Ballistics by the inch

The Martini-Henry .577/450

“OK, the Snider was fun. Let’s shoot that Martini-Rossi.”

“Martini & Rossi is a booze brand, dumbass. The rifle is a Martini-Henry.”

“Er … right.”

* * *

OK, I’m not saying that actually happened. But I will admit that historic rifles are not really my thing. Fortunately, my BBTI buddies are more knowledgeable.

The Martini-Henry was the single-shot, breech-loading rifle that succeeded the Snider-Enfield (initially in 1871; our rifle was stamped 1887). Designed from the start to shoot a metallic cartridge, it was quicker to load and fire, faster to reload, and more powerful than the Snider-Enfield. It shot a bottleneck cartridge based on the earlier .577 Snider-Enfield, known as the .577/450, which had a 480gr soft lead bullet of .450 diameter (hence the name) pushed to about 1350fps, for about 1900ft/lbs of energy (about 400ft/lbs more than the Snider-Enfield). Because of the increased velocity/energy and the better ballistic coefficient, it had an effective range out to 1800 yards (for ‘volley fire’ applications).

The Martini-Henry is overall a slimmer, more manageable gun than the Snider-Enfield. It’s about 5″ shorter overall, with a 33″ barrel, and weighs about the same.

The biggest design improvement was that the action functioned by the use of a lever. Pull the lever down, and the block drops down, allowing a feeding ramp to align with the chamber. Insert a cartridge, close the lever, and the block rises and the gun is ready to fire. Here are some images of it:

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Martini-Henry from above.

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Preparing to load.

And here’s the rifle being fired:

 

That’s with the full-power, traditional .577/450 loads. Which, while they’re black powder substitute (and hence a ‘rolling’ impulse), still have quite a bit of recoil.

However, there are cartridge adapters available which allow you to use common .45 Colt ammunition. It’s just a brass (or steel) sleeve with the shape of the .577/450 cartridge into which you insert a .45 Colt round. Here’s a brief clip showing that:

 

And here’s what it’s like to shoot the rifle with the adapter:

 

Much less recoil. And if you’re buying commercial ammo, much less cost.

Shooting the Martini-Henry is easy, and while there is a noticeable amount of recoil with the full .577/450 loads, it’s not bad at all. With the adapter and .45 Colt loads, the recoil is very mild. Hickock45 has a nice “woods walk” with a Martini-Henry of the same vintage here:

Definitely, if you get a chance to shoot one of these rifles, take advantage of it.

Jim Downey

 

 

August 27, 2020 Posted by | black powder, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shooting an original .577 Snider-Enfield rifle.

Recently the BBTI crew got together to shoot some historic rifles. I’m not going to go into a lot of the details about each rifle, since there is plenty of information available about each online. But I thought I would share a few pics, some video, and my thoughts about each gun.

The first is an original British .577 Snider-Enfield rifle. This is the “Mark III” model, and dates back to 1866.

The .577 Snider-Enfield is a single-shot, breech-loading rifle. The Mark III has a lock on the side latch which secures the breech block in place. A side-hammer strikes a diagonal sloping firing pin to ignite the primer on the metallic cartridge. The barrel is about 36″ long, and the overall length of the rifle is 54″.

Here’s the rifle as seen from above:

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.577 Snider-Enfield

Operation is simple: draw the hammer to half cock and unlatch the breech block and flip it open. Drop a cartridge into the “slide”, then push it forward into the chamber. Close the breech block and latch it. When you’re ready to fire, cock the hammer the rest of the way (it has a very short throw, so going to full cock doesn’t take much). Aim, fire. Here, see for yourself:

 

Recoil is fairly mild. The cartridges use a modern black powder substitute, and have the typical black powder smooth impulse rather than the sharp impulse of modern gunpowder. It shoots a 480gr soft lead bullet at about 1200fps, for an energy of about 1500ft/lbs (about half of what a modern hunting rifle has).  Here’s what the cartridge looks like:

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.577 Snider-Enfield cartridge

Note that the fired cartridge case is more straight-walled than the unfired cartridge. The cases stuck in the chamber, and had to be knocked loose with a ramrod to be extracted. But you expect some minor issues like that with a gun that is more than 150 years old.

Overall, it’s really a very pleasant piece of history to shoot. If you get a chance, do so.

 

Jim Downey

 

August 26, 2020 Posted by | black powder, Discussion., historic rifles | , , , , , | 3 Comments