Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3002: Remington/Marlin Hepburn Side Ejector Prototype Lever Action

Auction Date: December 5, 2021

Outstanding Documented, Historic, Extremely Rare Remington/Marlin Hepburn Prototype of the Very First Side Ejector Lever Action Rifle as Seen in "Marlin Firearms" and From the Remington Factory Museum Collection

Estimated Price: $40,000 - $60,000

Outstanding Documented, Historic, Extremely Rare Remington/Marlin Hepburn Prototype of the Very First Side Ejector Lever Action Rifle as Seen in "Marlin Firearms" and From the Remington Factory Museum Collection

Manufacturer: Remington
Model: Prototype
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 42
Barrel: 27 3/4 inch octagon
Finish: brown/blue
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 460
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 10
Class: Antique

Offered here is a one-of-a-kind Lewis L. Hepburn designed lever action prototype rifle that was likely manufactured on E. Remington & Sons machinery circa 1886 with features used later in the Marlin Model 1889 rifle, the very first production side ejecting lever action repeater with a flat top receiver. The only marking on this early prototype rifle is "L.L. HEPBURN" marked on top of the barrel ahead of the rear sight. Lewis Hepburn became superintendent of E. Remington & Sons mechanical department and sporting arms starting in 1871, and after a successful career he would leave to go to Marlin after E. Remington & Sons went bankrupt in 1886. Hepburn held U.S. Patent number 298,377, originally filed on December 3rd, 1883 and granted May 13th, 1884, for his first known design of a lever action magazine gun using a top ejecting system, and he would improve that first design with U.S. Patent number 354,059, originally filed on July 29th, 1886 and granted December 7th, 1886; both of which were patented while Hepburn was residing out of Ilion, New York during his time as a well respected employee of E. Remington & Sons. After Remington went bankrupt in 1886, Hepburn would seek employment elsewhere and carried this design with him to John Marlin, where he continued on to become a long time Marlin engineer and designed many of the company's most successful arms that included the Model 1888 through the Model 1897 lever action rifles, and over his thirty year career, secured some twenty patents for Marlin and is credited as the mastermind behind Marlin's most successful lever action arms. He is especially noted for developing the side ejection, solid flat top receiver used on the Model 1889. This is a historically significant firearm in that it is the first known lever action prototype with the side ejection system like what was later utilized in the Marlin Model 1889, and it bridges the gap between Lewis Hepburn's work at Remington prior to his involvement with Marlin. The internal workings of this prototype is based on Hepburn's U.S. patent numbers 298,377 and 354,059 but with a side ejection system. It does not have the locking system seen in his 1887 dated U.S. Patent number 371,455, indicating it likely predates that design and leading to the possibility of this being a Remington manufactured gun. According to page 169 of "Marlin Firearms" by William Brophy, "[T]he L.L. Hepburn patent number 298,377 was for a side-loading, top-ejection mechanism. The locking of the bolt, however, was inferior to the Model 1888 system covered by L.L. Hepburn's patent number 371,455, dated October 11, 1887. Yet when Mr. Hepburn made his first prototype of a side-ejecting system, he used the earlier mechanism modified to side ejection... L.L. Hepburn was [later] awarded letter patent number 400,679 dated April 2, 1889 for the New Model 1889 rifle. The bolt, carrier, and right-hand ejection system were the main differences between this model and the earlier Model 1888." Production Model 1889s carried the October 1887 and April 1889 patents on the barrel. This prototype rifle is pictured and identified in Brophy's "Marlin Firearms" on page 168. The rifle is fitted with a dovetail blade front sight and elevation adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight. The receiver is short and features a scalloped type top and Hepburn's flat side bolt. The uncheckered forearm and straight grip stock are nicely figured walnut. The underside of the stock has a brass plaque marked "206," a collection inventory number from the Remington Factory Museum Collection. Remington was known to have kept numerous examples of their own prototype guns in the collection for reference. Transcribed from the 1920 Remington factory collection inventory list, written by Remington factory employee Melbourne Chambers, of inventory number 206: “Rem. Repeating Rifle Hepburn Sporting Mod. .42 cal. Center Fire." A 1948 dated Remington Museum inventory was also made prior to the sale of over 300 guns in which they listed which ones to retain or sell, and it has this gun listed by inventory number as manufactured by “Remington Arms Co.” as a lever action in 42 caliber and has a remark next to it that says “model.” Provenance: The Remington Factory Collection; The Milan J. Turk Collection

Rating Definition:

Excellent as the first side ejection lever action likely made at Remington with the design later brought by Lewis Hepburn to Marlin. The barrel and magazine retain 90% original brown finish with a small spot on the left side of the barrel towards the muzzle. The receiver retains 97% of the bright original high polish blue finish. The hammer and forend cap retain 95% plus original case colors. 98% plus vivid original case colors remain on the buttplate. 90% original niter blue remains on the loading gate. The wood is excellent with some minor handling marks and nearly all of the original finish remaining. Mechanically excellent. As the very first lever action repeater with a side ejection, solid flat top receiver, this historically significant prototype encompasses the genius of the man that is Lewis Hepburn, and is an important piece in the puzzle that defined Marlin's iconic repeater design. It is a must have for the serious Marlin or Remington collector.

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