- Robert E. Petersen Collection
- Ancient Firearms - 1350 to 1700
- Road to American Liberty - 1700 to 1780
- A Prospering New Republic - 1780 to 1860
- A Nation Asunder - 1861 to 1865
- The American West - 1850 to 1900
- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt and Elegant Arms - 1880s to 1920s
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
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Marlin Ballard No 4 A 1 Mid Range Single Shot Target Rifle
This model was offered by Marlin only between 1878 and 1880 and was equipped with their best grade vernier tang sight. Marlin-Ballard rifles were made c. 1875-1891. SN 1799
U.S. TRIUMPH AT CREEDMOOR The great International Match held at the famous Creedmoor Range on Long Island in 1874 included matches fired at 800, 900, and 1000 yds. and was extremely close. The Americans won at 800 yds. with a score of 326 to 317. At 900 yds. the Irish won by 312 to 310, and they won again at 1000 yds. by 302 to 298. However, the final result was a close victory for the AmericansÑ934 to 931. The match received international publicity and target shooting blossomed into a major American sport.
The Sharps and Remington breech-loading rifles used by the Americans to defeat the Irish muzzle-loading rifles were chambered for powerful cal. .44 blackpowder cartridges loaded with heavy powder charges and heavy paper-patched bullets. The most effective of all long-range target cartridges were the .44-90 Sharps and .44-90 Remington. The .44-90 Remington cartridge was loaded with a 550-gr. bullet which had a muzzle velocity of 1250 f.p.s. The .44-90 Sharps cartridge was often loaded with a 520-gr. bullet capable of 1270 f.p.s. Muzzle energy of both of these rounds was about 1850 ft.-lbs. Compared to 1600 ft.-lbs. for the standard .45-70 Government cartridge. Neither cartridge approached the power level of the .44-100 Remington or .45-100 Sharps rounds which delivered over 2,200 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy.
The special Sharps and Remington rifles furnished the American team in 1874, as well as later high quality target rifles offered by these and other firms, were fitted with precision sights. The usual wind-gauge target front sight was held in a dovetail cut in the barrel near the muzzle. This assembly provided accurate lateral adjustment of the front sight by means of a screw. Accurate scales were engraved on the front side of the sight assembly so that precise measurements of windage could by made. The sight tube or globe was slotted so that interchangeable sighting inserts could by used to provide optimum sight patterns for various target conditions.
The elaborate aperture rear sights fitted to these rifles were either mounted on the receiver tang or attached to the top of the buttstock just forward of the buttplate. The latter sight position was used by some shooters who preferred to lie on their backs and support the rifle muzzles with their knees or feet. The long sight leaves employed on these rear sights were pivoted to the fixed bases. The shooter aimed through a tiny peephole or aperture drilled in the center of the sunshade disk which was usually slightly over one inch in diameter. The vertical position of the sighting aperture disk was usually determined by a long slender screw less than 1/8" in diameter with a 20-pitch thread permitting very accurate elevation adjustments. These tall rear sights often included vernier adjustment scales and were precision instruments. When not in use they were either stored in protective cases or folded down flat against the receiver tang. - John Mahlon Marlin was born on May 6, 1836 near Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
At the age of 18, he became an apprentice machinist with the American Machine Works. He later served as a machinist with Colt Patent Firearms of Hartford. In 1863, he started his own pistol manufacturing business in New Haven, concentrating on production of a small single-shot .22 caliber deringer. Marlin expanded his efforts to include revolver in 1870, after the expiration of Rollin White's cylinder patents.
The Marlin story later became intertwined with the Ballard breechloading rifle. These single-shot arms were invented by Charles H. Ballard of Worcester, Massachusetts, who received his original patent in 1861. Approximately 24,000 sporting and military rifles, carbines, and shotguns were manufactured between 1862 and 1873; Civil War sales account for half of this total. Five different New England companies produced various Ballard designs, with the New York firm of Merwin & Bray acting as sales agents throughout Ballard's brief history. Economic depression came to the United States in 1873, and diminishing sales forced Ballard into bankruptcy. All patent rights, equipment, parts inventories, and properties were purchased by New York arms dealers Schoverling and Daly, who handled sales and distribution of Ballard rifles after reaching an agreement with John Marlin to continue production. This partnership would prove to be highly successful for all parties involved.
In 1881, the Marlin Firearms Company was incorporated, and production of Ballard rifles continuing under the Marlin banner until they were eventually discontinued circa 1891 due to the rising popularity of repeating rifles. Marlin-Ballard rifles were and are well-known for their accuracy and workmanship, and fancy-grade long-range rifles are eagerly sought after by modern collectors.
Marlin continued to expand his product line, introducing his Model 1881 lever-action tubular magazine repeating rifle in that year. Many key features had been patented by Andrew Burgess and others, but John Marlin incorporated these into a single functional firearm. This rifle was available in a variety of calibers ranging from .32-40 to 45-70 Government, a feature that would not be duplicated by competing Winchesters for several more years. Marlin also produced several other lever action designs, concluding with the Model 1897, which remained in production until 1922. Shotguns became a part of the Marlin line in 1898, when the first of a series of slide-action guns was introduced.
Production continued until 1915, but a .410 lever-action shotgun was also manufactured between 1929 and 1932. John Marlin died in 1901, but the business continued under the leadership of his sons, Mahlon and John Marlin. During their tenure, the company expanded to include the Ideal Cartridge Reloading Company.
In 1915, the Marlin Firearms Company was sold to a New York syndicate with close ties to financier J. P. Morgan, and became the Marlin-Rockwell Corporation. The outbreak of war in Europe focused the new company's efforts on the production of machine guns for use by infantry troops and in both aircraft and tanks. After the armistice of 1918, Marlin-Rockwell returned to the manufacture of civilian firearms. A reorganization in 1921 saw the company's name change to the Marlin Firearms Corporation, but, like Ballard before it, Marlin failed and went into receivership in 1923. Marlin's assets were purchased by Frank Kenna, the son of a Union Army sergeant, pattern and model maker, Yale Law School graduate and businessman. Kenna began a revitalization of the company, but his efforts were hampered by the Great Depression.
Beginning in 1937, Marlin also manufactured razor blades in addition to sporting arms. The Second World War years brought contracts for the manufacture of High Standard/UDM 42 9mm Parabellum caliber submachine guns, as well as barrels and other parts for the M1 Garand rifle and M1 carbine. During this period, Marlin also produced aircraft and other parts under contract for Bell Aircraft and other corporations. Defense contracts also provided a revenue source during the Korean War. Sporting arms has long been a staple for Marlin, and the company's place in the market has been consistently strong.
By 1969, the company had outgrown its original factory, and manufacturing facilities moved from their original New Haven location to a new modern plant in nearby North Haven. The Marlin Firearms Company continues to be owned by members of the Kenna family, but for the first time since 1924, a Kenna is not at the helm, as Robert W. Behn replaced J. Stephen Kenna as president in 1997. The company's product line no longer includes pistols or razor blades, but Marlin remains a choice for bolt-, slide-, and lever-action rifles, as well as for autoloaders and shotguns.