Blasts From the Past: Marlin Ranger Model 90

Marlin Model 90
The Marlin Model 90.Submitted

This week, sadly, we say goodbye to Gunfight Friday after a four-year run. I appreciate all the gun photos people sent in over all that time, but the truth is, Gunfight Friday required 104 guns a year, and I used up good pictures faster than I got them.

I loved GFF. It was a place to feature reader guns, and I learned a lot from the comments by the very knowledgeable group who read GFF. But, it’s gone, at least for the time being. In its place, we’re starting a new series—“Blasts From the Past.” We’ll be running pictures from a variety of sources, including, I hope, F&S readers. I will be going back through my Gunfight Friday files to unearth gems that may not have appeared already. The series will focus on great old guns, but also on curiosities, lesser-known models, and under-appreciated shooters.

We’re kicking the series off with a great old shotgun submitted by Martin, who sent in these pictures with a brief note:

“I have a Marlin Ranger Model 90 103-11 16-gauge O/U that looks like it almost just came out of the box. I picked it up at an estate sale about a year and a half ago, and it's been in my basement ever since. I’m not that into guns and didn't even realize what it was, but it looked so cool I ended up bringing it home.”

submitted
The receiver of the Marlin Model 90.Marlin Model 90

For someone who’s not that into guns, Martin, you did pretty well for yourself. The Marlin Model 90 was made from 1937 to 1958. Sears Roebuck asked Marlin to make them an O/U, and they obliged with the Model 90, under the Ranger line before WWII, and under the J.C. Higgins name after the war. Prewar Model 90s all had double triggers, no top rib, and no ribs between the barrels. Some Postwar guns had a single trigger, and all had side ribs between the barrels. Model 90s had soft iron frames, giving the receivers of some a purple hue.

It was a budget gun, selling for $30 when it was first introduced, although there were some higher-grade Model 90s, including a Skeet King version, and some finely engraved custom models, like the one presented to Marlin spokesman and cowboy star Tom Mix. A very few were made as combination guns, in .410 with .218 Bee, .22 Hornet, and .22 LR rifle barrels, along with a 20 gauge/.30-30 model. Those guns are rare and will cost you should you find one.

But garden-variety Model 90s are out there. Some 33,000 were made, and you can pick them up for $400–$500. They were light, lively, durable bird guns, especially the 16s, like the one Martin found.

I hope you like Greatest Guns, and if you have pictures of rare, interesting, or unusual guns, please send them to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.