Martini-Henry Cartridge

I recently came across an old looking round that looks like a .577/.450 Martini-Henry rifle cartridge with the bullet. Now, the “case” is actually rolled brass foil and it looks like the actual base of the cartridge (I guess that’s what it’s called) appears to be from another cartridge all together. Almost like the base was cut off of one cartridge and the foil was carefully fitted inside. At first, I thought it was some poor S.O.B. trying to make a homemade cartridge. Then looking around online it most closely resembles the rolled brass foil Martini-Henry cartridge. I have seen a couple pictures online of other rolled foil cartridges and other then mine looking quite old and having the “been there, done that” look, they look identical. Does anyone know a round about time these cartridges were discontinued? From what I have read, it was around 1885. Below is a link to Photobucket where I have a picture of the cartridge. Thanks.

I’d guess the base (head) is iron. You have a .577/450 Martini Henry cartridge.

Trials were carried out in the UK as early as 1876 with a view to replacing the coiled brass case with a conventional solid drawn case. The trials came down in favour of the solid case but it was not introduced at this time and the coiled case remained in service. Further trials were conducted in 1885 and in that year a solid case was adopted by the UK as
[b]Cartridge Ball Martini-Henry Rifle & Machine Gun Solid Case .45" Mk 1.[b]

Here’s a before & after;

You say it most looks like a 577/.450 but you appear to be in some doubt. Its hard to tell from the picture.
Is the case a bit smaller in diameter (.500) and a bit longer in the body than the 577/.450? If it is it is probably a 500/.450 no2 which was the “civilian” equivilent to the 577/.450 marketed by Wesley Richards and many Martini rifles, identical to the military rifle in every other way, were made and sold by them in that calibre.
The calibre was devised originally by WR to use in the sleeved barrels fiitted inside the Snider rifles that were displaced from service by the introduction if the Martini. WR converted thousands of the rifles and sold them cheaply throughout the Empire to settlers. That would have included Canada and possibly the US. You don’t give your location in your profile so I don’t know where you are.

There wasn’t enough metal in the diameter of the sleeve to chamber them for the the 577/.450 so they invented a narrower but longer round of approx identical case capacity and ballistics. Later they used the same calibre in new martinis for the same market.

Others will be able to be more precise but ammunition was made and sold up to around the 50s. If yours is a foil wrapped one irrespective of calibre its among the very earliest.

You have a 577/.450 Martini Henry Ball Mark III round, and can be identified by the two crimpimg cannelures holding the bullet in the case, althogh it has lost its white paper patch.

You asked at what date these were last made. In British service the rolled case was obsolete by about the late 1880s, but it continued to be used in India until well into the 20th Century. The Indian army had a cordite loaded rolled case round for both rifle and carbine and these were made until about 1930.


Why was the Rolled Brass Case used at all. The drawn brass case technology was well developed by the time the Rolled Case .450/.500 Martini-Henry was introduced.

Ron - The Martini-Henry was .577/450…but to answer your question, it was a case of cheapness and government parsimony. At the Royal Laboratory they had a workforce of women and youths hand rolling the cartridges, which was cheaper than istalling tyhe machinery to make drawn cases.


If this cartridge is the military Mark III it should have a small oval inspection hole in the side through which the inner reinforcing cup is visible. This can just be seen in the photo of the rolled and drawn cases side by side posted by Jim.


I don’t see any stampings or any other markings for that matter. To answer VinceGreen’s question about my location, I’m in Afghanistan and that’s where I found the cartridge. We actually found four Martini-Henry cartridges (all the rolled foil), several Soviet cartridges, and two 8MM French Lebel cartridges dated 1-1916. Either way, it’s interesting to find something like this. I’ve never seen a hand rolled brass cartridge before. Hopefully I’ll be able to take the Martini and two Lebel cartridges home. Thanks for all the responses so far.

True in principle Dave, but not if it was a military contract made by Eley. They used a different method of construction whereby the inner cup was not a separate piece but was a part of the main body folded over. This obviated the need for a sight hole. Technically I agree these are “Contract E” rounds not Mark IIIs, but apart from the above detail they are identical to the Mark III.