My me time

Machining a new wood forend for an 1877 Martini Henry Mk II artillery carbine to replace a rotted forend on an MH carbine from the Royal Arsenal of Nepal is how I spend my time today.

The Martini Henry was the British military rifle for much of the 19th century until replaced by the Lee rifle. MH Mks, I through IV used a black powder cartridge called the .577-450. These guns saw service anyplace there were British soldiers. The Kingdom of Nepal had a brief skirmish with the British East Indies Company. In the truce and peace talks that followed England agreed to arm the Army of Nepal with British weapons. This they did, with every old weapon they had laying around. Brown Bess flintlocks, halbreds, swords, Snider rifles, even matchlocks. Then as new versions of the Martini Henry were developed the older ones were pulled from service and sent to Nepal. Gardner and Gatling guns followed as did older bronze artillery pieces. Anything old weapon, regardless of condition, went to Nepal. This continued until the early 1900s when King George visited his ally and counterpart and was horrified to learn they had not yet received any new Lee rifles or machine guns. He ordered they be sent to them and that Nepal should get all of the new weapons of the English army. So Nepal's army was soon modernized in time for WWI. Gurkha troops were supplied to England and their performance on the battlefield became legendary. Nepal was then armed again with more modern weapons for WWII. The US supplied weapons too. After WWII and the English pullback from India Nepal found other additional sources of modern weapons.

The Kingdom of Nepal was a very frugal nation and they felt just because they had a newer gun, cannon or sword, that was no reason to melt down the old ones. So they had this old 17th century palace no one used anymore after a newer palace was built. In the 1880s a decision was made that all of the old weapons should be stored in the old palace and old stables and the property re designated as the Royal Arsenal. As new weapons and ammunition came in from the British the older weapons were rotated out, dipped in melted Yak grease to preserve them, then lain on the floor somewhere in the old palace. The facility was guarded, but not really maintained by Western standards. The roof began to leak, but no one repaired the leaks. The windows were without glass. In some cases boards were placed to keep out rain, but not at every window and as shutters damaged over the century, they weren't replaced. There was no effort made to segregate or even index what was stored. A pile of Brown Bess rifles may be found to have a Napoleon 12 pounder cannon at it's core while another pile of rifles was found be stacked over some Vickers Machine guns mixed with swords covering 200 years of issue. Matchlock rifles under chain mail shirts and 15th century helmets next to Gatling guns. Sometime after WW2 the palace and stable grounds were full, and although guarded the facility became forgotten and mostly ignored.

The entire Royal family of Nepal was assassinated in 2002 and their Prime Minister then seized the throne. This then plunged the country into a nasty multi sided civil war of several years duration (mostly utterly ignored by American media) before India and China jointly invaded from opposite sides and together forced a cease fire and peace. During a break in the fighting an American antique company owner happened to be visiting Nepal and heard of an old palace full of military antiques. He made a sight unseen monetary offer to purchase all the old weapons to whoever was ruling the capital that month and the offer was accepted.

Then began the problem of getting the things out of Nepal and back to the United States.

Comments (14)

One can imagine the difficulties and customs issues involved in moving a convoy of 31 tractor trailers of weapons down the trails of the Himilaya mountains in the middle of a Civil War and then through India to the coast, then the reaction of the poor Customs officials that had to go through the trailers and approve the content for import. My understanding from IMA is that some of the shipment (more modern destructive device weapons) still sits in England awaiting US Customs approval to bring certain items into the United States for private sale.

It took IMA almost 5 years to go completely through the stockpile and identify every component in it as a means of fixing value. Numerous one of a kind weapons found only in books with the originals believed long since destroyed were discovered in the piles. Some antique gun designs never actually in America before arrived with the cache. Amazingly US Civil War and pre-Civil War guns were also found in the cache. There exist no known records showing how dozens of American Army weapons of the pre-civil war period found their way to Nepal. Some of the antique weapons and armor imported here are so rare that even in poor condition they were worth tens of thousands of dollars. But in many cases the multiple coatings of melted Yak grease did their job and preserved the weapons well.

The wood of weapons sitting by a window or under a roof leak or on the floor at the bottom of the pile often has wood rot. Dead insects are not unknown. Weapons with damaged wood are sold at a reduced price.

Some weapons with bad wood were cannabalized and now IMA offers a large selection of spare parts for a dozen types of antiques.

One can log on to their website and purchase an 'as is' heavily yak greased rifle of various types for a greatly (about half) reduced cost over market value. The rare MH carbine above was one such purchase.

IMA has also degreased and functioned tested some weapon types and sells them at the market value prices.

New wood is available from IMA for some of the older types of rifles and muskets and the wood is for sale either as a stand alone item, or as part of a kit, new wood and everything else from an old gun type.

Although the bulk of the weapons and items are English it is fair to say that almost every major countries items were found in the cache. Swords and daggers from Russia and France, Chinese war swords, katanas and Ariskas from Japan, US Sharps carbines, revolvers, etc.

All of it available via online sale (to almost every country). Finding a source of ammo for a 140 year old firearm is your problem, although IMA may be able to steer you to someone who knows someone who may still have some, etc.
Hello Ken,handshake Good to here from you. Enjoy your blog, and the history lesson. Myself being a fan of the enfield, was always curious to its predecessor, the Martini Henry. I ve seen the Martini Henry in a lot of historic movies, and never realized they were so prevalent. Here in Canada, prior 1900, being a common wealth country , any extension of British forces here used more north American rifles. After WW1 , enfields, were the common rifle of choice here.
Once Again , Good Blog, Thanks Bud
thumbs up
When I was a student, I didn't like history lesson. It always kept talking about too looong-dead people and about years. I was just lucky to pass the test. grin
You, on the other hand, seem to loooovvee history.
Anyways, hope your boy and girl are well. bouquet
Yep, they were tug of warring on a string this morning.
Hi Ken,
A very interesting blog! thumbs up
I just realized no one ever saw the finished product on the carbine. Here it is.

I am currently fabricating a slip-on fiber optic front sight to be used with a removable peep sight I have made for the carbine. The adding of both will not alter the carbine from it's original configuration but will IMO greatly increase the capabilities of the gun in twilight or dark woods. Last year the tiny factory front sight proved almost useless in the woods as sundown approached.
The video about making the stock forearm.

Just commented on your blog about the female bail bonds person shooting that guy...scary stuff...

Post pics of your cats too...


Miwagi - Good article. Surprisingly unbiased too. Making ghost guns is easy. Any 10 year old with access to dad's router or a hand drill can do so legally in most US states.. I made a working AR15 lower from an aluminum block as a proof of concept over a year ago and put up a video of it being fired too. Here is another person who made one the same way.

His video is actually 8 parts. Making one from what is called an 80% kit is what a 10 year old in dad's basement can do. Alternatively one can follow the instructions in this blog, since the trigger hammer group is one of the most important parts with a barrel being essentially just a pipe. As the article states it is the sale of home made guns which is a Federal offense. State laws differ of course as each state can write their own law and some US States do regulate building guns at home or simply ban such things. Noting also it is possible (and has been done) to melt down a few hundred plastic milk bottles into a solid mass and use those to form the lower half of a Glock pistol clone. The 21st century technology available to the average US consumer today has totally left archaic 19th century laws about registering or banning guns in the dust. May as well try to regulate wheels or creating fires. LoL
The magazine rifle had just been developed to super efficiency in the 1890s. Early in the century, muzzle-loaders were the chief military weapon for the foot soldier. The powder, the ball, the wadding, were all individually dropped, in turn, down the smoothbore barrel and then jammed in with a ramrod.

By the 1870s, bullet and powder were being manufactured as a single unit, in a casing or shell, with a detonating primer in the rear. But each cartridge still had to be loaded and shot singly.

The smoothbore musket, had also given way to the "rifle" when it was discovered that a bullet with spin - by adding spiraling grooves inside the barrel - would travel farther, faster, truer, and with more penetrating power.

The reenactors shown above are on actual Anglo-Boer battlefield locations including Biddulphsberg and Talana Hill, and at Onze Rust, OFS President Martinus T. Steyn's family farm near Bloemfontein.

The Martini-Henry (below), had been the service rifle of the British Empire from 1871 to almost 1900. It was the first rifle designed from the ground up as a breech-loading metal cartridge rifle for the British Army.

This rugged weapon was designed as a lever action rifle by Friedrich von Martini of Switzerland. Pulling the lever down, dropped the block, and allowed one to slide a cartridge along the groove in top of the lowered block right into the chamber. Lifting the lever raised the block over the rear of the chambered cartridge and pushed the hammer back.

My fore-fathers used to steal these rifles from the British and shoot the crap out of them with their own rifles and ammo.laugh
There is, after doing live fire comparisons with a half dozen or so competing contemporary designs, no doubt in my mind that the Martini Henry was the best military single shot rifle of the last quarter of the 19th century. A more than adequate caliber combined with a fast to reload and shoot action put it at the top of the heap. The only deficiency I can identify in the design is absolutely horrible sights. Of course in the 19th century this was the rule, not the exception, so good sighting systems on military rifles were something mostly not seen until the 20th century began.
Luke, the article you cite is correct about the Lee Metford bayonet. However the Mk IV Martini Henry and Martini Enfield (same gun but in caliber .303 British instead of caliber .577-450) rifles used the model 1887 bayonet.

My 1887 type 3.

Made by Wilkinson of course.

The Cavalry variant of the MH carbine used no bayonet as the riders also had 1890 cavalry sabers.

The artillery version of the MH carbine had a much longer (25.75" blade) Model 1879 bayonet with a cutlass type hand guard and a saw back. The saw back allowed the blade to also function as a wood cutting saw when needed to clear trees for the artillery or similar purpose. In this country those are very rare and pricey, Atlanta Cutlery sells a $150 reproduction. Real ones pictured here.

The earlier versions of the MH rifle (Mk I, Mk II, and Mk III) used a triangular spike bayonet.
Sorry, trying again..

1887 type 3 bayonet for the MK IV MH and Martini Enfield (ME) rifles

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