As you may recall, I picked up a Nepalese “Gahendra” rifle from IMA as a gunsmithing project, which turned out to be more complicated than I’d planned on. Well, I’ve been doing a bit of looking into the origin of these rifles – the look superficially like Martinis, but aren’t. Common theory on the ‘net is that they were developed locally in Nepal – but this doesn’t really jibe with the amount of British support Nepal was receiving. Why wouldn’t the Nepalese just copy the Martini rifles they could bring in from England?
Well, it turns out they did. But when they requested a Martini sample rifle, the British decided to give them (without saying so) one of the trials rifles that was not chosen for British service instead of the new front-line design that had won the trials (can’t have the colonials with the best new weapons, y’know). Specifically, Nepal received a Peabody type action (with a flat mainspring, instead of the improved coil spring used by the Martini) with Henry rifling. We ran across an example of this trials rifle:
The Nepalese made a few changes to the details of the design – they combined the lever and trigger guard, and the Nepalese stock is attached with upper and lower tangs while the British rifle uses a through-bolt. The mechanism is the same, though, and definitely not a Martini. The receiver shape is pretty clearly the same, and the sling swivel at the front of the trigger was kept.
As a side note, this explains the reason for the sling swivel there. On the Gahendra, it can easily swing back and interfere with operating the lever if a sling is not being used. Seems like a dumb design – why not mount is a bit differently to avoid the problem? Well, probably because they just copied it off the British model they had. On that rifle, the trigger guard is a separate and fixed piece, and the swivel poses no problem.
We have a some more photos of this Peabody-Henry trials gun that you can take a look at (click here to download them all at high resolution):