May be a tough task, or already done, but has a list been created of 'family owned' Rangers with serial numbers and remembered date of purchase created?
Did Sears checker their guns, with a different checkering pattern, before '45? Brophy's book said 'Marlins' were not chekered prior to '45.
What I 'think' I know about my Ranger Model 103-6 20ga. DT, 28", with solid mid rib.
• I do not know when the gun was made.
• Marlin 20 Ga. guns were introduced in 1937
• Serial # R over 2342. All iron serial numbers match, even the extractor.
• Apparently, there are no Sears Ranger serial number records.
• For what it's worth - 1937 Tom Mix's specail serial # is 1390, mine is 2342, which puts it 952 guns after 1937??? May mean nothing at all.
• Barrel marked as such - Ranger Over and Under
-20 Gauge Model 103-6-
• Barrel stampings - JM in an oval, and an X
• Action stamped inside with a 'J' only.
• The red recoil pad is marked Ranger, with a duck above, and the number 1 below on it.
• The top of the barrel has a matted (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX) stamping down the center, single bead. The top barrel is choked tighter then the bottom. I do not have a gauge, but the bottom has very little choke and the top seems to have twice as much, as found using a homemade 'feeler' type gauge. I'd say IC and Mod. (That would be nice, and yes, I will pattern it first chance I get).
• Solid mid-rib makes it pre 1950
• Model 90's were marked 'Ranger' prior to WWII. In 1945 and after, Sears guns were also marked 'Marlin'. So mine must be prior to 1945 at the very least, I'd say 1941.
• Ole Horsrud's patent of 1945 shows a screw holding the top lever on. Mine has no screw, so it is either prior to the patent, or the design was modified after he got the patent(?) So mine must be 19..??
• 1945 and after, Sears guns were also marked 'Marlin'. So mine must be prior to 1945
• 'Very early' (first variation) forend iron did not extend to the top of the frame. Third variation had a latch mechanism starting in 1951. Mine does not have a latch, but the iron goes to the top of the frame, so it's the second variation. So mine is between 1938(?) and 1951?
• Wood was not checkered prior to 1945. Mine is checkered, both grip and forend. Which means it was made after 1945, or new(er) stock and forend put on. The forend seems to have been milled out for a longer forend iron, so it may have been replaced? The pistol grip checkering does not look typical of others I have seen (no V behind the grip), so it may have been added, making it prior to 1945(?)
• No engraving on the action, which puts it after 1939.
So, having noted all of that, I would place it as being made between 1939 (after engraving stopped) and pre-war 1941. Someone checkered the stock, and replaced the forend wood.
After doing a few calculations regarding total numbers produced, numbers and percentages produced in 20ga. DT, 28" (vs. other gauges, Marlin, higgins and Sears), there appears to be around, something like maybe, 525 Ranger 20ga. DT 28" guns produced. I think it may be a rare gun, not very valuable mind you, but rare nonetheless.
Regarding my rattling cocking lever, I have since found that the cocking lever spring is housed in the trigger guard. I will take mine off and see if the spring is in there, or broken. I have found no diagrams of this assembly (cocking lever spring), so I'm wondering if anyone has checked or replaced theirs?