RIA: Marlin 1897 Bicycle Rifle

Marlin’s 1892 lever action rifle in .22 rimfire caliber proved to be a very popular firearm, and so the company released an improved version in 1897, offered only as a rimfire takedown model. The 1897 would also prove very popular, and the same basic design would continue later as the Model 39.

One interesting variant of the 1897 offered was a Bicycle Rifle. While the rifle was generally available only with fairly long barrels, the bicycle version had a 16″ barrel and full-length magazine tube. This was sized specifically to fit in a special case (disassembled) underneath the top bar of a bicycle frame, allowing kids to easily use their bicycles to take these rifles to their favorite shooting spots.

While the 1897 itself was popular, the bicycle variant was not, with Marlin sales records showing only 197 sold.

26 Comments

  1. That’s so neat. Reminds me of when I was about 13, I was saving for one of the Henry AR-7 .22’s Well, Turns out my grandpa had a few of the older versions left over from when he used to own a convenience store in Idaho. (he sold guns there as well) When he caught wind of it, he just gave me one. Running around his fields as a kid with a .22 was one of the most fun things about my childhood.

    • “No helmets and children with GUNZ!”
      You can see photos of Quackenbush Model 1886 Bicycle Pump Rifle (name is hoax, actually it is single-shot rifle, not pump-action):
      http://www.nramuseum.com/guns/the-galleries/for-the-fun-of-it/case-45-plinkers/quackenbush-model-1886-bicycle-pump-rifle.aspx
      Description say that:
      Children of the 1880s and 1890s sometimes were taught how to shoot before they learned how to ride a bike. This learning order came about because food for eating was more important to families than was an easy ride. In addition, a bicycle cost more than this Quackenbush.

      • Like fresh cracked walnuts or pecans? Quackenbush is better known for making nut crackers,their usually marked HQM on the top. They were also known for their fine nickel plating. I think the Quackenbush bicycle rifle with the pistol grip and the collapsible stock is really cool. I didn’t know that Marlin made a model 39 to fit in that genre too. I’ve hunted bushy tails from a bicycle many times in the past as a child. You can really sneak up on them on a paved road. Used my Mossberg 185d 20ga,would have thought a takedown .22 rifle would be tops.

  2. Marlin has always made truly excellent firearms at a reasonable price point, and their simple, user-friendly .22LR rifles are no exception. Even though I have been collecting and using modern military firearms for many years, I still have fond memories of the Marlin 60 in .22LR from my younger days — so much so that I bought a new one last year, which I am enjoying to the hilt. Talk about a basic, solidly-built yet lightweight, perfectly-balanced little rifle that can still be had NIB for well under $200 out the door.

    • Nothing will get you branded a liberal heretic faster at the AR fanboy sites faster than saying you would rather have an out-of-the-box Model 60 than a 10/22 with a thousand dollars worth of bolt-ons and extended magazines. But it is a better rifle – I’ve owned quite a few 1022s over the years, but I much prefer my 80s-vintage Model 60. Matter of fact that’s what I keep Condition 3 behind the front door in case of weirdness in the midwatch, since I live in a crowded neighborhood of old wooden houses where penetration is a key concern.

  3. There wasn’t a takedown version but I had several “biker” buddies (Schwinn Buzz Bikes, that is) when I was 12 or 13 that would strap Remington Nylon 66 rifles to their apehanger handlebars to ride down to the riverbank to plink. None of the local grownups – including the cops – ever batted an eye.

    • My first gun was a .303 BSA No.I Mk.III – much cheaper than a new .22 in 1964 ! I would carry it one handed on my 3 speed Raleigh. The local police didn’t bother us either – this in a University town in upstate New York.

  4. Bicycle in shape as we know today become popular in 1880s, back then they were called Safety bicycle:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_bicycle
    When bicycle is technically simple, introducing it impacted culture, as it was now possible to travel faster than walking and cheaper than horse (just compare cost of maintenance of bicycle vs horse), so it was available for almost anyone.
    VELODOG revolver as it name imply, was invented specially for bikers, to fend-off feral dogs.

    Other US fire-arms manufacturer in late 19th century/early 20th century also offer take-down rifles, like Remington Model 12, Remington Model 24, Winchester Model 1890, however they don’t call it BICYCLE model so far I know.

    • Also, apparently in US in late 19th century/20th century take-down rifles and shotguns in all sizes were popular, some are always takedown (like Remington Model 14) and some can be found in solid and take-down versions (like Savage Model 99). I found interesting that even take-down self-loading rifles existed, like Remington Model 8 and Remington Model 24.
      Are still take-down popular?
      If no: why they were, but they are not?
      What about accuracy and reliability: does it not lower with join wear?

      • Take-down rifles are still popular today. Although the authorities look at them a trifle askance, mainly due to the movie Dirty Harry (1971), in which the “Scorpio” killer (a fictionalized version of the real-life “Zodiac” hoax) used a customized Arisaka Type 2 parachutist’s rifle;

        http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Dirty_Harry

        It’s worth noting that such rifles were popular for sporterizing back then as they could be had for under $100 in near-mint condition; a barreled action could often be found for under $20. Today, an original, unmodified Type 2 can easily go in four figures at auction, while one “sporterized” as in the movie has almost zero collector value.

        The use of “takedown” type rifles in this and other movies (The Naked Runner, Day of the Jackal, etc.), gave such arms a sinister image in the minds of regulators. Hence the ATF rule regarding a rifle being no less than 26.5″ (67.31 cm) OAL in firing configuration. (While generally attributed to GCA ’68 or NFA ’34, it was actually only added in 1974.)

        As to wear decreasing accuracy, as long as the sights and barrel are kept in proper relation to each other (as on the Marlin M39 takedown, Winchester lever action takedowns with barrel-mounted rear sight, etc.), it really doesn’t matter.

        As long as the sights remain in zero relative to the bore, the exact position of the rest of the arm is largely irrelevant except as to safe breech closure, proper primer ignition, etc.

        For this reason, if I were to “build” a takedown on a barreled Type 2 action today, it would be in .308 WCF with a long eye relief telescopic sight in the Cooper “Scout Rifle” configuration. even when taken apart, the relationship between the ‘scope and the barrel would not change.

        BTW, most detachable “return-to-zero” scope mounts are a “yes, no” proposition.

        Detachable? Yes.

        “Return to zero”? Not generally.

        cheers

        eon

  5. BTW: There exist also fire-arms which might be described as unwittingly take-down. I read that American para-troopers liked M1 Carbine because in can be easily taken down, even despite it was not designed with that in mind.
    To take-down M1 Carbine for easier transport, do that:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3PRrOBLNoY
    halting at 2:30
    Do you known other examples of unwittingly take-down fire-arms?

    • Most obviously, the FAL or any AR-15 variant. Remove the front pivot pin where the rifle “breaks” like a shotgun for stripping and cleaning, and it’s a takedown.

      The Ruger Mini-14, and parent M-14, also can be broken down almost exactly like the M1 Carbine. In fact, so can the M1 Garand. I have personally “taken down” all of the above in under 30 seconds each, and reassembled them about as fast. The only one requiring a tool is the Carbine (for the front band screw).

      One of the key points in the Federal case re L. H. Oswald’s culpability in the JFK assassination in 1963 was that the Mannlicher-Carcano M38 rifle in 6.5 x 52mm could be easily broken down into two sections that he could easily smuggle in to the Texas School Book Depository wrapped in paper, supposedly containing “curtain rods”. The total package’s greatest length would have been the wooden stock, about 29″ including forend. That certainly wouldn’t have looked odd as a package of the aforementioned rods, most of which are around 30″ long in this country.

      Most bolt-action military rifles of the Mauser type, with the standard stock, can be similarly disassembled and reassembled. Zero and bedding would be questionable, though. (Of course, Oswald was shooting at about 65 yards, so he’d have to be pretty incompetent to miss, in any event.)

      Moving to SMGs, the Thompson M1921 and M1928 can be reduced to 23″ OAL by simply pushing the button under the stock wrist and sliding it off. I’ve done it often enough to know. And yes, the Thompson can be fired perfectly accurately minus the stock, especially on single-shot.

      The Ingram designed MAC-10 and MAC-11 really don’t count as “takedowns”, because only the usual Sionics suppressor threaded to the barrel can be removed without field-stripping. Their short OAL is due to their overhung bolt design.

      However, although they can be fired without that suppressor tube up front, I don’t suggest anyone try it without a great deal of practice due to the little buggers’ high rate of fire, ferocious recoil, and genuinely nasty tendency to climb even in short bursts, rather like a Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer or Astra 900.

      Not to mention their hellacious blast, flash, and report due to their short barrels. The suppressor not only quiets them down and prevents them from blinding you at night, it also gives you something to grab on to with your off hand to keep the little monster pointed in the right direction. (The MACs and I are old… acquaintances. “Friends” would be a bit of a stretch.)

      The champion of takedown SMGs is the Sten Mk II. It can be separated into receiver, stock, and barrel groups in about twenty seconds, with the 14″ stock being the longest bit. It’s one of the reasons resistance groups all over Europe during WW2 liked it; it could be concealed or transported in nearly anything, right under the Wehrmacht’s noses. Even the suppressed MK IIS version wasn’t too hard to hide, as the suppressor barrel group was only 15″ long.

      The later Sten MK III was less well-liked, as not only was it cheaper and rather less reliable (it was the source of the “Stench Gun” monicker), but only its stock could be taken off, leaving the barrel/receiver group (about 22″ long) to somehow stuff into something. A non-trivial difference in covert operations.

      cheers

      eon

    • One good example of an entire family of firearms types that inadvertantly introduced takedown capabilities due to other factors is the Rossi family of single-shot rifles and shotguns. In all cases, the weapons were designed to be quickly adaptable to a variety of interchangeable, different-caliber barrels to make them more versatile in general use. Some models are designed as “Matched Pairs”, able to use two specific barrels, eg., the Rossi Model S20-243RBS, which can be configured in seconds in either .243 Winchester or 20-gauge. Some other models are designed as “Trifecta” ( or four-caliber ) offerings, with a choice of three ( or four ) barrels matched to a common receiver and buttstock, eg., the Rossi Model S202250YM in .22LR, 20-gauge and .50-cal. blackpowder. And then, for the customer who wants it all on a single receiver, there is the Rossi Wizard, which can be fitted with barrels in most popular sporting calibers available in North America ( .22LR, .22WMR, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, .45-70, 12-gauge, 20-gauge, .410-gauge, etc. ) as well as some less well-known calibers ( eg., .454 Casull ).

      All Rossi’s use a simple tool-less three step process for barrel removal ( or “takedown”, if you prefer ):

      1. Unscrew the front sling swivel underneath the handguard

      2. Pull off the handguard

      3. Remove the barrel

      Barrel replacement is the exact reverse of this procedure.

      If you are interested, you can search http://www.rossiusa.com. Try looking for their 2014 or earlier catalogues ( usually presented in PDF form ), as these featured the widest variety of available firearms. I have noticed that Rossi have reduced their offerings in the U.S. for 2016, probably due to a perception that they need to focus on a more specific target market, among several possible reasons.

    • The Johnson rifle of WWII had a barrel that could be quickly detached, I read somewhere that that feature made it popular with some troops.

      Regarding the Marlin, I’ve had a model 39 for quite a few years now. One of those things that I really did not need, but it is very well made and a very good design and was appealing for that reason. When almost everything new involves some sort of polymer and aluminum it is nice to have something made of blued steel and walnut with checkering. Several years ago the Marlin lever guns were a fantastic value for what one got–I’m not sure how it turned out when Remington took over, I have not bought any since then. The semi-auto and bolt guns have always been good values and I believe that they are still made in the same plant in Mayfield Kentucky as they were before the buyout.

      • The Johnson M1941 rifle had a quick-detachable barrel because it was designed to have as much commonality as possible with the LMG Johnson also designed at the same time, and the LMG had a quick-change barrel for cooling and sustained-fire capability.

        The U.S. Marine Corps’ Para-Marine unit used the Johnson rifle and LMG both in the Pacific island campaign. They couldn’t get M1 Carbines right off, and even SMGs were scarce, hence the Corps using the Reising on Guadalcanal.

        The Johnson weapons, with their detachable barrels, fit neatly into a canvas carrier that could be hooked or dummy-corded to the drop harness. This beat using a rifle or LMG that had to be airdropped in a canister; that meant that when the paras hit, they generally would only have .45 pistols in case they got bushwhacked.

        As Edwin Tunis said of the M1 carbine, the Para-Marines liked the Johnson rifle and LMG because with them they could land shooting, instead of waiting for the firepower to come down on the next elevator.

        cheers

        eon

      • Hi, Jacob :

        For awhile after the Remington takeover and re-organization of Marlin, the build quality of some Marlin guns did suffer to a certain extent, especially in terms of fit and finish, although most still retained their mechanical reliability. This was especially evident with the lever-action rifles such as the Marlin 336. However, they seem to have gotten the problems resolved and as far as I can tell, the more recent production guns have returned to the original Marlin standards for quality.

      • Almost, but not quite. NEF recommends that the rifle be sent back to the factory for fitting of the new barrel, unlike the Rossi single-shot rifles and shotguns where the owner can easily do his/her own changeouts in the field.

  6. Great idea for a rifle. I use a mountain bike to get back to my favorite small game woods; I carry my rifle or shotgun slung over my back. The bar-hanger is an even better solution.

  7. I think the bicycle rifle was mainly for adults. In 1897 the Safety Bicycle was pretty much the cellphone of the era as it only started becoming truly popular in the 90’s as the intermediate mode of transportation for everyone in the more civilized parts of the country that had relatively decent roads. Motorcycles were not here yet nor cars in terms of being available to the masses.

    • Sorry about that. Someone else had covered what I wrote. Don’t I feel like a fool. Too much in a hurry. I will read the posts better next time.

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