Designed by Swiss gunsmith Friedrich von Martini and incorporating the Henry Rifling System, the Martini-Henry service rifle was the English Army's weapon of choice for nearly thirty years beginning in 1871.
The Martini-Henry replaced the Snider-Enfield, another breechloading rifle that had seen limited use in the colonial areas of Britain. The Martini-Henry saw four different flavors released, ranging from Mark I to the Mark IV, and a number of sub patterns, including a carbine action rifle and three different cartridge sizes - the .303, the .450, and the .402, though this gun was known colloquially as the Enfield-Martini due to its more refined firing mechanism. Despite the gun's modern appeal, it was still prudent to have a bayonet attached to the end.
The gun itself saw action throughout subcontinental Asia, in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but its most important usage was in the Zulu War of 1879. Though some debate lies in the guns' "chronic jamming", in general the weapon proved most satisfactory for the British ends of the war. However, by 1890, a number of magazine pistols had entered the arms market, and the Boer War saw a sound defeat of Martini-Henry wielding soldiers at the hands of these new faster-firing weapons.
A general overview of the various service timelines for the Martini-Henry:
- Martini-Henry Infantry Rifle, MK I, 1871-76
- Martini-Henry Infantry Rifle, MK II, 1877-81
- Martini-Henry Infantry Rifle, MK III, 1881-88
- Martini-Henry Infantry Rifle, MK IV, 1888-89
- Martini-Henry Carbine, Cavalry, MK I, 1877-82
- Martini-Henry Carbine, Artillery, MK I, 1888-89
- Martini-Henry Carbine, Artillery, MKs II & III, 1893-96
A great website to visit for more info on the weapon is, not surprisingly, www.martinihenry.com.