British Martini-Henry .303 Caliber Rifle

  • Firearms Thru History
  • 1 min

By Crusader1307

This rifle was a breech-loading, single shot repeating weapon issued to British infantry from 1871 to 1888. Incorporating the designs of Henry Peabody, Friedrich Martini and Alexander Henry – in theory, The Martini-Henry was a revolutionary gun. Capable of firing “smokeless” brass cartridge rounds of the .303 caliber, the weapon was considered “light” and just over 8-pounds. The Martini-Henry was 49-inches long and featured a retractable sighting system with assisted in targeting it's effective range of 400 yards (with an maximum of 1,900 yards). The rifle also featured a bayonet (25 inches) mount for close-quarters combat. The weapon saw extensive service in many of Britain's wars in the mid to late 19th Century. It is estimated close to 1 million were manufactured (and exported). The primary issue with The Martini-Henry was it's spent cartridge ejection abilities. Often, cartridge expansion (soft brass), causes the spent cartridge to jam in the chamber when the bolt was pulled back. Often, a shooter had to “pick out” the spent shell (with a knife or bayonet). This took time (which often a British soldier under attack did not have). This flaw was never more apparent than at The Battle of Isandlwana (South Africa) in 1879. The first major engagement of The Anglo-Zulu War, 1,200 British soldiers payed the price for this equipment malfunction (that The British Ordnance Dept. was well aware of). Although stronger brass cartridges were developed to combat this problem, The Martini-Henry was not trusted by soldiers. This coupled with an average 400 yard effectiveness, better weapons were being designed that made the Martini-Henry obsolete (in particular The Enfield Rifle). Amazingly, many 19th Century Martini-Henry rifles were used by Afghan Freedom Fighters against The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.