longest-produced shoulder firearm in history.

During those 130 years, the rifle that became the Model 39A underwent both technical modifications and cosmetic changes. There were also different models and options, at least for a while, and Marlin offered it in several grades, up to and including the very finest, during the heyday of American engraving and rifle embellishment of the 1920s. As a result, a collector could concentrate on just the Marlin Model 39, its forerunners, variations and grades; if he managed to obtain every variation possible, it would comprise a substantial collection.

The Model 39 managed to survive about a halfdozen changes in corporate ownership and management structure, and many of the cosmetic changes over the years were made to accommodate changing tastes of either the buying public or the company management. As well, at one point the company deliberately eliminated most of the options available, such as different barrel lengths or grip styles, in order to simplify and reduce costs. This was the opposite of the policy of some of Marlin’s competitors such as Savage and Winchester, which seemed intent on overwhelming potential buyers with choices in every conceivable area.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

HALL GETS BACK IN THE GAME IN A BIG WAY

Shaeffer Hall spent five seasons as a minor league lefthander, primarily in the Yankees organization.

4 mins read
Baseball America
November 2020

Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects

Rapidly improving system buttressed by key trades and bountiful 2019 draft

10+ mins read
Baseball America
November 2019

The Most Powerful Swing In Baseball

Miami's home-run hero Giancarlo Stanton has the most powerful swing in baseball.

5 mins read
Maxim
May 2016

The Great Barrier Reset

A pause in the usual tourist hordes is seeing Tropical North Queensland enjoy a new moment in the sun, writes Alexandra Carlton.

6 mins read
Gourmet Traveller
March 2021

Ian Boylan

The in-hand show producer on the importance of patience, his obsession with breeding the best and his days as a restaurant manager

3 mins read
Horse & Hound
January 21, 2021

Grain handling solutions from Perry of Oakley Ltd

With over 70 years experience in manufacturing of handling, drying & storage equipment, Perry of Oakley Ltd. provide high-quality machinery to a wide variety of industries, including farms, commercial grain stores, waste & aggregate industries, feed & pet food, pharmaceutical & biomass industries, and many others. Perry have supplied machines to over 25differentcountries across 4 continents.

2 mins read
Farming Monthly National
October 2020

Ready for the road

Alex Robinson speaks to industry experts who advise on how to ensure your horsebox is fi t for the road post-lockdown

5 mins read
Horse & Hound
August 27, 2020

Luxury living

If you spend weeks on the road competing, you need somewhere comfortable and practical to sleep and spend your downtime. Stephanie Bateman takes a peep through the keyhole of some of the most salubrious lorries on the market

5 mins read
Horse & Hound
August 27, 2020

Continuous mixed flow grain driers from Perry of Oakley Ltd

Perry of Oakley Ltd. are the UK’s most experienced manufacturer of materials handling & drying equipment. Perry’s range of driers consists of two continuous mixed flow grain driers; the top spec Savannah and the entry level Mistral.

1 min read
Farming Monthly National
April 2020

BEE INSPIRED

Bees are vital to our survival; they’re the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. Sarah Rodi speaks to Elisabeth Barton at Oakdale Bees in Windsor, who has fulfilled a lifelong passion to care for these marvellous creatures

4 mins read
Berkshire Life
April 2020