450 Martini-Henry


#1

A couple of years ago I bought one of the proverbial “cigar box” full of miscellaneous cartridges. After dumping the contents on my workbench my eyes were immediately drawn to a big brass cartridge with a long paper-patched bullet. My first reaction was “What Cheer”. But a closer examination and some measurements revealed that it appeared to be the more common 577x450 Martini-Henry, albeit in commercial dressing. Not exactly like hitting the lottery but a good find none-the-less.

Some time later I was reading about arms maker Frank Wesson (later to become Wesson & Harrington and then Harrington & Richardson). I couldn’t help but notice that the writer referred to Wesson as “one of the first cartridge wildcatters” since many of his rifles were chambered for cartridges known only to Wesson. But one reference caught my eye. Wesson supposedly chambered his No.1 Long Range Creedmoor model for a cartridge very similar, if not identical, to the 577x450 MH. Ammunition, supposedly, was manufactured by Remington to Wesson’s specifications.

Since then, I’ve not been able to find any additional information about the rifle or the cartridge. I’m familiar with the 45 What Cheer cartridge that is slightly shorter than the 577x450, so this is not one of them. Anyone have any ideas? Or is this cartridge simply a plain jane 577x450 Martini Henry?

577x450 MH on left. Mystery cartridge, nhs, on right.

Ray


#2

Ray: Is the mystery cartridge folded or solid head? Any useful clues provided by the primer? JG


#3

JG

Definitely solid head. Very flat base. Primer is brass, LR size, rounded. Rim is .045" thick. Bullet measures .450" on the patch. 3.380" OAL.

Ray


#4

Ray, I don’t think the mystery round is a Martini Henry, the shoulder on the mystery round is nothing like any of the Martini Henry rounds I have. Could the round be a .45 Peabody Martini used by the Turkish Army.


#5

Ray–Here are scans of both the .45 Peabody Martini and the .450 Martini-Henry from the 1905 U.M.C. catalog. Note two differances. The case length for the .45 Peabody Martini is shown as 2 5/16 with a No.1 Brass Berdan Primer while the .450 Martini-Henry has a case length of 2 3/8 with a No. 2 1/2 Brass primer. Note that the cut does show a longer shoulder than is normal for the .450 Martini-Henry. Also, through probably not significant for identification purposes, the .450 Martini-Henry does have 4 more grains of powder.

The case length and primer type should enable you to tell which is which.



#6

I considered the possibility of it being a Peabody Martini but it’s a liitle long in the case and does not have the Berdan primer. But, it’s also just a mite long for the Martini Henry. It’s 2.355 CL but I think that’s within expected tolerances.

So, it looks like that cartridge may be a plain old 45 Martini Henry after all. Made by UMC, most likely.

But, I’ll bet it was carried by Genl Custer at the Little Bighorn. So that’s my story. ;) ;)

Thanks to all who answered.

ray


#7

Ray,
Please dust off your calipers and provide the rest of the dimensions.


#8

Guy

I didn’t post the other dimensions because they “appeared” to be nominally the same as the 577-450 Martini Henry pictured next to it. But upon actually measuring it maybe there IS enough difference for it to be another cartridge.

Rim Diameter - .742 MH= .753
Base diameter - .659 MH= .660
Shoulder diameter - .630 MH= .627
Neck Diameter - .483 MH= .503
Case length - 2.355 MH= 2.316
Bullet diameter .450 MH= .465

Now you have me wondering about it, again. Aaaarrrgh. And I was ready for bed!

Ray


#9

Ray,
That shoulder bothers me - I don’t believe it is a Martini-Henry. However, if you are ready to give up, see if you can find a MH rifle and just shoot the thing. The fired case should then conform nicely to the MH specs.


#10

Thanks for that suggestion Guy. I think I’ll fire-form my What Cheer cases too. (like I really have any What Cheers).

I’ll keep looking. The answer is out there somewhere.

Ray


#11

That long patched bullet sure looks familiar. Perhaps putting the picture in the Journal might get a positive identification if nothing turns up here.


#12

There’s an article that might help in Journal #352.


#13

Armourer

Thanks and yes, I looked at that article in hopes that maybe I had a 45 What Cheer but unfortunatley it doesn’t fit.

Hope seems to be fading fast and it appears that it is just a 45 MH made by Remington. Not there’s there anything wrong with that!

Ray


#14

O.K. guys, get ready to pounce on me. I don’t know squat about the .450 martini other than I have shot a few rounds (and I mean only a few rounds) thru one that I used to own. Kicked like the devil, but shot good. I also haven’t a clue what your round is.

However, I will go way out on a limb here. I don’t believe for a minute it is a .450 Martini. the shoulder is just too far off. Yes, I know that the specs on shoulders on rimmed cartridges are not so critical as on cartridges that headspace on the shoulder, and that the older cartridges sometimes have different shoulder shapes, slightly (!!!), but this one is so far off as to make it being a .450 Martini strain credability. It might chamber, since the shoulder starts into its taper below that of the pretty standard Martini round next to it, but this cartridge looks like a well-made piece of ordnance. Would a quality factory make a round with the shoulder so far from the norm? This is no Darra cartridge (for those not familiar with Darra, it is a region of Pakistan where they still today, and have for a hundred years or more, made hand-done copies of just about any firearm you could think of, ranging in quality from darned good to putrid. They also make ammunition, but it is generally pretty crude).

Were there any proprietary cartridges made for sporting versions of the Martini-Henry rifle that could be similar to, but not exactly the same as the military cartridge?

I also can’t believe that this shape could be the result of a factory error, with no signs of creasing or deforming the shoulder beyond just its shape.

Now, don’t all of you beat me up at once. I simply have never seen two ball cartridges, supposedly of the same flavor, so different, in 58 years of shooting and 45 years of collecting cartridges.


#15

I agree with John, I’m not sure what it is but I don’t believe it’s a Martini Henry.


#16

Come on out, John. It was getting lonely out here on this limb.


#17

John & Armourer

Oh how I wish you are right. I know virtually nothing about the MH cartridges which is why i asked the question. I just could not believe that the two cartridges I posted in the photo were the same thing. But, maybe this is an instance where the military version and the civilian version really are that different.

Pete deCoux has a Westley Richards MH in his latest catalog and it sure looks like the one I have. So either Pete is wrong (which I doubt) or mine is an MH. The scan that Ron posted certainly makes it look like mine is a Remington made cartridge.

Going back to my original post, it was the references about the Frank Wesson rifles that got me to thinking about this and I am coming to the conclusion that it is a commercial version of the MH, made by Remington, for use in rifles such as the Wesson Long Range Creedmoor.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? Here I was hoping I had something unusual and valuable and now I’m arguing against that very idea. :) :)

Ray


#18

Believe it is either an early U.M.C.Co. (BEFORE Remington) or W.R.A.Co. made M.H., MOST likely the UMC. I have 3 in my collection all with this lower shoulder and includes the long case one which has a 2.377" case length. One of mine, I got from a UMC labeled M.H. box and it had others just like it inside. The difference in the UMC & WRACo is in the bevel to the primer pocket edge. A very slight difference & I’m not sure exactly what the difference is! (wish I did!) I thought the WRACo was a short bevel, but my two 'short UMC’s cases show an angle of bevel difference, From your base photo you appear to have the wider bevel variation.
Also the bullet in all three of mine are typical MH RN (not talking about the Cordite Carbine load your compairing it to, which is considerably more pointed), nor are they seated as far out. That bullet looks Sharps.
Hope this is of help.


#19

Thanks Pete. I’m convinced.

Ray


#20

O,K., O,K. I surrender. I concede from the information supplied by smarter guys than I am, and by the drawing in the Remington catalog page shown (I usually discount catalog illustrations other than modern photos, as I have seen some pretty poor ones, but this one matches the cartridge other than the bullet), that the round in question is a .577/450.

Boy, what sloppy chamber specs they must have had then. There surely was no one about like SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Makers Institute) to set standards.