History of Ballard Rifles
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Not a great deal is known about the man who designed and patented what was to become one of the finest single shot actions made in the United States. His name was Charles H. Ballard, born in 1822 in the town of Sterling, Massachusetts. C.H. Ballard's occupation was that of a machinist. On November 5, 1861, he obtained a patent for a firearm that was to make the name "Ballard" a household word to riflemen for many years to come. After receiving the patent C.H. Ballard sold his interests to Warren Williams of the firm Ball and Williams. Ball and Williams was the first of many different firms to manufacture the new Ballard rifle in quantity.
The Ballard action patented by C.H. Ballard was manufactured by many different firms most notably Ball and Williams, R. Ball and Company, Merrimack Arms Company, and Brown Manufacturing Company. These firearms were mainly chambered for rimfire cartridges of the era and Civil War contracts figured heavily in production runs. The Ballard single shot most recognized by today's single shot enthusiast did not come along until Schoverling and Daly of New York, then holders of the Ballard patent, made arrangements with John Malon Marlin to work over the old patent and begin production in his plant.
The first Marlin-made Ballards made their debut in 1875. Between the years 1875 and 1891 J.M. Marlin and the later Marlin Firearms Company offered over twenty different models of the Ballard single shot rifle. These are the single shots that established the fine reputation for accuracy and reliability that the Ballard enjoys to this day; at many of the most prestigious rifle matches of the era, the Ballard was the preferred rifle among expert shooters. Riflemen of the day recognized the advantages of the "pull-rod" system of attaching the buttstock and the excellent Ballard set triggers. The Ballard action also provided for a camming action of the breech block, a center hung hammer for fast lock time, and the internal parts were contained in the breech block, protecting them from dirt and fouling. Ballard rifling was also recognized as being superior especially when shooting grease-groove bullets. The many different buttstock styles and barrel weights offered meant that the competition shooter could tailor a rifle to his specific needs. Indeed, many first generation Ballards are literally custom rifles.
Information gathered by George
MARLIN-MADE PATTERNS, 1876-90, AND MODERN RE-CREATIONS
The original guns were made by John M. Marlin, New Haven, Connecticut (1879-81) or the Marlin Fire Arms Company, New Haven, Connecticut (1881-89). They shared the same dropping-block action; barrels were generally rifled with six concentric grooves twisting to the right.
No. 1 Hunter's Model
Typically about 45.25 inches overall, weighing 8.05 pounds and fitted with a standing-block sight, this was introduced in 1876 in .44 rim- and centre fire only. The first Marlin made Ballard rifles were advertised with a round barrel (26-30 inches), a blued frame, a Marlin-patent automatic extractor, and a special reversible firing pin for rim or centre fire ammunition. The original rifle was renamed "No.1" when additional patterns appeared, and a .45-70 chambering was used in addition to .44 Ballard Long and Extra-Long.
No. 1½ Hunter's Model
Chambered for .40-63 Ballard or .45-70 Government cartridges, the 1879-vintage No. 1½ was a No. 1 with an extra-heavy wrought iron frame. A typical rifle was 47.30 in overall, with a 32 inch round barrel, and weighed 10.07 pounds. A rifle type butt plate and Rocky Mountain sights were standard. The No. 1½ lasted until 1883.
No. 1¾ Hunter's Model
Introduced in 1879, for .40-65 Ballard Everlasting or .45-70 Government rounds only, this was a minor variant of the No. 1½ distinguished externally only by its double set trigger.
No. 2 Sporting ModelIntroduced in 1876 for .32, .38, .41 or .44 rim- and centre-fire cartridges, this had an octagonal barrel, a reversible firing pin, and a blued frame. A variant chambering ".44 Colt and Winchester Center-Fire" chambering (.44-40 WCF) was added in 1882, but the .41 and .44 Extra Long were abandoned. The .32 version was sold with a 28 inch barrel, with which it weighed 8.25 pounds; .38 patterns had 30 inch barrels and weighed about 8.75 pounds; .44 examples, also generally made with 30 inch barrels, were about 45.25 inches overall and weighed 9 pounds unladen. Most had Rocky Mountain sights. The last guns were made about 1889.
No. 4 Perfection Model
Dating from 1876, this model, subsequently known as the "Perfection", was intended for hunting in .38, .40, .44, .45 and .50 center-fire, and usually had open Rocky Mountain sights.
So called "Everlasting Shells", specifically intended for reloading, were recommended for the No. 4. It had an octagonal barrel (26-32 inches) and an extra-heavy heavy case hardened receiver.
By 1881-82, guns had been chambered for the proprietary .32-40, .38-50, .38-55, .40-63, .40-65, .40-70 and .44-75 Ballard cartridges, plus .44-77 Sharps and .45-70 or .50-70 Government patterns. In 1883, however, Marlin had reduced the options to .32-40, .38-55 or .40-65 only.
A typical .40-63 example, with a 30 inch round barrel, was about 45.35 inches overall and weighed 9.95 pounds unladen.
No. 4½ Mid-Range Model (4½ and 4½ A.1 patterns)
Announced in 1878, No. 4½ had a pistol-grip butt and a half-length fore end, woodwork being extensively checkered. The barrels were half- or fully octagonal, and an improved peep-and globe sight system was fitted. A typical .40-90 example was about 40.5 inches overall, had a 30 inch barrel and weighed 10.25 pounds. Chamberings included .38-55 Ballard, .40-70 Sharps, .40-90 Ballard, .40-90 Sharps, .44-75 Ballard, .44-77 Sharps, .44-90 Sharps (2.63 and 2.88 inch cases) and .44-100 Ballard, plus .45-70 and .50-70 Government.
The No 4 A.1 rifle of 1879 was a minor variant with a fine English walnut half stock, Marlin's improved vernier back sight (graduated to 800 yards), and a wind gauge front sight with bead and aperture discs. The frame was engraved, the optional shotgun or rifle-type butt plate was rubber, and every part was "finished in the best manner". The frames usually displayed "Mid-Range A.1" (in Old English letters) in an engraved panel. Production continued into the mid 1880s.
No. 5 Pacific Model
This 1876-vintage rifle was a modified No.4 (q.v.), with an extra-heavy iron frame, a heavy octagonal barrel (30-32 inches), double set triggers, and, unlike other Ballards, a cleaning rod beneath the muzzle. Rocky Mountain sights were standard.
New .40-85 and .45-100 options were announced in 1882. Weights ranged from 10 pounds for the .38-55 version to 12 pounds for the .45-100 type. A typical 32 inch barrelled .45 example was 47.30 inches overall.
Production continued until 1889, by which time rifles had been chambered for .38-50 Ballard, .38-55 Ballard, .40-63 Ballard, .40-65 Ballard, .40-70 Sharps, .40-85 Ballard, .40-90 Ballard, .44-40 Winchester, .44-75 Ballard, .44-77 Sharps, .45-70 Government or .45-100 Ballard.
No. 5½ Montana Model
Made only in 1882-83, this was essentially a heavier No. 5, generally found with a ring-tip breech lever instead of the normal spur patterns and chambered for the .45 Sharps cartridge (2.88in case). Rifle or shotgun-style bun plates were supplied to order. A typical gun was 47.15 inches long, had a 30 inch barrel and weighed about 13.6 pounds.
No. 6 Schuetzen Model
Known as the "Off-Hand Model" when introduced in 1876, this was intended for European-style target shooting popular in the eastern USA. Originally chambered only for .40-65 and .44-75 cartridges, it had a half-octagonal barrel and weighed up to 15 pounds. A double set trigger system was standard. Most guns were fitted with Marlin's short or mid-range vernier peep back sights, graduated to 800 yards. Hand made straight-wrist "German" (Swiss) style butts, with a cheek piece and a nickel plated hook-pattern shoulder plate, were standard fittings.
By 1883, the chambering options, which had included .32-40 Ballard, .38-50 Ballard, .38-55 Ballard, .40-65 Ballard and .44-75 Ballard, were restricted to .32-40 or .36-50. A typical .38-50 example, with a 30 inch barrel, was 48.05 inches overall (including the butt-plate hook) and weighed 14.11 pounds.
No. 6½ Off Hand Model
Also known as the "No. 6½ Rigby", this was introduced in 1876. It was similar to the standard No. 6, but had a modified "German" pattern walnut butt with a chequered pistol grip and a Farrow shoulder plate. The barrels, measuring 28 inches or 30 inches, were bought from John Rigby & Company of London. Marlin mid-range (800 yard) vernier back sights were standard and a wind-gauge pattern front sight was fitted. The receivers of most rifles were engraved with scrollwork, though differences in pattern are known. A typical 28 inch barrelled rifle measured 44.50 inches overall and weighed 10.12 pounds.
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