The Martini-Henry is a 19th century British military rifle. It is prized by collectors for its historical value.
The Martini-Henry was designed in 1870, combining a single-shot action designed by Friedrich Von Martini with a rifling system designed by Alexander Henry. It was the first gun built from the ground up as a breech loading rifle. Production began in Great Britain in 1871, the same year it entered service in the British Army. It remained in service with the British military for nearly 30 years. While it was primarily used by the United Kingdom
and its colonies, Romanian and Turkish armies also used variants of the Martini-Henry.
Early on in its service, soldiers found that the weapon system would get fouled to the point that it was almost impossible to reload the rifle. Upon investigation, it was found to be caused by the rolled brass cartridge and black powder propellant. The rolled brass was thrown out and drawn brass was used in its place. The rifle was also given a longer lever action to allow more force to be placed on the cartridge.
The Martini-Henry was used in several wars including the Anglo-Zulu War , the Second Anglo-Afghan War, and World War I.
Produced by a variety of manufacturers, the production of the rifle continued until 1891. In spite of the Martini-Henry’s age these rifles have been found in weapons caches on the battlefields of the Middle East as recently as 2011.
The Marini-Henry fires a .577/450 Martini-Henry round. This is a pretty large round with an effective range of about 400 yards and a maximum range of less than 2,000 yards. In its original configuration, the bullet was 485 grains and loaded with 85 grains of black powder
. Unfortunately, the original ammo is no longer produced. The ammunition being produced for the gun today is expensive and considered by many to be of low quality. For this reason, a lot of Martini-Henry owners choose to reload their own ammunition. If you happen to find antique ammo, you do not want to shoot it as it can malfunction and cause damage to the rifle and injury to you.
This is a prized gun for most collectors. Although there were close to a million of these guns produced, they are quite old, and so can be hard to find at times. Additionally, as a military service weapon, they enjoy added popularity with military enthusiasts and history buffs.
Availability for a true British-made Martini-Henry is relatively low. One of the best U.S. sources for these guns is International Military Antiques
. They have a decent stock of both cleaned and untouched Martini-Henry rifles.
These guns can also be purchased from other collectors at auctions or private sales, but you will be paying the collector's price. Sometimes, you can find them a little bit cheaper by purchasing them from overseas--particularly Australia and New Zealand.
Martini-Henry rifles can be quite expensive. For a true British-made Martini-Henry, you can expect to pay $500 to $1,200, depending upon its age and condition. Be aware that if you find one for significantly less, you may be looking at a sub-quality knock-off.
Martini-Henry models include the Mark I (1871-1876)Mark II(1877-1881), Mark III (1879-1888) and the Mark IV (1888- 1889).
Be aware of readily-available knock-off Martini Henry rifles. While these may come from a variety of places, a large number of them have come from the Khyber Pass region, an area along the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan. These “Khyber Pass copies” can often be identified by typos in the stampings. Look for backwards letters and misspelled words to identify one of these knock-offs.