Those of you that are well aware of everything that was the Marlin Firearms Company over the past 100+ years know that the company had its hand in everything that went boom from time to time. Besides their classic lines of rifles, they made shotguns, machineguns, military weapons, and yes, Virginia, even a pretty large line of revolvers.
Classic Marlin Pistols and Revolvers
William Brophy in his excellent work, Marlin Firearms: A History of the Guns and the Company That Made Them, possibly the best single volume tome on Marlin guns, covers several designs that other books do not even mention.
John Marlin actually started off in the firearms business in 1863, during the Civil War, by making several single shot derringer knock offs ranging in caliber from .22-.41. In fact, of the 25 patents that JM Marlin filed in his lifetime, no less than 10 were for pistols or revolvers of some sort. With names like the 'OK', the 'Never Miss' and the 'Victor', Marlin cranked these out as fast as he could, producing nearly a thousand of these small handguns a year through the 1870s.
In 1870, he expanded to a series of revolvers, as Smith and Wesson's patent for the through-cartridge cylinder had expired. Over the next thirty years, no less than six models were made chambered all the way up to .38 calibers. These were often break-open design revolvers, much like the well-known British Webley and early S&W revolvers of the same time period. Smaller designs had spur triggers. By 1899, Marlin had ceased production of handguns completely and concentrated on rifles and the occasional shotgun.
But then again, there is the story of the Hopkins and Allen revolvers made for Marlin in the 20th century, but that is another article.
In all more than 100,000 Marlin pistols and revolvers were made in more than a dozen variants and sub variants in the 19th century. They range from small pocket guns with very plain construction to highly evolved double-action designs in scrollwork, custom engraving, and exotic grips. Classic old 1870-90 designs will have "JM Marlin, New Haven CT" on the left hand side of the frame. These guns are often some of the most intricate of designs made at the height of firearms artisanship.
Rare presentation model Marlin DA .38 at the Frazier.
No less than two of these classic top break revolvers are on display at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. These range in price all across the board with old guns in poor condition being worth less than $100, while minty presentation pieces bring more than a good used car.
So yes, if anyone ever asks you if Marlin made handguns, you can answer with a smile and a wink.
And find out if they have one for sale--quick.