target with bullet holesGun Library ArticleJohn Marlin


What does John Marlin mean for the History of American Firearms?

The Civil War meant a lot for the development of the American firearms industry. The demand for rifles, pistols and various other arms increased and so did the number of companies producing them. During that time, many inventors and gun designers gained the reputation they deserved, including the man that was once John M. Marlin.

Born in 1836 and raised in Connecticut, Marlin discovered his passion for firearms while working for the Colt plant in Hartford. It wasn’t long before he started out his company in the same town as another famous gun manufacturer, Winchester. The company was called Marlin Firearms and was located on State Street in New Haven. Marlin had a strong drive for success and didn’t waste any time in achieving it. In a short period of time, he started to produce his very own series of revolvers and handguns.

Having an incredible team working for him, his company started to gain a reputation for being one of the best, always promoting innovative models. Today there are two models that stand as a testimony for those times, meaning the 1891 and 1893 model. These two are the very first firearms that Marlin’s company manufactured, bringing to him his well-deserved success. And what is more than great is that they are produced even today, of course, with several improvements. The 39 model was another great success for John Marlin, being one of the first firearms using the lever action mechanism. It became widely known and was soon regarded with great favor by those who enjoyed shooting as a sport.

When John Marlin died in 1901, he left the business to his sons and they’ve continued to increase the success of Marlin firearms. World War I brought important changes for the company when it was purchased by a New York Association and renamed as the Marlin Rockwell Corporation. Though the name had been changed and it was run under another management, they still managed to maintain its reputation and even gain new recognition for being one of the biggest machine guns producers worldwide. They’ve served the interests of both United States and their allied nations, proving once more that they are committed and professional.

The ending of the war meant a new start for Marlin’s company.

They started to concentrate on the sporting firearms production and diversified existing models. In 1924, the company was bought at an action by a certain Frank Kenna. He realized the potential of the company and purchased it for the sum of $100, taking the responsibility for the $100.000 mortgage under his own care. There were many things to be done and Frank Kenna did his best to improve the business, leaving the business to his heirs. The company is still standing today under Kenna’s name and management. They are famous all over the world and they are always prepared to face new challenges.

Probably one of the best things Frank Kenna did for Marlin Firearms was to pick out a few models that were popular before World War I and reintroduce them for production. The name of Marlin became once more popular and the company started to develop until 1947. That year Frank Kenna passed away and his son Roger succeeded as President of the company. As other men from the Kenna family, he was responsible and dedicated to expanding the company and introducing new models.

The focus on sporting firearms became even more intense when his brother Frank Kenna came to the presidency after Roger’s death in 1959. Since then and until 1997, various Kenna generations have served to the development and continuous growth of Marlin’s company. Throughout the time, they’ve maintained the same desire for constant improvement and breakthrough discoveries. They demonstrated that the firearms industry could very well benefit from another powerful company, always looking to be the best.

From the year of 1889 when Marlin Firearms was coming out on the market with the first side-ejecting solid top receiver to the modern T900 fire control system in 2004, Marlin’s company has traveled a long way. They have given a new face of the firearms industry, especially when it comes to the sporting rifles and shotguns. The principles that the company was founded on are still respected today as they were more than a century ago. The name Marlin stands on many firearms used by people all over the world and that is actually more than great.

What are the things that Marlin Firearms stands for today?

They are one of the largest manufacturers and designers of 22 rifles in America and worldwide. The famous Annie Oakley considered once their products to be of the highest quality and had a special model designed for her. And she was not the only personality who enjoyed the superior quality and incredible features Marlin’s arms provided. Actors, politicians and various other personalities have owned a Marlin and they have all enjoyed being Marlin users. The increased performance offered both in terms of velocity, energy and projectile has been a trademark of the company, maintained up to the year of 2007.

The firearms produced by Marlin’s company throughout time include: handguns, rifles (Ballard, lever-action, semiautomatic, bolt-action and pump-action) and shotguns. By manufacturing the single-shot rifle designed by C.H. Ballard in 1875, John Marlin became well known for producing one of the finest rifles ever made. The Ballard rifle was produced as a sporting firearm as well, satisfying the preferences and needs of many hunters out there. Marlin was a man that believed in the quality of the guns his company manufactured, wanting to produce firearms that would be useful and professional. His firearms were adapted to chamber in a wide variety of cartridges, starting with the famous 22 rim-fire and continuing with others just as famous: 45-70 or 50-70.

When Annie Oakley tested her abilities in 1906 shooting one of Marlin’s firearms, the reputation of the company was assured. If a great marksman like Oakley considered the Marlin rifle as her favorite, then there was something special about the guns produced by this company. From all the classic American rifles, Marlin’s models seem to be one of the best. They’ve served for protection and attack during the wars, they’ve helped shooters and hunters pursue diverse game while constantly raising the quality of the products manufactured. They will remain forever in the history of American guns, continuing to come up with groundbreaking models.