Dad had taken me shooting with him a couple of times prior to my birthday, and had hinted that the year of my 12th just might be the time for me to have my own rifle. Well, it was. My first rifle was presented to me on my 12th birthday, way back in 1963. I was now the proud owner of an Ithaca model M49 Saddle gun.
The M49 Saddle Gun was a very popular .22 caliber rifle manufactured by the Ithaca Gun Company of Ithaca, New York. First introduced in 1961, the M49 was, in company literature, touted as the safest single shot .22 on the market. I agree, and that was the reason Dad bought this rifle for my first.
The M49 Saddlegun, as noted, was a single shot, .22 caliber chambered for short, long, and long rifle cartridges. It features a “rolling block” type action, operated by moving the lever action downwards, which drops a grooved top piece, ejecting the spent shell and allowing for easy loading of the next round.
To fire the rifle, you have to cock the hammer prior to pulling the trigger. The hammer has a static piece in place that will not allow the firing pin to contact the cartridge if the hammer is struck by accident. As the pictures show, the Ithaca M49 rifle sports a faux tubular “magazine” under the barrel. This enhances the appearance of the rifle, which is obviously patterned after the Model 92 and Model 94 Winchester repeaters of western fame.
Dad of course instructed me in the proper, safe care and use of this, my first firearm. Gun safety was paramount. He made certain that I understood all the rules, including proper gun etiquette and safety. Was I ready for a real gun at age twelve? He thought so.
I wish I had a dollar for every round I put through this rifle over the years. I wouldn’t be worrying about my retirement were that the case. Target shooting, plinking cans, and hunting were all activities I shared with that M49. That little .22 was, and still is, one of the most accurate iron-sights long guns I have ever shot.
Take a look at the pictures I have added to this article. To me some firearms have real character. I think my old rifle has such character. Notice the wear pattern of the finish on the barrel rings. There is nary one surface edge that has not had the original finish worn away. Perhaps the most important feature of this, my first rifle, is the engraved silver plate set into the forearm. Dad had the plate engraved with my name and date of birth. Dad carved the forearm stock, and embedded the plate.
I still enjoy this rifle, and the many memories of shooting with Dad. Perhaps my nostalgia has stirred a good memory or two from your early shooting days as well. I hope so.