Military Wiki
Martini-Enfield Mk I & Mk II
Type Service rifle
Place of origin United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1878-1902
Used by United Kingdom & Colonies
Wars British colonial wars, Second Boer War (Limited)
Production history
Designer RSAF Enfield
Designed 1878
Manufacturer RSAF Enfield
Produced 1878-1903
Number built approx. 250,000-500,000
Variants Martini-Enfield Carbine
Weight 8 lb 9 oz (3.8 kg) (unloaded)
Length 49.25 in (1250 mm)

Cartridge .303 Mk IIC SAA Ball
Calibre .303 British
Action Martini Falling Block
Rate of fire 10 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity 2200 ft/s (700 m/s)
Effective range 1000 yds (900 m)
Maximum range 2000 yds (1800 m)
Feed system Single shot
Sights Sliding ramp rear sights, Fixed-post front sights

Martini-Enfield rifles were, by and large, conversions of the Zulu War era .450/577 Martini-Henry, rechambering the rifle for use with the newly introduced .303 British 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/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's Arab Irregulars were known to have used them during the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918, along with any other firearms they could acquire), and it remained a Reserve Arm in places like India and New Zealand until well into World War II.

Martini-Enfield rifles were manufactured/converted by:

  • RSAF (Royal Small Arms Factory), Enfield Lock
  • LSA Co (London Small Arms Co)
  • BSA & M Co (Birmingham Small Arms & Metals Co, later simply BSA)
  • 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

The Khyber Pass region between Pakistan and Afghanistan 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, the locals acquired examples of the Martini-Henry, Martini-Enfield, and later, Lee-Enfield 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.[citation needed] 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). As such, Khyber Pass Copy rifles cannot generally stand up to the pressures generated by modern commercial ammunition, because of the significant possibility of severe injury or death to the operator it is generally advised that such weapons should not be fired under any but the most extremely unlikely rare and desperate circumstances, although some collectors have made mild handloaded cartridges for their Khyber Pass rifles.[citation needed] 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 are on sale at UN, US or NATO-authorized bazaars usually adjacent to or within in military or diplomatic installations in Afghanistan. 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. While some vendors may claim them to be made by Enfield, most usually make no claim at all regarding their authenticity.

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 9 lbs 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 US (2010) $240–$350 or less if several are bought together.


Small Arms Identification Series No. 15: .450 & .303 Martini Rifles & Carbines (2002) Skennerton, Ian, Arms & Militaria Press, Gold Coast, QLD

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