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#1
Old 06-15-2006, 06:13 PM
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Okay Martini Enfield. Tell me about the Martini-Enfield!

For a long time I've been vaguely aware of the Martini-Henry - a ~.45 calibre, black powder rifle that you shoot Afgans and Zulus with while wearing a pith helmet. It has some kind of lever-action, single shot, breech loading mechanism.

I'm also somewhat familiar with the Lee Enfield, a .303 calibre, smokeless powder rifle that you shoot Huns with while standing in a hole full of water. It has a magazine and a bolt action.

When Martini-Enfield joined, I assumed his username was a humerous juxtaposition, like say, "Electric Crossbow". But in the odd thread he has indicated that he does in fact OWN a Martini Enfield, no joke after all.

Google has enlightened me slightly. I found out there was a short-lived "Enfield-Martini" that was .403 calibre and was superior to the Martini-Henry. But that's not the same thing, because Martini Enfield's Martini Enfield is a .303.

I discovered the Lee-Metford, a .303 black powder bolt action that morphed into the Lee-Enfield when the British developed their own smokeless powder. I formed a vague impression that "Martini" and "Lee" refer to the action of a rifle, whereas "Henry" and "Enfield" and "Metford" refer to the cartridge, or the rifling, or something like that.

But I still don't know about Martini Enfield's Martini Enfield! So I humbly request that he expound on the family tree of rifles between the Martini-Henry and the Lee Enfield, as I vaguely remember he offered to do in one of his earlier posts.
#2
Old 06-15-2006, 06:35 PM
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Here's wiki article on it (probably done by him)
#3
Old 06-30-2006, 04:14 AM
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Sorry for the late reply (It does help to send me an E-mail or something! ), but as Astro says, the wikipedia article on the Martini-Enfield was indeed written by myself, so most of your answers should be there .

As for my Martini-Enfield rifle?

Well, it's an 1889 dated LSA Co. Martini-Henry Mk III, converted to Martini-Enfield Mk I configuration by RSAF Enfield in 1895. It has Queensland Government markings on it, meaning it was in use with the Colonial Military in Queensland up until Federation in 1901, and from there presumably either stayed with the local military units or was re-issued to the Queensland Police. It would have been surplused off sometime around WWI, and whoever bought it took good care of it- except for firing corrosive ammunition through it without cleaning it afterwards... the bore is terrible!

LSA Co. stands for London Small Arms Company Limited (again, see the Wikipedia Article, written by myself).

As a general rule, Martini-Enfield Mk I rifles were converted to .303 from existing stocks of Martini-Henry Mk III rifles, whilst Martini-Enfield Mk II rifles were newly made as such.

As you correctly deduced, "Martini" and "Lee" refer to the action, whilst "Henry", "Metford", and "Enfield" refer to the rifling.

If there's anything else you'd like to know about the Martini-Enfield or British Military Firearms, I'm only an E-mail away!
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Note: Please consider yourself and/or your acquaintances excluded from any of the author's sweeping generalisations which you happen to disagree with or have different experiences of.
#4
Old 06-30-2006, 05:11 AM
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Since you're inviting hijacks, I have one that doesn't warrant its own thread.

The SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield). What exactly was short? The magazine? Was it named after somebody called Short? The entire rifle seems at least as long as any contemporary weapons so it's hard to imagine their was ever a long barrelled variant.
#5
Old 06-30-2006, 05:32 AM
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The Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) is a shorter version of the Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle.

In the Golden Age Of The British Empire, rifles were issued in two lengths: a standard "Infantry Length" rifle, and a Carbine rifle for issue to cavalry, artillery, and so on.

Over time, it was realised that it was expensive and inconvenient to be making two lengths of rifle, and so in 1904 or thereabouts, they decided to simply have a rifle in one length- longer than the carbine version, but shorter than the standard infantry rifle.

The end result was the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield- which, if you can follow British Military-Speak, indicates a Rifle, Shorter than usual, equipped with a Magazine, of the type Lee-Enfield.

The SMLE Mk III (The best known-type, Mks I and II were conversions of the Magazine Lee-Enfield and Charger-Loading Lee-Enfield) was introduced in 1907, and is still in use to this day.

Wikipedia article on the Lee-Enfield Rifle (full disclosure: I've re-written rather a lot of the article, as it needed some work...)
#6
Old 06-30-2006, 06:08 AM
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OK, so the standard Lee Enfield had a barrel some 5 inches longer than the SMLE. That seems to me to be an extreme length for a breech loader. How did that compare to the other militray rifles? I would suspect that would have made it one of the longest standard issue cartridge weapons of all time.
#7
Old 06-30-2006, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martini Enfield
except for firing corrosive ammunition through it without cleaning it afterwards...
Corrosive ammunition? What's that?
#8
Old 06-30-2006, 08:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
Corrosive ammunition? What's that?
Prior to the late 1950s, the primers (the percussion cap in the base of the cartridge which ignites the propellant when hit by the firing pin) used in military cartridges were made using various mercuric substances and salts (I'm not sure of the exact composition).

When fired, the primer substances were distributed down the barrel as the gas expanded behind the projectile, and if not cleaned out fairly smartly (ie, within a few hours of the battle ending), they could corrode the barrel, damaging the rifling and reducing the gun's inaccuracy.

It wasn't until the late '50s that non-mercuric primers were adopted, and it stopped being necessary to clean the gun every singly time you fired it.

The best way to clean an SMLE (or any other rifle) that you've been shooting corrosive ammo in is to pour a generous measure of windex and water down the barrel, then swab it out with cloth patches.

Modern ammunition is non-corrosive, so you don't have to clean the barrel after you've finished shooting- I hardly bother anymore, unless the barrels are really dirty. It's still important to give your gun a good oiling and cleaning every couple of shooting trips, though, just to keep it in good working order.
#9
Old 06-30-2006, 08:53 AM
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Yay!

I actually started an email to you about this thread Martini Enfield, but I got sidetracked by some personal stuff and forgot all about it. Glad you spotted it.

I guess what really mystifies me about it is why the conversions were carried out at all, what with the Lee action .303s in production. Were they training weapons, or the sort of thing you'd equip other parts of the Empire with while keeping the magazine rifles for home?

Incidentally, the Digger history site has a nice article on the Lee Enfield (and the .303 cartridge), which puts the corrosive nature of the old primers down to their potassium chlorate content, resulting in chloride salt deposits in the barrel.
#10
Old 06-30-2006, 06:33 AM
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OK. I never realised that looooong rifles were the norm way back when. I knew the muzzle loaders were big weapons but I thought they trimmed them down when they moved over to cartridges, and especially to smokeless powder. And I awlays thought the SMLE was ridiculously oversized.

Thanks for clearing that up.

One more question: when I was young I'm sure I recall seeing a military display with what looked like a Lee-Enfield or perhaps a Lee-Metford with the bolt located behind the trigger and (I think) the magazine located in the stock. Wierd looking thing, looked totally impractical. But I've never seen any mention made of such a weapon, and I notice your article doesn't mention it either.

Did such a thing ever exist? Was it ever issued as a military weapon or would it have been some bizarre custom job? Or (and this is possible) did I just imagine it?
#11
Old 06-30-2006, 07:03 AM
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I'm not sure what you're getting at, since the only Enfield I'm aware of with the magazine in the butt is the modern SA-80.

I'd have to check my copy of the Lee-Enfield Story, but I'm guessing you've either got the gun you saw confused with something else, or it was a strange artistic custom-job, not intented to be shot.

The only other thing I can think of is a Charlton Automatic Rifle, which was an NZ conversion of the Magazine Lee-Enfield to Semi/Full-Auto. It had a rather strange external gas rod and the cocking lever was, IIRC, located behind the trigger- but the magazine was definitely in front of the trigger, not in the stock...
#12
Old 06-30-2006, 07:19 AM
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Definitely not the SA80, this was a bolt action, wooden furniture etc. Very much a pre-WWII weapon.


Goes down as just one of those dimly recalled memories I guess. Life's full of those.
#13
Old 07-01-2006, 03:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martini Enfield
I'm not sure what you're getting at, since the only Enfield I'm aware of with the magazine in the butt is the modern SA-80.
I found this fellow while looking for Blake's rifle. Don't think it's the same thing, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EM2
#14
Old 07-01-2006, 05:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
One more question: when I was young I'm sure I recall seeing a military display with what looked like a Lee-Enfield or perhaps a Lee-Metford with the bolt located behind the trigger and (I think) the magazine located in the stock. Wierd looking thing, looked totally impractical. But I've never seen any mention made of such a weapon, and I notice your article doesn't mention it either.
I believe I've found a candidate, the Thorneycroft Carbine. It's difficult to find information on, and I can't find a picture (been through first 10 pages of Google images with Thorneycroft and Thornycroft as search terms). There's a little discussion about it on the Lee Enfield Collectors Forum where a couple of members claim to have seen, handled and even owned one, though nobody seems to have posted a pic.


Anyway, from here:

"In August, 1902 British engineer J.B. Thorneycroft presented a prototype bolt-action rifle to the British War Office for consideration by the Small Arms Committee. In trials it was not impressive, and all official interest in the Thorneycroft design ceased by 1903." (Peter Kokalis, Technical Editor for Soldier Of Fortune magazine ).

And from a Google cache of an airsoft message board, a poster volunteers this:

Quote:
1000_mile_stick Feb 19 2005, 05:05 PM
The first 'Bullpup' was called the Thornycroft Carbine, and was basically a modified Enfield SMLE, although it was earlier than that.
If memory serves me, it was a prototype carbine for Brit cavalry, which was obviously shorter and easier to handle on horseback, but with the same range etc as a regular rifle.
I think this was before WW1, so a good deal earlier than the EM2.

It was the rifle that coined the term 'bullpup' although I'm pretty sure no-one knows why, maybe they just thought it sounded cool...
And from a Russian message board apparently discussing the history of the bullpup configuration:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Remov
The first bullpup design rifle ever was created in 1901 in United Kingdom by J.B. Thorneycroft. Basically it was rebuilded Lee Enfield rifle. It was rejected by British Small Arms Committee in 1903.

Next rifle was made in 1904 by other Briton - H. Gramwell. It wasn't conversion of any existing weapon but a new construction from the beginning.

The first bullpup design submachinegun was patented in 1936 in France by H. Delacre.
That last one looked like it once had a pic, but now has a folorn little "not found" graphic, grrr! But it does at least seem likely that your recollection is correct.
#15
Old 06-30-2006, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
OK. I never realised that looooong rifles were the norm way back when. I knew the muzzle loaders were big weapons but I thought they trimmed them down when they moved over to cartridges, and especially to smokeless powder. And I awlays thought the SMLE was ridiculously oversized.

Thanks for clearing that up.

One more question: when I was young I'm sure I recall seeing a military display with what looked like a Lee-Enfield or perhaps a Lee-Metford with the bolt located behind the trigger and (I think) the magazine located in the stock. Wierd looking thing, looked totally impractical. But I've never seen any mention made of such a weapon, and I notice your article doesn't mention it either.

Did such a thing ever exist? Was it ever issued as a military weapon or would it have been some bizarre custom job? Or (and this is possible) did I just imagine it?
The Godsal was made on this principle. Only a few prototypes were made.
By the early years of the century most new designs settled down to around 48" inches long and stayed that way for many years.
#16
Old 06-30-2006, 07:29 PM
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What is a Godsal?

A Google search suggests that it was a .50cal anti-tank gun, presumably something like a Boys.
#17
Old 06-30-2006, 09:47 PM
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You know, Mk VII, I've been wanting to ask if your name is in reference to the Mk VII .303 SAA Ball Cartridge, the Flying Goggles, or something else possibly unrelated to WWII?
#18
Old 07-01-2006, 08:45 AM
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The Thorneycroft was similar to the Godsal, and it seems possible that the two designers may have had some contact. Both had a magazine behind the trigger and the breech was further back than conventional rifles
#19
Old 07-01-2006, 11:05 AM
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A check of my reference library confirms that the Thorneycroft Carbine was indeed patented in on 18/7/1901, and Ian Skennerton's The Lee-Enfield Story has a photo and a brief write-up on page 89.

It's not strictly a Lee-Enfield (the only similarity is the barrel and the calibre), so technically it's a totally different rifle.

Indeed, the bolt is behind the trigger and the magazine is in the butt. There's a safety catch on the right hand side above the trigger, and the guns were trialled for British Army use between 1901 and 1903, when they decided just to shorten the Charger Loading Lee-Enfield by 5 inches (creating the SMLE) and be done with it. Looks like your memory wasn't playing tricks on you after all!
#20
Old 07-01-2006, 07:07 PM
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Thanks guys. So I'm not mad. (Maybe).

Now all we need is a picture.
#21
Old 07-01-2006, 10:46 PM
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Does scanning a picture from a book count as "fair use" for educational purposes? If so, I'll see what I can do...
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