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lever action rifles and m1 garand

Hook & Barrel Gun Beat: Marlin Lever Action & M1 Garand Rifles By The Numbers

American shooters have a special appreciation for lever-action rifles. They were born and built here, played a notable part in our 19th-century history, became a mainstay of the popular Western Film genre, and dominated domestic deer hunting for most of the 20th century.

On the flip side, the M1 Garand is a legend in its own right. While it hasn’t been used in military service since 1957, it still maintains a devoted following and plenty of lore to go with it.

Marlin Revived By Ruger

Lever-action rifles will always be our thing. That’s why I wasn’t shocked to see Sturm Ruger & Co. buy Marlin Firearms—a lever-action icon—after the bankruptcy of their parent company left its future in doubt. I’d say Marlin, with variants of their 1894 and 1895 models essentially in continuous production for 125 years, was the beating heart of the lever-action rifle world. Thanks to Ruger’s timely rescue, Marlin lever-action production hardly missed a beat. Quality control that suffered under its previous parent company was restored and the whole production process was updated and refined.

marlin lever action rifle

Over 6,000 Marlins Sold At Gunbroker.com

A review of sales data from Gunbroker.com showed that in the last twelve months, just over 6,000 Marlin lever actions found new owners through their auction site. Broken out, the total included the heavy-hitting .45-70 Government Model 1895 leading the pack with almost 3,000 sold, followed by the .30-30 caliber Model 336 (probably the best lever action deer rifle ever made) in second place with just over 2,000 sold, and the .44 Magnum Model 1894 in third place with about 1,000 sold. The table below shows the percentage of new vs. used guns sold and their average prices. While likely imperfect, this little survey gives us some idea of the popularity of Marlin lever action rifles.

marlin lever action rifle

Since Gunbroker.com is an auction site, we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions about the higher percentage of used guns sold as compared to new. The former are usually sold by individuals in auctions and the latter by FFL dealers through fixed price listings in their Gunbroker-based online stores. Either way, the buyer-driven pricing of the auction sales and the price competition of the fixed-price sales leave us with a good indication of what consumers are willing to pay. To my mind, what is most interesting about this data is the comparatively high price consumers were willing to pay for used Marlins. That’s a hallmark of a valued brand.

So You Wanna Buy One of the 5+ Million M1 Rifles?

The M1 rifle, often called simply “Garand” after its inventor, earned everlasting fame and popularity with American shooters and gun collectors through its impressive service in World War II. A sexy beast of a weapon weighing almost 10 pounds, the semi-automatic, gas operated, M1 Garand seems antiquated by today’s standards with its geometrically complex long-stroke piston operating rod and eight-shot, en-bloc, clips; but in its day it was without peer for practical firepower and ruggedness. The U.S. Army decided in 1937 that the semi-automatic M1 rifle would be the primary arm of the American soldier. That decision set industrial forces in motion which ultimately resulted in 4,040,802 of them being built during the war. The U.S. Army Ordnance Department’s Springfield Armory facility produced 3,526,922 and Winchester Repeating Arms delivered another 513,880 under contract.

m1 garand

The United States was the only combatant that made a semi-automatic rifle standard issue for its ground forces. If you don’t think that’s a big deal, imagine being the German or Japanese soldier facing them with a five-shot bolt action in your hands. It didn’t take the Japanese long to realize Banzai charges against American infantry with semi-automatic M1 rifles were suicidal.

M1 Production History

M1 rifle production ceased in 1945 but was restarted in the early 1950s. Springfield Armory made 637,420 more M1 rifles from 1952 to 1957 and contracts were met with two private firms. Harrington & Richardson made 428,600 from 1953 to 1956 and International Harvester made 337,623 from 1953 to 1957. In total 5,468,772 M1 rifles were made from 1937 to 1957.

The M1 remained the standard issue service rifle for the U.S. military until the M14 rifle was adopted in 1957. However, the M14 never fully replaced the M1 which remained in service with some National Guard and Reserve units into the 1970s.

m1 garand

M1 Garand Rifle Sales Today

In the last twelve months, over 2,200 M1 rifles have changed hands through Gunbroker.com. More than 2,000 of them were made at Springfield Armory. These are the most commonly encountered guns, though, on close examination, it will be discovered that nearly all have gone through one or more U.S. or foreign arsenal rebuilds. During the Cold War, the U.S. gave vast quantities of materiel to foreign governments fighting Communism, some of which eventually found their way back to America. Despite being plebian, the typical “mix-master” Springfield Armory M1 retains collector appeal because it’s the most commonly issued service rifle of World War II. They were also the best-finished M1s of the war.

By contrast, Winchester-made guns were the worst finished, yet name recognition greatly enhances their collectability, even when rebuilt.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks go to the gun-number crunchers at Gunbroker.com for their assistance in putting together this first installment of “The Hook & Barrel Gun Beat.”

m1 garand wwii

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