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Marlin 1893 Rifle in Caliber 38-55

This is an early Model 1893 Marlin Sporting Rifle in caliber 38-55. Standard 26" octagon barrel is marked "Special Smokeless Steel". Serial number is in the 170,000 range which makes it pre-1898 production. Original sights include the long Marlin-Ballard Rear Sight with the standard Marlin Rocky Mountain Front with German silver blade. Top of barrel marked "38-55" with Marlin address and 1887, '89, and '93 patent dates. Upper denotes "Model 1893".

If I'm not mistaken, Marlin began marking the barrels on their Model 1893 with the Special Smokeless Steel roll dies towards the latter half of the 1890's. Here is what Marlin had to say about the improved steel in their 1897 catalog:

SPECIAL STEEL.---In the barrel and action of these rifles we use our special smokeless steel, guaranteed to the regulation specifications of the United States Government, for steel used in the manufacture of the same parts of the Government rifle using the 30 calibre United States Government cartridge. (This would certainly be a reference to the US Model 1896 Krag rifle and carbine in caliber 30-40 Krag a.k.a. .30 Government). In consequence, these rifles are perfectly adapted to the cartridges hereafter described as suitable for these rifles.

These 32-40 and 38-55 rifles are, because of this special steel, superior to rifles of the regular soft steel which is ordinarily used for these black powder cartridges. (This is a veiled reference to the Marlin 1893's main competition, the Winchester Model 1894. The 1894 also used a higher strength alloy called Nickel Steel for rifle barrels in the smokeless calibers 30-30 and 25-35 but opted for standard grade steels for their black powder rifles in 32-40 and 38-55). This special steel gives a greater margin of strength and allows the use of heavier loads of black powder, as well as the use of the smokeless powder cartridges with various loads.

So in summary, by the late 1890's, Marlin was offering the 1893 in black powder calibers with higher strength barrels than their chief competitor, Winchester. This seems like a plus for Marlin. However, the added cost may have given Winchester a bit of an advantage. The 32-40 and 38-55 were already great all-around calibers for both hunting and target shooting in their original black powder loads. What's more, they were also easy to reload with simple hand tools. Thus, many customers were never going to acquire these cartridges in smokeless. Why pay extra for something you don't need? So starting in 1905, probably due to the extra cost of this "Special Steel", Marlin began offering the Model 1893 in calibers 32-40 and 38-55 in what it called the "B Grade". This lower cost version was made in standard grade steel for old-timers who used only black powder loads. The barrels of these guns were marked "For Black Powder Only" and featured a blued receiver instead case coloring found on the standard grade 1893's. Off the top of my head, I believe the "B" Grade 1893 in 32-40 and 38-55 was offered up until World War One.

Getting off my long-winded tangent and back to this "A" grade rifle, this is a very nice example! Overall, NRA Antique Fine+ Condition. Barrel, magazine tube, and forend cap retain 80% original blue. The frame shows 50% faded colors on the right side and around 20% on the left side. Bolt has about 60% faded colors. Top of the frame is marked "Marlin Safety" and shows smoky shadows of mottled colors. Lever retains 10% colors while the hammer has fared a little better with 70% faded colors. Loading port has 75% bright original blue. The original walnut stocks are in Fine condition showing only light handling marks with perfect wood to metal fit and 95% original varnish. No chips, cracks, or repairs. Action is still nice and smooth with an Excellent bore. A very clean example of a Marlin 1893 in a great configuration and caliber.

Item# 1627




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