A hundred years ago, Marlin modified one of its most popular rifles for the most advanced vehicle of the day. While today we would advocate having a truck gun or say a gun is a good car gun, back in 1897, it was all about having a gun for your bike.
The Model 1897
Introduced three years before the dawn of the 20th century, the Model 1897 Marlin was a cute little rifle chambered in .22 Short, Long, or Long Rifle. It was, like most Marlins of the time, lever-action. Its underbarrel tubular magazine would hold a handful of rounds it any of those calibers and fire them just as fast as the user could work the short-throw lever. These guns were simple hunting and plinking rifles, meant to kill tin cans, clay ducks, slay varmints, or put small game in the pot on the wood or coal-burning stoves of the time.
This simplicity translated to a casehardened receiver and either a plain or a pistol grip stock. If you wanted, the gun could be special ordered with Marbles, Beeches, Osbourne or Lyman rear peep sights to make the gun hyper-accurate. As such, it was sold in barrel lengths from 24-28-inches as late as 1922. From this basic gun sprang...
The Bicycle Rifle
For the low-low price of just $15.35 in 1897 (adjusted to $350 in today's wampum), you could get a 5-pound Model 1897 Special Style Bicycle Rifle from JM Marlin in New Haven Connecticut. The gun had a special 16-inch round or octagon barrel (an extra $1.65 for the octagon), and would hold 16 short, 12 long, or 10 long-rifle cartridges in its underbarrel tubular magazine.
What made the gun so neat was that it was a take-down model and as such would break apart into two small sections, each shorter than a loaf of bread. For the extra sum of $1.50, you could get a special canvas leather bound case that was made to hold your Marlin in its takedown configuration. While in its case, it would fit neatly under any gentleman's new diamond-frame bicycle. It was listed in from 1897-1915 and its total production figures are not known.
Getting your own
Stock 1897s can be had as low as $400. This of course is for guns that are on the low-end of beat-up but are still functional. If it's in nice condition, or is a takedown model, you can double, triple, or even quadruple this. Then there are the Bicycle rifles. The thing is more than 80,000 Model 1897s were made and only a fraction was the 16-inch bike guns. Some estimates place these as low as 216 guns made all together. These pieces of early Americana can bring as much as $6,000 in minty condition. Remember, just because it is a M1897 does not make it a Bicycle rifle.
Too bad they don't bring it back today, I'm sure we could find some buyers.