If asked to name perhaps the most popular lever action rifles in history, odds are Marlin would top that short list of answers. The thing is, did you know that Marlin made a shotgun version of the carbine? Better yet, that it was in sweet-shooting .410? If not then keep reading...
The classic Model 410
In 1929, Marlin took their standard Model 1883 lever action rifle and reworked it as a shotgun. To do this they had to lengthen the loading port, modify the tubular magazine, and replace the .45 caliber rifled barrel with a 26-inch smoothbore cylinder choked shotgun tube.
(Note the humpback forearm which is very distinctive to this gun. Photo credit RIA)
This allowed the gun to hold five shots of .410 gauge. Like most shotguns of its era, it was only given a gold bead front sight and no rear.
A rare gun, it wasn't widely marketed although its list price was just $30. Instead was given away free to stock buyers at a rate of one new gun for every four shares of Marlin Preferred Stock. Now these shares were $25 a pop at the time, which, adjusted for inflation, would translate to about $1400 in 2014 dollars.
The thing is, when you remember 1929 from your high school U.S. History class, you recall that it was the same year as the great Wall Street crash, which quickly turned into the Great Depression. With that in mind, it is easy to see why these guns were out of production by 1934, with Brophy estimating that under 10,000 were made.
Since these guns often went to bankers and investors and not sportsmen, they survive today in decent quantity, often in exceptional condition. The going rate for these lever action scatter guns? Oh, about $1400 (showing that they have kept their value in line with inflation) with a few super-rare 26 or 22-inch modified choke round barrel versions going for well over $2K.
The modern .410
In 2004, Marlin reintroduced a lever-action .410 briefly. This gun was a homage to the original Model .410 as it was based on the more modern 1895 frame.
(You can quickly see the difference in the newer version over the classic 1929 model)
This updated version included a 22-inch barrel with a high-vizgreen fiber optic front and folding open rear sight. Cylinder bore, it was capable of carrying five 2.5-inch .410 gauge shot shells or slugs. With an overall length of 40.5-inches, it tipped the scales at 7.25-pounds.
An XLR version with a 24-inch stainless barrel and laminated wood furniture was also produced in small numbers.
Retailing for $614 and wholesaling for around $495, it was discontinued after just a year right before the acquisition of Marlin by Remington and the closure of the North Haven, Connecticut plant.
(Modern versions will be marked on the barrel. Classic models have an unmarked barrel and contain a simple "Marlin .410' scroll on the stock tang)
These new guns had a niche market due to their versatility, being able to hunt small game with shot shells out to 20 yards or so and medium sized game and pests such as deer and hogs out to 50-yards with proper shot placement. Going price today on these guns, rare but not quite as hard to find as the classic .410s, they can usually be found starting at $800-ish and those fortunate enough to have gotten their hands on them and love small-bore shotguns love these sweet little lever scatterguns.
Moreover, we would love to hear about your experience with them in the comments below.
So if you have one, share the love!