Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3027: Marlin Hepburn Model 1888 Prototype Rifle

Auction Date: December 5, 2021

Documented, Historic, Extremely Rare Marlin Hepburn Model 1888 Prototype Lever Action Rifle Photographed in "Marlin Firearms"

Estimated Price: $30,000 - $55,000

Documented, Historic, Extremely Rare Marlin Hepburn Model 1888 Prototype Lever Action Rifle Photographed in "Marlin Firearms"

Manufacturer: Marlin Firearms Co
Model: Lever Action
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 WCF
Barrel: 28 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 347
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 34
Class: Antique

This is certainly a one-of-a-kind, historically significant Marlin prototype designed by renowned firearms inventor Lewis L. Hepburn. In fact, Hepburn's name is stamped on the barrel. During is 30 year career at Marlin, Hepburn secured some 20 patents and designed many of the company's most successful arms that included the Model 1888 through the Model 1897. The Model 1888 was Marlin's second production lever action rifle and was manufactured for a very short period c. 1888/89, making it one of the shortest production Marlins. After developing the Model 1888, Hepburn went on to design the side ejection, solid flat top receiver first used on the Model 1889. This receiver design would define Marlin's iconic repeaters, and the prototype for the side ejection receiver is also in this auction. This historic prototype rifle for the Model 1888 is pictured and identified in Brophy's "Marlin Firearms" on pages 163-164 and is based on Hepburn's patents. As explained by Brophy, "Hepburn's patent number 371,455, dated October [11, 1887], covers this model; however, his earlier patents, number 298,377 of May 13, 1884, and number 354,059, dated December 7, 1886, are referred to in the 1887 patent as being of the 'same general characteristics'" (pages 162-163). The rifle is fitted with a dovetail front sight base (blade is absent) and an elevation adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight. The only marking on the rifle is "L.L. HEPBURN" behind the rear sight. The receiver has a concave top ejecting bolt. The full octagon barrel and full length magazine are blued. The receiver, lever, forend cap and buttplate are casehardened. The uncheckered forearm and straight grip stock has highly figured walnut. Provenance: The Milan J. Turk Collection

Rating Definition:

Very fine as the Hepburn prototype for Marlin's second production lever action rifle, the Model 1888. The barrel and magazine tube retain 90% original blue finish with thinning to brown on the balance. 80% plus vivid original case colors remain on the receiver and bolt. The forend cap and lever retain 95% original case colors. 40% faded original case colors remain on the buttplate. 60% original nitre blue remains on the loading gate. The wood is very fine with minor dings and scratches and most of the original varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. Don't miss this opportunity to acquire a prototype Marlin designed by legendary inventor L.L. Hepburn. A great piece of Marlin history for the serious Marlin collector.

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