So you have a snake in your garden, or even more common, a flock of small pesky birds that are constantly robbing every piece of fruit from your trees, what do you do? Marlin had that answer and made an unusual gun for this very common need. The Model 25MG, popularly known as the Garden Gun.
The origins of this concept
Back in the late 1800s, trick exhibition rifle shooters such as Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody made audiences cheer when they smoked glass balls, soda crackers, and other items thrown into the air with expert shots from their seemingly normal rifles. Well, don't tell the kids, but just as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny weren't all they appeared to be, neither were many of these shooters. Many of these trick shots used smoothbore rifles firing rimfire shot shells. These rounds, what we would call rat-shot or snake-shot today, gave the guns much better accuracy and allowed point shooting with a reasonable chance of hitting the target.
Don't get us wrong, Annie and Bill were expert shots, but their choice of guns did give them a little insurance when performing in front of a crowd. It's all about showmanship after all.
(All of these guns will be marked to fire shotshells only)
The Marlin 25MG was not a rifle. Although based in some regards on earlier Marlin 22LR/22WMR bolt-action rifles, it has a smoothbore mild-steel shotgun barrel instead of a micro-grooved rifled one. The action, including the trigger group, bolt, extractor, and stock was the same as the Model 25 rifle, but the different barrel made all the difference. Since the gun was not designed for long range accuracy because it could not put a spin on a bullet, there was only a large high-vis front sight and no rear sight. The gun was offered in both a wood and black synthetic stock from 1999-2002.
(Besides the rollmark on the barrel, you will notice that the shotgun has no rear sights)
(A high vis front sight, basically an improvement of the stand-alone front bead, is all the shotgun really needs)
Without rifling, the gun was billed as being only capable of firing 22 WMR shotshells. There were two basic types of rounds made for these guns by CCI and other makers. The first was lethal round with 52 grains of #12 shot that fired at 1000 ft. /sec. This was capable of dusting rats, mice, and other four-legged vermin as well as winged pests like house sparrows, starlings, and pigeons. Besides running and flying targets, the gun coupled with these rounds is a potent snake charmer out to 25 feet or so. The second type of round is the blank 'report' shell, which was a cardboard cover over a load of smokeless powder. This was for use as a bird bomb to spook away flocks of birds without harming them.
Use and collectability
These guns are popular with many rural homeowners and are even used at airports and by pest control agents across the country. There have been reports of users cleaning out warehouses of pests that could not be flushed out or trapped by the liberal use of .22 shotshells. This humble round is perhaps one of the few that can be used indoors without the pressing risk of shooting through walls and roofs unless done at point blank range.
Marlin only made these interesting little rifles (sorry, shotguns) for four years and the last MSRP on them was $245. With such a narrow loading of ammunition availble to them, there wasn't a big demand for them and as such, these cool guns can usually be found for well under $200 today.
Word is the snakes and starlings have been running buy-back programs on them so you may want to get one while you can.
The garden you save may be your own.