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Rifles from the Colonial era

Short Land Pattern musket, 1777 model, called "Brown Bess". The 18th century musket was essentially a large smoothbore shotgun.  After loading from the muzzle with loose black-powder and a round lead bullet from a cylindrical, paper wrapped cartridge, the musket was fired by the flintlock action above the trigger.  A rotating cock holding a piece of flint snapped forward to strike a pivoting L-shaped frizzen or "steel."  That action created sparks that ignited a small portion of priming powder in a projecting flash-pan sending flame through the barrel's touchhole to reach the main charge.  Obviously, it would not perform in the rain and depended upon a sharpened flint and properly hardened steel frizzen for reliability.

The real problem, however, was the black powder quality.  Following each firing, roughly 55 percent would remain as a black sludge that built up inside the barrel clogging the touchhole and coating the lock.  To cope with this fouling residue, the average ball was four to six hundreds of an inch smaller than bore size.  Upon ignition, the undersized ball bounced and skidded up the barrel and proceeded in a direction determined by its last contact with the bore.  Beyond 60 yards, the ball would lose its reliability to hit a man-sized target.

These limitations determined 18th century battle tactics, which employed long lines of men trained for speed of loading rather than accuracy.  They were expected to average four rounds per minute.  The soldiers typically pointed their arms and fired in controlled volleys at enemy troops positioned 50 to 60 yards away.  The typical battle was decided by a disciplined bayonet charge ending in a hand-to-hand melee.

To meet these combat conditions, the new British Brown Bess standard musket was designed to deliver a large bullet at low velocity.  It employed a sturdy stock for use as a club in close fighting and had an overall length that combined with a long, socket bayonet to create a spear or pike for impacting an enemy's line.  It was also designed to be durable and to withstand the rigors of years of active campaigning.  The Brown Bess was to successfully fulfil all of these demands.   from

The Snider-Enfield Infantry rifle is particularly long at 54 ľ inches. The breech block houses a diagonally downward sloping firing pin struck with a front-action lock mounted hammer. The action operates by the firer cocking the hammer, flipping the block out of the receiver to the right by grasping the left mounted breech block lever, and then pulling the block back to extract the spent case. There is no ejector, the case being lifted out or, more usually, the rifle being rolled onto its back to allow the case to drop out.
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Baker (volunteer pattern) rifle, post 1823. Lock marked tower with crown over gr but no service issue proof marks. 

Barrel made by E Baker with fixed post sights and has a bayonet bar at the muzzle. Stock is the split type with a brass patch box and has an old repair to the cheek piece. It is doubtful that these rifles were used by British troops in Australia.

 However there is a possibility that they were privately purchased from the United Kingdom by the early Volunteer Rifle units in New South Wales. 

Pattern 1851 Minie rifle. Percussion lock marked crown over VR and 1852 over Enfield. Barrel proofs are rather feint or erased. The sight is proof marked crown over b and has the makers initials R&WA. Stock has a feint makerís roundel on the butt and the issue details on the tang have been erased. Three flat key pins, similar to the 1842 pattern musket, hold the barrel to the stock and the fore end cap has a Lovells catch to secure the 17 inch triangular socket bayonet. The Minie rifle is recorded as being issued in Tasmania, though no examples have been noted with any state markings.  Pattern 1858 bar on band short rifle. Percussion lock marked crown over VR and 1860 over tower. The stock comes to 1 1/4 inches of the muzzle and the wide upper band is pinned to the stock. The bayonet boss is numbered 32 which would originally have matched the yatagan style sword bayonet. The stock was made by Chadwick and the rifle assembled by Bond. The butt has the tower armouries roundel, the date 1861 and the number 65. It is complete with sling swivels, original ramrod and nipple protector and chain attached to the trigger guard. This type of rifle was not common in the colonies of Australia although it was used by some volunteer rifle units. 
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2 different bayonets from pre WW1. The bayonet on the left is in fact an Italian Model 1871 (second model) to suit the Vetterli rifle of that period which I believe was of Swiss design. On the right is a Mk II 1888 British pattern bayonet. The one on the left is here to show the curved (or hooked) quillion similar to those seen on some early models for the SMLE bayonet as issued to some early AIF units.

Martini-Henry Mark I (1871-1876)
Martini-Henry Mark II (1877-1881)
Martini-Henry Mark III (1881-1888)
Martini-Henry Mark IV (1888-1889)

The Pattern 1853 Socket Bayonet was sometimes referred to as the "Common Socket Bayonet", as nearly every infantryman used it. It was originally issued for use with the Pattern 1853 Muzzle-loading Rifle. It was slightly curved away from the muzzle when attached to the rifle so the soldier could load the rifle without spiking himself on the point of the bayonet. As vast quantities of these were available as surplus, a bushing was brazed into them to allow them to be used with the new Martini-Henry. There were several different scabbards used with this bayonet. Overall Length: 20.7 inches Blade Length: 17 inches The Pattern 1860 Sword Bayonet is another example of an existing bayonet being modified for use with the Martini-Henry. At the time of the Martini's adoption, there were large numbers of these bayonets in stores, so in the interest of saving money, they were inexpensively modified to fit the M-H. Their muzzle rings were bushed to fit the M-H barrel, and the tops of the pommels were filed down to allow the Pattern '60 to slide onto the top barrel band tab. This bayonet does not have an integrated saw like the Elcho, but features a curved blade known as a "Yataghan" type blade. It is very common to hear these generically referred to as Yataghan Sword Bayonets. Overall Length: 28.1 inches
The Pattern 1876 Socket Bayonet is an improved and redesigned Pattern 1853. 
It was the opinion of many that the Pattern 1853 was too short to make an effective fighting weapon when attached to the rifle. As a result, the Pattern 1876 was lengthened nearly five inches. The cross sectional shape of the 1876 was made equiangular, rather than being wider on the top as was the 1853. Also, since this bayonet was only to be used with breech loading arms, the outward curve was also omitted. Two scabbards were used with the 1876, the MkI and Mk.II. The MkI scabbard had two rivets on the front face of the leather body, and the Mk.II had three. 

These rivets were attached to a long leaf spring which held the bayonet secure when it was in the scabbard. This bayonet was also referred to as the "Long Common Socket Bayonet". Many of these were later converted for use on .303 calibre Martinis by cutting down and bushing the socket. The sockets were bored, re-slotted and a new locking ring, stop and screw installed. After conversion, these bayonets hung below the rifle, instead of to the side. Converted 1876's are sometimes referred to as the 1896 Pattern, but the correct designation is "Bayonet, Martini-Enfield, Triangular". Overall Length: 25 inches Blade Length: 21.75 inches

Artillery "sword" bayonet with saw back & scabbard

The Martini-Henry Rifle is a weapon of Empire. Unlike the Snider-Enfield it replaced, it was England's first service rifle designed from the ground up as a breech loading metallic cartridge firearm. It protected and served the British Empire and her colonies for over 30 years. This robust weapon utilized a falling block, self-cocking, lever operated, single-shot action designed by Friedreich von Martini of Switzerland. The barrel used the Henry Rifling System, designed by Alexander Henry. Henry Peabody, an American, was actually the father of the Martini action. His design utilized an external hammer to strike a firing pin for cartridge ignition. Mr. Martini's refinement of the design basically consisted of conversion to an internal coiled spring activated striker. Martini's improved design flourished and Mr. Peabody's is nearly forgotten. 

Later in the British Martini's career, other rifling patterns such as the Metford System and even a system devised at Enfield were adopted. It is therefore common to hear these weapons also referred to as Martini-Enfields or Martini-Metfords. The first Martini adopted for service in the British Army was the M-H Mark I, which entered service in June of 1871. There were an additional three main variations of the Martini-Henry Rifle...the Mark II, III and IV. There were also sub variations of these that are commonly called Patterns. In 1877 a Carbine version of the M-H was entered into service. 

There are five main variations of the Carbine Model: the M-H Carbine Mark I (a.k.a. Cavalry Carbine), the M-H Garrison Artillery Carbine, the M-H Artillery Carbine Mark I, the M-H Artillery Carbine Mark II, and M-H Artillery Carbine Mark III. Initially, British Military Martinis used the Short Chamber Boxer-Henry .45 Calibre black powder cartridge. The original cartridge case was made of a thin sheet of brass rolled around a mandrel, which was then soldered to an iron base. These cartridges were assembled by the orphaned children of British Soldiers, and were relatively cheap to produce.

 They were found to be vulnerable to being easily damaged, and produced inferior muzzle velocities. Later, the rolled brass case was replaced by a solid brass version which remedied both of these problems. There was also a Carbine version of the Boxer-Henry .45 Calibre cartridge. This round used a 410 grain bullet with 70 grains of black powder, instead of the 485 grain bullet and 85 grains of powder used in the infantry rifle load. The primary reason for the milder load was that the recoil of the rifle load was very punishing when fired in a carbine, and this was found to be the cause of many failures in prototype carbines. 

In an emergency, either load could be used in either weapon. When the advantages of small calibre, flatter trajectory, high velocity cartridges became evident, an experimental Martini in .402 calibre was designed. Known as the Enfield-Martini Rifle, these rifles offered superior ballistic performance compared to Martinis in .450 calibre. With the adoption of the .303 calibre service cartridge however, the British realized it would be a supply nightmare having to equip units with .450 Martini-Henry, .303, and .402 Enfield-Martini (not to mention pistol and Gatling Gun cartridges as well). 

Thus, the .402 calibre Enfield-Martinis (of which thousands had already been built) were switched back to .450 Martini-Henry calibre, and converted to what we know as the "A" and "B" pattern Martini-Henry Mark IV. "C" Pattern Martini-Henry Mark IV's were original manufacture weapons, not conversions from the E-M .402.

Smaller, lighter versions of the Martini-Henry were created to train young military cadets. These weapons, often referred to as Martini Cadets, are similar in appearance to Mark IV's, but are much smaller and lighter. Many also feature August Francotte's improved action design, whereby the entire "guts" of the action can be removed by removing a single pin or screw. Government issue Cadets were originally in .297/230 Morris (Short and Long) and .310 Cadet (a.k.a. .310 Greener). 

These cartridges, like the .450 Martini-Henry, have fallen into obsolescence, and are nearly impossible to find in the US. Thus, conversion of these rifles to readily available rimmed cartridge calibres such as .357 Magnum, 32-20 WCF, 218 Bee, and 22 Hornet is very popular. The cadet's action is extremely strong. According to a 1955 data circular, the cadet action was tested with proof loads generating up to 60,000 PSI!!! Alas, the adoption of the Lee-Metford Magazine Rifle in 1888 would lead to the phasing out of the single-shot Martinis. Nonetheless, the Martini survived for many more years as a Home-Guard and second class weapon of the British and Colonial Armies

some photos and wording from

Martini Cadet Rifles by Ian Barger, 597 Rockvale Road, Armidale NSW 2350 
The large actioned Martini-Henry rifles were used by the various colonial armed forces and police forces in Australia from 1871, originally in .450 calibre and in the closing years of the century in .303 calibre. These .303 Martinis were generally known as Martini-Metfords or Martini-Enfields, depending on their rifling pattern, and used the .303 cordite cartridge designed for the famous Lee-Enfield rifle used by the United Kingdom and its former colonies from about 1895 until around 1960. At the time of Federation of the separate Australian Colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, there was thus already a fairly long history of the colonies using versions of the Martini action as their standard military weapon.

These military Martinis were very heavy full-sized rifles, too large and heavy for the 14-18 year-old cadets in the various militias of the time. The first attempt to provide a special cadet training rifle appears to have been made by the Victorian Government in 1887 when they purchased 500 Francotte Patent Martinis in .297/300 calibre. Subsequent batches of these training rifles were also acquired by the West Australian and Commonwealth Governments. The Francotte Patent allows removal of the lock mechanism by the simple removal of a single split pin, as seen on the later .310 Cadets. The Francotte Martinis were made by A. Francotte and W.W. Greener, who introduced the stamping of a kangaroo on the top of the receiver, as found in the later .310 Cadet Martinis made by Greener and the Birmingham Small Arms Company (B.S.A.). Apart from the Francotte Patent and the kangaroo, the action resembled the Mark IV Martini-Henry in profile.

Not to be outdone, the New South Wales Government in 1891 introduced a miniature version of the Martini-Henry Mk IV rifle. Still in .450 calibre, these rifles were made by the Braendlin Armory Company of Birmingham, and were stamped "BRAENDLIN CADET CARBINE 500/450" on the barrel and came complete with a cleaning rod slung beneath the forend. The right-hand side of the action carried the typical Martini-Henry cocking indicator. A similar rifle, the .310 Westley Richards Cadet Martini, was issued in NSW shortly after Federation. This was also a miniaturized version of the Martini-Henry, and like the Braendlin, did not use the Francotte lock removal system.

In 1910 the Commonwealth Government introduced a system of universal cadet training, and issued the States with what is now known as the .310 Martini Cadet Rifle. These employed the Francotte Patent, and were made in the UK by both Greener and B.S.A. They were marked "COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA" on the right face of the receiver, and had the now-familiar kangaroo profile on the top. They were issued to all states and thus carry the various State markings on the buttstock and on the upper right corner of the right face of the receiver. The B.S.A. Martinis are generally considered to be better-made than the Greeners, and the later and more common B.S.A. version carried a superior rear sight, adjustable for both elevation and windage. The cartridge was an existing commercial round, the .310 Greener, a small-game and target centrefire cartridge about the same size as a Winchester .32/20 and fitted with a 120 grain heeled lead projectile.

Frank de Haas in his classic "Single Shot Rifles and Actions" says that B.S.A. made 80,000 of the .310 Cadet rifles, although I have a Queensland-marked B.S.A. rifle dated May 1912 that has a serial number of almost 83,000. The .310 Cadet rifles were withdrawn in 1921 and cadets issued with the standard military .303 Lee-Enfields, although the stored Martini Cadets were re-issued to the militia in 1942 when Australia was in danger of being invaded by Japan in World War II. A little-known sidelight of this development was the manufacture in Australia at that time of a copper-jacketted round for the .310 Cadet, as use of the original lead projectile by the Army Reserve forces would have contravened The Hague Convention!

After World War II, the Martini Cadets were sold to the civilian population - I can remember seeing them in disposals stores in the 1960s selling for the equivalent of $6.00. Large numbers of Cadets were sold in the United States and also New Zealand. In the 1950s and 60s, .310 Cadet ammunition was available commercially in Australia, but in USA the nearest available round was the Winchester .32/20. Some Martini Cadets would chamber the .32/20 without modification, but those with tight chambers were generally re-chambered. 

This was not always an entirely satisfactory procedure, as the groove diameter of a .310 barrel, despite the designation, was .320, while the projectile in the .32/20 round was about .312 in diameter and thus tended to rattle down the oversize barrel. Perhaps the majority of Martini Cadets, both in Australia and elsewhere, have ended up being re-barrelled to suit commercially available ammunition. The most popular of these conversions have been to rimfire calibres, both .22LR and .22WRM, and to small-game centrefire calibres, especially .22 Hornet, .218 Bee, .222 Rem and .357 Magnum. 

Some beautiful sporting stocks of highly figured walnut or maple have been fitted to these converted rifles, and I have seen photographs of some extraordinary customised Cadets fitted with such stocks and with the actions intricately engraved. Despite its antiquity, the Martini Cadet action is a strong one, and many shooters are intrigued, as I am, by its simplicity, safety, ease of use, ingenuity of design, and precision of manufacture. Many are still in use in Australia in the form of a smallbore target rifle, the Sportco Clubman, with a heavy .22LR barrel and aperture sights.




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