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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 923
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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All this talk of rifles and carbines set me looking at the images in my collection here's two which I hope are of interest.



BaSotho Troopers, just after the Langalibalele Uprising, stationed in Bushman's Pass. All appear to armed with Terry's carbines, save for the standing figure, who appears to have an Enfield carbine, hence the cap pouch.



Jantze Horse photographed at Ulundi, September 1879, mainly armed with Martini-Henry rifles. On the right of the rear row, standing, one trooper appears to have a Swinburn-Henry carbine. The trooper second from the right centre row, with his hand to his face, also has a carbine, with what appears to a slide for attaching to a shoulder belt, like those on the Enfield carbine, were these retained on the Snider?

John Y.
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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One thing I think we should make absolutely clear is that a separate, smaller, cartridge was developed for the M-H (and S-H) carbine with 70 grs. powder and a 410 gr. bullet. True, in a pinch a rifle round could be used at the time for a cost of only greater recoil. Today however I would discourage anyone from using a 'hotter' round in an antique weapon than that for which it was originally designed.

The book "Cartridge Carbines of British Army" by Alan M. Petrillo would appear to be a good source of information. It's out of print but still available, I'm awaiting a copy now.

Going back to "Zulu Wars - Volunteers, Irregulars and Auxiliaries" by Ian Castle (his assertions partially based on photos apparently);

Natal Carbineers got their S-Hs in 1877
Buffalo Border Guard the same
NMR not specific
NMP S-H
Stanger Mounted Rifles S-H but the photo on top pg 23 looks almost like a Sharps based on the hammer shape and saddle ring but more likely a Snider (or W R?)
Natal Hussars S-H
VMR S-H mentions bayonet lug on side for 'Bowie' bayonet
Durban Mounted Rifles S-H but the photo on the bottom of pg 23 a sharp looking Snider (I guess Snider carbines could have had saddle rings.)
Frontier Light Horse M-H and Snider carbines
Transvaal Burgher Force M-H rifles
Natal Native Mounted Contingent -
Edendale M-H
Zikhali S-H
Jantje M-H
Hlubi unclear

So it seems the answers are all over the board but I suspect the available 'modern' arms ran out before all the recruiting was finished so older arms were forced back into service. I can't locate it at the moment but I distinctly recall a reference that the Sniders exchanged in country for M-Hs rather than being returned to England as required were secreted away and made available for the A-ZW. As an interesting aside the MkI and MkII M-H rifles had a problem with the firing pins breaking and this problem was rectified with the new breechblock and firing pin fitted to the M-H carbine in 1877 a full two years before it was rectified in the MkIII rifle.

We know that some of the NNC were issued percussion Enfields so we know that caps were available but what about paper cartridges for capping breechloaders? I imagine that would have been a logistical head-ache.

Mike brings up an interesting point concerning cavalry. From "A History of the 17th Lancers..." (1895) ;

"The year 1873 likewise brought with it a reversion to primitive times in the shape of an order that greater attention should be paid to dismounted duty, the cavalry being now armed with the Snider carbine. This did not immediately affect the Seventeenth, which as yet possessed no carbines, but it was destined to do so before long. Two years later came another reform, this time in the matter of drill. The old system of standing pivots... was abolished, and the "Evolutions" of 1759 lost their influence on cavalry drill forever."...

"In 1876, likewise, came two more changes-the one temporary and other permanent. The first was the issue of six carbines to every troop[probably for evaluation], a sign of a further change to come." [The second was the appointment of the Duke of Cambridge as Colonel-in-Chief]...

"In 1878 a change was made in the armament of the Seventeenth which takes us back to the earliest days of the British army. Martini-Henry carbines were issued and pistols returned into store...[the previous carbine had been withdrawn in 1823]...but the abolition of the pistol is even more noteworthy, for the pistol was a direct survival from the days of Ironsides. Quite unconsciously the five regiments of Lancers carried the armament of Cromwell's troopers into the forty-first year of Queen Victoria. As a weapon the pistol had long been regarded as of no account : it was a muzzle loader to the last, and as but ten rounds annually were allowed to each man for practice therewith, it was hardly taken seriously as a weapon at all. Still the abandonment of the pistol, as a point of historical interest, deserves at least so much notice. Sergeant - Majors, and trumpeters were now provided with revolvers..."

"[Orders to SA]... In the short interval between the warning and the embarkation the Commanding Officer, Colonel Gonne, was accidently shot while superintending the practice of the non-commissioned officers with the newly issued revolver, and so severely wounded as to be unable to proceed on active service..."

[The Royal Regiment of Dragoons, while on home duty, got their M-H carbines on 15 March 1878 and were "at once put through a course of musketry".]

Best

Michael
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 923
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Michael,

I'm glad that you mentioned the Sharps. In a photograph that I used to possess, now identified as Hlubi's Horse in 1888, one of the troopers is carrying a Sharps. A friend of mine, an A.C.W. buff spotted it, so I did some enquiries and discovered some 19th century colonial troops/police did carry the Sharps as issue.

John Y.
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Neil Aspinshaw


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Loughborough
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John,
What a managerie of firepower!!, The Jantze Horse have S-H, I cannot tell if the rear rank are MH or Swinburn rifles, The man second rank third right with hand to mouth seems to have a Snider. Quartermasters nightmare!

Michael. The Martini Carbine are fine to shoot with a full load, i.e. 85 grains & 480 Grn bullets. OK it throws you about a little but not unsafe. There were two barrel types, the lightweight for the cavalry and later examples which were converted from earlier pattern rifle barrels simply cut down, such as the Garrison Carbine .

I digress a little here but Buyer beware though, alot of MH carbines were deactivated by a saw cut on the knoxform-barrel seam in the 40's and 50's. Some have been welded up again. A dead givaway is the letters D.P (drill purposes) stamped on it or what looks like two P's back to back (Condemned). In reality they often re-proof without problem.

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Neil
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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I agree with Neil. I don't think those are MH Rifles in the back row. Too short. I stand 6 ft 1 and a Martini comes to the top of my chest. Assuming they are not all giants, the weapons on show are too short.

As ever

Mike
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 923
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Mike,

I thought you might like to know from a regimental point-of-view, the officer in the centre is 24th Regiment, going on the suggested evidence I believe it to be Curll. The group are part of Wolseley's escort to Ulundi for the September surrender.

John Y.
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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Which one John? The one on the left without badge on helmet, or the one in patrols with badge?

As ever

Mike
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 923
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Mike,

The young man in the middle of the front row. Wearing the Indian Pattern scarlet frock, with the light coloured breeches and a lanyard going to his pistol. Between the N.M.P. corporal & trooper.

John Y.
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mike snook 2


Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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John

Sorry - mistook the man to his right for an officer.

Hmm...scruffy looking b***** a'int he!! Can't possibly be 24th!!! Smile

M
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Neil

I'll take your word for it with the proviso that one reloads only with black powder. Unfortunately today (in the States anyway) many people reload with modern smokeless, pyrodex etc. which of course burns hotter and faster. (I've never understood that, half the fun of shooting antique firearms is getting the real feel of what our forebears experienced!) One problem that is rarely addressed it that of metal, especially steel, embrittlement which is best identified by Scanning Electron Microscopy although indications can be seen through other NDE testing as well. I don't know any gunsmiths who are set up for that, they do visual corrosion checks and simple structural inspections which cannot identify the microscopic cracks which eventually show up in all metals exposed to extreme heat and pressure over time. As I'm sure you know catastrophic failures in breechblocks and especially barrels in antique weapons have been known to occur. Fortunately most good gunsmiths develope a 'feel' that goes beyond expertise and will err on the side of caution when inspecting and blessing off an antique weapon for fire saftey. If it was designed for black or early smokeless powder do not go 'high tech' on it's butt, it's not worth the risk and certainly not as much fun! [Range Safety Officer has now left the building.]

I've been searching all over the net for photos of Snider carbines with saddle (or slide or snap swivel) rings but as yet have found none although there are dozens without. As they were a cavalry weapon it would seem logical that they'd have one (they were ubiquitous on most American made carbines of the time). Any ideas? (John's posting above has me back to thinking Sharps again, the 1874 model was one of the most powerful carbines made.)

For a visual idea on why it was so hard to maintain a concealed firing position while shooting a M-H see Jason Atkin's web site -

http://www.martinihenry.com/aboutme.htm

For a detailed manpower and weapons listing for the Cape Colony Volunteers from 1877 - 1879 see -

http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol014jh.html

Best

Michael
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Adrian Whiting


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Dorset, England
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Snider cavalry carbines were a mixed group in terms of having a slide bar and ring fitted. For the first pattern conversions it obviously depended upon what the P61 cavalry carbine itself had originally been fitted with. Many P61s had rings so the conversions retained them.

Some of the newly made MkIII SCCs were made up with slide bar and rings.

Whilst i have pictures of the SCCs with rings, I don't have any showing such arms in use in the AZW.

As the fixing mounts for the slide bars also acted as the side nail cups, these carbines can be identified from their lockside by having iron, not brass, side nail cups - this last for the truly tragic among us - myself included!

Mike, hopefully to assist, the Westley Richards "Monkey tail" carbine (WR also produced this as a rifle which is rather more scarce) was a "capping breech loader" meaning the round of ammunition was a self contained paper cartridge with the paper itself soaked in saturated potassium nitrate solution. This caused the paper to be all but consumed when fired to minimise the residue. The round was initiated by a percussion cap.

Having previously owned and shot with a capping breech loading Sharps rifle I can add that the barrel does foul as with any blackpowder arm, but this design didn't really seem to be any worse. It would certainly require regular cleaning out though, to manage the felt recoil and maintain the accuracy.

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Adrian
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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Thanks Adrian, I regularly shoot a repro Naval Colt cap and ball and was once dragged out on a hunt with a repro Hawken 54 cal flint-lock. (Missed my deer but took down a fair sized Birch tree, it's mounted over my fireplace.) I was questioning the first SAHMS article linked to that mentions all those percussion firearms. I can see where there may have still been some old Snider cardboard cartridges around but it strikes me as odd that any of the old WR nitrate paper cartridges could have been available unless someone in SA was still producing them. I guess that they could have loaded the old-fashioned way but why bother, not to mention the learning curve involved. Unless of course he's referring to the 1869 Westley Richards Martini which is not the same as the 1861 CBL "Monkey Tail" (which name applied as well to the abortive breech loading pistol). Although such a catchy moniker could I suppose have lived on due to the distinctive breech lever from whence the name originated.

Funny you should mention the black powder fouling problem. Just last night I was reading an account of the Boer's use of M-Hs in the 1st A-BW and it mentioned that they often carried a chunk of suet affixed to a weighted string and ran it through during lulls in the battles. Such an elegant(!?) solution! It was for me one of those 'slap your head and go DoH' moments. I suppose the idea was never adopted to army service because of the difficulty in assigning a numbered drill to it.

I do however plan on trying it the next time I go Birch huntin'.

Best

Mike
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John

Although the photograph was from 1888 showing a Sharps. Is it remotely possible that they were in use during the AZW, perhaps in the hands of some of the Irregulars ? I'm always hoping to see other types in the photographs - Spencer, Winchester, etc.

Michael

I have an excellent book on the Sharps. There are a couple of photographs of 1874 models - 2 of which have full-length telescopes, unusual for the time. Can you imagine the advantage an expert markman would have against a native enemy, distance wise, with such a weapon ?

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Sawubona

You mention streetsweeper. I'm very interested in the possibilty that the customising and modifying of firearms was not uncommon around the time of the AZW. Shotguns with sawn-off barrels, pistol-grips, etc.

However, regarding carbines, I wonder if the same could be done, with the shortening of barrels (and the use of pistol-grips) but not affecting the mechanism of the carbine, although meaning it would have to be fired without the stabilising nature of a stock ?

I do remember in a previous topic the mention of Snider ammunition including buckshot. Therefore, a Snider may have perhaps been able to be altered with shortened barrel, no stock and used as a shotgun or the modern term - streetsweeper.

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Michael Boyle


Joined: 12 Dec 2005
Posts: 595
Location: Bucks County,PA,US
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Sniper rifles are really only effective when the the enemy is standing still or moving slowly. Not quite the case with the Zulus! I'm fairly sure I've read that the civilian waggon drivers were armed with shotguns but I don't recall them being in any army's ordinance supply back then. Of course the Le Matt revolver could have come in handy!

Best

Michael
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Swinburn & Snider Carbines
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