Ballard Info

Ballards

Moderators: Regnier (gunrunner), JohnK, Sure-Shot

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Ballard Info

Post by Jim D » Wed May 02, 2007 11:59 am

I want to start by saying that I know very little about Ballards, so I need some sage advice.

I have an old J.M. Marlin Ballard action that I was going to re-barrel, restock and color case harden. I was talking with the folks at the Ballard Co in Cody last week and they warned me that if it was a cast action that they wouldn't use it for anything more powerful that a .22 RF because the cast actions are very brittle. The serial number of this action is 168XX. The markings on the side are gone. My questions are:

1. If it is cast, is it safe for something like a 25-20 or 44-40?

2. To me it looks like it is cast and not machined from a forging. Is there an easy way to tell?

3. What would be the correct markings on the left side if I have them restored?

4. Would any of the early Marlin cresent butt plates be correct for this gun? Like an 1881 cresent?

5. Would this have had a horn fore end tip?

Thanks for your help!

-jim

Image
Image

Regnier (gunrunner)
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 4261
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2002 2:33 am
Location: The Sunflower State

Post by Regnier (gunrunner) » Wed May 02, 2007 5:32 pm

Hi Jim;

If you are interested in great source of Ballard information, you need to get a copy of John Dutcher's book, BALLARD, The Great American Single Shot Rifle. It will have all the answers to your questions and some you did not think of yet.
To answer your questions, the easiest way to tell if you have a cast receiver is to look at the underside with the breech block removed. If it is cast, it will have a rough finish to some of the inside surfaces. The cast receiver will also have a hollow under the barrel shank area. The forged receivers are solid in this area.
If this is a J. M. Marlin Ballard receiver, the markings can be:
J. M. Marlin New Haven, Conn. U.S.A.
Ballard's . Patent . Nov. 5, 1861.

or

J. M. Marlin New Haven, Conn. U.S.A.
Patented Feb. 9, 1875 .
Ballard's . Patent . Nov. 5, 1861.

The new patent date is for John Marlin's reversible firing pin, and can be found on guns that did not have the reversible firing pin, depending upon the model.
Now, if this is a Marlin Fire-Arms Ballard, the markings will be:

Marlin Fire-Arms Co. New Haven, Ct. U.S.A.
Ballard's . Patent . Nov. 5, 1861.

or

Marlin Fire-Arms Co. New Haven, Ct. U.S.A.
Patented Feb. 9, 1875 .
Ballards . Patent . Nov. 5, 1861.

Now, to confuse you, all marking lines are the same length when they are stamped on the side of the receiver.
Yes, a Model 1881 crescent style butt plate would be correct for a Ballard rifle if it had a crescent butt plate.
Different models had the horn forearm tip, and some did not. It would depend upon which model you are looking to make up. Your action is a straight grip gun with double set triggers. The lever was used on several different models, like a No. 4 Perfection, and there is a picture of one on page 136 of John's book (bottom gun) that has a horn forearm tip. This gun is a .38-55 caliber gun. The most common gun found with that style lever is the No. 2 Sporting rifle which are mostly guns in the .32 Long, .38 Long .38-40, .44 Long and.44-40 . The .32 Long,.38 Long and .44 Long were guns that used the reversible firing pins. Later, the .32-20 caliber was offered.
Ther are lots of options available for the Ballard rifle. It all depends upon how you want it to look.
I hope this helps.

User avatar
marlinman93
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 2457
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:22 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Post by marlinman93 » Wed May 02, 2007 6:16 pm

It would be a rare #4 Perfection that would have double set triggers. If this trigger assembly is serial numbered to the receiver, it could easily be a #5 Pacific.
Pacifics are all forged actions, and easily recognised by the front of the receiver, where there are two small holes on either side of the usual single hole below the barrel threads.
The highest serial number I've seen in a early JM Marlin marked Ballard that had the little horn inlay was around 4,000. Not sure when they dropped it from the #2 and #4 style guns.
If your gun has a reversible firing pin I'd be really surprised, as I've never seen a DST breechblock with that feature. I've got three #2's with factory DST breechblocks, and all are centerfire only. Seems Marlin used the standard breechblock on both forged and cast actions, so the cast actions became centerfire only, if ordered with the DST option.
Any of the Marlin crescent buttplates from the 1890's Marlins would be correct for your buildup.
Because your gun has the stepped frame, and a higher serial number, I'd tend to go for the later frame marking of "Marlin Firearms Co." if you have it remarked. Dale Woody at Gun Fancy has the stamps to do the remark, should you decide to proceed to restore this action.
As for calibers, (if it's cast) I would not feel it is stuck with just .22LR, but I wouldn't go back to the .44-40, even though they were chambered in that once. I would not have a problem with .32 S&W Long, or the original .32 Long, or .38 Long. I've seen a few #2's rechambered for .32-20, but I have no idea as to whether they were done long enough ago to decide if it will hold up. I wouldn't choose that if it were my cast action.-
Of course, if it turns out to be forged, you're in fat city!-Vall

PS-I've never seen a lever on a DST Ballard with an S type shape as your's has! They were either the typical ring, or loop levers, or the Schuetzen ring-hook lever. Your's looks like a couple of Niedner modified levers I've seen on Ballards. It's been lengthened to accomodate the DST, and the end bent down to clear a pistol grip stock on a straight grip action.
Marlin lever actions 1870's-WWI, Ballards, and single shot rifles!

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Wed May 02, 2007 10:47 pm

Rick, Vall:

Thanks for all of the info! I bought this action many years ago with the intent of someday learning more about Ballards and building it up correctly. I'm sure this is a cast action now that I look at the insides. It has the hollowed area on both sides of the sidewalls on the inside. I'm guessing this is what your talking about. I don't how they would have possibly machined it. It does have the two pins in the front of the receiver. The breech block serial number does not match. It is 28844, and is CF only. The lever appears to not be original, but has not been lengthened.

Good news is that I have a couple of original Pacific wiping rod thimbles.

Bad news is that I have a CF block, and a wiping rod wouldn't fit down a .22 RF bore. (Maybe the guy I bought it from saw a sucker coming :oops: )
Bummer, a Catch-.22 (Pun intended)
Image
Image
Image

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Thu May 03, 2007 10:18 am

Vall,

Is this an enigma? It has the two pins in front of the action, so that would make it a Pacific? Pacifics were all forged?

-jim

User avatar
marlinman93
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 2457
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:22 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Post by marlinman93 » Thu May 03, 2007 8:14 pm

Yes Jim! It is a Pacific action, and they were all forged! The two pins are still there, rather than pulled, leaving two holes as I described.
That hollow area on each side was made when the receiver was bored for the tang, which holds the stock thoughbolt. Both cast and forged have that feature, although cast actions this feature is cast in, not machined.
The hollow I described is visible when you have the breechblock out, and look at the chamber area from rear. The area under the threaded hole for the barrel would be hollow on a cast action, but since your's is solid, this reaffirms it as a forged action.
You can make just about any caliber on that action with no problems, as long as it's one of the old original calibers. A .45-70, or .38-55 would be a nice choice!
Since you have the two thimbles for a Pacific wiping rod, that makes the choice to return it to a Pacific an easy one! Those forearms with a hole through them are a booger! I make up a oversized forearm in a squared off block of walnut, then I inlet the wiping rod cut, and the octagon cut on my mill, Once that's fitted to the gun and the wiping rod fits, then I shape the outside to the original Pacific contours. It's a lot easier than the reverse, as it's tough to mill the wiping rod hole after it's shaped!-Vall
Marlin lever actions 1870's-WWI, Ballards, and single shot rifles!

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Thu May 03, 2007 8:50 pm

That's great news Vall! Thanks for your help! Your method sounds like the same way I make forearm wood for lever guns. I have a set of round
burrs that I use to cut the round hole on the mill, then cut the octagon channel. Then, like you, I shape it on the gun. I ship it off to Dale to restore the markings. Any markings on the barrel?

-jim

User avatar
marlinman93
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 2457
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:22 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Post by marlinman93 » Sat May 05, 2007 8:23 pm

Marlin never marked anything on the barrel, excpet caliber, and that was not always done. The serial number will be marked under the forearm wood to match the receiver's number.-Vall
Lighter calibers had the tulip at the chamber, but heavier barrels were straight octagon or half octagon, without a tulip.
Marlin lever actions 1870's-WWI, Ballards, and single shot rifles!

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Sun May 06, 2007 9:09 pm

Thanks Vall. I have a heavy Ballard barrel that is in as new condition, but it was rethreaded and rechambered and put on a #1 Rem sporting rifle long ago. No markings other that the serial number under the forearm. That~s were I got the thimbles. Unfortunately I can~t put it back on the Ballard since I~d have to cut it down again to rethread and rechamber it. Bummer. I think I may know where to find a Pope barrel that will fit though. 8)

-jim

Regnier (gunrunner)
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 4261
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2002 2:33 am
Location: The Sunflower State

Post by Regnier (gunrunner) » Mon May 07, 2007 11:36 am

Jim;

There is a ole boy up there in Nebraska that collects and sells Ballards. He always has Ballard parts at the Tulsa show. You may know who I am talking about. It might take me a while, but I am sure I can find his name and address if you need it.

User avatar
marlinman93
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 2457
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:22 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Post by marlinman93 » Mon May 07, 2007 7:14 pm

Wouldn't that be a shame to have to use an old Pope barrel! :wink: Better not put it on that Ballard, as it wont be original then! :D
Marlin lever actions 1870's-WWI, Ballards, and single shot rifles!

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Wed May 09, 2007 12:28 pm

Rick,

I don't know the name of the guy you're talking about either, but I'll bet he is the guy that I bought this action from years ago at a local gun show.

I remember that he told me that the weakest part of the Ballard action was the link between the block and the lever. He recommended that I make a new one out of modern high strength steel. Have you heard of that being a weak point?

-jim

Regnier (gunrunner)
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 4261
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2002 2:33 am
Location: The Sunflower State

Post by Regnier (gunrunner) » Wed May 09, 2007 4:32 pm

Jim;

I do not know if I would call it the "weak link" in a Ballard action, but it is the point that gets the most wear. The lever can drop down if the lever piviot screw is not a tight fit or has a lot of wear.
John Dutcher mentions replacing the link and link screws if the lever droops as well as replacing the lever pivot screw. He also mentions tapping the lower portion of the breech block tang to help tighten the action. Something he does with some caution.
He also warns people never to open the action while in the full cocked position as it can damage the sear or hammer notch.
I hope this helps.

User avatar
marlinman93
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 2457
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:22 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Post by marlinman93 » Wed May 09, 2007 6:43 pm

Very sound advice! More than one hammer or sear has been broken by opening the action of a Ballard at full cock!
I've only had to replace one link on all the Ballards I've owned or worked on. This is not a weak point. Now the two screws on either end of the link I've replaced numerous times, but just to get the lever to stop drooping.
The lockup, and strength of a Ballard action once closed, has little to do with the link, and everything to do with the rear of the breechblock, and the face of the breechblock.-Vall
Marlin lever actions 1870's-WWI, Ballards, and single shot rifles!

Jim D
Distinguished Expert
Posts: 537
Joined: Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:42 pm
Location: Cody, Wyoming

Post by Jim D » Wed May 09, 2007 7:45 pm

Rick, Vall;

That makes sense. In looking at the way the thing works, it looks like the
downward force against the link and lever would be minimal. I'm leaning towards the 45-70. I'm going to order Dutcher's book before doing much
work on this. I'm also thinking of having Dale Woody engrave that Pacific
pattern on it since I need to have the lettering redone. The full cock sear is broken on my action as well. I don't know yet if it's the hammer or the trigger that's broken. Split breech blocks make me nervous, but I suppose that I'll get over that!

Thanks guys for your help. As always, I appreciate your expertise!!!
-jim

Post Reply