Martini-Enfield rifles were, by and large, conversions of the Zulu War
Anglo-Zulu War
The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.Following the imperialist scheme by which Lord Carnarvon had successfully brought about federation in Canada, it was thought that a similar plan might succeed with the various African kingdoms, tribal areas and...

 era .450/577 Martini-Henry
The Martini-Henry was a breech-loading single-shot lever-actuated rifle adopted by the British, combining an action worked on by Friedrich von Martini , with the rifled barrel designed by Scotsman Alexander Henry...

, rechambering the rifle for use with the newly introduced .303 British
.303 British
.303 British, or 7.7x56mmR, is a .311 inch calibre rifle and machine gun cartridge first developed in Britain as a blackpowder round put into service in December 1888 for the Lee-Metford rifle, later adapted to use smokeless powders...

 cartridge. Whilst most Martini-Enfields were converted rifles, a number were newly manufactured as well.


The Martini-Enfield Mk I was effectively a Martini-Henry Mk III rebarrelled to .303 and with a new extractor installed, whilst the Martini-Enfield Mk II rifles were generally of new manufacture- although there are examples of converted Mk II rifles.
Originally (from 1889) Martini-Henry conversions used Metford rifled barrels (and were known as Martini-Metford rifles), which were more than suitable for the first .303 cartridges, which used black powder as a propellant, but they wore out very quickly when fired with cordite
Cordite is a family of smokeless propellants developed and produced in the United Kingdom from 1889 to replace gunpowder as a military propellant. Like gunpowder, cordite is classified as a low explosive because of its slow burning rates and consequently low brisance...

/nitrocellulose cartridges (introduced in 1895) and so in 1895 the Enfield rifled barrel was introduced, which was much more satisfactory and suitable for use with "modern" (smokeless) ammunition.

The Martini-Enfield was in service from 1895-1918 (Lawrence of Arabia
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

's Arab Irregulars were known to have used them during the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 of 1916-1918, along with any other firearms they could acquire), and it remained a Reserve Arm in places like India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 until well into World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Martini-Enfield rifles were manufactured/converted by:
  • RSAF (Royal Small Arms Factory
    Royal Small Arms Factory
    The Royal Small Arms Factory was a UK government-owned rifle factory in the London Borough of Enfield in an area generally known as the Lea Valley. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816...

    ), Enfield Lock
    Enfield Lock
    Enfield Lock is an area in the London Borough of Enfield, North London. It is approximately located east of the Hertford Road between Turkey Street and the Holmesdale Tunnel overpass, to the River Lee Navigation, including the Enfield Island Village. The locality gains its name from the lock on the...

  • LSA Co
    London Small Arms Co. Ltd
    The London Small Arms Company Ltd was a British Arms Manufacturer from the years 1866-1935.Based in Tower Hamlets, London, London Small Arms Co...

     (London Small Arms Co)
  • BSA & M Co (Birmingham Small Arms & Metals Co, later simply BSA
    Birmingham Small Arms Company
    This article is not about Gamo subsidiary BSA Guns Limited of Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham B11 2PP or BSA Company or its successors....

  • HRB Co (Henry Rifle Barrel Co, later went out of business and taken over by Blenheim Engineering)
  • NA&A Co (National Arms & Ammunition Co)

Martini-Enfield rifles were very well made and are more than capable of handling modern commercial .303 British ammunition- but as with all second hand firearms, they should always be checked by a competent gunsmith before attempting to fire them.

Khyber Pass Copies
Khyber Pass Copy
A Khyber Pass Copy is a firearm manufactured by cottage gunsmiths in the Khyber Pass region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The reason they are called that is because the Adam Khel Afridi, who live around the Khyber pass, were historically the most active arms manufacturers on the Frontier.The...

The Khyber Pass
Khyber Pass
The Khyber Pass, is a mountain pass linking Pakistan and Afghanistan.The Pass was an integral part of the ancient Silk Road. It is mentioned in the Bible as the "Pesh Habor," and it is one of the oldest known passes in the world....

 region between Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 has long had a reputation for producing unlicensed, home-made copies of firearms using whatever materials are available- more often than not, railway sleepers, junked motor vehicles, and scrap metal.

During the various British military expeditions in the North-West Frontier
North-West Frontier (military history)
The North-West Frontier was the most difficult area, from a military point of view, of the former British India in the Indian sub-continent. It remains the frontier of present-day Pakistan, extending from the Pamir Knot in the north to the Koh-i-Malik Siah in the west, and separating the...

, the locals acquired examples of the Martini-Henry
The Martini-Henry was a breech-loading single-shot lever-actuated rifle adopted by the British, combining an action worked on by Friedrich von Martini , with the rifled barrel designed by Scotsman Alexander Henry...

, Martini-Enfield, and later, Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 rifles and began to make their own copies.

The quality on such rifles varies from "As good as a factory-produced example" to "dangerously unsafe", tending towards the latter end of the scale. The ammunition used in the region is often underloaded, being made from a variety of powders -or even old film (which contains nitrocellulose, a key component of smokeless powder
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

As such, Khyber Pass Copy rifles cannot generally stand up to the pressures generated by modern commercial ammunition, and it is generally advised that they should not be fired under any circumstances, although some collectors have made mild handloaded cartridges for their Khyber Pass rifles. This practice is not recommended, and anyone firing a Khyber Pass rifle is doing so at their own risk.

Khyber Pass Copies can be recognised by a number of factors, notably:
  • Spelling errors in the markings (the most common of which is a backwards "N" in "Enfield")
  • V.R. (Victoria Regina) cyphers dated after 1901- Queen Victoria died in 1901, so any rifles made after this should be stamped "E.R" (Edward Rex, referring to King Edward VII)
  • Generally inferior workmanship, including weak/soft metal, poorly finished wood, and badly struck markings.

Many different versions of the original Enfield rifles were on sale at the US military-sponsored Bazaars in Afghanistan from 2002 until July of 2009. Until that time, it was common to find a great variety of 'Khyber pass' fake weapons. These ranged a gamut of Martini-Henry's, Snider converted original Enfield pattern 1853's, blatant knockoffs of the Martini-Henry rifles that lacked all British markings completely and were often engraved with popular Middle Eastern geometric and scrollwork designs. After the limitations regarding the loading method cut the supply of these being brought into Bazaars went into effect, many of the vendors simply resorted to bringing fake muzzle-loading British pattern 1853 'Tower' rifles to sell as send home replicas. Some of the vendors claimed them to be real, others made no claim at all regarding their authenticity. A mentality of buyer-beware prevails and the unwary buyer may well purchase a pipe-barreled rifle on any given Friday to date.

Some of the more obvious issues with the fake Enfield rifles currently being sold:

Very light weapon, weighs only 5-6 lbs, an original Pattern 1853 should weigh approximately 9lbs 5oz.

Missing letters in the Enfield name

Stamps of a date earlier than 1853

The 3 bands on the rifle are often stamped with an E with a 6 underneath of it, a commonly replaced part. The E and 6 were the specific stamp of an inspector in the gun assembly and testing process. This band appears far too commonly in multiple locations for them all to be real.

Lack of any rifling at all in the barrel

A pipe-made barrel, occasionally so poorly made that the threads may still be present on one end or the other of the barrel.

Re-stamped stocks that are new and fresh in the wood, commonly mis-aligned and non-circular.

Stock and lock Engraving that wanders from a straight line

Mis-cut or cut down stocks with gaps around the lock

Brass pieces on the rifle with different inspector stamps

Phillips head screws anywhere on the rifle

Wooden stocks that show obvious staining of new wood, commonly verifiable by removing the screws from the back of the firing lock and sliding it out

The above mentioned backwards 'N' in the Enfield name

And of course the ever present Enfield rifle stamped with Afghan on the lock instead of Enfield for a dramatic effect.

The prices for rifles of good or authentic quality have doubled in value at the haggling table in the Bazaars' countrywide over the past year, however a decent rifle can normally be had for around $240-$350 dollars.

External links

  • -An excellent source of information on the Martini-Henry and Martini-Enfield rifles.
  • Martini Metford MkIV 1886
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