The Martini-Henry was a single shot 0.450 in breechloading lever-actuated rifle adopted by the British Army.
Developed by Henry O. Peabody (in his Peabody rifle) and improved by the Swiss designer Friedrich von Martini, whose work in bringing the cocking and striker mechanism all within the receiver greatly improved the operation of the rifle, which new iteration was combined with the polygonal barrel rifling designed by Scotsman Alexander Henry.
The rifle has been made in different variations, in carbine and shotgun configuration. The gun continues to see service to this day, even being used by Afghan tribesme.
The Martini-Henry was later upgraded into the Martini-Enfield an identical copy chambered for 303. instead.
HistoryEditThe Martini-Henry was not the first breechloading rifle used by the British Army. The Ferguson rifle was used by British troops during the American revolution in the 1770's, and the Snider rifle was already in service but was just a breechloading conversion of the Enfield musket. The Martini-Henry was the first rifle designed from the outset as a breechloader and was both faster firing and had a longer range than the snider. It was even capable of firing 12 shots a minute.
It first entered service in 1871, eventually replacing the Snider. During its adoption, the British were involved in a number of colonial wars, such as the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879. The Martini-Henry was used by the 24th regiment of foot at the battle of Isandlwana where the British soldiers were defeated by overwhelming numbers of Zulus. The rifle was also used at Rorke's Drift where soldiers defended their garrison from large numbers of Zulus.
The Martini-Henry was originally chambered for a round-nosed, tapered head .458-inch, soft hollow-based lead bullet. Later models would be chambered for 577 Snider, 303. and even in shotgun calibers.
The Martini Henry was used during the Zulu wars, the Boer wars and even in WW1 by some British troops. The Turks contracted with the American gun makers to make them Martini's for used in the Russo Turkish war.