One of the perennial challenges facing authors of firearms reference books is balancing the very technical nit-pickery with the broad historical view of a gun and its context in world events. The emphasis is usually tending towards the technical, but Neil Alpinshaw has done an excellent job of balancing the two, and made the development of the Martini-Henry an engaging story at the same time (a rare feat in this genre!). His new book “The Martini-Henry: For Queen and Empire” mixes vivid descriptions of British troops fighting across the far-flung corners of the world with their trusted Martinis with a history of the development and modernization of the rifles (and carbines).
Most interesting to me personally was the section on the Martini-enfield, which was to be the improved version of the Martini-Henry. Chambered for a smaller-bore .402 caliber cartridge and fitted with sights for rapid close-in combat as well as long-range volley fire and sporting a quick-loading magazine attached to the receiver, this is a fascinating look at the highest evolution of the single-shot black-powder military rifle. Its development was dashed by the bolt action Lee and the development of smokeless powder, and the many thousands initially produced were converted into other patterns before seeing service.
Aspinshaw also tackles many of the long-standing myths about the Martini, and particularly its weaknesses. He takes his information directly from period investigations and after-action reports, and avoids the common hearsay. He does not let his own personal passion for the subject prevent him from articulating the true problems the rifles had, but clears away the misconceptions that have become prevalent (like the impossible-to-open ammunition boxes).
Published by International Military Antiques, the cover price is $60, and it is worth every penny for anyone interested in the grand Victorian British Empire or the Martini as a firearms family. Available direct from IMA or through Amazon: