Marlin Firearms Co. Model 1881 Deluxe .45-70 Gov’t 28″ Lever Rifle, Antique

SOLD FOR: $2,976

LSB#: 231107EC001

Make: Marlin

Model: 1881

Serial Number: 12045

Year of Manufacture: 1886 Antique; Heavy Receiver, Second Variation

Caliber: .45-70 Gov’t

Action Type: Lever Action Rifle

Markings: The barrel is marked “MARLIN FIRE-ARMS CO. NEW HAVEN CT. U.S.A. / PAT’D FEB 7 65JAN 7 73 SEPT 14 75 NOV 19 & 26 ‘78 JUNE 3 79 DEC 3 79 NOV 3 80 RE-ISSUE NOV 9 1880” and “45 Gov’t”. The serial number is found on the underside of the frame and the left side of the upper and lower tang.

Barrel Length: 28″ Octagonal

Sights / Optics: The gun is mounted with a dovetail set front German silver blade and a dovetail set, rear semi buckhorn V-notched elevator sight. The upper tang is drilled, tapped, and filled for mounting a tang sight (not included).

Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are two-piece checkers deluxe wood with a capped forearm, straight grip, straight comb, and a smooth steel buttplate. There is some pooling just left of the upper tang, an indication of a refinish at some point. The wood is also quite shy of the buttplate at the toe. There are scattered dings marks, scuffs, gashes, compressions, and scratches throughout. One more notable scratch is visible through the checkering on the right side of the forearm. There is play between the forend and metal. There are no visible chips or cracks. The checkering is defined. The LOP measures about 13 3/4″ from the front of the trigger to back of the buttplate. The buttplate shows a light patina appearance with scattered erosion and nicks and dings. The stocks rate in about Very Good-Fine overall condition as Antique and likely refinished.

Type of Finish: Blue

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is somewhat bright and the rifling is sharp and deep. There is scattered light erosion in the grooves. In this writer’s opinion and for the age, this bore rates a 7 out of 10.

Most antique firearms have bores that will show erosion. This is not only due to age but to the use of black powder. When fired, black powder reacts corrosively. NRA Antique Firearm Conditions Standards are quite lenient for bores. In some cases, the NRA standards disregarded the bore’s condition for collectors’ firearms.

Overall Condition: This gun retains about 15% of its metal finish. The majority of the metal surfaces turned a light mustard patina throughout. The sides of the lever have the most remaining blue finish. The rest of the surfaces show scattered light erosion with some notable areas of pitting on the barrel and sides of the receiver. There are evenly dispersed nicks, dings and scuffs about the metal. There is a notable ding on the edge of the crown. The screw heads range from tool-marked to completely disfigured. The markings are mostly clear, the patent dates on the barrel are a bit difficult to make out. Overall, this gun rates in about Good-Plus condition as Antique.

Mechanics: The action functions as designed, and feels strong and tight. We did not fired this rifle. We have cleaned this firearm and performed a mechanic’s check but expect many will want to clean the firearm again depending on their standards.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This rifle comes with a letter from the Cody Firearms museum.

Our Assessment: As stated by the National Firearms Museum, “In 1881, the Marlin Firearms Company was incorporated, and production of Ballard rifles continued under the Marlin banner until they were eventually discontinued circa 1891 due to the rising popularity of repeating rifles. Marlin-Ballard rifles were and are well-known for their accuracy and workmanship, and fancy-grade long-range rifles are eagerly sought after by modern collectors. Marlin continued to expand his product line, introducing his Model 1881 lever-action tubular magazine repeating rifle in that year. Many key features had been patented by Andrew Burgess and others, but John Marlin incorporated these into a single functional firearm. This rifle was available in a variety of calibers ranging from .32-40 to 45-70 Government, a feature that would not be duplicated by competing Winchesters for several more years.” This example has terrific mechanics and a decent bore given its age. It is also equipped with a Deluxe stock set. This would be a terrific addition to a Marlin collection, especially one lacking their earliest repeating rifle. Please see our photos and good luck!


Marlin Firearms Co. Model 1881 Deluxe .45-70 Gov't 28" Lever Rifle, Antique
Marlin Firearms Co. Model 1881 Deluxe .45-70 Gov’t 28″ Lever Rifle, Antique