SOLD FOR: $3,005
Make: J. M. Marlin
Model: Custom Ballard No. 3. This rifle was restored and engraved by Eugene Koevenig of Hill City, South Dakota
Serial Number: 16432
Year of Manufacture: ca 1880. J. M. Marlin marked guns were made in the serial number range 1-17,000 from 1875-1880. Guns made from 1881 onwards were marked Marlin Firearms Co. (Flayderman’s)
Caliber: .22 Short
Action Type: Lever Operated Falling Block Action Single Shot Rifle
Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “38-55”. The left side of the receiver is marked “J. M. MARLIN NEW HAVEN, CONN. U.S.A. / PATENTED. FEB. 9. 1875 / BALLARD’S PATENT. NOV. 5. 1861”. .The front face of the receiver is marked “S”. The underside of the receiver is marked “16432” and “ENGRAVER / E. KOEVENIG”. The receiver is richly scroll engraved, with additional engraving on the underside of the lever.
Barrel Length: The heavy octagon barrel 27 ½” in length and measures 0.950” flat-flat at the muzzle.
Sights / Optics: The front sight is globe sight that is dovetailed into the barrel. The sight has a fine adjustment for windage and replaceable sight inserts. The insert presently in the sight is a round aperture on a post. The barrel is drilled, tapped and filled for iron sights and the top of the receiver ring is drilled, tapped and filled for a scope mount. There is a mid-range Soule sight mounted on the upper tang. The left side of the ladder is marked from 0 to 2.25. The sight has a large eyepiece with an outside diameter of 0.985”. There is no adjustment for windage on this sight.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are fancy walnut with Schuetzen style buttstock with pistol grip, cheekpiece and a brass two pronged buttplate. The wood grain is really beautiful, so please see our pictures. The buttplate is the offhand style with a short prong at the heel. The forend has a very shallow Schnabel tip. There are a few very light marks on the right side of the wrist, two tiny dings behind the cheekpiece, a narrow run of lacquer on the right side of the forend and two light narrow compression marks at the right front of the forend. There is also a compression mark on the left side of the forend. The LOP measures 13 5/16” from the front of the forward trigger and 12 3/8” from the front of the rear trigger to the back of the buttplate. The buttplate shows a few tiny pits in its surface. The buttplate is in about Fine condition. The stocks rate in about Fine Plus condition.
Type of Finish: The barrel is blued with a thin gold band at the receiver. The receiver appears to have been originally case colored, and then the sides were polished to smooth bare metal prior to engraving. The top and bottom of the receiver retain part of their original case coloring. The sides of the receiver are heavily scroll engraved. The lever has a deep blue finish.
Finish Originality: The rifle has been refinished. The markings on the left side of the receiver are worn and there are no caliber markings on the barrel.
Bore Condition: The bore is bright with very light wear in the rifling. There is no erosion in the bore.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 80% of its current metal finish. There is thinning on the edges of the barrel and in spots on its flat surfaces. There are tiny pits under the finish sprinkled over the top half of the barrel for its entire length. There is also a tiny ding in the top edge of the rear side 4” in front of the receiver. The receiver shows no marks, but the 2nd line of the markings on the left side is mostly worn off. There are a few marks through the finish on the underside of the lever. The forend screw and the screw at the underside front of the breechblock are disfigured. The receiver address is partly removed by polishing. Overall, this rifle rates in about Good condition and would rate higher if there weren’t a problem with the action.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly most of the time. However, every once in a while the lever won’t open all the way. It usually fixed itself if we jiggled the lever a little. This could be from old grease this gun has been in storage it’s entire life. The front trigger breaks crisply at 3 oz. when the rear trigger is set. We have not fired this rifle.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: The globe front and Soule rear sights are included. Also included is an invoice from Eugene Koevenig for the work on this rifle totaling over $2400 is included. This rifle was commissioned and never payed for. As told to us the rifle has been in storage since.
Our Assessment: The Ballard rifle was patented in 1861 with production starting in 1862 with Ball and Williams. This was followed by four other companies with about 50% of their output going to fill Civil War military orders. John Marlin made the rifle from 1875 to 1881 and Marlin Fire Arms Co. made them from 1881 to 1891. Marlin made about 40,000 of the rifles, more than all of the other manufacturers combined, and offered them in over 20 different models. This rifle, with its Schuetzen style fancy walnut stock and Soule sights resembles a highly customized Ballard No. 3 Gallery Rifle. The lever on this rifle is contoured to the pistol grip, while the No. 3 had a straight grip, a crescent shaped buttplate, a lever that was bent inward at the rear and open sights. Eugene Koevenig, a gunsmith and engraver from Hill City, South Dakota refinished the rifle and provided the custom engraving and other work that was done. This rifle includes an invoice that indicates the totally cost of the customization and restoration to be over $2400. This is custom rifle has a 27 1/2” octagon barrel with a beautiful fancy walnut stock – please see our pictures as words alone will not describe the beautiful wood on this rifle. The receiver is richly scroll engraved and there is also an engraved pattern on the bottom of the lever. The barrel has a thin gold band near inlet into it near the receiver. The rifle is in about Very Good condition with about 75% of its 80% of its current finish remaining. The barrel shows spots of thinning and thinning on its edges. It shows tiny spots of pitting under the finish scattered over its length. The sides of the case colored receiver were polished smooth to bare metal and then engraved. There are no marks on the receiver, but there are a few marks through the finish on the lever. The wood also shows a few marks. The barrel is bright with very light wear in the rifling and no erosion. There is a possible problem with the action or just old grease and sometimes the lever won’t open all the way – it isn’t just sticky, it gets about half way open and won’t go any further. It usually fixed itself if we jiggled the lever a little, but it locked-up again while being photographed. There were about 17,000 of the J. M. Marlin rifles made, with another 23,000 made after Marlin made the name change to Marlin Firearms Co. This is one of the earlier models, which would normally make it very collectable. However, with its extensive customization, this is probably going to end up in the hands of a shooter who wants a great looking single shot rimfire target rifle. This rifle would be perfect for indoor gallery matches shot at 75-100 feet, and with its great sights and bore, one should be able to find the X ring without any problem.