Sunday, February 17, 2013

Boer Martini Henry carbine comes home

Another new rifle ("new" meaning: "new to me") finally showed up the other day. This one appeals to me both by virtue of it's being a Martini Henry and it's tie to my family ancestry. It's a Martini Henry MkII carbine, manufactured for the Orange Free State Boer horse soldiers in South Africa, ironically by Westley Richards & Co. of Birmingham, England just two years after the First Boer War between the Brits and the Transvaal Boers ("Boer" being Dutch for "farmer") and just six years before the second, more devastating fight between the British invaders and the forces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in which the fast-moving horse-mounted volunteer marksmen Boers would have kicked the British Army's ass royally had the Brits not cheated and brought in soldiers from damn near every other Commonwealth country and then gone around wiping out the farms of ever Boer man who was off fighting them, destroying their crops, burning their homes and putting their families into concentration camps.

Not that I'm biased or anything, but anyway...

This particular carbine came out of the box looking more than a little rough around the edges, but it seems functional and fortunately I like a little "character wear" on my guns.

Cute little sucker, innit? For comparison, here it is on the rack with two of it's more traditional brothers, a Mk4 (top) and a full-size Mk2 in the middle.

As you can see, it's considerably shorter and should be quite interesting to shoot, as the .577/.450 cartridge that it fires isn't exactly small, as you can see in this shot, where a round dwarfs the current 5.56mm NATO-standard round fired by today's US military.

This carbine was made for the horse soldiers, and it still bears plenty of markings from it's service in the Oranje-Vrystaat.

Note the little "1900" carving in the second pic. This one probably saw some action in the second war, and being a Boer descendant and fan, I hope that it and it's owner gave a good accounting of themselves.

Note the small carbine sight, and the "Henry Rifling" stamp.

That sight is factory--this isn't just a cut-down long rifle. Not many carbines were made for Afrikaan forces, but this is indeed one of them.

By the time that this rifle was made, the old Martini Henrys were almost obsolete. It wouldn't be long before the Brits were started to field the Lee-Metford repeaters and the Boers would soon be armed with plenty of then-new Mauser rifles from Germany. (Meanwhile, here in America, we were still issuing Trapdoor Springfields to our soldiers and would continue to do so for some time.)

Faded but still legible--The Westley Richards & Co. marking and date of manufacture: 1883.

The company made high-end firearms then, and it still does today. They began operations in 1812, the year that the British tried to re-conquer OUR country after we whomped them the first time in 1781.

Not that I'm anti-British or anything. They did, after all, give us Monty Python and Dr. Who, and that pretty much makes us even for our saving them from the Germans in those two world wars. That said, this relic of a long-ago war and a failed fight for freedom and independence will still have a place of honor in my humble collection.


  1. Very nice rifle. Congrats!

  2. As a Scot, when you say anti-british, I think you should say anti-english. As even though all the British nations fought, it was the English that decided to go to war.

  3. @ ScotchDave. Fair one. I'll try to remember that.

  4. Awesome. As usual, I'm impressed and a little envious at the same time. :)

  5. She's a beaut, isn't she?

  6. Very nice indead,dont forget the carbine round used a 400gn bullet and
    i think 60grns of black powder to the full rifle load of 480grn paper patched bullet and 80grns powder and card and beeswax wads,i have loaded a few rifle 450/577 rounds but no carbine will ask a good friend who uses his MH rifle most weeks what he loads for carbine,he also has a carbine in 303 british.

  7. @ ajdshootist: Thanks. I'd forgotten that there was a "carbine load" for the MH. Any data will be appreciated.

  8. Brits did also lend the Spitfire and the Hurricane to the second fracas, but both of those are more than balanced out by also foisting Montgomery on us, as well as quietly shipping Piers Morgan over here. The last one, I think, puts them back in debt.

    That carbine, though, is frikkin SWEET!!!

  9. Nice addition to the 'collection', and I'm betting it will have a 'tad' bit of recoil! :-0

  10. You have the BEST guns. I love your posts on historical weapons. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Interesting rifle. Might not be the best choice to introduce the cute lawyer to shooting.

  12. Anonymous3:41 PM

    A good history lesson Thanks