Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum
Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283

Another Old Lever Rifle

Recommended Posts

Howdy

I really should know better than to walk into a Cabelas.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the local Cabelas to get some winter socks. Really.

Then I made the mistake of wandering into the Gun Library.

Lots of stuff that did not interest me. Then I saw an old Marlin lever rifle. It was marked as a 38-40 Model 1894, but a quick glance told me it was not a Model 1894. The lever on a Model 1894 is pretty distinctive, and this was definitely not a Model 1894. I was not sure exactly which model it was, but I did not have my copy of Brophy's book on Marlins handy.

So I asked to see the rifle. While I was examining it I saw they had a copy of Brophy's book. Turns out it was a model 1889. This was the first Marlin to feature side ejection, just like every Marlin lever gun has ever since. In fact, this was a big selling point with Marlin, because all the Winchesters always ejected through the top. A quick search of Marlin Serial numbers revealed this one had been made in 1891. Yes, it is chambered for 38-40.

This puppy seemed to have a problem with the trigger.

Side note: according to Cabelas' new policy, I was not allowed to take the trigger lock off. How am I supposed to determine if the trigger is OK I asked? I could work the lever, but with a trigger lock on it I could not pull the trigger to let the hammer down. We finally compromised by the sales guy removing the trigger lock and placing the muzzle into a bullet trap. He insisted he had to keep one hand on the barrel to make sure it stayed in the bullet trap. I could then pull the trigger (letting the hammer down gently of course) to my hearts content. That is Cabelas' policy, I don't want to get into a big discussion about it here.

Problems with the gun: the stock had been broken in two at some point, and glued back together. Not a bad job, but it was obvious where the break had been. And the lever latch, which is unique to this model was missing. So we did a lot of horse trading where I pointed out the deficiencies, and I walked home with the rifle.

Another side note: the sales guy was actually very helpful. He was clearly knowledgeable about a lot of guns, just not Marlins. And so I could legally take it home he put a lever lock on it, gave me the key, and then wrapped it up really well with bubble wrap and pulled out a rifle length box from under a table to box it up for me. I really cannot complain about the service, just not crazy about Cabelas' policy on trigger locks.

Two rifles in this photo. A Marlin Model 1894 made in 1895, at the top, the Model 1889 at the bottom. Notice the different configuration of the lever in the area of the trigger. That was the dead giveaway that told me it was not a model 1894. If you look carefully you can probably see the repaired break in the stock near the rear of the wrist.

 

poD0EyNKj

 

 

 

 

The first step was to see if everything worked. I stuffed some dummy 38-40 cartridges in the magazine and worked the action. Everything worked fine. The lever was very stiff to work because this model pushes the hammer way past full cock as the bolt moves back. But everything worked fine. Next step was to pop some primers. I primed a few pieces of 38-40 brass, and they all fired fine. No live ammo yet.


The next strep was for me to tear it completely apart. Three purposes to this exercise. One is to be able to see all the parts and how badly worn they might be. Second was to clean all the parts. Third was to prepare the rifle for my Black Powder cartridges. In this photo I have not removed the cartridge carrier, the screw seemed really stuck. Later I was able to free the screw so I could remove the carrier for a thorough cleaning. It turns out there was hardly any wear on the parts at all. Lots of 120 year old carbon and gunk, but hardly any wear. Peering down the bore the rifling looked really good. Old, and a fair amount of pitting, but the rifling was strong and I suspected this old girl would make a good shooter. Once all the parts were clean I gave everything, including the inside of the frame, a good coating of Balistol. This is my standard treatment of any gun I am going to shoot with Black Powder.

 

pllU2o0Hj

 

 

 

 

The top of the receiver and the caliber marking.

 

pnRjLm0Kj

 

 

 

 

The rear sight. An interesting folding leaf marked '50'. Not really sure what the 50 stands for, yards or feet, but there it is.

 

pluPfY3sj

 

 

 

 

The front sight features an ivoroid bead. The metal has been chewed away a bit on one side. Maybe this happened when the stock broke.

 

pmGELEATj

 

 

 

 

Here is the old rifle all together again. Notice the lever is not snug against the lower frame. The missing lever latch would snug up the lever.

 

pm52duXQj

 

 

 

 

This model had a lever safety device much like the Winchester Model 1873. A spring loaded piece projected down through the lower frame. You can see it in this photo. While in this position it blocked the trigger from being pulled. When the lever was snugged up, it retracted the trigger block, allowing the rifle to be fired. If I can find a lever latch for this model, that will keep the lever snugged up when the lever is closed. Until then I have to remember to snug up the lever myself for every shot.

 

pofhtwF5j

 

 

 

 

This photo is just for fun. The rifle with some of my 38-40 rounds.

 

pmrlSpKMj

 

 

 

 

I took the old Marlin to the range on Saturday. It was a really warm day here. The left target and middle target were both fired from a rest at normal SASS distances, about 25 feet. Considering my very bad eyesight which cannot focus very well on rifle sights I was pretty pleased. The first target I was aiming at the center of the bullseye. When I looked closely at the front sight I realized it was leaning slightly to one side. Probably happened when the rifle was mistreated. I drifted the rear sigh to the right a bit and was able to get the windage pretty good. I was aiming at six O'clock this time. Not concerned about it shooting low, CAS targets are nice and big and I can compensate. I was pleased with the group with my old eyes and iron sights. The last target was ten rounds standing at the same distance. 'Rapid Fire' if you can read the target. Not really CAS rapid fire, which would dump 10 shots in less than 5 seconds. Just rapid fire for me with an old rifle. Maybe 15 or 20 seconds.

 

pnDrIFuCj

 

 

Quite pleased with the old Marlin. I may buy a new stock for it to replace the broken one, or I may just leave well enough alone. And I will be keeping an eye out for a lever latch.

  • Like 9
  • Thanks 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ahhha MAN!  I love those old Marlins. 

 

I wasn't so lucky with my 1889.  It needed nothing but a good cleaning. 

 

 

It's in 44WCF.   I've shot it in a couple of matches.  

  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Be careful. Knew a fellow that picked up an 89 in 32-20. When he tried to run it fast he would frequently pinch his finger on that odd shaped lever latch.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Goody, SASS #26190 said:

Be careful. Knew a fellow that picked up an 89 in 32-20. When he tried to run it fast he would frequently pinch his finger on that odd shaped lever latch.

I was thinking that the lever looked like it might pinch you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Goody, SASS #26190 said:

Be careful. Knew a fellow that picked up an 89 in 32-20. When he tried to run it fast he would frequently pinch his finger on that odd shaped lever latch.

 

I learned to pay attention to that bump when shooting it.  I'm not fast anyway so it really didn't slow me down any.  Just the pride of owning and shooting a gun that really existed in the cowboy era was satisfaction enough.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice find, Driftwood.   Glad you had a good experience at the Cabelas.   My own experiences there have been less than pleasant.   But at least you were able to get them take the lock off to test the gun.  I left something there once because they refused to let me test it in a similar fashion.   And don't fret, you didn't "steal" this one from me.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

eBay has some 40 parts listed for the 1889.  Unfortunately,   the lever latch is not one listed at this time. There are three trigger plates listed but all are stripped of the parts you need.   No buttstocks are listed.  

 

Many of the Marlin 1894 and even 1893 will cross over. 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have 2 1889 Marlins in 38WCF. 

One likes 401 Bullets, the other one likes 403 Bullets. Both of them are fun to shoot.

one has an Octagon Barrel the other has a Round  Barrel.

Edited by Bailey Creek,5759
spellimg error.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Goody, SASS #26190 said:

Be careful. Knew a fellow that picked up an 89 in 32-20. When he tried to run it fast he would frequently pinch his finger on that odd shaped lever latch.

 

Thanks for the warning. I was aware of that.

 

Now reread were I said I fired 10 rounds in maybe 15 or 20 seconds.

 

Everybody in these parts knows how slow I shoot. I seldom break one minute for an average stage.

 

Just don't care about shooting fast.

 

4 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

And don't fret, you didn't "steal" this one from me.   

 

That was not exactly the first thing I thought of HK.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can't See the Photos....

:(

 

Jabez Cowboy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have started moving my photos from the Unreliable Photbucket to Image Shack. This is the first time I have heard they cannot be seen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283 said:

I have started moving my photos from the Unreliable Photbucket to Image Shack. This is the first time I have heard they cannot be seen.

 

I can see them just fine. 

 

I too used Photobucket and it worked fine until they screwed it up.   Since most forums now host uploaded pictures,  I've just done that.

 

But it would be convenient to have them in a cloud some place that I can post them on multiple forums without uploading them each time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I also was unable to see the photos.  However, your descriptions were very understandable.  Thanks, nice rifle.

 

Cat Brules

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Driftwood....Great score! I saw that rifle and it tugged at me.....But I have an 1889 in 38-40 in amazing condition. But then again, you can't have too many old guns, can ya!

BTW....It amazes me at how many guns I've seen at various Cabelas that were mis identified. I've made some amazing purchasers as I traveled around the country and visited the Gun Libraries.

 

Did you see the nice Winchester Low Walls they had a couple months ago.........Great deals

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283 said:

That was not exactly the first thing I thought of HK.

 

Heh heh.   Good.   I didn't actually think you did, but it was too much fun to not say so.  :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Driftwood Johnson,

 

Thank you for an excellent gun story with outstanding pictures and a very happy ending.   It warms my heart to hear of an experienced Marlin being rescued by somebody who can appreciate and revive it.  Well done.

 

Buckeye Pete

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Jabez Cowboy,SASS # 50129 said:

Can't See the Photos....

:(

 

Jabez Cowboy

If you see a text where the pic should be, right click it & select "view image"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Driftwood Johnson, SASS #38283 said:

I have started moving my photos from the Unreliable Photbucket to Image Shack. This is the first time I have heard they cannot be seen.

 

I can see these just fine, but sometimes on your older posts I could not see them.  The reason is that I was in a place that filtered the internet and they just didn't like whatever hosting service you were using.  In those cases I checked the thread again when I got home (sometimes it would be a week later) and could see the pics finally. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad you were able to rescue this nice old Marlin and give it some TLC. I passed up a chance at a similar gun about 10 years ago. Even though the 38-40 is my favorite, this particular gun had a bore that was a pitted mess. I was sorry to have to let it go.

Edited by Navy Six

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.