Text Box: "It was a miracle," said the young officer, the other officer looked up and said "it was a .450 short chamber Boxer- Henry miracle".  The color sergeant spoke up, "and a bayonet sir, with some guts behind it".  Some flagrant quotes from the motion picture ZULU that are hard to beat.  A story of a hopelessly out numbered unit of British infantrymen holed up behind feed bags and walls with good fields of fire and plenty of         ammunition against thousands of fierce Zulu tribesmen in a classic battle of defense.  Even though their fellow "Johnnys" took a beating in the battle of Isandwahna the previous day, which was lost by reasons which are not fully understood today.  Their comrades at Roarks Drift behind good defensive positions fared better and causing so many casualties among the Zulus they eventually beat them off and hastened their        withdrawal.  In the end, the Zulus faced a British square at Ulindie and were mauled by Martini, Gatling gun, and cavalry.
What weapon caused all this death and destruction?  A rifle that had its roots in America by the inventor Henry O. Peabody, an American.  It had a tipping breech block that was extremely strong, easy to load and could handle the large caliber cartridges of the day.  Its main drawback was the side mounted hammer which was cocked at each loading and was a protruding part that caused difficulty in handling.  A          modification of the Peabody by Martini did away with the hammer and put a internal coil spring striker in the bolt which was away from dirt and had a much better  lock time for accuracy.  Adding the unique seven groove Alexander Henry rifling system in 1871 the Martini-Henry was born.  It had a longer cartridge in   earlier models and finding that to be unsatisfactory a shortened version was adopted.  Adding the boxer primer to this, the cartridge was dubbed "the .450, short chamber, boxer-henry". The rifle was made in    basically 4 marks with minor changes and the last version was in cal. .303.  The carbines were made in a lighter bulleted .450 X.577 as well as in .303.
The .450 X 577 cartridge is a large, bottle necked, .450 caliber round which was developed by necking down the straight cased .577 Snider round.  It used a paper patched tin lead alloy bullet of 480 grains and black powder propellant.  The cases were remarkable in that they were originally made from an iron base, containing the center fire primer, and a coiled brass foil casing.  This was not entirely satisfactory as the round was rather fragile and occasionally the iron base would detach leaving  the upper case in the     chamber.  Sounds like the Little Big Horn.  This problem was solved with drawn one piece cases.  
The rifle is long by modern specifications but with its straight rear stock and a smooth exterior it points like a fine english shotgun.  Weighing in at 8.6 pounds and with its length added too by the triangular socket  bayonet, it is a formidable weapon at close quarters.  It has an additional mount for the sabre type bayonet which was issued to NCOs.  
This weapon was truly a veteran of "Victorias little wars" and was found at Roarks Drift, Isandwahna, The Sudan, The first Boer War, India, Omdurman and the relief of Khartoum, Egypt, Mesophatania, and so forth.  The ease of loading and extraction of spent cartridges made it an infantrymans friend when the going got tough.  Many a "fuzzy wuzzy, dervish,or wog" fell to the roaring blasts of concentrated volly fire from the Martini Henry.  To quote Rudyard Kipling from "The Man Who Would Be King", "I fired into the brown of 'em with an English Martini and drilled three beggars in a line".   This rifle is the epitome of the single shot     military rifle and in comparison the needle gun, the trap door, and the rolling block fall short of the mark.  
Replaced by the Lee-Medford bolt action magazine rifle in 1889, the Martini was used for years to come by empire native armies.

			   	


Text Box: THE MARTINI-HENRY RIFLE - A TOOL OF EMPIRE
JIM BROADUS
Text Box: Page #
Text Box: The TMCA News
Text Box: Volume 30, Issue 1

Additional photo

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Page 6 (back cover)