The Handicapped Man’s “Annie Oakley” Marlin

By Clint Hawkins
Owner Hawkins Arms LLC,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Member

AO1The Marlin Model 1897 became famous by being the rifle used by Annie Oakley. Before she met Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie was the bread winner for her mother’s family by being a prime supplier of quail for restaurants. They especially liked her birds because they didn’t have lead pellets in them. She shot the quail through the head with her .22 Rifle.

Now the purpose of this article is not to talk about Miss Oakley, but about an old Model 1897 owned by a gentleman who calls me “young man.” This gentleman has spinal deterioration but wants to keep shooting. Our kind of guy. He also has trouble seeing the iron sights anymore. He also doesn’t want to give up shooting his Marlin, his favorite gun.

Some time ago, he brought in his favorite gun for me to mount a scope. The only mount that would work (without drilling and tapping holes in the top of the receiver) is a Williams SM-71 Side Mount base with off-set rings. The problem with the SM-71 is that it is sized for center fire rifles like the Winchester 1894 and the Marlin 1895. The little .22 is quite a bit smaller and thus the scope center is about 1/8” to the right of bore center. He was happy with that, though, and said he would see if it would work for him.

A couple of months later, he came back, wearing a neck brace. Can I move the scope to the left and lower it a bit and a little farther forward, he asked. I said I could, but it would take some doing to make an adapter. So we pondered a bit on it and decided that a 1/4” x 1” x 3” piece of steel would do the job. The base mounted on the adapter plate would position the scope 1/8” to the left of the center, 1/4” down and 1/2” farther forward.

AO2The first challenge in doing this is that the plate I used was made from 1/4” x 1” cold rolled bar stock. Fellas, that stuff is hard. It will eat up sanding belts in nothing flat. After getting down to workable steel, I had to contour the adapter to the shape of the receiver side as shown below. The receiver flares at the front to provide a base for the fore arm stock, and is slightly bulged in the middle.

Duplicating the hole positions originally drilled in the side of the receiver was next. These also needed screw head clearance for attaching to the receiver. Then three more holes for mounting the scope base. This needed to be as precise as possible because my original holes had about .010” variance in location, I am ashamed to say. I now have sharper bits. Ten thousandths of an inch doesn’t sound like much, but when you figure that each screw needs a hole with “X” thousandths clearance, it adds up to a potential for a lot of loose fit.

AO4In the first picture, you see the mount and the adapter plate. Each hole required for the mount was originally drilled in the receiver, but now had to be drilled into the adapter plate. The amount of variance, up to an unknown point, is compounded with each hole. If the clearance is only .002” per hole, using the front and rear holes as the limiting factors, you have .002” x 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 = .048” variation in possible vertical positioning of the scope mount between too high and too low aiming points multiplied by the length of the scope. I know Darrell Holland is going to have a Field Day with my math, but if the math is off, the principle is correct. When doing the final fit I used Loc-Tite Blue not only on the screws, but on the Receiver/Adapter junction as well to make sure things were secure.

AO5My friend also needed an increase in Comb Height and Length of Pull (LOP) without altering the buttstock. Our friends at Beartooth and Bauer provided solutions to both with their Comb Raising Kit and Lace-On Recoil Pad kits, respectively, as shown here. I used small strips of masking tape to hold the laces neatly as the comb kit cover is pulled over them.

AO6When my client came in with the problem and we consulted on how to accomplish the task, we spent about an hour. When he came in to pick it up, we spent about another hour to make sure that everything was adjusted correctly, including a change of pads for the comb.

I may get in trouble with some “strictly business” types out there, but I don’t charge for that time. I half-way felt guilty for the amount I charged for the real work I performed and I may have undercharged him at that. But I like to see happy people and he was. He called me “young man” again as he left.

© 2017 American Gunsmithing Institute. Reproduction of this article by any means without approval is not permitted.

6 Responses to The Handicapped Man’s “Annie Oakley” Marlin

  1. Outstanding work Clint. And also outstanding service and devotion to your customers. Every time I think “heck, I could gunsmith” I see a project by one of you guys where you turn a seemingly impossible task into a finished piece and I think err maybe I’ll stick with what I know! Simply outstanding thanks for showing us all that went into keeping one of those who came before us in the shooting sport.

  2. So, you may have under charged for your time. You did turn this man into a repeat customer. Someone will see the work that you did to the old man’s rifle and they will want to have some work done.
    Anyway, it’s not always about the money.

  3. Clint, the old Marlin lever guns are fantastic examples of quality and craftsmanship. I can understand the owner not wanting to drill any new holes in the fine old Marlin M 1897. In 1963 I was fresh out of boot camp and purchased an old M39A S/N B*** with a 24″ barrel at a pawn shop in Concord, CA. on my first leave home. It would be several years before I determined this old Marlin was a fantastic tack driver. So, I had a local gunsmith Install a set of Williams receiver peep sights, which of course required drilling and tapping the receiver; a task that required patience and severals drills because the Marlin receiver is very hard. This gave me the ability to consistently shoot .5″-50 yard groups shooting RP 40 gr LR hollow points. Later, as my eyesight wained I had the receiver drilled and taped for a scope rail. All to say, this diminished the value of this fine .22, but not its ability to shoot. I gave the old M39A to my daughter as a Christmas gift many years ago. Hopefully, it will remain in the family for many generations.

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