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On my bench this week I have a rifle that I have been trying to get my hands on ever since I found out it existed, about five years ago. It might not get a second look on a gun rack but it is my great grandfather’s rifle. My uncle inherited this rifle and asked me to do a once over to make sure it was in good working order and to fix the loading gate. He doesn’t want any other work done to it, which I can appreciate, but if you ask me, this gun is begging for a full restoration to help keep it in the family for another 100+ years.

It is a Marlin model 94 chambered in the somewhat rare .38-40 (more on this round later). This particular rifle dates back to around 1908 or so since Marlin stopped keeping track of serial numbers in 1906 till about 1940 something, and the numbers on this rifle are just barely outside the 1906 date range. My great grandfather was from rugged northern Maine, a farmer during the summer and a woodsman in the winter - and he used this rifle for the first half of the 20th century to feed his family. While the .38-40 is considered to be particularly not well suited to hunting larger game, my great grandfather took moose and countless deer with it (once again proving shot placement trumps caliber).

 One interesting fact about the .38-40 is in its numbering: The first number, ".38", is supposed to be its bullet’s diameter/caliber and the second number,"40", is supposed to represent the 40 grains of black powder that makes up a standard load. But, this cartridge actually uses .401 diameter bullet or more commonly known as a 40 caliber.  The round was introduced by Winchester in 1874 as the .38 WCF (Winchester Center Fire). The modest ballistics of the .38-40 makes the cartridge more appropriate for a handgun than for a rifle, so around 1878 Colt introducing the cartridge in their famous Single Action Army (Peacemaker) revolver. Modern factory loads push a 180 grain round lead nose at about 1160 ft/s. You used to be able to find factory “+P” rounds that bumped the ballistics up to around 1775 ft/s but people kept loading them into revolvers with disastrous results. 

I wish I had a picture or two of him with this rifle to attach to this post but I have not been able to find any. I did pick up a box of ammo so my son and I could shoot this piece of family history and we’ll take some pictures for sure. I am not next in line for this rifle but I’m honored to be working on it.


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From left to right: 
40s&w, 
.38-40, 
44 special, 
45acp