View Full Version : Older than I thought

September 10, 2010, 03:25 PM
I have recently taken possession of an inherited Marlin Lever Action rifle. It is chambered in 32w, and seems to function fine, though I plan on having a gunsmith look it over. It is clearly a well used gun but does not seem to have been especially abused.
A quick search on the net indicates it was manufactured in 1890. So, with your patient indulgence, my question is, "should I shoot it?"
(and will it only handle black powder?)

I am not a collector, just someone who has a great time shooting, and thinks this is a beautiful gun....


September 10, 2010, 03:33 PM
If the gunsmith says shoot it, shoot it. It's not like you'll ever sell it. Just keep it clean

September 10, 2010, 04:22 PM
This is good news. While I truly enjoy looking at and reading about gun collections, and collectors, theirs is expertise, patience and resources I do not possess. I just wanna go shooting!

Although, I don't want to hurt or damage the gun, and won't modify it in an un-aesthetic way....

The next stop will be a gunsmith!

September 10, 2010, 04:25 PM
Have more than one gunsmith or gun expert look at it. If the majority of them say shoot it, then shoot it. Just make sure you use the right ammo. Not sure about your gun, but I know a lot of older guns might be chambered in ammo that is available today, but the modern stuff might be a lot different pressure and such than what was used back then and your gun might not be able to handle it.

My vote is always SHOOT!

September 10, 2010, 04:51 PM
32w? Can you be a little more specific? As far as shooting it, AFAIK the first commercial smokeless powder rifle round was the 30-30 introduced in 1894, IIRC Colt SAAs made after 1896 are considered safe for smokeless powder.
I avoid shooting smokeless powder in BP guns, not only because of higher pressures but because smokeless burns hotter than BP and is rough on century old steel.

September 10, 2010, 04:55 PM
Your other option is to trade up. To the right collector, it might ultimately be worth more than the value of new Marlin that you know is capable of handling today's cartridges. A collector gets a gun they want and you get a gun you know you can shoot to your heart's desire.

September 10, 2010, 05:08 PM
I am at the office, now and the Marlin is not.... But I will see about getting a picture up.
The barrel marking indicates "32 w"... I assume that is a 32 cal. winchester round and is available.
My immediate mission will be to find a gunsmith (or a few) and have it looked over...

TX Hunter
September 10, 2010, 06:15 PM
If you plan to shoot the rifle, I would recomend using light hand loads.
Have your Gunsmith look it over, and he may be able to load some cartridges for it. A collector would probably buy that from you for a very nice sum.

James K
September 10, 2010, 08:02 PM
If the rifle was made in 1890, it is almost certainly not made for smokeless powder, and the caliber is .32 WCF (aka .32-20), not .32 Winchester Special, which was not introduced until 1902 (it was always a smokeless powder load).

Current .32-20 ammo is lightly loaded and can be safely used in the older rifles like the Winchester 1873 and that Marlin.


September 11, 2010, 01:36 PM
Assuming your rifle was made in 1890, and is chambered for 32-20, it would be a Model 1889, and would be worth over a thousand dollars in almost any condition. The Model 1889 was the first solid-top/side ejection Marlin lever action rifle (whence the term "Marlin Safety" since it did not throw empties straight up and rain them down on the shooter). The Model 1889 was later modified and became the Model 1894. The Marlin Model 1894 was renamed the Model 94 in 1906.

After 1884, Marlin had their own version of the .32-20 Winchester (32 WCF) called 32-20 Marlin, and a Marlin Model 1889 would be so marked since they did not start marking their rifles with other makers' cartridge names until the 1920s.

I think you may find that your rifle is something other than what you feel it is. If it is indeed a Model 1889, I would avoid shooting it, as it may be quite valuable. Have it looked at by someone knowledgeable in lever action rifles and follow their recommendations.

September 14, 2010, 02:49 PM
It happens you are right Scorch... I took it to an Antique Arms dealer and asked them to take a look. They identified it as you predicted, a model 1889, chambered in 32-20.

It has been used "but well cared for". They were also helpful in verifying it would not be safe to use modern ammunition in this black powder gun, adding that ammunition is indeed available, and cautioning that keeping the gun clean would be an issue.

Apparently these guns are worth about $670.. so I think I won't sell it, and since black powder ammunition is as pricey as it is, I may not shoot it much.

September 18, 2010, 01:00 PM
.......c'mon, show us some pix! We like old guns:)

September 19, 2010, 01:01 PM
I only venture this as an opinion, but I daresay you could get away with firing "revolver only" cartridges through it. I don't think the metal was that weak. Now, if I'm wrong, I will gladly submit to having my head bit off.