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Caliber of Martini Carbine?
Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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I acquired a Martini Henry cavalry carbine (no date stamp) at auction recently and was interested in any further information about what appears to be a rather unusual caliber. Although it's externally exactly to the specifications of a British service arm and has several of what appear to be Birmingham proof marks on the knoxform and barrel, it has no military markings and will not accept a .577/.450 MH Boxer cartridge. It (apparently) was incorrectly described in the listing as a .577/.450 chamber and I suspect now, after some research, that it loads a Westley Richards .500/.450 Number 2 (or maybe number 1?) musket round. There seems no evidence of any alteration after it's manufacture, but I'm no expert for certain. Any input would be appreciated since all of my present books contain information limited to MH's in their 577/450 configuration.

I appreciate this isn't a firearms forum and that the carbine in question is possibly not even AZW related, but I know that there are several members here who are very knowledgeable about teenies in all their various disguises.
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Sawubona

I'm no expert but could your carbine be a Witten Carbine? These were made in Germany for the most part but some were also shipped to the UK for assembly and included some British parts. (About half of those produced were in the Musket No. 2 .500/.450, a popular sporting calibre.) The way I understand it any small arms sold in Britain would have to have had government inspection and markings. Witten's are slightly heavier and slightly longer than the service carbine, but otherwise close to identical. For more information -

http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?p=501912

[Just for fun here's a listing for one of the original 300 M-H Mk.I cavalry carbines produced in 1879 -

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.asp?Item=116519490

And some M-H variants -

http://www.collectiblefirearms.com/RiflesMartini.html ]

Best

Michael
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Excellent thought there Michael, but towards the bottom of that particular Witten thread one of the posters gives dimensions for both the British service carbine and the Witten (as you've noted), and the firearm I bought matches the former not the latter. I'm going to go with the Witten theory at present anyway, at least until more information comes in. That and try and get hold of a Westly Richards 500/450 No. 2 cartridge to see how that fits. Anyone got an extra?

Thanks also for the second link! I wasn't aware of the Turkish and Romanian use of the MH at all.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Sawumbona

There has been a batch of Wittens appear recently, mostly in No2 Musket from South Africa. I was inspecting one recently at a local dealer. This was made by Witten too. I did wobble, but as I had no room on my ticket (there will be soon!!) for one I didn't have it, it would kill me off not to be able to shoot it!.

Often you find the barrel band has an integral cast sling loop on the side of the forend, (not the bottom), so it actually fits better across your back. These must have been Boer issue, I have recorded Liege proof marked .450/577 Martinis in the same style, no manufacturing marks. Has yours 5 or seven groove rifling?

No2 Musket would be a nice round to fire compared to a 450/577 round, in relaity it is very close to the original trial round of the 1869-71 period for the Martini Military rifle.

The Turkish Martinis are mostly USA made by Provenance Tool, in 11.4mm metric.

Well done, nice find.. bit jealous if I must say.
Neil

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Neil,
I had hopes you might chime in on this thread as your past observations have established you as something of the Martini-authority-without-portfolio hereabouts.

I'd love to take credit for being a canny buyer of MH's, but truth be told, I thought that this one was a .577/.450 until I got it home and tried to slide in a teenie carbine round. It was at that point the game was afoot!

There isn't any evidence of a sling swivel and the front corners of the receiver are distinctly rounded when compared to an infantry service rifle. There's no bayonet lug obviously. The cocking indicator is larger than that pictured on issue MH carbines, but that's the only difference I can see (aside from the caliber, of course). There are seven grooves in the rifling-- does that tell me anything interesting? Oh, there are no marks to suggest the presence of a leather sight protector at any time.

Some of the proof marks resemble a crown with a "BS" in script below it (Birmingham?), although not all have the script and there further appears to be something illegible, then a lower case "n" and an upper case "S" underneath the cocking lever-- the latter markings are not stamped, but seem to be engraved rather rudely. Does that suggest anything?

Later on today I'll learn if my bid at the silent auction on an unopened pack of Snider MK V ammunition dated 1868 was a winner. The more I think about it, the higher I think my bid should have been but wasn't. Sigh.

Do you have any idea of the dates of production of the Witten carbines (I'm assuming at this point that that's what this is)?
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Sawumbona

Be careful with buying un-opened ammo as it should be bought on a firearm certificate from auction houses as it is "live".

The proof marks will give it away If you can post a picture or two of it.

Datewise, i would put as mid to late 1880's, contemporary with the Westley Richards ZAR pieces. It is most likely made of British BSA made trade parts, don't forget BSA was a private company making for the military, if someone wanted parts they would supply to the whole of the trade, LSA the same.

Regards
Neil

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Neil,

I sent you three pretty high rez photos of the proof marks privately, since this research probably is not of interest to most readers here and it's not AZW related (I think). Hope you have high speed internet 'cause the files are a fairly large attachment.

Thanks
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Caliber of Martini Carbine
GJ


Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 7
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Last week I had the chance to handle one of these Witten carbines at an antique shop here in north Wales. A very nice carbine or should it be "short rifle"? The distinctive features were the short Knoxform and the sling swivels on the side of the barrel band and at the heel of the stock.
I could not check the caliber and neglected to notice the rifling.

The original caliber was the Roumanian 11.43X60R . This is virtually the same as the Express .500/.450 No 1 of 1879 rather than the No 2 of about 1900.
For the dimentions of a whole host of cartridges go to
http://members.shaw.ca/cstein0/metric.htm
This will get you to the Metric calibers. Then go to the bottom of the page and clic on Rifle Cals. 38+ for non metric cartridges and compare the dimentions.

GJ
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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GJ,
Thanks much for that! The carbine that I have is a dead ringer for a service Martini dimensionally, with no sling swivels and a "standard" length Knoxform (is that typically capitalized?), but it appears to take a shouldered round which I gather the No. 2 isn't. Last night I was trying different cartridges from my limited collection and an unidentified round (I think it's Turkish) with a shoulder seemed to fit pretty well although the smaller lip allowed it to be inserted too far. It might well be an Express .500/.450 at that.

If anyone is following this thread with bated breath, Neil Aspinshaw confirmed on inspection of photos emailed to him that the proof markings are German and not British as I thought they were. "984" is stamped on the underside of the sight and I'm of the loosely held opinion that that might be a production date of September (9th month) of 1884.
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GJ


Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 7
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Sawubona,
This thread at Gunboards might be of interest to you. Go to ---

http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?p=247323

It is dated 02-04-2008. As an American site it is probably dated February 4, 2008. The dimentions on the cutaway dimension drawing seem to be of the .500/450 No1 rather than the labled No2.

Also here at Black powder Military Rifles site ---

http://www.militaryrifles.com/Romania/RomPeab-Martini.htm

( I believe that the term Noxform derives from the invention of the famous gunsmith Henry Nock. I used a capital letter in houour of the old man !!! )

Enjoy the information on the thread!

GJ
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Sawumbona

Further to our discussions on and off line, the proof marks do appear to be Birmingham Trade, albeit they are a little to deep for 100% clarification. I located a copy of a BSA trade brouchure C1911 and the proof you sent me does look correct.

So, possibly a Birmingham trade piece, retailed by Witten?, I have a stunning Mk4 action piece emblazened with a sash. W G Jeffery, Queen Victoria St London serial number 2668. What is more interesting is a copy of the reciept for the rifle, it was sold on 16-6-1894 for 5 13s, but more info was found on the manifest. The maker was Thomas Turner (Fisher St Birmingham), it cost 3 15s, the reciept showed it as Martini Henry target rifle .450/.577 MK4 action..

Neil

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Neil,
Thanks so much for that further information. Wow, 5 pounds 13s.! Wasn't that a huge chunk of change in 1894? I must try to find out how that sum translates to modern dollars or pounds.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Sawumbona.
Martinis in No2 musket have tickle my fancy somewhat, the Pattern 1869 Westley Richards took No 2, the so called "Majuba" rifle. As the Martini action began to become more prevalent in the Mid 1880-s the Martini was adopted in No2 as plenty of the locals had ammo.

I cannot see any Westley Richards marks on your photo's (Normally a triangle), but as the bproof do appear to be Birmingham it could be a trade piece as previously discussed.

After a little research 50/90 cartridges can be reformed to suit No2 Musket, but the cases are still made in small numbers by Bertram in Australia, ..just in case you want it to go boom!..go on!

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Caliber of Martini Carbine?
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