Since I needed a break from dealing with dogs who snack on rat poison, I spent the morning assembling my first batch of test rounds for the Martini-Henry rifles.
As you can see, I have three at present, a Martini-Henry MKIV from Nepal (top), a MKII back from Afghanistan (middle) and an Orange Free State carbine from South Africa (bottom). I dedided that I want to continue shooting these old warriors so for the past coupe of months I have been scrounging up supplies to make new ammunition for them since nobody anywhere still makes .577-450 cartridges any more.
I finally found what I needed from a couple of key sources, one man who makes the proper bullets as a custom run and another man who re-sizes brass 24-gauge shotgun shell cases to the proper shape for the Martini-Henry cartridges. Then I had to find a source for FFG black powder. Fortunately another man runs a small shop supplying Civil War re-enactors just 45 miles away. I drove over there last week and got some powder and black powder grease from him. Then I was all set.
This morning, I primed five test cases with Winchester Large Rifle Magnum primers then belled the case mouths using the new Lee dies that Murphy so thoughtfully un-boxed not too long ago. Next, I filled each case with 85 grains of black powder and packed it down good. 85 grains was the old British service load. I then filled the remaining space in the case with a filler to eliminate any air space, which is crucial in black powder loads. For a filler, I used cream of wheat. (Don't laugh--the seasoned black powder cartridge loaders swear by the stuff.) Then I put a wad in the case neck, a bit of lube, and another wad. This is known in black powder parlance as a "grease cookie" and it keeps the black powder residue from fouling the rifle. Finally I seated the 480 grain bullet and set it aside. I just made five for test purposes, figuring that way, if the first one blew my face off, I wouldn't be out for a bunch of extra rounds.
Here's the chosen test rifle, the MK II, with it's new ammo.
A new .577-450 round shown next to a .22LR cartridge.
The target: Whitest. Zulu. Ever.
I fired off the remaining four rounds, and each of them punched a big .462 hole the target as well. The old rifle's battle sight is clear but it's trigger pull leaves a fair bit to be desired. No appreciable group, but they all hit it. In actual shooting, that target would be one dead Zulu/Redcoat/DHS gun-grabber/etc.. I should have rested the rifle to see how it really shoots but I was caught up in the moment and fired them all standing off-hand while yelling "At one hundred yards...volley fire...FIRE!" like in the movie. After firing, I savored the warm feel of the barrel steel in my hand, wondering how long it's been since this old war-horse has been so heated. This won't be it's last time, that's for sure. It shoots great, and there was no obvious deformation of the brass, so I can probably keep reloading these same cases for some time to come.
When I got home, I saw this deer "hiding" in my driveway.
This deer's prospects of surviving the upcoming hunting season: