Ballard No. 1 1/2 Hunter's Rifle

posted on June 1, 2011

Although today’s shooters associate the Ballard name with Marlin rifling, the Marlin-Ballard link actually began on Nov. 5, 1861, when a patent for a single-shot, breechloading rimfire rifle was granted to a Massachusetts machinist named Charles Henry Ballard. His falling-block action contained only five moving parts. A curved finger lever opened the action, ejected the shell and brought the hammer to half-cock when the action was closed.

Initially Ballard’s .32-, .38-, .44-, and .54-cal. rimfire rifles were produced by his employer, Ball & Williams of Worcester, Mass. The cast-iron breechblocks were blued, with casehardened extractors and hammers. The first Ballard advertisement appeared in “Leslie’s Weekly” on March 29, 1862. With the Civil War raging, by 1864 almost 16,000 Ballard rifles and carbines had been sold to Union soldiers and civilians alike. But with the end of the Great Rebellion and the emergence of repeating rifles, Ballard sales suffered. Manufacturing moved to Merrimack Arms Co. of Newburyport, Mass., and then to Brown Mfg. Co., also of Newburyport. Finally, pistol maker John Mahlon Marlin agreed to manufacture the Ballard, which enabled him to enter the lucrative rifle market.

“The New Ballard” premiered in 1875. It featured an improved action, and, although rimfire and rimfire-center-fire chamberings remained, center-fire cartridges were the focus. In addition, the rifles boasted “Ballard Rifling”: deeply cut lands and grooves for increased accuracy. The revitalized Ballard soared in popularity among hunters and competitive shooters.

Models included Gallery, Mid-Range, and Union Hill rifles with Winchester-style finger levers, and the Pacific Rifle, with its single finger-loop lever. Options included nickel plating, engraving, wiping rods, set triggers and sights. More than 20 different rifle styles were produced until 1891, when the last Ballard was shipped.

This No. 1½ Hunter’s Rifle sports a 30-inch round barrel and is chambered in .45-70 Gov’t (a 32-inch barrel and .40-65 and .40-63 Ballard calibers were also offered for this model). The original “Rocky Mountain” rear sight has been replaced with an early peep. No. 1½ Hunter’s Models were not factory-equipped with tang sights. The receiver exhibits non-factory period engraving and is devoid of finish, although edges and stampings are sharp.

Ballard serial number records are incomplete, but the “J. M. Marlin” stamping indicates manufacture between 1875 and 1881; after that, receivers were stamped “Marlin Fire Arms Co.” A chip in the stock heel has been repaired, and the rebrowned barrel exhibits sharp rifling. Overall condition, plus a desirable caliber, makes this 60 percent rifle, which originally sold for $22.50, easily worth $2,500.

Gun: Ballard No. 1½ Hunter’s Rifle
Serial No. : 13XXX
Caliber: .45-70 Gov’t
Condition: 60 percent (NRA Very Good - Antique Firearm Condition)
Manufactured: between 1875 and 1881; exact year unknown
Value: $2,500


Confederate battle flag shown with the 48-shot Virginia Pacificator repeating rifle along with patent drawing overlay top left
Confederate battle flag shown with the 48-shot Virginia Pacificator repeating rifle along with patent drawing overlay top left

Virginia Pacificator: "The Greatest Gun Of The Age"

If Lorenzo Sibert, whose gun had the enormous capacity of 48 shots without reloading, had gotten into production, those gallant Southrons who claimed they could "whup th' Yankees with cawnstalks" might have done just that in the first year of the war with the "Pacificator."

Buck Knives Reopens Factory Store

Family-owned for more than 120 years, Buck Knives is celebrating the grand re-opening of its 1,600-sq.-ft. factory outlet store located in Post Falls, Idaho.

Preview: Burris SpeedBead Vent Rib Mount

Burris has added to its SpeedBead line of shotgun red-dot mounts with the recent release of its Vent Rib Mount.

Single-Actions For Home Defense

For more than 100 years the single-action revolver held the top spot as the go-to home-defense arm, only to be supplanted by modern semi-automatics, but the single-action, though a vestige of yesteryear, remains a viable tool for defensive use in and around the home.

New For 2024: Wilson Combat EDC X9 2.0

After introducing the double-stack EDC X9 in 2016, Wilson Combat is revisiting the concept with its EDC X9 2.0 model.

Preview: Traveler’s Guide To The Firearm Laws Of The Fifty States 2024 Edition

Lawyer J. Scott Kappas’ Traveler’s Guide To The Firearm Laws Of The Fifty States has notable updates for 2024, including more than 100 changes from the 2023 edition.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.