Martini Action Rifles

Introduction

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Martini Henry

Martini Metford

Martini Enfield

The Martini Henry rifle was adopted by the British army in 1871 and continued in service colonial duties until after 1900. It was the first purpose- designed breech loading rifle to see service in the British Army as a direct replacement for the .577” Enfield Snider.

The rifle was a combination of the falling block mechanism devised by Frederich Martini (1832-97), a Swiss gunsmith of Hungarian extraction and the seven-groove rifling devised by Edinburgh gunsmith Alexander Henry (1817-95).

Both designers/gunsmiths had forwarded proposals to the British army between 1867 and 1869, it was not until both systems were integrated that the ideal partnership was found. The Martini Henry improved the performance of the Snider in all departments, in tests it was found superior in muzzle velocity, range and stopping power. It remained the service arm for the British army until 1888-1890 when replaced by the .303” Lee-Metford.

The Martini Henry was extremely popular with the British soldier. It was extremely robust, easy to strip and clean and had few easily replaceable parts. Service Regulations Manual of 1884 suggested the following “Whenever a party armed with rifles is sent away from ship without an armourer, an implement, a proportion of mainsprings and strikers be always taken and considered in charge of one of the officers:- Mainsprings 1 for ever 10 rifles, strikers, 1 for every 5 rifles”.

The Martini Action

To Load the Martini, the under-lever is depressed, this drops the breechblock, and cocks the mechanism in one action. A cartridge is then slid into the open breech. By raising the lever the cartridge is pushed tight into place. The firing pin is retracted by the lever and rifle is cocked ready to fire. Once the trigger is pressed the firing pin explodes the primer and main charge. Depressing the lever then forces a fork shaped extractor in the breech in opening backwards, this action hooks the base of the cartridge and ejects the former from the breech, the whole process can be repeated.

Technical Specification

The Martini Henry rifle measured 49” (125cm) in length. (49.5” on the mark 111) and has a 33.2” (84.2cm) Henry rifled barrel, consisting of seven .03” groves twisted right, one turn in 22”. Stock was Italian Walnut.

Unloaded it weighed 8.9lb or 3.9kg.

All metal components were subjected to “blueing” or “browning” as a protective coat, the following recipe for “browning mixture” is taken from an 1890 Martini Henry armourers manual.

Acid, Nitric…61/2 oz, Steel, Tincture of…3oz,Wine, Spirits of….5oz, rain water1 gallon.

The rifle was sighted from 100-1500 yards, 100-400 yards via an100 yard incremental graduated ramp, and 500-1500 yards raised leaf back-sight. The firer then draws a bead upon the foresight at the muzzle. At an average range of 500 yards the bullet flew on a trajectory of approximately 8.594 feet from level ground at its apogee. The muzzle velocity average was 1253 feet per second.

 

The Martini Henry rifles saw further service once converted to the .303" British cartridge and were then designated Martini Enfield.

There are several pattern variants of British Martini Action Rifles.

Click the links below or use the expanded menu in the left column to learn more.

Martini Henry

Martini Metford

Martini Enfield

 

 

Military Guns