Produced for a scant two-year period, the often-overlooked Marlin Model 19 was a scattergun with class that signaled the end of 19th century thinking and stepped boldly towards a modern design that we can appreciate today.
A superb Marlin 1898 shotgun
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 and 17) guns which gave way to an improved Model 24 in 1908, which, like all of the above, had an external hammer. An often forgotten blip on the map here was the interesting and short-lived Model 19.
So what's so darned interesting?
(All of these are takedowns)
Well, the Model 1898 was a good takedown 12-gauge shotgun, with its 26-32 inch cylinder bore barrels, tubular magazine and pistol grip stock. What its follow-on versions did in the Model 16 was offer different calibers (hint: 16) and a straight stock (Model 17) without really changing much. They waited for the Model 19 to do that.
Overall, the new gun, introduced in 1906, was lighter, which made it faster to the shoulder and easier on the field carry for sportsmen. Further, to accommodate complaints that the previous Marlins scatterguns suffered from having too glossy a finish on the top of the barrel, the Mode 19 was given a special two-part matte finish on the topside to help with glare. This was one of the first times that the such feedback for better sporting use translated into changes made at the factory.
Further, the mechanism of this gun (in later 19G, 19N, and 19S versions) included internal safety features, which kept it from going into "false battery" like the previous Marlin pumps. Finally, these guns were set up to allow for the use of 2 3/4 inch smokeless shells whereas most of the Marlins before it in 12 gauge were 2 1/2 inch black powder guns.
These guns on the outset were only made briefly (from 1906-1908 although later versions like the 19S appear to have been assembled as late as 1916). They were made in four different grades (A, B, C, D,) with each progressively better fitted and finished. The Model 21 and 24 soon supplemented the model, and then replaced it.
Getting your own
The good news is that these guns, while rare, are not currently highly sought after and you can often luck into them at bargain prices. While the various gun values books list very realistic prices for common guns ($150-$300) they often go over $1,500 for high-grade models, which, in general are not realized on the market. This means that until the market catches on that these bargains are out there, these guns can make good investments.
A beautiful Factory Engraved Marlin Model 19 "C" Grade Slide Action Shotgun that was estimated at $800-$1500 value but only went for $450. May you all be so lucky!
These guns will be marked along the barrel with "MARLIN FIRE-ARMS CO., NEW HAVEN, CT., U.S.A. / PAT'D APRIL 2. 1889. NOV. 6. 1894. MAY 12. 1896. JUNE 2. 1896. NOV. 27. 1900. MAR. 29. 1904. NOV. 29. 1904" with "Special Smokeless" under it.
The model number will fall along the tang of the gun's receiver reaching over the back spine of the buttstock.
Now, if you have one, you should exercise caution should you intend on shooting it. According to Shotgun World, "During 1998, Marlin issued a service bulletin recommending that slide action exposed hammer Models 1898, 16, 17, 19. 19S, 19G. 19N, 21,24, 26, 30, 42, 49 and 49N, in addition to hammerless Models 28,31, 43, 44, 53 and 63 should not be fired as many of these guns are 70 to 100 years old and system failures can and do happen."
(There are often many materially poor Model 19 shotguns that can be found for the $100-$150 range and make good display items)
Should you disregard the warnings, have the gun inspected by a gunsmith with knowledge of the design and even after its been cleared be sure to use light loads and wear your eyes and ears.
These beautiful guns, now over a century old, are best used as wall hangers.