How To Date A Marlin Model 81? Is My Gun Really Valuable?

The Marlin Model 81 and Model 81E both were introduced in 1937. The difference between them was the sight. The model 81 had a standard barrel-mounted rear sight and the 81E was equipped with target sights.

While a lot of 1937 Marlin 81 still exists in the open market, some of them are often artificially created to con collectors. Among all the misleading information present on the internet, how do you date a Marlin Model 81 and find out the original value? Let’s try to figure out the mystery.

How To Date A Marlin Model 81

Why Doesn’t My Marlin Model 81 Have Any Serial Number?

You would be surprised by how many guns actually didn’t use any serial numbers back in the day. In 1968 U.S. Law introduced a new regulation. Under this, you will need to mention the serial number of the weapon you are making.

If your Marlin Model 81 is 1968 or later, then you can easily identify the value and the date of it using the serial number. But if your gun is made before that, then you will have a hard time dating the weapon.

Brief History

The gun was first introduced in 1937 and it had steady production from 1937 to 1939. The basic 81 had open sights mounted on the barrel as I mentioned earlier.

In 1940 they changed the design a bit. They changed the stock and hardware and thus introduced models like 81B, 81BE, 81C, and 81DL. This also increased the value and the buying price of the gun.

Around 1942, the production was stopped due to WWII. During that time some guns may have been assembled with pre-WWII materials but no way of verifying that claim.

Around 1945, Marlin took a big step to simplify the production and they went ahead with the 81C as the base model and the 81DL as the deluxe edition of the gun. The stocks are fatter and curvier than the previous models. And of course, they were heavier as well.

That production went till 1960 and in that year they changed the design again. This time, all of the Marlins were changed into Micro Groove barrel rifling. This was noted on the barrel below the manufacturer’s model and caliber markings. The DL stocks started to have a fancy white spacer between the stock and the buttplate.

Around 1962, Marlin started to put production date codes on the barrels of the gun. If your gun is marked, it should have 2 letters stamped on the left side of the barrel. It will be closer to the receiver. The first letter indicates the month of the production. Starting from A for January and L for December. The second letter indicates the year.

If your gun has F as the second letter, it was manufactured in 1962. If it has an L then it was in 1968. You get the idea behind it.

In 1964 they started adding gold-finished triggers and around 1968, due to compliance with U.S. rules, they started serializing their gun. With a prefix of AD. They later decided to switch that to 68 instead.

If your gun is after 68, then the last two numbers of the serial will indicate the production year. You can then understand when the gun was made.

How Old is My Marlin?

Well if your gun is made before 1962 for example, then you will have a super hard time figuring out which year your gun was from.

But if you go from the very beginning, you will notice that each production had something changed about the gun. For 1941 models, the stocks were simpler and the 1960 changes were done in the barrel.

So, if your barrel doesn’t have micro-groove rifling, then chances are your gun is from a time before they introduced it.

If your gun has material from pre-WWII then you can guess which year it was made from.

Last but not least, take help from the gun experts. There are people available who provide service of identifying a gun and the year it was made for a charge. I know that’s not what you bargained for, but it’s something to consider.


I wish there was a simple method of identifying which year your Model 81 is from. But it’s not possible unless it was made after 68. And depending on the condition of your gun, the value will fluctuate a lot.

If you really have a gun from Pre-WWII, I strongly recommend you to get it tested and confirm your suspicion. That way, you will be able to date Marlin 81 with ease.

That’s all for now. I wish I could make the process much simpler but it’s not that simple. At the end of the day, I’m also limited to the knowledge that I know of or find around. I still hope you found this read useful. That’s all for now. I hope to see you on the next one. Take care and have fun.

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