Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage

Fix It, Don't Junk It - Reviving An Old Marlin Rimfire

Fix It, Don't Junk It
Reviving An Old Marlin Rimfire
By Joe D'Alessandro


Every year, perfectly good older firearms that have fallen into disrepair are discarded, traded away, or sold for a fraction of their real value. Owners may believe that parts are not available or a particular gun just isn't worth fixing. Some of these guns aren't worth much, but others are historic, even priceless. Every time an old gun is destroyed, a little bit of our cultural and/or personal history goes along with it, and that is a lot to lose. Case in point is the Marlin 989, pictured above, that belongs to one of my sons. About 35 years ago, while rushing through a post-range cleaning session, too much torque was applied to the aft triggerguard screw and a piece of the cast aluminum triggerguard snapped off. The rifle was still functional, but eventually I put it in storage to await future repair.

My son Rich, now grown and with a family of his own, spends quite a bit of time at a local shooting range with his son, working on firearm safety and helping him develop marksmanship skills. The subject of Rich's first rifle came up in one of their discussions, and Rich called me to ask if I remembered what model rifle he shot when he was a little guy. I guess he assumed it was long gone, which was my cue to repair the old 989 and get it back to him.

A minor problem...

Replacement parts can be sourced through lots of places other than the original manufacturers. Brownells is an excellent centralized source for current-production or very recently discontinued models. Brownells makes it easy to identify even the smallest bits of hardware through their online schematics. For obsolete firearms, there are a number of salvage operations that strip inoperative guns of their good piece parts and catalog them for sale. These folks also buy up and resell manufacturers' obsolete inventory.

The Marlin Model 989M2 was produced from 1965 to 1979. A clip-fed model, it replaced the tubular magazine Model 99M1. The subject rifle is of 1977 vintage and, except for the broken triggerguard, was in like-new condition. Marlin no longer stocks replacement parts for this long-obsolete model. Numrich Gun Parts, always an excellent source of salvaged parts, had two triggerguards listed for the Model 989M2. I was worried about ordering the wrong variation, so I purchased one of each. Both were incorrect. In comparison to the original, one had a square tang, the other an oversize rounded tang and a slide release tab slot.

I actually considered casting a single part or machining one from a chunk of aluminum, when a sense of déjà vu settled over this whole part-seeking issue. Then some of the cobwebs must have cleared from my memory, because I remembered purchasing the correct used part from Numrich 10 years earlier and putting it in my "Real, really, REALLY important" spare parts box. I guess I figured the part wouldn't be available when I finally got around to repairing the rifle, so I made the buy in advance. Do I know myself well, or what? So I had the correct piece - and I had cornered the market on incorrect Model 989M2 triggerguards.

The differences between the guards are obvious. This is always something to consider when seeking parts for obsolete firearms. Just because the model description is the same, doesn't mean it’s the same generation or revision as the required part. Also, salvage parts are often well used, so getting them in hand may be only the start of the solution. The guard assembly on the far right in the photo above, the closest fit, had a damaged finish. It also had a silver rather than gold trigger and a different diameter cross-bolt safety.

Drop-in fit? Not always

Before getting too excited about having a replacement part, I pulled the old assembly and compared it to the replacement. Then I installed the replacement and did a preliminary function check. It worked. Now verified for fit and function, the salvage piece was disassembled, inspected, and restored.
The finish was worn bare and the pieces were a little beaten up. I removed all the trigger components, and blasted the guard itself with aluminum oxide blasting grit (#084-212-240) to clean it and give the surface a little "tooth" for the new finish I planned to apply.
The original guard had a matte finish that contrasted with the magazine guide, but matched the sides of the receiver. I sprayed it matte black using the Duracoat Shake ’N’ Spray Finishing Kit (#100-006-802).Even though this isn't oven-cure Duracoat, I gently baked the part in the shop toaster oven at 150°F for an hour to help cure the paint and ensure good adherence.

One of the enjoyable parts about repairing and refinishing broken firearms is watching the transition from trashworthy to usefully restored. This doesn't have to be a costly process. There are lots of small blasting cabinets on the market and Scotch-Brite pads will do as well with a little elbow grease and patience. Duracoat comes in couple of gun quantities with pump and aerosol propellant for a few bucks. In short, the tools may vary, but the results can be the same.

Swapping little parts...

With original and replacement triggerguard assemblies apart on the bench, I took measurements and compared the profiles to see how much could be carried over from the original broken guard to the replacement assembly. Close-fitting pin gauges through the pivot and travel limit holes in the triggers helped when checking angles, tabs, and contact surfaces. In this case, they were a match, so the original gold trigger could be carried over to the replacement triggerguard.

The salvage replacement assembly's safety (above, far right) was approximately 0.020" larger in diameter than the gun's original, the "safety on" surface was positioned and contoured differently, and the safety detent was a different design. So I retained the salvage assembly's safety, since a loose-fitting safety would create an unsafe condition.

The rest of the task required reassembling the triggerguard, installing the assembly on the rifle and performing a fire and safety functional check of the finished work. The salvage part’s locating and pivot press pins were reused because they have coined heads that stake into position.

Worth the effort? I think so. The old 989 looks beautiful and shoots great – and now it’s headed back to my son, so he can share it with his son.