How short can you get? The pre-1934 Marlin SBRs
In the 1930s, the wise members of Congress passed legislation that established the National Firearms Act, which regulated the civilian use and ownership of all the cool guns such as those, capable of full-auto fire, cane guns, pen guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles. It is this last class that caught up a number of innocent Marlin lever guns in the dragnet.
The NFA classified a SBR as one that had a barrel length of less than 16 inches or overall length of less than 26 inches. While not making them illegal, Congress set up a $200 tax on these guns, which in 1934 was a small fortune (about $10,000 in today’s dollars). While Marlin (and most other rifle makers) stopped making non-NFA compliant firearms except for military sales, there were a number of horses that had already left the stable so to speak.
Of the more that 500,000 rifles made by Marlin between 1898-1934, it is estimated that just under 2,000 of these were modern carbines with barrels shorter than 16 inches. These guns by and large were special order trapper models that were fitted at the factory with barrels that ran as short as 12-inches on the Model 92, 93, 94, and 95 rifles, typically in handy calibers such as 32-30 and .44-40 produced in the early 1900s.
The good news is that the feds eventually dropped these classic old rifles off their NFA list and instead put them on the Curios and Relics list (C&R), making them not liable for the tax stamp to transfer.
The latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Curios and Relics List download includes just 747 vintage Marlin SBR lever guns. While there are undoubtedly guns out there that are not on the list, sadly, they are likely to be in violation of the NFA, as they are not registered.