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CARBINE AMMUNITION
Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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I need some advice from our "weapon experts".

What is the down side, if any, of firing a Martini Henry Infantry cartridge in a Martini Henry Carbine ?

Is there a chance of a breech explosion because of the extra charge ? If so, does the chance increase with the age and use of the carbine ?

Neil, have you ever tried this (if you haven't, I'm not asking you to have a go, well, at least not until after Xmas !)?

Bill

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GJ


Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 7
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The standard load for the M-H rifle was a nominal .45 diameter 480 grain bullet behind 85 grains of black powder. The bullet had a white paper patch. This recoiled a bit in the lighter carbines so a lighter load was developed using the same cartridge case. The bullet weight was lightened to 410 grains and the black powder to 70 grains. The bullet was red paper patched to readily identify it from the more powerful rifle version. The resulting space in the carbine cartridge case was filled with cotton fiber.

The same cartridge case was used for both loadings so either cartridge would chamber and could be fired in either rifle or carbine. There was obviously an increased felt recoil when shooting the standard cartridge loading in the carbine in an emergency.

Actualy the Martini rifle was noted for its heavy recoil and the Mk I, II and III variants had a checkered oval at the right rear of the action where the firer could place his thumb to keep it out of the way of his nose!

GJ
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Michael Boyle


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

To add to CJ's post -

There is of course a reason that separate rifle and carbine ammo is produced, aside from the chance of a blown breech there is also the chance of a blown shoulder!

Seriously though the rifle load is 85 gr. black powder pushing a 480 gr. bullet whereas the carbine load is only 70 gr. black powder pushing a 410 gr. bullet. The interchange was discouraged at the time the rifles and carbines were new and a century or so on it is even less encouraged. I would be surprised if the gunsmith who certified your antique for live fire would approve it for a heavier load than that for which it was designed.

I know rifle ammo is easier to obtain than carbine ammo. I have no idea what carbine costs but I know that when I purchaseded my M-H (rifle) that ammo was going for $20USD/round, however, since the market has been flooded with the 'Nepal haul' and many more people have entered the market for .450/.577 ammo that the prices have come down to as low as $2.50USD/round for rifle ammo.

Hopefully Neil or Adrian will have more information.

[Just for fun here's some interesting threads posted by soldiers in Afghanistan -

http://ar-15.net/forums/showthread.php?t=345282

http://shootersforum.com/showthread.htm?p=285695

And information on reloading -

http://castboolits.gunloads.com/showthread.php?t=37864&highlight=577-450+Martini

http://www.surplusrifle.com/articles2008/loadingforthemartinihenry/index.asp ]

Best

Michael
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Neil Aspinshaw


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

The reality is that to fire a rifle round in the carbine is unpleasant, but not overtly bad. The variance in recoil means you have to hold onto the carbine a little more as it jumps about a bit.

As mentioned the carbine laod was Red paper patched, with a lighter 410-420 grain bullet and 70 grains RFG 2. So the sheer punch is less.

My typical load for My IC1 carbine is 75 grains with a 420 grain bullet, accuracy is exceptional, as good as any rifle I have at 200 yards. The barrel on My IC1 was unfired when I got it, it was rescued from Greener in the 1970's still in grease and brown paper, it is serial number 179 and dated '79.

Michael, a modern Birmingham proof would put minimum of 90-95 grains in it to proof it, no problem. The Martini carbine of its day has a lightweight barrel, you will find two versions, IC1 Cavalry and Artillery, both have the same knoxform as the Mk3 rifle, however later Mk2 carbines are cut down Mk2 rifles so have the same profile barrel as a rifle, but shorter.

I doubt though in the opening stages of the AZW that the carbine load was actually available, certainly not until the first IC1 carbine issues arrived circa March 1879. Most of the ammunition would have been circa 1876-77 manufacturing dates, and apart from possibly Eley Brothers commercial manufacture for the Swinburn, the Royal laboratory made military ammo would have only been produced for rifles in 85g RFG 2. If you can aqquire a copy of Temples book "The Boxer cartridge in British service" it does give a very good account of the development.

The Swinburn has a very heavy profile barrel,not like the IC1 carbine and, in keeping with sporting guns of the period in short forend, (sporterised as we would know it today), and longer forend with bayonet bar. With the heavy profile barrel it make the shot more comfortable.

You have got ot take into consideration, most sport guns for Africa of the time where whopping great anti tank rounds, I shot a Holland and Holland C1875 .50 double barrel big gane rifle at the range, the first round gives you a nosebleed the second detaches your retina!,

I enclose a picture of some period boxer rounds from my collection, these are Eley commercial and are live, note the "boxers patent" on the packaging, this dates them pre 1876 when the patern expired. http://s119.photobucket.com/albums/o140/Neil-naspinshaw/?action=view&current=Martini-packet-DSCN2574.gif


When you come for a blast on the guest day, I'll load you a few 85 grainers for the carbine....

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Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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GJ/Michael/Neil

Thanks to you all for the technical input.

The reason for my question was not the fact that I intended to fire one of my carbines, but more to try and understand two issues on the 22/23 Jan 1879.

1. At Isandlwana, Durnford's cavalry in seeking an ammunition re-supply approached wagon loads of rifle ammunition (both battalions of the 24th) and were turned away. In "Zulu Dawn" this was used to illustrate the pig-headedness of the QM, but I wonder if there was a more technical reason.

2. At Rorke's Drift, the native cavalry that arrived low on ammunition, could only have been resupplied with rifle mmunition from B Company's reserves. Again, I'm presuming the technical reasons must have influenced the decision not to re-supply them.

I'm presuming from the responses above , that crossloading could have worked, but only as a last resort. Would that be a fair assessment ?

Bill

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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Bill
Mostly the reason for the ammunition not being aqquired is the fact that Bloofield and Pullen simply did not have it.
Mostly Durnfords men would have the Snider Carbine, or the Westley Richards monkey tail. Niether load would be carried by the 24th, (Martini, maybe pistol rounds) the Snider is a .577 round, the WR a .450 paper cartridge respectively. Durnfords wagon was somewhere back on the rear of the wagon park. The only other potential source of supply was the N5 battery ammo for their Sniders.

Interestingly, Durnfords men DID get ammo from somewhere, and enough to keep them along the trail and also after Molife went reporting to Chard at RD later.

The memoir about Durnford using his good hand to release jammed rounds is definitely for the Snider, to release this round, you hold the rifle between your knees, then, with a blow from the bottom palm of your hand on the block it jars the breech backwards on the Snider, the round is then flicked free. You wouldn't be able to release a Martini in that way, you need both hands!.

Arguably the NMP, NMR and the NC would have had Swinburns, which would take the same ammo, but they do report finds some opened boxes.

Regards
Neil

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Good question, Bill. I too am curious as I would have expected that many colonials and "Natives" would likely be equipped with Westley Richards carbines as well as Swineburnes. While we have your attention, Neil, I have another question for our MH guru that's only slightly related to this thread and not at all to the AZW: A paper wrapped packet by Vickers of ten blackpowder rounds for a Maxim gun chambered for the Martini-Henry cartridge. What color would you expect the paper wrappings to be and how would these rounds differ from the standard rifle round, if at all?
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GJ


Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 7
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I would expect that the cartridges for the Maxim gun to be of the solid drawn type and not of the original coiled brass type. I believe that the Gatling Guns were also issued with solid drawn cases much earlier than they were issued to the men. By June 1885 the List of Changes showed the standard solid drawn case and would probably be universally issued as supplies of the coiled case cartridges were used up.

Boxes of M-H rifle cartridges were marked on each side with a solid red rectangle below M.-H. RIFLE and only red rectangles on the ends.
M-H carbine cartridge boxes were similary marked with an outline red rectangle below M.-H. CARBINE.
Snider cartridge boxes were marked with a solid blue square below SNIDER . ( There were no Snider carbine cartridges)
The.45 cal Gatling Cartridge boxes were marked with a solid black triangle below GATLING 0".45 .
The .65 gatlings were marked with an outline black triangle below GATLING 0".65 .
The Nordenfelt guns were marked with a solid green diamond below NORDENFELT and their practice ammunition were simillarly marked except that the green diamond was in outline.
Adams (.450 ?) revolver cartridges were marked with a brown circle below PISTOL, ADAMS while cartridges for the Owen Jones designed Enfield revolver (.476 ?) were marked with a brown outlined circle below PISTOL, ENFIELD.

A bit more than you asked for but it may prove interesting.

Happy Christmas,

GJ
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Thanks for that GJ. This packet has always struck me as anachronistic, mostly because of the Maxim, Martini-Henry chambered, and blackpowder connection. There are no symbols on the wrapping other than the legend "CARTRIDGES BALL, FOR MAXIM GUN, M.H. CHAMBERED, BLACK POWDER, VICKERS, SONS, & MAXIM". Sadly, there's no date ascribed. I guess the black powder isn't too odd since the British used BP cartridges throughout the Second Boer War in their Lee-Metfords and it follows in their Maxims, but of course they (the LM's anyway) were .303 not the .577/.450--I can't imagine that the Maxims were a different caliber. I can't tell and it doesn't say, but I agree that they must be drawn case. Paranthetically, it does seem a bit odd to issue machinegun ammunition is packages of ten rounds. Export maybe to India or Egypt? Anyone know what the Maxims at Omdurman were for caliber? Were the Martini-Henry equipped Sudanese troops issued with Maxims at any time? How about Indian troops since they carried Martini's after they had been retired elsewhere? Anyone ever even hear of or see a .577/.450 Maxim? Me being a Yank favors a Canadian connection for any of this Victorian militaria, so that might the source? So many questions, so little time... Sad
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Bill Cainan1


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 107
Location: Lampeter
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Neil

Many thanks for the response. Yes that does make a lot of sense and goes a long way to explain difficulties that certain units experience on the day.

Merry Xmas

Bill

PS I'm determined to meet up and take in a shoot in 2009 (though not a rifle round in a carbine !)

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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Neil,
In an earlier post you referred to the recoil of a M-H carbine as compared to a M-H rifle and some other contemporary sporting cartridges.
For the benefit of those of us who haven't had the experience of shooting a M-H, I'm wondering if there's any way to quantify or at least give a subjective opinion about the comparative felt recoil of these rounds compared to something more widely available today?
For example, given a simple numerical scale with a .22 rifle rated at 1 and a 12-gauge shotgun at 5, where would the M-H rifle and/or carbine rate? Or the SMLE?
I'm asking because I'm a little confused, having seen the M-H's recoil being described as "mild" to "vicious" and all points in-between - and while shotguns can provide a very pleasant afternoon's shooting, I know from experience that if you don't shoulder one correctly the recoil can be very unpleasant.
Thanks in advance,
Rob
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Rob
If you have fired a 12 bore shotgun, then the recoil is not dissimilar, best description is a thump on your shoulder, the effect is also to give your trigger finger a rap and if you are not holding the reciver properly a thump on your nose by the knuckle of your own thumb. (Did that a few times, now I KNOW BETTER!).

Further info, I now have the info to hand (whilst I try an get my sons PS3 online xmas morning) The Red paper patch carbine round did not exist in the AZW. The Mk1 carbine round was introduced on 1-12-1877 to complement the new issue IC1 carbine. Numbers of carbines were still relativeley few, In production year 1877 (March 77-March 78 only 25,000 had been produced, all by Enfield) in 1878 only 300 were made.
The Mk1 ammo was updated to the Mk2 on 1-5-1878, with fine tuning, paper patch was still white as the rifle. The main problem with the carbine round was that the smaller bullet did not seat fully in the chamber, so, gas could escape, as the wool fill,, placed over the powder on the original round allowed for gas escape on firing. The Mk2 round had a thick paper insert in the case which meant the air gap was removed due to the space inside the cartridge being constricted, gas was not a problem.

The Red patch round became the Mk3, and was not introduced until 1-10-1879, LOC 3606. It had three cuts in the paper to ensure the paper shredded and left the bullet at the muzzle, as it was found that in the short barrel of the carbine, the rifling did not cut the paper in the same fashion as the rifle, which caused innacuracy, as the paper stayed attached to the bullet in flight.

GJ has covered the box marking notes expertly

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Michael Boyle


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

I can appreciate your frustration getting that PS3 online, I need a bit of break! (Last year the Wii went online virtually by itself.) So anyway I'll throw this in for anyone interested.

The M-H was being considered for issue to U.S. troops, the following is from "Report of the Secretary Of War ; Being Part Of The Messages And Documents Communicated To The Two Houses Of Congress At The Beginning Of The Second Session Of The Forty-Fith Congress.", 1877. [Wonder if the writers were being paid by the word!] Under the heading "Report of the Chief of Ordinance". -

"Since the Martini-Henry rifles have been placed in the hands of the troops certain defects have been developed, and the necessary alterations have been made to correct them. The most serious defect appears to have been the recoil or "kick" of the arm, extending, according to the newspaper accounts, so far as to disable soldiers after firing a series of not more than one hundred shots. The cause of this severe recoil is attributed to the great weight of the charge (powder and bullet) in proportion to the weight of the arm. The prominence of the stock in the rear of the breech-frame contributes to the inconvenience of the recoil by striking against the face of the firer, if care be not taken to hold the piece properly. The injurious effect of the recoil is found to be the greatest with soldiers not accustomed to it. To remedy the evil as far as practicable it has been decided to lengthen the butt of the stock. Originally the distance from the trigger to the middle point of the butt-plate was 13 and 14 inches, and the two kinds of rifles were issued to the troops in the proportion of two of the former to one of the latter length. The corresponding distances now are 14 inches and 14 1/2 inches and the change is said to have gone far remedying the evil.

To protect the left hand from the heat of the barrel in rapid firing the portion of the barrel embraced by the hand is covered with a leather shield strapped and buckled on.
"

...[Other changes to the butt-plate, locking-bolt removal, striker, ram-rod etc.]

"The Boxer cartridges for the Snider and Martini-Henry rifles are made on a large scale at the Woolrich arsenal in what is known as the small-arm cartridge department. Although the number of pieces constituting a Boxer cartridge is much greater than those on the American plan of drawing the shell out of a single disk of metal, the cost of manufacture is low, inasmuch as the parts are made very rapidly in presses tended by boys. The cost of a single small-arm cartridge at Woolrich was stated to be about a penny."

...[Detailed desription of Boxer manufacture and description of differences between Snider and M-H bullets.]

"Ninety cartridges per man is the annual allowance for target practice in the British service, viz: sixty (60) for individual firing, ten (10) for file-firing, and ten (10) for volley firing, and ten (10) for skirmish firing." [From other sources I know that additional rounds were issued for shooting competitions.]

Meanwhile in Britain about this time : from "Treatise On Ammunition, Corrected Up To December, 1877" Printed by Order of the Secretary of State for War, 1878 -

"...Mark III. is the present service pattern, and was approved on 10/8/73. It has been described above.

Mark IV. (not issued to service) had a 410 grain bullet, 1".115 long, and a charge of 80 grains R.F.G. The recoil of the rifle with this pattern is reduced to about the same as the Snider, and the alteration was made in consequence of complaints about heavy recoil experienced with the Mark III. Lengthening the butts of the rifles slightly was found to diminish the sensible effect of the recoil, so the manufacture of Mark III. was reverted to in April 1875. Only about two millions of Mark IV. were made...

Ammunition for the Martini-Henry cavalry carbine. The case is identical to the Mark III., the bullet weighs 410 grains, and the charge is 70 grains R.F.G. The spare length in the case is filled up with a little cotton wool. The cartridges are packed like those for the M.-H. rifle. A packet weighs 1 lb. The cartridges are easily distinguished from Mark III. rifle cartridges by their being shorter. Another pattern is likely to be soon introduced in which the cotton wool is dispensed with, and the space filled up by thickening the paper lining.
" [Footnote - "The name Boxer has been omitted from the nomenclature."]

I concur with Neil ; the M-H kicks about the same as a 12 gauge firing slug rather than shot.

[Martini-Henry pistol anyone? -

http://parallaxscurioandrelicfirearmsforums.yuku.com/topic/14048/t/Martini-Henry-Pistol.html (Photo half way down the page.)

Neil, I'll stand you a pint if you make that one go boom! (I'd give it a shot myself if I had a better insurance plan!)]

Best

Michael
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Rob D


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 93
Location: Melbourne Australia
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Neil and Michael,
Thank you for your replies.
It would seem to me then, that a trained or experienced shooter would have little trouble with the M-H provided he could take the time and trouble to hold the rifle correctly.
But of course, if he was pressed for time or careless... ouch!
Oh, one other question - wasn't it Wood who fielded a coolonial soldier's complaints about his carbine shooting high by taking it from him, firing a shot and hitting his mark, and returning it to him with the comment "Aim at their feet?" Would that have been a rifle-ammunition-in-carbine thing? Or a carbine-shoots-high-deal-with-it thing?
Cheers,
Rob
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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[Finally got his PS3 online, when it comes to wi-fi connections location is everything!]

Rob

The anecdote you describe sounds more like a flinch to me (closing one's eyes, turning from the piece and tensing up, perhaps in anticipation of the 'boom'). Carbines shouldn't inherently hit high unless there's a major problem with the sights. There were quite a few young soldiers, who hadn't received all their training prior to going to SA. Here's some follow-through to the previous post.

A funny piece from "Punch", Vol. LXVI, 1874, entitled "So Very Simple" -

On your head place a diver's helmet.
On your hands wear steel gauntlets.
On your feet put spiked fishing-boots.
On your breast fix a small railway-buffer.
Stand firmly with your back touching a stone-wall.
And then you may fire the Martini-Henry Rifle with some chance of not finding your shoulder black and blue, your cheek bleeding, or yourself knocked on your back, from recoil and kick together.
"

The above may have drawn it's inspiration from the following. "The National Rifle Association. A Sketch of Its History and Progress. 1859-1876. by John Randal MacDonnell, 1877, Chapt. XVII -

"Immediately after the Prize Meeting of 1874, one more determined--and, as it turned out, a final--attempt was made to induce the Government to pause before issuing the Martini-Henry to the Army. We notice this attack here because it was based, to a great extant, upon the evidence adverse to the new gun, which was gathered from its behaviour at the Wimbledon Meeting just concluded. It was said that the recoil was so great, and the construction of the stock so faulty, that it was almost impossible for the skillful shot to avoid getting an ugly knock in the face every time he fired...and, in fact, that the experience of the skilled Volunteers who used it at Wimbledon went to show that it was entirely unfitted for military use. It was certain that there were a great many bruised cheeks to be seen on the Common, and it is true that the pull-off of the rifles issued for the Second Stage of the Queen's Prize was so variable that the authorities gave up testing the triggers according to rule. We are not here concerned to inquire whether the arm was or was not a "miserable malformation" as a well-known rifleman publicly declared it to be ; but we may say that after 1874 we heard little of the trouble of the recoil..."

They may have heard little more about it but from the following cites it can be seen that the last word had not been said!

From the "Index to the Executive Documents of the House of Representatives", 1880-81, from the new Chief of Ordnance on a comparison of the Springfield and M-H -

"...The remarks already made in regard to the rifles seem to apply equally to the carbines. If the Springfield with it's regular cartridge containing but 55 grains of powder is not so powerful an arm as the Martini, it is only necessary to refer to the fact that the Ordnance Department is on record as being in favor of abolishing that cartridge entirely and using the rifle cartridge with it's 70 grains of powder instead.

In truth, this question was submitted to the troops serving in the extreme western departments, and the decision was, by a large majority, against it, on the ground of too great recoil with the heavier cartridge.

Examination of the tables, however, shows that the recoil is no greater than the Martini. If, then, the English and Turkish soldiers can endure it ours should do as well. As a matter of fact, the recoil of the carbine with the rifle cartridge is no greater than the recoil of the rifle with the same cartridge...
" [Patent nonsense of course but they came up with some statistics to prove it!]

From "Professional Papers by the Corps of Royal Engineers, Vol. XI, 1885 -

"Another point that must be referred to is the very excessive recoil of the Martini-Henry rifle ; it amounts to 16.6 foot lbs., or 3.5 foot lbs. greater than that of the French rifle, and 5.5 foot lbs. greater than that of the German and Russian rifles. Few men can fire 70 rounds consecutively from the shoulder with our rifle, and the pain caused by the recoil only tends to cause a deplorable waste of ammunition on the battle-field by inducing men to fire without bringing the rifle to the shoulder, and therefore without aiming."

From the "Journal of the United Service Institution of India", Jan. 1892, on a comparison with the new Lee-Metford -

"...This dimunition of recoil is most important, and will lead to a very great improvement in shooting ; we all know how many of our 3rd class shots are 3rd class shots simply because at one time or another the old M.H. has been loosely held by them, and caught them such a kick on the shoulder that they have a lively remembrance of it ever after, and nothing that the most patient of instructors can say or do will wipe out the "funk" then established, and they are confirmed "bobbers" once and for always, their target practice usually resulting in what I once heard an old soldier call a "steady good miss." Those of us who have fired 40 or 50 rounds from the M.H. in quick succession know, that although one may not feel it at the time, a sore shoulder is generally the result."

In "Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Jan-June 1898 -

"...and in 1869 the Martini-Henry was issued for trial, approved, and became in 1871 the service weapon. It was a great improvement on the converted Enfield, but complaint was made of the recoil..."

From "Subtle Brains and Lissom Fingers, and Other Papers by Andrew Wynter, MD, 1877 -

"One of the latest applications brought out by Messrs. Silver is their "patent anti-recoil heel-plate," for neutralizing the recoil in rifles and other guns. It is well known that the Martini-Henry rifle, adopted by the Government for the army, is a terrible "kicker," often inflicting more or less serious damage on the firer, and, of course, materially interfering with the aim in the field." [Interestingly another patent, no. 3938, was awarded Sept. 28, 1880 to C.A. McEvoy and G.V. Fosbery for a detachable magazine to be used with the M-H.]

From "The Book of the Rifle" by Thomas Francis Fremantle, 1901 -

"One element, undoubtedly, which has favoured the high scores made with the .303 rifle, is the absence of any material recoil. The kick of the Martini-Henry was a terror to most who used it, and especially to the unfortunate recruit who for the first time experienced its violence. There were few men who did not find that a comparatively small number of shots fired during the day were enough to take the edge off the accuracy of their shooting. Many were the bruised shoulders for which this rifle, and indeed, all others of its class, were answerable. Now this is all changed, and one of the greatest advantages of the new rifle is that the instruction of the soldier has been made very much more easy in consequence."

[In answer to a previous question on Gatling guns from "The Artillerist's Hand-book of Reference." by G. Will and J.C. Dalton, 1876 -

"What natures of Gatling guns are there used in the service?
The 0.45 inch and the 0.65 inch.

Give the weights, system of rifling, and weights of bullets of each.
Of the 0.45 inch--weight 3 cwt. 108 lbs.--system of rifling, Martini-Henry--10 barrels--weight of bullet 480 grains.
Of the 0.65 inch--weight 7 cwt. 35 lbs.--system of rifling, Martini-Henry--10 barrels.
" ] [What round?]

From "First Hints on Rifle Shooting by Alfred Paget Humphry, 1876 -

"4. Recoil.

The recoil of the Snider is not formidable, and will not be felt unless the rifle is held very loosely and carelessly. Of numerous persons whom I have seen firing in extremely bad positions, very few have complained of punishment. Those, who learn their first lessons in rifle shooting while the Snider is still in the hands of the volunteers, are in this respect fortunate ; for with the Martini-Henry beginners will find themselves somewhat roughly warned of any looseness in their mode of holding.
"

Since, on home service, the average soldier only fired 90 rounds a year there wasn't much time afforded the musketry instructors to correct bad habits. I should think though that by the late 1870s or early 1880s that the identified problems would have been corrected in training the new recruits anyway. I'll see if I can find any documentation for that assumption.

Best

Michael
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CARBINE AMMUNITION
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