Somehow or other I ended up buying 5 nice singles in the past 2-3 weeks. One is a small sidelever Rook Rifle by Marquis which I mentioned in a post above about a double shotgun by the same maker. It has very nice wood and lines. Originally it was a 380 Rook rifle, but had been lined to 32 Long Colt (I believe) at some point. I bought a BSA Model 12 in really nice condition which had been rebarreled by AG Parker. The oddity is that it looks like a complete rebarrel, not the normal liner for which they were famous. The third was a really nicely made 380 Rook Martini by Cowles of Sydney Australia. I had never heard of him and the dealer knew nothing of it but some reseach showed that he was the largest gunsmith and gun shop in Australia for a lot of the 19th and early 20th century. It has very nice wood. The action is marked by a maker of a lot of Martini rook rifle actions from Birmingham. It is a very well put together rifle with excellent wood and good metal and barrel. It has the typical safety and cocking indicator of the small frame Martinis (not Cadets) but it is smaller in every dimension than others I have seen. The only legend on the action is " Martini's Patent". It has a side profile similar to the European Martini's. I bought one gun that I haven't recieved yet. It appears to be a BSA Model 12 action, but is marked AG Parker and Bisley Works (predating Parker-Hale). It is covered in extensive what looks to be factory engraving. The stock is high grade wood and there is a German scope or sighting device mounted low on the barrel in a Scout position that is fitted with matching engraved rings. Unfortunately the fore end is missing. The barrel has two fore end mounting lugs and some kind of band encircling the muzzle aread. Bought a pig in a poke but the action would seem to be worth the price, factory or not.
The last one I recieved today, and it is really intrigueing. It is a small frame Martini action. It is a commercial action with stippling, edge engraving, cocking indicator and safety on the side etc. The wood is very high quality walnut. Buttplate is steel and curved with a top inset Vee. All screws are engraved. Extensive checkering. The oddity comes in that it appears to be a Stevens. The barrel is a classic half octagon/half round as found on a 44, carries the proper Stevens roll stamped address and has the familiar 25-20 stamp that the target rifles had. The barrel, blueing, case colors and stock are in really good condition and look original. The thing is that it doesn't look like a rebarreled rifle. It all looks "together" and I don't believe the Stevens barrel could have been cut and setback and still look like it does. The alignment marks inside the action on the breech face all look original and of the same age. The barrel under the fore end is stamped with a numeral "1" near the tip of the forend The inside of the fore end is stamped with a large "J. A." The stock work is excellent as to fitting to the front of the action and the fitting of the buttplate onto the butt. The butt is sculpted to fit perfectly to the concave back of the curved steel plate. Altogether a very well built rifle. Sights look extremely American (tang and front hooded).
The action has no markings exept the serial number and a very tiny Birmingham date stamp on th upper rear corner of the breech block. That's it. No British or other proofs. No action makers logo. Nothing. No importer's mark from a later time.
While waiting for it to arrive, I have been doing some research, and I found several discussions over the last 10 years or so concerning a handful of Stevens Martini 22 target rifles that were put together and marketed in the British version of the Stevens catalog of the period. These, as far as I could read, were all 22's. I also believe they were built on full size actions for military matches in England. I suspect these were built on trade actions imported for the purpose. There appears to be absolutely no documentation for this in America and is limited to the early British catalog and one of the rifles at the British NRA museum. A few Stevens collectors report owning a few (literally) and having seen a few others. The gun I purchased was built on a nicer action for sporting use and built to a very high quality level. After reviewing the concealed markings (and lack thereof) along with the quality and build condition, this could well be a prototype (remeber the No. 1 stamp) of a high grade sporter that was never marketed.
I believe after I look it over a little more, I will give it a good cleanup and oil soak, and then unscrew the barrel to check the tenon and action for size and threading to see if one or the other is non-standard for a Stevens or Martini. One of them has to be. After I see that, I will decide if I can convince myself that it is a unique factory piece. It would be even more strange for someone to take a British sporting rifle of this quality and rebarrel it with a Stevens 44 takeoff barrel. Also, if that were the case, there would be proof marks in abundance.
I will try to post a few pictures tomorrow and get some opinions.