Martini-Henry I.C.1 Carbine (Video)

Formally adopted in 1877, the I.C.1 Martini Henry was formally designated the “Arms Interchangeable, Carbine Breech loading Rifled, with clearing rod Martini Henry Mk1”. The word “interchangeable” refers to its use for both the artillery and cavalry services, instead of needing a separate design for each, as was typical of military forces at the time. It was chambered for the massive .577/450 cartridge, with a 21.3 inch barrel and an overall weight of 7.5 pounds.

I was shooting it here with 1950s Kynoch ammunition, a batch of which came into the US several years ago and can still be found without much trouble. However, it gave me significant hangfires and split cases, and I would not recommend it.

32 Comments

  1. While you are introducing the rifle you need to include ‘cartridge’ or ‘mass produced’ to exclude the Ferguson rifle. Other than that nice video.

  2. I have shot an artillery carbine with full-power, rifle ammunition. I was offered the option of firing it prone, but declined and fired it standing like Ian did.

    It certainly lets you know you’ve touched it off 🙂

  3. It looks like you shoot right handed without the GoPro and left handed with the GoPro. Just curious, any reason for that?

  4. The Martini is a wonderful gun. Ever play around with the BSA model 12 target guns? The cadet sized actions are good medicine and very strong.

  5. An interesting feature of the carbine ammunition was that it used a roll of thick cardboard inside the case to take up the space lost by the reduced charge rather than using wads.

    I have a box of those Kynock rounds, but I have never shot any. The Orange patch signified a cordite load. I hope you boiled out the barrel after shooting these!

    • Was Kynoch still using corrosive primers in commercial ammunition in the 1950s? It’s the old chlorate primer and not the cordite that is the corrosion-promoter.

      • Yes, as far as I am aware.. all the big calibre Berdan primed cases were chlorite and hence corrosive. Not sure if they were mercuric, but would not be surprised. I think most UK cordite filled cases were corrosive up to the end of production.. certainly it was SOP to boil out .303s if you had been shooting MkVII RG or K ammunition. Mk VIIz ammo was ok though as this was not cordite filled..

  6. I owned two of these back in the late-1950s to earky-1960s that had been converted to modern cartridges by P. O. Ackley. One was chambered for a .291 Zipper Improved and the other to a .38-55 which is fairly common for these rifles. Both of these cartridges were based upon the .30-30 case. The .219 had a Fecker 10x-30x variable power recoil-mount scope that had to be returned to “Battery” after each shot. It was probably the most enjoyable shooting rifle I ever owned. These actions were just about indestructible and many were converted in the early days of “wildcatting.” You can still find them at about $800.00 and up on gun auction sites. The original chamberings were just about as punishing as the medium weight African cartridges but not nearly as much so as a .600 Nitro Express or a 4-bore double muzzleloader.

  7. I have one of these rifles . They are very expense to shoot with “iffy” original ammo which are collectible pieces. Modern brass is hard to obtain here in Canada. I had several sleeves machined which allows me to shoot 45 long colt ammo which is much easier and cheaper to obtain. it shoots well with 2-3 inch groups at fifty yard targets. the recoil is much lighter and i have used this gun with this load to shoot both whitetail and rabbits. it works great in heavy cover for rabbit as the bullet just plows though. excellent article .. keep up the excellent work ,your site is part of my daily routine.

  8. I’ve got a Mk II artillery carbine, converted from a rifle.

    https://flic.kr/p/nbR4Lw

    The wierd gray color is because, at some point long before I owned it, someone used naval jelly to remove all the finish.

    I load up my own black powder rounds (well, pyrodex) with a bit of wool, a wonder wad, and a beeswax disc, behind patched bullets. I’ve loaded and fired both rifle and carbine loads, and I have to say I prefer the Martini (recoil-wise) to the Moisin-Nagant.

    Brass is kinda pricey, but reloads easily. The converted 20-gauge shotgun brass cases available a few years ago were Berdan primed, and also busted out the primers from the primer pockets when fired.

    Let me tell you, nothing gets more attention at a public range with a lot of folks firing modern smallbore rifles than the ‘boom’ and smoke ring from a Martini!

  9. I know this is a bit morbid, but I assume only an idiot would charge straight at an artillery crew while the quick-firing gun was being reloaded. Given what large-caliber black-powder bullets do upon impact, could one say “abracadabra, I made your brains disappear” if he headshot the assailant? And this was just before machine guns were introduced en masse…

  10. I’ve owned 3 Martinis. A HIGHLY embellished one in .45 Turkish Peadody which I was never able to find ammo for, a .577-450 Martini carbine, and a beautifully sporterized Martini-Enfield in .405 Winchester that came with it’s original .303 barrel. Wish I still had the .405…(siiigh)

  11. Kynoch ammo. especially the older calibres with the Large (Express Rifle) Berdan Primers (.254″) were all Corrosive Primed, and most were Mercuric as well.

    Cordite is NOT corrosive, but the Hot flame is Erosive, washing out the rifling lands from the Chamber outwards. If reloading for the MH, one should either use BP of good quality, or IMR3031 as a Cordite Substitute…and in the case of BP, WASH,WASH,WASH to remove the corrosive BP residues. Of course, whether using Boxer or Berdan primers in reloading, they will be Modern, Non-corrosive types ( RWS #6504 etc. )

    Doc AV
    AV Ballistics Technical Services
    Brisbane Australia

  12. Nice video. I love the Martini-Henry. I have a mkll rifle and make my own ammo for it from 24ga shotgun brass. Always is the start of the day at the range. It draws more attention then multi thousand dollar rifle.

  13. This carbine desperately needs a replica chambered for some still available caetridge. .45-70 would be the “natural” choice, but a powerful pistol cartridge like .460 S&W Magnum would be nice as well for the flexibility (also, the ballistics of the .460 S&W Magnum seems to be quite similar to the .577/450).

    There are currently modern replicas available for all kinds of “Wild West” and other mid- to late 19th Century American guns, but sadly not for many other equally interesting guns of the same era.

    • Oh, that would be very nice indeed. And bring back the Adams Beaumont style SA DA percussion revolver, kindly please… The market is choke full of colts and remingtons, but there is no true DA percussion replica apart from expensive and poorly machined Pietta Starr (which is not really double action to begin with).

  14. Hi Ian, I think you will find that the term “interchangeable” refers to the fact that these carbines, like the MH Rifle were machine made and all the parts were interchangeable from one carbine to another. The Rifle is also referred to as Interchangeable.

    577/450 MH brass is still obtainable from Australia.

  15. Very infomative video, and I enjoyed reading the comments from other FW readers — many thanks to all.

    Question : Was it actually “Clearing Rod”, or was it meant to be “Cleaning Rod”, Martini-Henry Mark I?

  16. Not much chance to shoot here in the UK, but when I was an Army Cadet in the late 1970’s we had a Martini action .22. I preferred shooting that to the Lee action No. 8 we also had. Ahh, yesterday when we were young…..

    • Well.. not as easy as in the States, I will grant you, but not that difficult! Most places in UK will have a working range within an hour’s journey, and starting to shoot is not that difficult as long as you have kept on the right side of the law…

      The biggest risk to shooting is from people not doing it! The more the merrier. Shooting vintage arms is still the cheapest way into full bore shooting in the UK.. arms are relatively easy to obtain – a Lee Enfield capable of shooting better than most folk is obtainable for around £300 ($500) and ammunition is not difficult to find or make. A shootable Martini Henry can be found for around the £600 – £700 mark.

      Try it – you might like it!

      • Quote: “The biggest risk to shooting is from people not doing it! The more the merrier.”

        Truer words were never spoken, Bryden. And I’ve found that despite, or perhaps because, shooters are something of a “persecuted” minority in the UK, they are some of the friendliest, most generous and helpful people around, especially to newcomers.

  17. The first rifles issued were actually fitted with an applied safety just above the trigger guard (not the thumb safety). Troop trial reports showed that it was found unnecessary, and it was deleted.

  18. Its hard to hit the target for a amateur like me. So wondering if there is a scope which fits the Martini Henry Carbine version.

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