Marlin's Long Tom 120 scattergun

  1. Editor
    For well over a century JM Marlin's firearms company made a line of pump action shotguns that got little attention when compared to their much more popular rifle line that both began the company and endure today. Among this flock of rare birds included the super groovy Model 120 with its optional forty-inch (40 inch) barrel.

    That is not a misprint.

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    Marlin's pump line

    Starting in 1898 Marlin made its first slide or trombone action shotgun, the imaginatively named Model 1898. This remained in production for almost a decade when it was replaced by the "teen series" (M16, 17, 19) which gave way to an improved Model 24 in 1908, which, like all of the above, had an external hammer. Then came the M42 introduced after World War I and finally the M63. By the Great Depression, Marin decided to stick with its rimfire rifles and cowboy guns, putting its shotgun line out to pasture.

    Then came 1971.

    The Model 120

    Departing from the slant-back design of the older Model 28/43/63 series, Marlin went modern with a smooth back, which blended well with the Remy, Whinnies, and Mossies (in fact, it rather resembled the Winchester Model 12). This gun, sold as the Marlin 120, was also marketed as the Glenfield 778 in big box stores. Sold in 12-gauge only, it was the first Marlin pump with a 3-inch chamber and designed from the outset to use plastic-hulled shells, unlike older guns which were built for paper hulls.

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    The thing is, even as Winchester was putting the all walnut and steel Model 12 out to pasture in favor of the more cheaply made Model 1200, and Remington had replaced their Model 31 with the 870, the Marlin was red meat.

    These guns debuted in 1971 at a base cost of $150, ($869 in today's folding money) these were well made guns that you had to pay a well-earned price to get. Marlin Jedi Master William Brophy notes that these were, "the finest shotgun Marlin ever manufactured."

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    (The company was proud enough of these expensive pumps to run them as the cover of their catalog off and on for several years)

    Barrel selection

    The neat facet of these guns was that they came with an option to use any one of six interchangeable cylinder-bored barrels in 20-inch (slug) 26-inch (Improved), 28-inch (Modified), 30-inch (Full or Modified Trap), and 38/40-inch (Long Tom Goose).

    Did we mention that it was 40 inches long?

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    Although studies suggest the extra foot in length over the more traditional 28-inch barrel only adds about 10 percent velocity to the shot, it does also pattern a tighter at range and prove quieter in muzzle blast as a larger amount of powder has been burnt by the time the wad reaches the muzzle. If you are unsure of that concept, just check out Metro Barrels.

    Getting your own

    Although these guns sold relatively well, and earned a loyal following, by the early 80s they just cost too much money to make. Between 1971-1984 Marlin made just over 48,000 of these 12-gauges in all models and barrel lengths. Of these, the Long Tom was just a portion with only 6,984 made. Only early models came in 40 inch offerings while later, post 1979 guns, were only offered in a maximum of 38-- so get out your tape to make sure if you have doubts.

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    These guns remained in production as late as 1985 and were still on dealer's shelves new well into the early 1990s.

    Now, sadly, Marlin no longer makes a pump gun and with the company currently owned by Remington who markets the classic 870, odds are they may never again.

    The standard barreled versions are still popular with those who know about them as they are extremely well made. Moreover, they are affordable. Even minty guns at premium auction houses rarely get above $300.

    Nevertheless, if you want a rare Long Tom, expect to pony up the bucks. Even in less than ideal shape, they tend to run north of $400.

    However, that's only about $10 per inch.

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