If you have been around Marlin rifles for a minute, you are used to tubular underbarrel mags, detachable box mags, and even single-shots. However a short-lived series of rimfire plinkers you may not be aware of also exist that load completely differently.
The Marlin Model 98--note the side loading port in the buttstock
You load it where?
In the years after World War II, Marlin was looking to expand their offerings with some new blood. A popular rifle of the time was the Browning Semi-Auto 22 or SA-22 (also made by Remington as the 24/241). This rifle, designed by that genius John Moses Browning himself in 1914 for FN Herstal in Belgium, was a humble little rimfire autoloader that was fed through an integral tube magazine which held 11 .22 LR or 16 .22 Short rounds. The tube, in a departure from standard 22s of is day, instead of being mounted under the barrel was instead inserted through the butt plate of the rifle until it advanced into the back of the action.
Of course, Browning wasn't the first to come up with this idea, that honor goes to Mr. Christopher Spencer's Civil War-era repeating rifle which held 7 rounds of .56-56 Spencer rimfire in a removable buttstock tube.
Borrowing from Spencer and Browning, Marlin did them one better in 1947.
The Model 88
A Model 88 Deluxe. Note the checkering and rear peep sight.
Using a one-piece black walnut stock, a semi-automatic action with a chromed cocking lever based on the earlier and most successful Model A1, and a 24-inch Micro Groove steel barrel, Marlin engineers came up with a new rimfire rifle they dubbed the Model 88C. Some 45-inches overall in length and just 6.75-pounds in weight, the gun was fed by a 15-shot .22LR capacity removable tube that seated inside the buttstock.
Marlin Model 88 cutaway in the NRA Museum Collection.
Introduced in 1948 it was made it two models, the standard C variant and the DL deluxe option which has a rear peep sight, better finish to include deep checkering, and sling swivels. Cost? As mentioned by Brophy, $30 for the regular model, add an extra $10 for the better option.
Sounds great right? Well about that...
The gun, as anyone that has done so, is a beat to load. You see you have to remove the tube, carefully funnel the rounds end to end inside the opening, then insert the new tube. Well kids and inexperienced hunters soon lost the tube and complaints mounted. This led to the:
In 1957, the company retooled the old 88C/DL gun, which was discontinued the year before, with a model that was virtually the same but with one important difference: the tubular buttstock mag loaded through a special opening in the side to insert the tube. This model also had a better Monte Carlo stock with a Bishop style raised cheek piece. These were very handsome rifles indeed.
However, with the new Model 99 and Glenfield Model 60 series tooled up, it was too little too late and by 1959, the plug was pulled after just over 9,000 were made.
Getting your own
Marlin 89c Disassembly & Reassembly
Today these models are seen as interchangeable as far as resale value goes. Gun Digest's Modern Gun Values lists them both at $150 in Exc condition while Fjestad mimics this quote. Street prices, on the other hand, vary a little with some very nice examples of deluxe guns going for up to $250 in a review of the last 90 days review of archived online gun classifieds sites.
There is a small stock of spare parts out there so be sure to stock up if you have one of these.
Either way, these are great and rare little Marlin semi-autos.