Ithaca’s Peabody-Inspired Model 49 Saddlegun
Was A Unique Single-Shot .22.

“Greatest Little Gun in the Land—The Ithaca Model 49 Saddlegun,” shouted Ithaca’s 1962 ad campaign. “People claimed it couldn’t be done, build a .22 in the Ithaca tradition with quality, styling and all around good looks and then price it within range of most every boy’s pocketbook.
But here it is. Ithaca’s Model 49 Saddle Gun has quickly won the hearts of the nation’s young shooters—earned the praise of their safety-minded parents and youth-oriented rifle-training programs,” the ad copy continued.
From 1961 to 1978, approximately 500,000 Model 49 Saddle Guns chambered in .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum were sold.
While it looked like a lever-action repeater complete with ersatz magazine tube, the Model 49 Saddlegun was actually the last Peabody-inspired single-shot rifle produced in the USA.
Peabody? But Ithaca’s Model 49 action looks and functions like a Martini!
What do you think of when you think about a Martini? A streamlined, graceful, slab-sided single-shot receiver? An underlever that pivots a centrally located breechblock up-and-down? A deeply grooved breechblock that guides a fresh cartridge directly into the chamber? A simple mechanical extractor/ejector activated by the descending breechblock?
Well, thank you, Mr. Henry O. Peabody of Boston, Massachusetts, who patented these details and principles in 1862 as a hammer-fired, drop-block action.
Produced from 1961 until 1978, Ithaca made an amazing 500,000 Model 49’s.
And Martini? Well, Friedrich von Martini, a Swiss, took the Peabody action and eliminated Peabody’s external hammer lock by incorporating the complete firing mechanism within the breechblock itself. While freely admitting his design was derived from the Peabody patent, Martini patented the improved design in his own name.
I first discovered the delightful, little Model 49 in 1966. Having just returned from two years overseas, I was driving around the country running down old friends, one of whom was my former roommate, John Hamilton. “Hammy” and his family were leading a bucolic, semi-farm life in upstate Vermont and among the livestock on his place was a flock of free-roaming chickens.
When Mrs. Hamilton wanted a chicken for dinner, Hammy didn’t try to run one down. He simply grabbed his Ithaca Model 49 Saddlegun and shot one. I was entranced, not with the chicken hunt, but with his Model 49.
Many years later, I was leaving a gun show and just before the exit was a table offering a Model 49 Saddlegun in its original box. I doubt it had ever been fired and the price was right so we left the show together. It’s been one of greatest fun guns I’ve ever owned.
Thanks to the ready availability of old gun catalog reprints from Cornell Publications and a chapter on the Model 49 in Single Shot Rifles and Actions by Frank de Hass, I’ve been able to pull together some of the history of this remarkable rifle.
Introduced in 1961, the standard Saddlegun in .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle carried the hefty price tag of $19.95. During the second year of production, five different models of the M-49 were available—two Standard grades, one in .22 LR and one in .22 Magnum, two Deluxe grades and a Presentation grade in those same calibers.
The Deluxe-grade rifles, according to the Ithaca catalog, were, “Mechanically identical with the Standard Model but with figured walnut, extra coats of finish, gold-plated hammer and trigger, swivels and handsome leather sling.” Prices were creeping up as well.
The Standard rifles were priced at $21.95 in .22 LR and $24.95 in .22 WMR while the Deluxe models were pegged at $29.95 and $32.95 respectively.
The Presentation grade was pretty spectacular as was the $100 price tag it carried. Ithaca’s catalog waxed poetically, “Presentation Models: Perfect choice for a trophy prize or gift. Beautifully figured, ‘full fancy’ American walnut is comparable to that found on the famous $2,000 Ithaca Single-Barrel Trap Gun. Six coats of finish alternated with hand rubbing give an unmatched appearance.
Gold shield is inlaid in stock for personalized engraving (If desired, initials will be engraved at no extra charge). Receiver beautifully hand engraved, hammer and trigger gold plated.” Wow!
The various pins in the receiver (top) are splined and force fitted,
making disassembly difficult.

The Model 49 features a rebounding hammer made from sintered metal rather
than a steel one with a conventional half-cock safety.

The Model 49 (below) was the last Peabody inspired, single shot produced in the USA.
Interestingly, Presentation models are not uncommon on Internet auction sites. Ithaca apparently fielded quite a few in both .22 LR and .22 Magnum.
The Model 49 is a solid feeling little gun. It feels heavier than its official weight of 5.5 pounds.
Much of the weight is in the die-cast receiver made from a zinc alloy called Zamak. De Haas notes, “the breech block, hammer and trigger are made from compressed particles of ferrous metals, by the process of sintering.
The particles of metal with a bonding agent are pressed in a mould and then subjected to high temperatures which fuse the particles together to form a solid mass.”
In spite of its die-cast receiver, finger lever, barrel bands and sintered action parts, the Saddle Gun is nicely put together and pleasing to the eye.
It’s also accurate. De Haas mounted a Weaver V-8 scope on his and reported his 5-shot groups at 100 yards averaged 2.5 inches with CCI ammunition.
One of the endearing qualities of an open-breech, single-shot .22 LR is that it’s an omnivore. It feeds, fires, extracts and ejects every load from .22 CB caps to CCI Stingers with equal ease, and that’s why the roll mark on the Model 49 barrel reads “.22 Short, Long, Long Rifle.”
Ithaca even accessorized their Saddlegun. They offered a standard and a deluxe saddle scabbard for the Model 49, and at no extra cost, a youth stock 1-inch shorter than standard.
So if you spy a forlorn Model 49 Saddle Gun at the next gun show, pick it up, feel that solid little gun between your hands, and remember, in its day, it was the “Greatest Little Gun in the Land!”
By Holt Bodinson
The “Greatest Little Gun in the Land”—the Ithaca M 49—was available in
three distinct models in .22 LR and .22 Magnum.

Model 49 Saddlegun
Historic Maker: Ithaca Gun Company, Ithaca, New York
Action type: Peabody, pivoting breechblock
with rebounding hammer, Caliber: .22 Short, Long,
Long Rifle, Capacity: 1, Barrel length: 16 inches,
Overall length: 34-1/2 inches, Weight: 5.5 pounds, Finish: Blued barrel, blackened receiver,
Sights: Open Patridge, Stock: Walnut or elm,
Value: $175 (average condition)