Flash forward to the more-or-less present. My first reentry into Martini World was a couple of years ago when I stumbled into master gunsmith Vic Samuel, who builds flawless little gems out of Martini Cadet actions that he travels all over the world to scavenge. I had him build me an homage to all the Cadet converted to .357 “crow guns” back in the early 1960s…you can read the whole story on the Cadet at the DOWN RANGE TV.
That still left me jones’ing for a full-size Martini-Henry…which is where I still am, but two important things have changed:
1) There’s a flood of full-sized Martini-Henrys on the market, thanks to the unearthing of the Kathmandu armory described in Christian Cranmer’s book Treasure is Where You Find It. Essentially, military arms “treasure hunters” got permission to “mine” a collapsed Nepalese armory in Kathmandu, where they discovered an incredible treasure trove of cannons, knives and small arms, including thousands of well-preserved Martini-Henrys in various flavors. All of a sudden the relatively obscure guns are available all over the place for bargain prices.
2) Richard Pumerantz of Ten-X Ammo thought it might be a cool idea to shoot one of the old guns. Now that’s more complicated than you might think. The 577-450 loaded ammo was for the most part as dead as the dodo; brass availability was sporadic and of wildly varying quality; the paper-patched bullets were notoriously hard to reload and accuracy typically resembled shotgun patterns. What the heck, Pumerantz thought.
He talked Starline into producing modern-quality 577-450 brass, then launched into a quest to create a bullet and load combination that was both safe and accurate in the mid-1800s guns. He ended up with 3-shot 100-yard groups dangerously close to MOA out of his two guns (yes, yes…your results may differ). He then sat down with Dillon Precision and created a Frankenstein combination of the Dillon 900 shotshell reloader and the metallic cartridge 650 reloader to actually manufacture the 577-450 rounds on a commercial basis.
So last weekend I went out to a range in Southern California and through the smoke launched a bunch of brand new 577-450 rounds through a long-lever Martini-Henry, and, hey, it was everything I thought it would be. Big booms; lots of smoke; large holes in the target…all I need is a time machine!
The Complete Story of Michael’s Martini Cadet .357 Conversion
More than You Ever Wanted to Know About Martini-Henry Rifles
Vic Samuel’s SSA Enterprises
Treasure is Where You Find It, by Christian Cranmer
You can also see the opening of the 60-minute documentary on the Katmandu find here on YouTube
Ten-X — Ammo for Guns You Didn’t Know You Wanted
Get the DVD with the Lurid Cover
Real History of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift