.45 Martini Henry Solid Case Rifle

Although it had long been realised that the rolled case had serious faults, its main attraction was economy and so it stayed in service for many years.

Both Woolwich and Enfield had suggested rechambering the Martini Henry for the .45 inch Gatling cartridge which was solid drawn and already in service (which see) but this was overturned again on grounds of cost.

In 1876/77 Woolwich purchased 50,000 drawn brass Martini Henry cases from Birmingham Small Arms and Metals Co. for loading at Woolwich and then despatched them to Garrisons around the world for trial. The results were satisfactory but no further action was taken. The problems encountered at Isandhlwana by the 24th Regiment in 1879 and again in the Sudan showed the deficiencies of the rolled case but it was not until 1885 following further trials of cases made by Kynoch and BMMCo. that the first drawn case was approved for service.

Ball Solid Case Mark I.

"Cartridge S.A.Ball Breech-Loading for Martini Henry Rifle .45 inch (Solid Drawn Case)" was approved to design RL4800 in June 1885 and shown in LoC Paragraph 4756 dated July 1885. the title was later changed to "Cartridge S.A. Ball Martini Henry Rifle Solid Case Mark I" and declared obsolete in March 1886.

The case of the Mark I was based on one supplied by Kynoch and was a solid drawn case with a Berdan type primer. It was unheadstamped.

The bullet was a lead alloy of 12 parts lead to 1 part tin and had one cannelure with a white paper patch that extended far up the bullet. It is believed that it weighed 480 grains.

The propellant charge was about 85 grains of RFG2 blackpowder topped by a wad of cotton wool. The usual beeswax wad and three cardboard discs were placed between the cotton wool and the bullet.

Muzzle velocity was about 1320 fps.

Cases were supplied by both Kynoch and BMMCo. for loading at Woolwich but the reason for the very short life of the Mark I was that it was found to be too weak in service.

Although some packets showed the title as also for machine gun, in fact it was only approved for rifles.

Ball Solid Case Mark II

"Cartridge S.A. Ball Rifle Martini Henry Mark II (Solid Case)"  was approved to design RL5019 in September 1885 and shown in LoC Paragraph 4911 dated March 1886. The title was changed in 1887 to "Cartridge S.A. Ball Martini Henry Rifle Solid Case Mark II ( also Machine Gun MH Chamber)".

The case was solid drawn brass with Berdan primer containing 0.3 grains of cap composition. The inside was lined with .02 inch thick paper. The case had one cannelure to secure the bullet but some Kynoch production had stab crimps.

The bullet was similar to the previous mark except that the white paper patch did not extend so far up the bullet. the potion inside the case was lubricated with beeswax. The usual beeswax wad and cardboard discs were placed between the charge and the bullet.

The propellant chaarge was about 85 grains of RFG2  blackpowder but there was no cotton wool over the charge. 

Muzzle velocity was about 1350 fps.

The headstamp usually carried the contractors initials or trademark and the numeral "II", but sometimes this was omitted. The sealed pattern of the Mark II has no headstamp at all. Apart from the initial trial quantities the Mark II case was not made by Woolwich;.all were either complete rounds made by the Trade or cases made by the Trade and loaded by Woolwich for loading.

Left: Kynoch production with staked crimps. Right: Normal neck ring crimp

Kynoch, Eley Brothers and Birmingham Small Arms & Metals Co. were the principal suppliers but cases made by Latimer, Clark and Muirhead of Millwall are also known.


Sealed Pattern of the Solid Case Mark II at the National Firearms Centre, Leeds.
The Solid Case Ball Mark II stayed in service for many years with colonial forces but was replaced in British service by the .303 inch rifle  and ammunition fro 1889.

Ball Solid Case Cordite Mark I
Kynoch had delivered some solid case ball and blank ammunition to India for trial in 1893 loaded with smokeless powder made by the Smokeless Powder Company, but the outcome is unknown.

In Britain, Cordite loaded .303 inch ammunition had been issued since 1892 but it was not until 1902 that cordite was approved for the Martin Henry rifle, long after it had passed to second line and colonial units.

"Cartridge S.A. Ball Martini Henry Rifle Solid Case Cordite Mark I" was approved in December 1902 and shown in LoC Paragraph 11752 dated August 1903.

The solid case had a Berdan primer with 0.7 grains of cap composition, being generally similar to the Powder Mark II but without the paper lining. The case had a single neck cannelure and the headstamp included the letter "C" for Cordite.

The bullet weighed 480 grains and was the usual alloy of lead and tin. It had a blue paper patch, although some early production had an orange patch and was put in bundles marked "For Rifles Only".

The charge was about 35.8 grains of Cordite Size 3 with one waxed millboard wad between charge and bullet.

Muzzle velocity was about 1300 fps and the cartridge was not authorised for use in machine guns.




Sealed Pattern of the Cordite Mark I cartridge, courtesy of the National Firearms Centre, Leeds.Although the paper patch looks green, it is intended to be blue.

Ball Solid Case Cordite Mark II

No Mark II Cordite case was approved for British service but the rounds exist, suggesting they were made for colonial service in India or elsewhere. 

Full details are shown on the .45 inch Martini Henry Indian Service page.







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