The Marlin Golden 39A Rifle Review

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There has never been a rifle with a more appropriate name. This rifle is “Golden” in a lot of shooters memories. The 39 is the oldest rifle still in production . In fact when Remington purchased Marlin the 39A was the only lever action Marlin had in production until the factory geared up.

The Marlin Golden 39 started out life as the Marlin model 1891 and was used by Annie Oakley in her shooting exhibitions. It was again renamed this time the model 1897 “Bicycle Rifle”. Yep you heard it right the “Bicycle Rifle” with a canvas case for an extra $1.75 made from duck material and lined with red felt. This folks answers the question of why they made this rifle with the large takedown screw on the side. The owner would take the rifle down, place it in the canvas type case and attach the specially designed handles to the V shaped bicycle body.

Late model Golden 39A

In 1922 it was again renamed to the model 39 then finally the last change in 1939 to the model 39A, which finally stuck to this day. When first made it had a straight stock in American Walnut. Of course this rifle and all Marlin lever rifles had the highest quality American Walnut stocks. In 1946 the 39A offered a fluted comb rear stock. In 1950 a white cap was added to dress the rifle up a bit. Oh yes, the “Golden” part of the name was because of the gold colored trigger added later.

My second rifle was a Marlin 39A and a rare one at that. I doubt you’ll ever see one but we—well most of us know how popular Westerns were in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. The Rifleman was one of the most popular TV shows at the time. If you’ve ever seen the intro to the show you’ll see Chuck Conners working that lever at light speed :)

My early 1950’s model had an addition most people have never heard of. At the inside bottom of the lever just under the trigger was a pinned small lever that could be folded out so when the lever was worked this piece tripped the trigger automatically firing a round. As a 12 year old this was very cool! This little factory addition only lasted a few years because of liability concerns I imagine. If I had only known that rifle would still be with me.

Specifications
Action Lever
Caliber .22 LR / Long / Short
Capacity 19 / 21 / 26
Finish Steel/Blue
Barrel 24″
Stock American Black Walnut
Twist 1:16″
Overall Length 40″
Weight 6.5 lbs
Sights Adjustable folding rear sight. Ramp front sight, brass bead, Wide-Scan brand hood

Boys back in my youth would pickup Coke bottles and sell them back to the grocery store for a nickel a piece. We would also cut yards for a $1 if we could get that much. With these funds we would buy our .22 long rifle ammo to feed our precious rifles. Speaking of ammunition the 39A holds 19 rounds of .22 long rifle which is a good number of rounds. It would feed any type of .22 for a total of 26 rounds of “shorts”. Loading was accomplished by turning a small knob in the feed tube under the barrel towards the front that freed the brass tube allowing you to move it to the front until the bullet shaped hole was clear. Then you just dropped the rounds into the tube until you couldn’t get another round in. Push the hollow brass rod back in the tube and turn to lock and start shooting!

Even when I got mine for Christmas in 1961 it wasn’t cheap for the time at $75 used. Of course current prices are nearing $600 with older used guns as high as $750.

The sights are worth mentioning. They did change a bit over the years to a small degree. The rear sight is the “Buckhorn” type with elevation adjustment only. Later the front sight was notched on either side to slide a hood over the front sight to reduce glare. Sometime in the late 1950’s Marlin included a pre drilled receiver for scope mounting along with a mounting plate and two screws to attach it to the top of the receiver. Of course even as a kid this was a horrible thing since no Cowboy would ever use a scope!

Conclusion

This rifle is probably the most accurate .22 I’ve ever shot or owned. Micro-grooved rifling was added in the mid 1950’s and whether that had any effect on accuracy I have no idea but mine was super accurate. They do have a long sight radius with a 24 inch barrel. They weigh almost seven pounds that gives a bit of heft to steady the rifle. I know mine brought home its share of small game☺

To me it’s the last of the old forged steel rifles with real American Walnut stocks and a bit of actual hand fitting. This just appeals to me a great deal and always will. It harkens back to simpler times and guns that were almost all blue steel and high grade wood.

They are rare now and seldom seen in gun shops. In fact I haven’t seen one in years. People who own them now keep them as family heirlooms to be handed down to sons and grandsons and just maybe great grandsons. I just know these rifles are a class act with more than it’s share of history.

Related

Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • Robert

    Huh?

    In fact when Remington purchased Marlin the 39A is now the only lever action Marlin still in production

    • Phil White

      Robert,

      What a typo:-) I meant when Remington bought them that was the first and for a while only one being made at that time. Kinda shows you how important they considered it to be.

  • Jon

    This was my first gun. My dad bought it for me when I was 12 in 1984. I still have it all of these years later and it shoots great. Thanks for sharing. It really is a great quality rifle and a good one for a kid’s introduction to shooting.

    • Phil White

      Jon,

      That and you can hand it down through several generations as well made as they are.

  • eldogg

    i have a 1953 39a which i love. the black walnut wood is gorgeous and is a GREAT shooter. it is an American classic.

    • Phil White

      eldogg,

      A 1953 in good shape is worth a good amount these days!

  • Jim

    The T/C R-55 is also a steel forged and American walnut 22, still made to this day in the US. It’s also a fantastic rifle. Perhaps a good companion for the 39a if one prefers a semi auto.

    • Phil White

      Jim,

      I’ve seen that one but haven’t had a chance to handle one. T/C makes good stuff though.

  • Darrell

    I bought one a couple of years ago, had to search all over the country to find one for sale. Been a fine little rifle.

    • Phil White

      Darrell,

      Most people who get them don’t sell them it seems.

  • Seth from Massachusetts

    My very first gun was a Marlin 39A. Bought it with father’s permission 44 years ago. Now I own 6 of them, all different, including the original one.

    • Phil White

      Seth,

      Now that’s a nice collection with dates spread out over a number of years I imagine.

  • El Duderino

    Robert I had the same “huh?” moment. I mean, I can go buy about a dozen varieties of Marlin lever actions right now…

    • Phil White

      El,

      What I said to Roger:-) Now that Remington has owned them for awhile they expanded out to most of the previous models. When Remington first bought them out the 39A was the only one available. Whether that’s because they had them in stock or made the 39A first I couldn’t say for sure.

    • Phil White

      El,

      I’m glad they are making the Cowboy models again. I wish they would make the competition SASS .38 Cowboy again!

  • Phil White

    Gun,
    What a typo:-) I meant when Remington bought them that was the first and for a while only one being made at that time. Kinda shows you how important they considered it to be. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • Phil From Okieland

    My first rifle also was the Marlin 39A, and was given to me at the tender age of 13 by my Dad, who bought it well used from a local Electrician. It still has the Weaver V22 variable power scope on it that I added to it when I was 17. New at the time, I trusted the Dual Reticule and it holds zero quite well. I’ve wanted to retire it from an everyday shooter and just this week I’ve ordered a brand spanking new one to stand in and let my old girl stay in the safe. Will I sell the old 50′s model 39A? Ain’t never gonna happen!

    • Phil White

      Phil,

      It seems a lot of us have about the same story of how we got our 39′s. A lot of great memories!

  • Fred Johnson

    I still have my 39 that I bought new in 1994. That’s funny about the bicycle gun moniker. There were occasions that I would strap my 39 across my back and hop on my bicycle to ride out of the neighborhood to the old sand quarry for some shootin’.

    It’s not my most accurate .22 rifle, but it is my favorite plinker.

    • Phil White

      Fred,

      That is something isn’t it. Bikes were popular then so it makes sense. We used to get together and ride our bikes out to a creek and shoot pieces of wood floating down the stream. Of course that was in the mid 60′s:-)

  • Todd

    After seeing the QC on some recent Marlin lever guns I think I’ll stick with Henry.

    • Phil White

      Todd,

      That can sure happen when they change owners and have an entirely new crew putting them together! That’s sad to hear.

  • http://RenderRanch.com Zermoid

    I had a Glenfield model 60 with the micro-groove rifling, it was the least accurate 22 I ever owned.
    Could have just got a bad one but I’ve avoided the micro-grooved 22′s ever since.

    • Phil White

      Zermoid,

      Glenfield were the bargain priced guns Marlin made. I’m not sure they were even made in the same place. I never liked that brand-cheap wood and finish.

  • Derek

    This is the gun I intend to buy for my toddlers to teach them to shoot with in 5 years or so.

    • Phil White

      Derek,

      They will be some happy kids! Great choice.

  • Rob

    My first firearn, which I still own, was a Model 39 made in 1927. Don’t think it had been fired that much before I got it in 75 but I shot the heck out of it. Other then some wear on the stock it still looks darn good and functions perfectly. My son got a new 39A for his first firearm and I have a boxed rifle in the armsroom waiting for a grandson.

  • Hrachya Hayrapetyan

    Wow ! Your described rare model must be really very cool ! I wonder how fast one could shoot with that device on? …I guess 500rpm easily can be done ! :)

    • Phil White

      Hrachya,

      LOL— I wish it was that fast! It sure was a fun way to shoot though.

  • http://thoughtsonguns.blogspot.com flowmaster

    Lets not forget the 39 TDS, a much shorter version produced in the early 90s.

    • Phil White

      flowmaster,

      Yep a carbine version with the older model straight stock.

  • Lance

    Looks cute but not as pretty as a Winchester 94/22 though.

    • Phil White

      Lance,

      Well hum, I’d have to mull that one over. I agree on the older 94/22′s. There for a short while they had problems getting the best Missouri Walnut and the stocks weren’t as good but most are pretty nice.

  • http://[email protected] Clifford B. Tomassian

    My first year at MBCC in Watertown,Ma I saved the change from my lunch money til Christmass of 1969.My Dad doubled the amount I saved for Christmas present and that allowed me to buy my Marlin Golden 39 A from Ivanhoe Gun Shop on Main Street in Watertown. I am glad to say I still have it. It is missing the white bullseye in the stock, and that will be soon taken care of. I have other rimfire rifles but none have that ,”feel” or “accuracy” of my 39 A.

  • Roger Hicks

    I bought a .22 cal. Marlin new (sometime between June of 1955 and August of 1958. It was a semi-automatic and had the ammo feed in the butt of the stock. Seems like I remember it came already tapped for a side-mount scope, which I used to install a small 4 power Weaver. Another thing I remember was that the slide handle (you used to open the slide) was bright colored … like chrome, and was likely pressed, rather than forged. It had a walnut stock. Can anyone tell me what the model was and where I can find some photos. Your help is appreciated! Thank you!!!

  • larry

    when i was turning 16, in 1960, i wanted a rifle. my dad wouldnt permit it. [we lived in NYC] my oldest bro, 22 y/o, said – if you give me the cash, i’ll buy it for you as a birthday present and dad cant say NO. i did; he did; and i got my MARLIN 39A GOLDEN brand spankin new as a birthday present! i hunted [in the catskills], shot, and ate squirrel courtesy of that rifle for the next 16 yrs. late in the game, i added a 4X scope. i bagged squirrels w/ head shots at 80 yds w/ that combo. still own it and take it to the range once every few years – for old times sake. damned accurate! you couldnt come up w/ a dollar figure to convince me to part w/it!
    peace, larry

  • BeeGee

    Looking for any information on Model 39 B pre fix about 1940 with two thumb screws on the left side. Looks like factory scope mount. These two screw resemble the one on the right hand sde for take down

  • Larry Pavey

    After reading through all these posts I seem to be the only one that did this in reverse. In 1970 when I was in the Navy I bought a model 39A Golden new for my Dad for Christmas because he always wanted one. He passed away in 1995 and now I have it back along with the Savage single shot bolt actin he bought me for my birthday in 1960 when I was 11 years old.

  • Al

    I have a Marlin 39A Golden with a serial number B7875 with a 24inch barrel. Any idea of what year it was made and what it is worth?

  • Rusty

    My brother passed in 1971 @ 16. His 39a was handed down to me, I was 11 at the time. Later It was borrowed by family and left out in a horse barn and got mild rusting. I rescued it and still have it. It shoots well but sounds a little “off”. Bore looks fairly clean to naked eye. I bought a new 39 this summer. The first 50 rounds have had feeding probs and action lock ups and dud rounds on Remington ammo. Any ideas ?

    • larry

      rusty, i hate to say this,,,,, BUT, the only rifle i ever shot rem in w/o a problem was the bull barrel target [mod 50??,, i cant remem] bk in college in the early 60′s. they were bolt action and we loaded one at a time directly into the chamber. but, my 39a, and my browning challenger semi, HATE rem ammo. nothing but PROBLEMS! i even had a gun shop tell me he would NOT carry ANY rem ammo in any cal b/c of all the issues if you werent shooting bolt actions. try CCI; and clean and oil the 39a.
      peace,
      larry

  • Bob

    I have a Marlin Model 39A Mountie I bought new in 1968. It’s still in like new condition. Now that I am 69 I am thinking of putting a scope on it. If it came with a scope mounting plate I don’t remember getting it.

    Any thoughts on the best Scope and mounting plate to use with my Model 39A Mountie? Will I need to remove the open sights and will I need a hammer extension?

    Thanks……………..

  • http://aol joel k

    have a marlin 39A with serial no. 2269 no prefix or suffix can you tell me age?

  • Wyatt

    i gotta 1936 model 39a an i love it! it was my Great granpas that he used to carry as his saddle gun on his ranch here in oregon, its got a fairly new stock on it but the back parts broke on it already so i just epoxyed it fer now till i can buy a new one, its had no bluing on it, it aint rusted but its gotta nice old patina on it, it still shoots great i use it to shoot jackrabbits an whatever else walks in our pasture that can be put to use

  • nodoor

    Marlin 39-A golden Mountie Ser # T199 when was it made