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Old August 9, 2021, 08:55 AM   #1
ligonierbill
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Martini-Henry vs. Springfield Trapdoor

I have a Trapdoor, gift from my brother, that my notes say is a Model of 1884 made in 1891. Sorry, I would have to dig through my log to explain where I got this data. But I have always wondered about the British counterpart, the Martini-Henry, which is actually based on an American design. So I bought one. Don't have the rifle yet, but it is marked "1884". So these rifles are at least close to being contemporaries. I have also read that in developing the 45-70 to replace the 50-70, the US tested a variety of rounds, including the 577/450. The account I read said it exceeded the 45-70 in penetration of pine, the test the Army used, but they thought the recoil excessive. I imagine the initial testing used 405 grain bullets vs. the Brit's 480, so that would have affected the results. By the time my Trapdoor was made, the Army had gone to 45-70-500. So, my next project is to compare them. And my question is, what experience can you share that may help my quest?

I have on hand a fair supply of bullets, though I do need to slug the bore of the Martini-Henry. Also have 2Fg, 1 1/2Fg, and the discontinued Alliant Black MZ. I am used to modern BPRC cases not having room for the historic blackpowder charge, but I understand the 577/450 actually has excess capacity over the specified 85 grains, requiring some sort of filler. First thought is to use linen "tow", of which I have a good supply. Works for muzzleloader wading. I am also prepared to paper patch bullets. What do you think?
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Old August 9, 2021, 10:00 AM   #2
Jim Watson
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I don't know anything about loading for the Martini-Henry but this guy does. I am sure there is more to be searched out.
https://canadiangunblog.com/2018/05/...martini-henry/

The Royal Army sure didn't use blow tubes; perhaps their paper patched bullets let them shoot dirty. Or maybe Kipling was right.

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are - you treat her as sich,
An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
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Old August 11, 2021, 06:47 PM   #3
ligonierbill
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Well, I can paper patch bullets, too. But I am mostly looking at some Buffalo Arms 0.469 480 grain bullets. Your referenced article notes that the Martini Henry has a 0469 forcing cone to swage the bullet to bore diameter. I also found that "Henry" refers to the barrel. The American collaborator on the action was Peabody. Rifle should arrive tomorrow, dies and brass Friday.
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Old August 11, 2021, 11:55 PM   #4
Jim Watson
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Yes, Peabody tipping block, Martini hammerless striker, Alex Henry rifling.
Poor Peabody, they just got left off the name.
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Old August 12, 2021, 01:16 PM   #5
ligonierbill
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Got the gun today. Looks and feels pretty good. Tapped a 0.490 round ball down the bore, and yes, you kind of have to turn the slug in the calipers, but it looks like the 0.469 bullets will do. Brass and dies are due tomorrow, so I'll get to work.
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Old August 17, 2021, 02:09 PM   #6
ligonierbill
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Well, she may not be a crosseyed old bitch, but she sure shoots high. I put together one round using the Lee dies to load a 0.469 Buffalo Arms bullet over 85 gr Goex FFg and flax tow. That bullet is lubed, so I did not include any cards, lube cookies, etc. Touched her off at the range with little drama. Don't know why the US Army thought it kicked too hard. But nothing on my target. Got out the laser bore sighter back home, and boy howdy, it's way high. I'll have to think about this.
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Old August 18, 2021, 05:00 AM   #7
darkgael
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I have had a longlever for the last fifteen years. The bore in mine is .464”. (Nice that you figured out the old millwright’s trick of rotating the slug in the caliper jaws when dealing with the Henry rifling)
I swage lead wire to cup based bullets at .452 and then pp them to .464. The bullets weigh 480 grains. The load is 85 grains of FFg Goex, kapok fiber to the neck, a grease cookie of two 0.030” fiber wads with beeswax between them and the bullet on top. Kynoch brass.
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Old August 18, 2021, 08:26 AM   #8
Jim Watson
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Quote:
But nothing on my target. Got out the laser bore sighter back home, and boy howdy, it's way high. I'll have to think about this.
I have seen clamp-on front sight bases to allow for that without alteration to the barrel or original sight.
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Old August 18, 2021, 09:09 AM   #9
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Youtube has British Muzzleoader. He has several episodes on the Martini Henry and its predecessor. Quite good.

https://youtu.be/DBCO50E0Efs

I believe the Martini is faster on the reload, with the Springfield much closer to the slightly earlier Snider Enfield (converted Enfield rifle). The earlier Martini may have been more finicky, requiring the longer lever arm, due to it s poor initial ammunition, much like the Springfield had poor initial ammunition designed with a copper jacket.

I think the Remington Rolling block is a superior design to both, being simpler and stronger. But that is based on literally no experience, so worth every penny. : )
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Old August 18, 2021, 10:44 AM   #10
Mike Irwin
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"much like the Springfield had poor initial ammunition designed with a copper jacket."

Copper case. The bullet was unjacketed.

The problem with both the Martini-Henry and the Trapdoor and the original rounds wasn't so much that the ammunition was poor, the rounds worked very well in the rifles... until...

the guns became dirty and hot from a repeated firing. Then the cases would tend to stick in the chambers.

In the case of the Martini-Henry this would often result in the base of the case head ripping off, leaving a portion of the brass foil body in the chamber.

In the case of the Trapdoor, the extractor would rip through the folded rim of the cartridge. leaving the case in the chamber.

The British addressed this in part by adopting the Long Lever Martini-Henry, which gave more extraction leverage (users of shorter lever rifles yanked on the lever, the sudden force causing the case to tear) and also, as technology progressed, adopted drawn brass cases.
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Old August 18, 2021, 01:08 PM   #11
Jim Watson
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Quote:
I think the Remington Rolling block is a superior design to both, being simpler and stronger. But that is based on literally no experience, so worth every penny.
I grant that it is simpler than most and stronger than a Trapdoor, but the Peabody design is a quite strong action.

An overloaded Rolling Block may be more dangerous than a Trapdoor.
A blown case head releases gas into an iron box. Like a grenade.
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Old August 28, 2021, 11:36 AM   #12
ligonierbill
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Well, I have a rolling block also. Mine is an original action rebarreled and restocked by professionals and sold to me by the original builder, who doesn't really like rolling blocks. Truth is, the strongest of the old actions are the falling blocks: Martini-Henry, Winchester 1885, Sharps 1874, and Farquharson (living on as a Ruger No. 1). While the rolling block is indeed strong, you have two pins loaded in shear. But of course, there is no need to press any of them to the limit. My RB in 50-70 Government is quite the thumper with a full load of holy black.

Back to the Martini, I purchased 10 original Kynoch rounds on GB. The headstamp alone was worth the tariff, but my first shot resulted in a nasty hangfire. Probably half a second. Unacceptable for the crudest rock lock. I had my LabRadar set to pick up big, slow bullets, but I did not get a good read. Had the elevation right, holding the sight at the bottom of the 'V', but she went way left. Crosseyed bitch? No, I'll be feeding her some good stuff from now on. Received 0.451 hollow based bullets from Buffalo Arms for paper patched loads. I will get this squared away and report on a shootoff between this rifle and my Springfield. Right now, I'm betting on the trapdoor.
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