Ithaca M49 Saddlegun: Junk or Treasure?

   08.04.15

Ithaca M49 Saddlegun: Junk or Treasure?

Introduced at $20 in 1961 and sold until 1979, Ithaca M49 looks like a conventional lever action repeater with 18 inch barrel. A closer look reveals that it’s nothing of the sort, In fact, it’s a single-shot falling block with a dummy magazine tube! If that seems silly, just look at today’s 10-22 carbines disguised through the use of aftermarket stocks as G36 automatic rifles or MG42 machine guns.

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This M49 was a rusty derelict until refinished by Sean Averill of Galt’s Guns

Loading is quite similar to Martini rifle, but the hammer is external and must be cocked manually. Also unlike the Martini, M49 has very positive extraction. The sights are typical of entry-level 22s, post and notch, with unmarked drift and elevation adjustments. The finish of the painted aluminum receiver tends to wear poorly.

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The original design was riding the coattails of popular Western TV shows. It was meant as a recreational plinker and succeeded admirably in that role. Since 22 Short ammunition was cheaper than 22LR back then and also substantially quieter, many of these rifles have rather gunked-up chambers but substantial chamber erosion is unlikely.

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The proof is in the performance. With the rifle rested on a sandbag, five-shot groups all looked like the picture below. For a budget carbine with iron sights, that’s pretty impressive! My friend who owns this particular rifle has had it since he was eight years old back in the 1960s, and the gun just keeps on working with minimal care. Since function-testing of this carbine before buying is very simple and spare parts are still available, I would rate it as a diamond in the rough.

7/16" at 25 yards works out to 1.75MOA -- quite a feat for iron sights and bulk .22 ammunition (CCI Auto).
7/16″ at 25 yards works out to 1.75MOA–quite a feat for iron sights and bulk .22 ammunition (CCI AR Tactical).
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