The P-1871 Martini-Henry rifle first entered service in June of 1871 with the introduction of
the Mk I. It fired the new .577/450 bottleneck black powder cartridge which was an
improvement over the existing .577 Snider-Enfield cartridge. Only about 1400 MK I’s were
made and in 1877 they were replaced by the MK II which incorporated several design
improvements learned from the MK I. At this time the surviving MK I’s were factory
converted to the MK II. When converted to the MK II an additional “I” was added to the
receiver markings, which resulted in the marking being skewed to the right of center,
whereas rifles made originally as a MK II would have this marking centered. Both receiver
and 33″ barrel are profusely marked with inspection and proof marks (see photos), with
additional markings on the loading lever, trigger guard, cleaning rod, and barrel bands.
Receiver dated 1874 and marked “ENFIELD” for the Royal Small Arms Factory located in
the London borough of Enfield. Fixed front sight and adjustable folding rear ladder sight.
Bayonet lug on the right side of the front barrel band for mounting the standard socket-
type spike bayonet (either converted from the 20.4″ P-1853 bayonet or the newer 25″ P-
1876 bayonet), or a sword bayonet for NCO’s. The walnut stock has a faint Enfield
cartouche as well as unit markings. Overall length of the rifle is 49″. Rifle in overall very
good condition as field used with light scattered pitting to the steel parts and minor dings
and scratches to the wood. Markings generally clear and crisp, with some wear to the
crown on the receiver.
The Martini-Henry P-1871 Mk II short lever rifle is best known for its use in the Zulu War at
the Battle of Rorke’s Drift on January 22nd, 1879, where a small force of British and
colonial troops defeated a much larger attacking Zulu force. A total of 11 Victoria Crosses
were awarded that day, most to the 2nd/24th Foot. Earlier in the day another force of
about 20,000 Zulus attacked a British column at Isandlwana consisting of about 1800
British and colonial troops as well as several hundred civilians, killing over 1300. These
famous battles were immortalized in the movies “Zulu” (1964) and “Zulu Dawn” (1979).