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Army—The Martini-Henry Rifle

Volume 221: debated on Thursday 30 July 1874

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asked the Secretary of State for War, If he has heard reports condemnatory of the Martini-Henry rifles used at Wimbledon as being erratic in their shooting, and inferior to the Snider, and characterizing the weapon as "a miserable malformation;" if it be the fact that the Council issued an order permitting competitors to wind handkerchiefs round the stocks to mitigate the contusions on the cheek of the marksman caused by the kick of the rifle; how many have been manufactured, and what proportion of them are of the same pattern and length of stock as those issued at Wimbledon; and, whether he will not stop the expenditure of public money on these rifles till a more perfect pattern has been attained?

, in reply, said, that no reports had been received of the character alluded to. No doubts existed as to the shooting of the Martini-Henry rifle being superior to that of the Snider and Enfield. The Council of the National Rifle Association had permitted competitors to use handkerchiefs around the stocks when firing with small-bore rifles, but this practice was not confined to the Martini-Henry rifle, and the rule had been in force for some years. As many as 140,000 Martini-Henry rifles had been manufactured. They were of the same pattern as those used at Wimbledon, and, as to length of butts, the proportion at Wimbledon was 100 long and 20 short, which proportion was given at the request of the Association. The proportion to the Army was one-third long and two-thirds short butts. He begged leave to remind the hon. Member that the Martini-Henry rifle was adopted after a long series of experiments, and trials by the troops at home and abroad. It was favourably reported upon by the Hythe Committee and also by the Council of Ordnance. The Report of the Committee had been laid Before Parliament, and no reports had been received as to the defects of the Martini-Henry rifle, except in very minor details, which were now in process of being remedied. Therefore, there was no intention of stopping the manufacture of the Martini-Henry rifles. He might add that as far as his right hon. Friend and himself were concerned, they had no bias in regard to the Martini-Henry rifle. It was a legacy left to them by the late Government, and as such he was sure the hon. Member would see it would not be advisable to arrive at any conclusion on its merits merely upon reports which might appear in the newspapers.