Odds are, you either cut your teeth on or have at least at one point in your life fired a Marlin semi-auto .22LR rifle. Today, the tube-fed Model 60 and its detachable-magazine Model 70 half-brother are the benchmark for rimfire auto-loaders around the world. Who would have thought that this all started in 84-years ago with the humble Model 50.
Marlin, coming out of the “Roaring 20s” was a company looking to change. It had established itself with lever-action rifles and had even branched out into some pump-guns before the Great War forced it to switch production for the military. In an effort to reboot production following the end of that conflict, they brought back a smaller catalog of classic designs that the gun-owning public knew and loved– but they needed something fresh.
Competitors such as Remington and Winchester had semi-auto rifles on deck such as the Winchester Model 1903 (it a unique .22 Win Auto loading) which were a hit with small game hunters and target shooters.
Marlin thought they could do better and the result was the holy grail of modern Title II firearms collectors:
The legal and transferable open-bolt semi-auto rifle.
Most Marlin owners know of their long legacy of lever action rifles, .22 rimfire guns, and others. However, what most donÂ’t know is that the company was one of the largest manufacturers of machine guns in World War One.
In 1915, during World War I, a New York syndicate bought the company from the sons of John Marlin, the company’s founder, and renamed it the Marlin Rockwell Corporation (MRC). In that same year, MRC obtained license to the 1895 Colt Light Machine Gun. Colt had been manufacturing their ‘potato-digger’ machine gun for twenty years and the weapon had been made in a half dozen calibers not only for the US Army and Navy but also for Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, and Imperial Russia. With World War I becoming a boom for Colt and other firearms manufacturers producing weapons for Western European clients, the company was anxious to rid itself of the old Model 1895. Colt sold all of the rights, tooling, plans, and patents to MRC and washed their hands of the old potato digger.
The rest in my column at Marlin