Martini-Henry Rifle, 1871–1918

Martini-Henry Rifle
Martini-Henry rifle from the collection of an avid big game hunter

The Martini-Henry rifle entered service in the British Army in 1871 to replace the Snider-Enfield rifle. In 1888, when the new Lee-Metford rifle was introduced, the Martini-Henry rifle was handed down to the Indian Army where it continued to serve until the end of World War One.

The Martini-Henry rifle was infamous for frequently jamming in battle. The problem was caused by black powder fouling and weak cartridges made of thin brass foil which expanded too much, or tore open when fired, and remained stuck in the chamber. Stronger brass cartridges and a longer operating lever, which applied more torque to the mechanism, alleviated the problem enough to keep the Martini-Henry MK-IV in service.

With the introduction of smokeless nitrocellulose powder and the full metal jacketed bullet in the 1920s, accuracy improved and the fouling and extraction problems were solved. While this improvement came too late for the military, the Martini-Henry served on as a big game hunting rifle. Using cordite charges and 500 grain full metal jacket bullets, big game hunters found the Martini-Henry rifle to be effective at stopping large African animals at relatively safe ranges.

Martini-Henry rifle, locked and fired

Pulling the operating lever of the Martini-Henry rifle downward pivots the front of the breechblock downwards, away from the chamber, and extracts the spent cartridge casing. If this opening action is done swiftly, the extractor receives a sharp blow which flicks the cartridge casing out to the rear. A new cartridge may now be inserted into the chamber and pushed home with the thumb. Returning the operating lever raises the front of the breechblock to seal the chamber and pushes the striker back, compressing the striker spring, until the trigger lever catches the notch in the cocking lever (tumbler). The cocking indicator on the right-hand side of the body rotates back to indicate that the Martini-Henry is now cocked. Pulling the trigger releases the striker and fires the rifle.

Miniatures with Martini-Henry Rifles

Miniatures with Peabody-Martini-Henry Rifles

  • Turkish Infantry Command, 28 mm Askari Miniatures TU-3
  • Turkish Infantry Command, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWTC1
  • Turkish Infantry, 1877–78, 28 mm Eureka Miniatures 100RTW30
  • Turkish Infantry, 1877–78, 28 mm Askari Miniatures TU-1
  • Turkish Infantry, marching, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT1
  • Turkish Infantry, advancing, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT2
  • Turkish Infantry, standing firing, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT3
  • Turkish Infantry, kneeling firing, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT4
  • Turkish Infantry, high porte, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT5
  • Turkish Infantry, skirmishing, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT6
  • Turkish Infantry, loading, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT7
  • Turkish Infantry, defending, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT8
  • Turkish Reserve Infantry Command, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWTC2
  • Turkish Reserve Infantry, marching, 28 mm Outpost Wargame Services RTWT9
  • Turkish Light Infantry 1877, 28 mm Askari Miniatures TU-2

Martini-Henry Rifle Bayonets

  • Pattern 1853 Socket Bayonet
  • Pattern 1860 »Yataghan« Sword Bayonet
  • Pattern 1871 Elcho Sword Bayonet
  • Pattern 1876 Socket Bayonet
  • Pattern 1879 Artillery Bayonet (converted Cutlass Bayonet, Pattern 1859)
  • Pattern 1879 Artillery Bayonet (new Production)
  • Sword Bayonet, Martini-Henry Rifle, Pattern 1887
  • Sword Bayonet, Pattern 1888, Mark I (Lee-Metford Rifle)

Frequently Asked Questions

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Small Arms