Rifleman Q&A: Marlin’s Mixed Markings

posted on May 18, 2024
Ballard a No. 2 Sporting Rifle
Photos courtesy of Rock Island Auction.

Q. I have this old gun I want to shoot, but I’m not certain exactly what I have, and the gun appears to pre-date any description in the Blue Book Of Gun Values. The gun measures 43" overall, has a 26 9⁄16" barrel and its markings are as follows:


A. The J.M Marlin rollstamp is key to this gun’s age, as the company incorporated in 1881 and, soon after, the rollstamp changed to “Marlin Firearms Co.” on all Ballard rifles.

The very high serial number for a Ballard with a J.M Marlin-marked action indicates it is likely one of the last before the marking changed, so I would estimate it dates to 1881.

The .32 Long chambering would make this Ballard a No. 2 Sporting Rifle, and it should have John Marlin’s patented reversible firing-pin system. If the barrel is measured correctly from the rear of the receiver to the muzzle crown, then the 26 9⁄16" length indicates it’s been cut down. The barrels on these old Ballard rifles always ran slightly over even increments, so a 28" barrel will be around 28 3⁄16" approximately, and a 30" will be around 30 3⁄16". The dovetail for the front sight is almost always very close to 1" on center measured from the muzzle.



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