henri martinie

Martini-Henry Quickloaders

The British Army officially adopted the breechloading Martini-Henry rifle in 1871, and it served valiantly throughout several wars, but it was not without issue. The main problem with the Martini-Henry was that it was single-shot, and thus made redundant almost as soon as it was adopted, thanks to the advent of the magazine-fed rifle. It was withdrawn from service in the late 1880s and replaced by the 10-shot Lee-Metford, the predecessor to the Lee-Enfield.

During its service lifetime, however, some attempts were made to convert the Martini-Henry into a magazine-fed rifle. Being a breechloader, this was difficult - but it proved possible. Charles Greville Harston of Toronto managed to create a spring-loaded magazine that would feed rounds into the breech of the Martini-Henry, thought the user would have to keep the rifle steady to avoid cartridges accidentally falling out. Another design incorporated a rotary drum magazine that fed rounds into the breech through gravity. Ultimately it was more convenient to adopt an entirely new rifle than to convert every existing Martini-Henry.

Snider-Enfield Mk. III breech-loading conversion Cavalry carbine

Manufactured by Enfield - converted for metallic cartridges as such - in England c.1870, using the 1866 Snider metallic cartridge conversion design of the Pattern 1853 Rifled Musket.
.577 Snider single shot 1864 Tabatière-like action, leather cover on the rear ladder sight, safety cap on the firing pin mechanism linked to the gun by a chain lanyard.

The Snider-Enfield would stay in service as England’s military rifle from 1866 to 1871-73 when it was replaced by the Martini-Henry falling-block rifle, although as per usual rear-echelon troops would still use it up until WW1.

same model without the leather cover and safety

Soldiers of the Highland Brigade assaulting Egyptian trenches at Tel-el Kebir during the 1882 war with Egypt.

Illustration by Peter Dennis.