.45 Henry Long Chamber Ball


#1

Hi,
Can anyone tell me who manufactured the .45 Bore Long Chamber cartridge used in military Henry Rifles.?

Cheers

John


#2

Howdy John
I can only offer that as far as I know only commercial companies made the .44 Henry rimfire. Hew Haven Arms, Winchester, UMC, & a number of other period makers, plus some from Europe. Don’t know of any governmental arsenal manufacture.

Also as far as I’m aware the .45 Long Chamber was a 3.25 inch Boxer cased .450 BP rifle cartridge & so am confused as if for a Henry it would be much too long as the Henry lifting link limits the overall cartridge length to a .44 Henry size cartridge length.

So please elaborate.


#3

Hi Pete,

Sorry for the confusion.
The cartridge I referred to is the .45 Boxer cartridge, a straight cased, short lived fore runner to the .45 Martini Henry bottle necked round. They were trialed in the UK around 1869 together with the Alex Henry rifles. The “Henry” of Martini Henry referred to the barrel patented by Alex Henry, which was eventually married to the Martini action.

To my knowledge, the only positive outcome of the trial of the .45 Long Chamber was the purchase of some of the Henry rifles by the colony of New South Wales, Australia, where most of them were eventually converted to what was called the Short Chamber .45 Martini Henry round.

I’m presuming the cartridges were made by RL, but haven’t been able to confirm that. The B obscured on the top left of this packet presumably refers to the 2nd version Mark B.

Back in my hey day, I discovered two full packets and some loose rounds. The second packet eventually went to Barry Temple who split it up. I remember Charles “Chuck” Suydam getting very excited when I sent him one cartridge.

I’m also looking for a sample of the equivalent blank to photograph.

Cheers

John


#4

John,
I suspect, and hope!, that this is the cartridge you’re refering to. Mine is a Type A although I have no idea what the difference is between Types A & B.
At some point I’ve obviously concluded that Royal Laboratories were the manufacturers but I’m afraid I don’t know where that information came from.


#5

Howdy John
You’ll have to remember there are yanks on this forum who are very easily confused.

VERY Neat packet!

Here are two like Jim shows with very slight differences. The heads are the both the same as the nice condition one he shows.

The example on the right has a higher bullet seating cannelure and somewhat of a headstamp, which appears to be about 2/3rds of a broadarrow. This came to me from Gene Scranton who got it from Dennis Wright of Canada, (both of whom are now sadly gone). Dennis had a packet and several (?) marked like this were in it, the one Dennis kept had a complete broadarrow so I was told. I don’t know what the packet said, so sorry about that.

I would look in Peter Labbett’s book to see if he stated who made these, or on Tony Edwards site, if it’s still up?


Hope this is of help & feel free to use the photos if you wish.


#6

Tony’s superb site is still working as of 4 June 2015.
It is tremendously helpful!


#7

John, although Labbett, Temple and Tony Edwards are not very specific on this subject, as I understand from their books and articles some of the ammunition tested in England was made by the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich. Also, there is no doubt that it was made by Eley, as you can find this cartridge included in their flyers.

In any case, I’m sure that the question is, where did NSW get their ammunition from? Temple’s book p. 65 raises this question but a conclusive answer is not given.

Regards,

Fede


#8

Hi All, Thanks for the input, it is much appreciated and the way we can hopefully get the full picture.

I’ve wanted to complete this for many years, since Barry Temple and I had many conversations prior to him completing his book on the Boxer cartridge. I do have copies of his initial text and drawings of both types which he sent to me for comment. Interesting that the first drawing shows the projectiles of both types projecting the same amount from the case mouth, where the specimens I’ve sighted don’t. It would be good to complete this work.

Jim,
Your specimen is what is commonly referred to as a Type A. The major external difference between this and the Type B, is a supposedly thinner rim, the paper wrapped around the base, and a projectile which is seated lower in the case. The other difference I have noted is the primer pocket being brass, whereas the Type B primer pocket is copper.
Unfortunately, the only Type A rim I’ve miked was .041" which makes it neither one thing or another. I will have a chance soon to check out another specimen, so will see what that is.

Pete,
Nice examples of what are considered both types. Pity about the packet, while it is definitely a Type B, the packets can yield great info. sometimes. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of Labbett’s book, but will have to see if Peter White has a copy. I need to get into his collection again, hopefully in the next month or so.
The Canada connection raises more questions. I don’t know of Canada using it militarily, however as most of ALex Henry’s weapons, I believe, were destined for sporting shooters perhaps we are being led astray. Where does the quest end.?

Fede,
I would imagine that some, or most of the ammunition tested would have been produced by the Royal Laboratory. I was not aware that Eley manufactured the cartridge, and published the fact. This muddies the waters, although see my comments about Canada. Unfortunately, while NSW was still a Colony, arms and ammunition purchases were made by their agent in London, and NSW did not know. or probably care, which company was the supplier, provided the quality was up to the British standards.
I would appreciate a copy of the Eley brochure if possible.
So far, I have not found a sample of the blank, which Barry mentions on Page 68.

Barry assumed that all the Alex Henry rifles and carbines were supplied, chambered for the .45 Long cartridge. I am of the opinion that at most the 2500 of the first order were in that calibre, where all subsequent orders were chambered for the .45 Martini Henry round. I suspect, but cannot prove at this point, that some of the first order were actually chambered for the later cartridge before delivery to NSW.

There are other factors which I need to check, and hopefully we will be able to do a complete article for the journal. It’s not only the yanks who are easily confused, I’m also in that club.

Thanks again all for your interest.

Cheers

John


#9

John, here is an excerpt from the Eley single page flyer.

Based on the medals mentioned and a comparison with later editions, it should be post-1879 and pre-1885. Also, I have a different edition showing this same cartridge that introduces central fire cartridges for the “new model winchester repeating rifle” (i.e., .44 WCF). I always assumed that the cartridge illustrated would be the “ELEY-BOXER PATENT” or the unmarked example with a slightly shorter case. Both have a case cannelure and 480 grain patched bullet.

There is also coast-dust dummy and a loaded example with a short white paper strip marked “.451 LARGE BASE”, but I don’t have pictures at hand. I’ll try to post them as soon as I can.

Regards,

Fede


#10

Thanks Fede,

The illustration of the .450 differs somewhat from the service version, having many cannelures on the projectile, and omitting the paper patch. Maybe just poetic licence on the part of the draughtsman and of course this doesn’t mean that Eley didn’t produce for the military, but in my mind it is not conclusive that they did. Also, the date post-1879 also makes it unlikely Eley would have supplied NSW with the round.

Where I differ from Barry is in the number of rounds required by NSW. My notes indicate that of the first order of 2500 Henry rifles for NSW, were chambered for the .45 Long chamber, however part of this original order consisted of some carbines (unfortunately I don’t have a break up on the numbers), which were chambered for the 2 1/2" short chamber cartridge, which I presume means the .45 Martini Henry.
While NSW continued to buy Henrys, purchasing another 7 lots I think, these later orders were chambered for the Martini Henry cartridge. It seems, Britain were unable to supply the new Martini rifles to NSW, due to demand on the home front.

I’ll appreciate the pictures of the dummy and the .451 Large Base when you are able.

Cheers

John


#11

Jim - The principal difference between them was the type of powder used and the thickness of the iron base disc.

The .45 inch long chamber Type “A” cartridge had a straight case of rolled brass foil, 3.25 inches long and covered in brown paper. The joint between the base cup and the main body of the case was covered in a thin strip of white tissue paper. The base disc was of iron and was 0.030-0.035 inches thick.

The bullet was made of an alloy of 12 parts lead to 1 part tin and weighed 480 grains with a single cannelure. It was covered with a white paper patch.

The propellant charge was 85 grains of Waltham Abbey RMH blackpowder, Above the charge was a beeswax wad with one cardboard disc below and two above…

The Type “B” cartridge made to complete the trials of the experimental rifles. It was similar to the Type “A” but had a thicker base disc for strength, measuring 0.040-0.045 inches thick.

The bullet was identical but the propellant charge was 85 grains of Curtis & Harvey’s No.6 powder, changed in May 1870 to Waltham Abbey “K” blackpowder. The beeswax wad was cupped on the top side and had the same cardboard discs as the Type “A”.

From Tony’s website :-)

Rich


#12

Rich, good stuff, ta.

I think there is a typo in the 2nd line the cases are 3.25 inches long not 3.75"

As an aside I have several of these (all slightly different) with the thin white paper patch covering the base cup joint & but they are without the bullet seating / crimping cannelure & have the thinner rim. So basically the type A case but no cannelure and the bullet seated further out of the mouth.

It never seems to end.


#13

Pete,
A couple more in pretty good condition. The Type A doesn’t seem to have as deep a cannelure on the neck as the type B, and the examples I’ve seen all seem to have the bullet more deeply seated. I did wonder at one time if this happened to be a carbine load, but I have no evidence for that thought. Just a thought to muddy the waters :)

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Cheers

John


#14

Thanks Rich,
It seems from the above information that the most visually apparent differences between the Types A & B are the white paper band covering the base cup joint and also the material used for the primer cup - Type A being brass, Type B copper. I am surprised that Tony makes no mention of the different primer cup materials and I wonder whether the different materials might be down to Eley manufacture rather than Royal Laboratories.
John,
Regarding blank production Peter Labbett states that a total of 49,200 rounds were issued in 1870/71. The only details he gives are that they were of Boxer construction with only one base cup and a brown paper body. Overall length was about 57mm.
Peter’s article only amounts to three pages, did you want me to scan the relevant pages and send them to you?


#15

Jim,

Please do, it would be much appreciated. Any, and all information on this cartridge is welcome, as is any constructive criticism of any of my thoughts.

Cheers

John


#16

John - according to the 1869 special committee report, the original long-chamber Henry cartridge consisted of a Boxer case with the patched Henry bullet crimped in after insertion. The powder charge was topped with a jute wad, a beeswax wad, “one or two jute wads,” and then the bullet. The bullet itself is the classic Henry smooth-sided bullet of 12 parts lead to one of tin, with a slightly hollow base. There is nothing about rim thickness or paper strip around the base cups.

The report noted that the first round of accuracy firing of Henry barrels took place with cartridge cases “manufactured at the Royal Laboratory and furnished to Mr. Henry in common with the other gentlemen who submitted arms.” Henry, however, devised the bullet and the system of lubricating wads that made the cartridge so successful. Henry took pains to request that the composition be kept secret “excepting from the Royal Laboratory.”

Given that RL already had the equipment and the information, it is most likely that they supplied all MH long-chamber ammunition required for government testing. The Arsenal very often turned to contractors for small-batch experimental supplies, however, and the bullet in the Eley advertisement may have come from such a contract. As part of the barrel tests, the committee compared the Henry .45 against several other designs, including an Enfield-supplied .45" barrel. The report noted that the bullet for that barrel had eight cannelures filled with wax and a cavity in the base with clay plug. Interestingly, the case (presumably a Boxer style) was 4 inches in length.

As regards the “A” and “B” types, despite hundreds of hours of reviewing ordnance documents for my dissertation I have found no information regarding design changes in the long-chamber cartridge. No mention of thin v. thick rims, “A” or “B” types, nothing. I have suspected across the years that this may have be an assumption of the part of Temple, but your label certainly gives some weight to his designation.

Cheers -

Dan


#17

Dan,

You have certainly thrown the cat amongst the pigeons here. While Temple was only human, and not always correct, he was really meticulous in his research, so it’s a pity we can’t ask him for his source. I feel sure he would have had some firm basis for his comments. I’ve watched in horror as Barry pulled apart really rare specimens in search of the truth.

I love your comments about the 1869 special committee report, as I’ve not seen any of that information.

Cheers

John


#18

Dan,

Apart from the internal differences, the Type A is supposed to have a thinner rim, and a paper wrapper around the base cup. Half a dozen measured, so far with the base wrapper, have measured from .037 to .041, Type B, without the base wrapper seem to be around .048.

Fede:

Have verified the existence of an Eley .45 Long Chamber. This is reportedly similar to a Type A, in that it has the base cup wrapper. On the wrapper is printed ELEY-BOXER / PATENT CATRIDGE.

It will be some weeks before I will get a chance to see and photograph it and will post it when I do.

Cheers

John


#19

John, here is the only picture I have of a display board that includes the .45 Long Chamber coast-dust dummy (partially seen on the lower part).

Regards,

Fede


#20

And this is an example of the .45 long chamber cartridge tested by Spain in 1871: