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Swinburn & Snider Carbines
Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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I often get asked what the carbines used by the colonial troops looked like ans how they operated. Here is an image of the two common types the Swinburn Henry and the Snider.

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The Swinburn shown is converted as a sport piece from a military rifle, The original style had a longer forend wood and a bayonet lug. The action is as a Martini Henry, and takes the 450/577 round. The mechanism is totally different. The SH may be left with a loaded round in the chamber. It can be cocked by the large thumbpiece on the indicator. (you would not leave a live round in a cocked Martini!). The SH uses an internal hammer action, unlike the MH which has a coil spring.

The Snider shown is the precise type used by Durnfords men. This example is a Mk3, made in 1875 by BSA. The snider is a .577 calibre. The block is hinged allowing the cartridge to be inserted. The hammer strikes the centre fire pin to discharge. To remove the case the block is on a sliding bar which pulls back to eject the spent case
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[img]
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The sniders accurate range is in reality very poor, at about 100 yards, the swinburn can acheive good results at 300 yards.
I hope this helps.[img]

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Sniser
Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 287
Location: London, UK
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Neil,

Great photos. Interesting actions.

How is the case ejected from the Snider? Do you have to jerk the block back manually or is there a spring that move the whole thing back along the slider?

Does it hoik it out over your shoulder like the MH or does it just pop out and you have to shake it out?. I can't see the ejector arm in the first photo - is it hiding in front of the block?

One last (and most probably daft) question. Do you shoot them?

Regards

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Alan
Site Admin

Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1415
Location: Wales
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Could I again make a request that images posted are to a maximum of 550 pixels wide at a resolution of 72.

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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Alan,
Only just learn't how to post images, sorry getting a bit carried away, I'll reduce 'em next time. To make up for it I have done a RDVC Martini page for you, I'll send it to you this week.

Simon
Long time no hear, Yes I shoot them , the snider is pants, only good to 50-70 yards after that it's all over the place. It would stop an elephant though. The boxer case would be harder to eject than a modern drawn case as it expands. You do have to thump the block to get it to withdraw, then you tip it to the side and the case falls away.
Neil

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Simon Rosbottom


Joined: 14 Jun 2006
Posts: 287
Location: London, UK
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Inaccurate eh? Just as well that you are shooting at elephants - hard to miss - or just a cunning design? Shocked

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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Neil

Researching Maiwand the other day, where the Snider carbine was carried in the 3rd Sind Horse and the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, I came across a reference to how much the sowars of the two regiments detested the weapon. Brutal recoil, hopelessly inaccurate, and prone to jam after about a dozen apparently.

As ever

Mike
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Hi Mike.
Yes, the boxer round for the snider would suffer a similar issue of delamination of the case as a Martini, maybe worse as the foil had no bottle neck to give strength due to the constriction of the shoulders.
The round for the snider measured in at a nominal .584-.591, and was a hollow based projectile, filled with cork or wood. It expanded to the shallow grove rifling, the bullet invariably squashed flat like a fried egg on cantact with anything solid. Most of the Snider carbines I have seen have a three groove rifling, later issue rifles 5 groove giving greater accuracy.

I shoot a BSA 1868 Snider rifle, which is pleasingly acurate at 100 yards, the Snider carbine is USELESS at that range. 50yards at a human sized target just about acceptable. The Snider rifle did remain very popular especially with volunteer and militia units until well into the 1880's.

We must re-instate that test firing day we discussed

regards
Neil

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paul mercer


Joined: 04 Jul 2006
Posts: 37
Location: Tavistock, Devon
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[quote="Neil Aspinshaw"]Hi Mike.
Yes, the boxer round for the snider would suffer a similar issue of delamination of the case as a Martini, maybe worse as the foil had no bottle neck to give strength due to the constriction of the shoulders.
The round for the snider measured in at a nominal .584-.591, and was a hollow based projectile, filled with cork or wood. It expanded to the shallow grove rifling, the bullet invariably squashed flat like a fried egg on cantact with anything solid.

I would imagine that it would leave a very nasty wound, particularly if it hit a bone.
On the Swinburn carbine, do you use a reduced charge in the cartridge or can you fire the full MH round without bruising your shoulder? I presume there is little difference in accuracy between a Swinburn and a Martini carbine
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Paul
The carbine load for the Mh was reduced in two ways, to make it easy for the qm to tell the difference the carbine MH had a RED paper patch.

The load for the carbine was reduced, instead of the 85 grains of powder for the rifle, it was 75 grains, also the bullet was smaller, approx 430 grians of lead (480 for rifle). The two ware fully interchangeable in an emergency.

The Swinburn took the same ammunition, the rifling too was Henry so the experience is very similar. Another note here is that the MH AC1 carbine had a lightweight barrel, hence the need for a lighter load. Later Carbines were service Mk2 rifles that were simply cut down so the barrel was much thicker, this does help reduce the physical recoil.

Whilst not trying to be being contraversial here, I doubt that any of the Imperial troops in the first invasion were armed with MH carbines at all, I have not seen AC1 cavalry or Artillery carbines with manufacture dates (i.e that marked in the receiver, and that is only a guide) of before 1877. You will see later carbines of cut down Rifles with 1873-76 dates, but of course that is the date of acceptance for the original rifle, not the carbine.
My theory is that by the time they carbine went from design to actual issue could be 12 months, and, most of the regiments who fought the opening gambits were nearly already stationed abroad.

There are well know pictures of the 90th Reg M.I armed with Swinburns, I believe the MI of the 80th also carried Swinburns.

This theory drives a hole in the fact that Durnfords men were actually denied ammuniton by 24th QM, why would the 24th carry ammunition that they were not going to use? (Snider).
Neil

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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
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Neil

This is very interesting and rather important. Before I wrote How Can Man Die Better I was always a little unclear on which carbine the NNMC were issued with. I was anxious to pin it down for the obvious interoperability reason. However clear-cut primary references seemed impossible to find. Faced with a publishers deadline I had to say something and I think I went for something noncommital like 'issued with a modern breechloading carbine', or words to that effect, without specifying the type. As I sit here today, however, I seem to recollect seeing a very distinct and emphatic reference (post-publication of HCMDB), and thinking to myself, 'that's important'. The trouble is I now can't remember where it was and which carbine was at issue - not very helpful. But importantly it definitely wasn't the Snider, which would have stuck in my mind for precisely the same connection you are now making with the Morris-inspired myth of bumbling QMs. It was either Swinburn-Henry or Westley Richards (I think!). I suspect not the latter because that's a different round too isn't it? Even more frustratingly I may have incorporated that subsequent discovery within the narrative of Like Wolves on the Fold - but people keep coming in to buy the ones in my office and I have none left to hand. (shades of Flyfishing by JR Hartley!!) I'll have a quick shufti this weekend, but even better would be if somebody else has seen the same primary reference and can bring it to mind.

I have now been driven up the wall two or three times by publishing stuff in 'popular' form and then not being able to find the original reference, (bloody part-timer!) so purists will be glad to know that I've spent the last two months footnoting 'Into the Jaws of Death' fully, so as not to torture myself so in future!!

You assert definitively here that they carried Snider. What is your source for that? It will be interesting to see, when I have re-tracked down the one I am referring to, whether your source concurs or differs.

As ever

Mike

PS. On the shooting Neil, the starting point is dates, dates, - at least 6 months and ideally 9 in advance.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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Mike
In paticular to the Snider and Durnford. Molife does pay reference to Durnford using his good arm and releasing the stuck cartridges. Although the WR design was not dissimilar. A tough cartridge in a Martini has three ways of being extracted, a heavy whack on the lever.. I quote here from MH Treatise.
1873 Lt-Colonel C Catty 46th Regiment
Difficulty in extracting cases: occasional, lever has to be jerked with considerable force. “the percentage of misfires and miss fitting cartridges very small, invariably the ramrod has been used to extract the cartridge.” alternatively if there was delaminaton of the case locally stolen corkscrews!.

The Snider block has to be hit with the palm of the hand. The Westley Richards Design was a straight sided .450 cartridge, similar to a Springfield 45/70, albiet I have seen some Boer issue WR in the museum at Cape Castle in .450/577, I have been trying to research what the common calibre was of the time. Of course WR were producing the Martini .450/577 Variant for the ZAR in 1897-99 so the Boers were trying to standardise their ammunition. WR bought out a falling block variant, in .450. look at the image of gun 31 in the link. http://www.rememuseum.org.uk/arms/early/armplebr.htm

It is worth noting that the trails that took place in 1869-71 did stipluate the 450 round, the trials competitiors were entrants were Messrs Peabody, Henry, Fosbery, Albibi/Brendalin, Burton, Martini, Joslyn and Remington. As Westley Richards already had a design (Monkey tial C1868) in the .450 (.441 nom) calibre available it was considered as an existing pattern, not a bespoke design. The .450 cartridge did not acheive the desired Muzzle veolicity of 1200 fps. Hence the introduction of Eleys bottle shaped case design and E.M Boxers round, greater load and the acheivement of 1360 fps.

So... the .450 cartridge was in advance of the MH, and Westley Richards were already using it.

I did find an interesting comment on the web a while back http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol046fm.html from South Africa about the native horse using WR also, but no mention of the Snider. Bullets found at Isandlwana in .580 nom could be from P1853 muzzle loaders so that Is why I cannot be overly sure. But in any event one thing that is for sure the QM 24th wouldn't have the ammo in any case....

Dates.. yes.. I will be meeting with the lads at the weekend Mike I'll get some ideas.

Regards
Neil


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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
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Mike
I found the detail, and I am now 100% positive that the Mh carbine was not present at Isandlwana. My theory, well as no British cavalry were present, or, that the field artillery's martinis were not even sealed for production, who else could have got their hands on the latest, literally hot out of Enfield carbines?, in reality no-one.

The MH Carbine was only approved in 24.9.1877, pattern sealed on 26.11.1877 as Arms, Interchangeable, Carbine,Breech loading, rifles and cleaning rod,Martini Henry.
In 1878 only 25000 were made, with the vast majority in the latter part of the year (Source: Treatise on the British Military Martini 1869-1900 Temple & Skennerton).

I find it very difficult to see logistically that any could be made and shipped before the Nov/Dec invasion convergance.

And what about the Artillery.. what did they have?. Well The first production Artillery carbine was requested on 23.5.1878. Production to order number 195 was 5000 arms, however these were destined to garrison artillery, only on the 21.7.1879 was the artillery carbine (A.C1) approved for horse and field artillery.

So the case for Durnfords men is in my opinion water tight, for the NMR and the NMP also. "Please could I have some ammunition?... sorry old boy I don't have that",

Regards
Neil


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GlennWade


Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 151
Location: Swansea
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Hi chaps

Sorry to poke my nose in this very interesting discussion but I recall clearly that some time back John Young mentioned that the artillery at Isandlwana had Sniders. This is from memory but I'm sure he'll see this and clear things up. Idea

Cheers,

Glenn

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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
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Glenn

That's interesting to know too.

Neil

A new box of LWOTFs just arrived so I've had a quick look in there and that tells me that the reference I found must have post-dated publication of that too. I keep a little file of notes with a view to second editions one day. I might have noted the NNMC carbine reference there. I'll check.

I had the distinct impression that the volunteers and police had slap bang modern carbines, by which I mean Swinburn-Henry (I think!). This all bears looking into in a bit more detail. What's the earliest possible date for the Swinburn-Henry. Just to be clear the S-H and M-H carbine are two different weapons are they not? Question

Regards

Mike
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Michael Boyle


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

The M-H and S-H are each distinct though similar in appearance. According to Ian Castle in "Zulu War - Volunteers, Irregulars & Auxiliaries" the S-H was the standard issue for the Natal Volunteer Corps and was even equipped with a 'Bowie' type bayonet. He also mentions that Volunteers carried Webley RIC pattern revolvers and officers 1822 pattern light cavalry officer's swords. Of course he also mentions that the carbine fires the same ammunition as the M-H which is rather too broad a statement.

Neil

Wasn't the Snider originally designed to fire a cardboard cartridge?

Best

Michael
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Swinburn & Snider Carbines
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