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3rd January 2005Martini-Henry ballistics
By Rich
Just happened to read a piece in one of the military history magazines here (US) by author Edward Langer focusing on why the Brits went down to defeat at Isandhlwana. His argument in a nutshell is that the firing lines did not compensate properly with rear-sight sighting distance against the onrushing impi at varying distances. I know this has been discussed here (Bill Power's previous post noted the effect of sightings) but not sure if that argument has been put to bed so to speak. Would be interested to know if archaeology has anything more to say about this particularly in where bullets can be found on the battlefileld particularly from where the Zulus began their attack..
4th January 2005Paul Mercer
I too would be interested to know at what distance we opened fire, a Martini Henry does have a threoretical range of over 1000 yards, but at that distance the trajectories are approaching that of a rainbow! The effective range was around 3-400 yards where a hit almost anywhere would take a man down. If they were volley firing at that sort of range against a massed enemy I'm feel that even if they were only sighted for 100 yards they would probably hit somewhere.
4th January 2005Rich
You know from what I got from the analysis
was that the "rainbow" effect as you noted was constantly changing because the firing line was subject to constant change during the chaos of battle. This supposedly resulted in giving the advantage to the Zulus during their charges since fire wasn't ultimately lethal enough to affect their ranks. I'd think battlefield archaeology here would be much
helpful in analyzing the lie of bullets on the field...that's if time hasn't had something to say about it.
4th January 2005Neil Aspinshaw
We have discussed this one before, the main problem with a Martini is that with the backsight raised, at 800+ yards, the elevation of the muzzle effectively blocks out what you are aiming at. All the men could rely on was his officer calling the range and "hopefully" finding a target.
The only instance written that I have found of martinis being accurate at distance was the Sudanese battalions at Ondourman at 800 yards, mind you that was on a flat desert and at massed target.
Also The position of the firing line at isandlwana has two effects on firing thus, at 1000+ yards the ground is on your level, however as ranges close it drops away, for a while, the chance of overshoot, even if you had the range right is very apparent.
You are correct, the battle field archeology (to my knowlege) has concentrated on cartridge cases, not projectile landing positions.