Home:  Rifles: MARTINI HENRY RIFLE Mk 2, 1870's


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Made by Thomas Turner, Undated.
The Martini-Henry (also known as the Peabody-Martini-Henry) was a breech-loading lever-actuated rifle adopted by the British, combining an action worked on by Friedrich von Martini (based on the Peabody rifle developed by Henry Peabody), with the rifled barrel designed by Scotsman Alexander Henry. It first entered service in 1871 replacing the Snider-Enfield, and variants were used throughout the British Empire for 30 years. It was the first British service rifle that was a true breech-loading rifle using metallic cartridges.
During the Martini-Henry period in service, the British army were involved in a large number of colonial wars, most notably the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. The rifle was used by the company of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot present at Rorke's Drift. During the battle, approximately 150 British soldiers successfully defended themselves against several thousand Zulus. The weapon was not completely phased out until 1904.

The weapon is partly blamed for the defeat of British troops at Isandlwana prior to Rorke's Drift (in addition to poor tactics and numerical inferiority) while the Martini-Henry was state of the art, in the African climate the action tended to overheat and foul after heavy use. It would eventually become difficult to move the breech block and reload the rifle.
After investigating the matter, the British Army Ordnance Department determined the fragile construction of the rolled brass cartridge and fouling due to the black powder propellant were the main causes of this problem.
To correct this, the cartridge was switched from weak rolled brass to stronger drawn brass, and a longer loading lever was incorporated to apply greater torque to operate the mechanism when fouled.
These later variants were highly reliable in battle.

Your comments:

  • Their was a version used for either training or as a target rifle which had a .22 barrel
    .......... R A Findlater, Limassol Cyprus, 24th of March 2010

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A0549, A0555

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