This is a nice example of a Martini Henry Rifle in caliber .577-450 that was one of the ones discovered in Nepal a decade or two ago in long-term storage. I've had this rifle 3-4 years now in my collection. When it comes to military surplus weapons, I am fairly picky about correctness, good markings, solid wood, nice bores, percentages of original finish, etc. That said, to find a nice rifle possessing all of those criteria requires some labor, time, money, as well as a sacrificial shirt and pair of pants. It was hand-selected after looking through literally several hundred Martini Henry's. Found "in the raw", it was literally covered in 100-year-old blackened grease...resembling something that came out from under a diesel locomotive! Thus, it required a good solid day of careful cleaning (no corners were cut using abrasives, just good old-fashioned sweat equity). A rifle done this way just looks better to me as you don't go too far with it and you save a bit of extra original finish that would have been lost had you been in a hurry. That said, there are plenty of decent Martini Henry's on the market that can be purchased for less than this rifle. I get that! The extra you're paying for this rifle is for what you might call...Super Super Hand Select Grade with...solid original wood with nice Enfield cartouches, good legible receiver markings, original 19th-century blued finish, carefully selected bayonet w/ British markings, British-marked brass muzzle cap, and a very careful clean-up.
History: this amazing cache of antique weapons was brought to the US by a partnership agreement with IMA-USA and Atlanta Cutlery and what an amazing find it was! My hat is off to the men of both of these companies who spent decades waiting for the window of opportunity to open and were then, somehow, able to make this all happen. These guns were literally stacked throughout a palace on various floors ranging from Brown Bess flintlock muskets with EIC markings (East India Company) to bolt action Lee Enfield rifles representing nothing less than a massive time capsule of British, EIC, Indian, and Nepalese military histories all rolled up into one. For many of us who grew up with the collector bug and were born a century too late, we could only live vicariously through old-timers telling us tales of the antique weapons they found at Bannerman's or perhaps that elderly guy remembered his elderly friend telling him about how he purchased that minty civil war carbine right out of the crate at Stokes Kirk. I still run into guys at shows who purchased near perfect 1895 Chilean rifles out of the back pages of gun magazines in the late 60's but for just about everyone who started collecting over the past forty years, the days of finding large groups of antique military surplus weapons seemed to have come to an end. That all changed about ten years ago when this amazing group of weapons came into America.
There were all kinds of weapons. Many of the earliest guns were built for the EIC which had its own private army controlling parts of India. On the subject of this gun, most of the Martini Henry Mark II Rifles were pure British military surplus and were manufactured by Enfield as well as the forerunners to Birmingham Small Arms, even a few by London Small Arms Company as well as lesser known private makers. Over the 30-40 year span of military service, these Martini Henry Rifles were disassembled, cleaned, inspected, repaired, upgraded, rebuilt, and re-arsenaled both by British and Indian arsenals. Some arsenals were more surgical than others about rebuilds. For example, you might see one that was stunning, but had almost no receiver markings left...while others had nice markings.
In a sense, the variance you'd see in these rifles was much like the American M1 Garands built by Springfield, International Harvester, Winchester, et al. that have come back to the CMP from Denmark, Greece, Italy, etc. These famous battle rifles from WW2 were given to friendly countries to help abate the spread of communism through programs like Lend-Lease. Many were reworked and since the parts were all interchangeable, they were often assembled with parts from different eras and makers. If you know M1 Garands, this story of these Nepalese Martini-Henry rifles is similar.
From the 1870's and 80's, this rifle was a front-line battle rifle in the British Army when Queen's Empire spanned the globe. It very likely could have seen combat in the 2nd Afghan War or even the Zulu Wars in South Africa. However, by around 1890, the mighty .303 bolt action Lee Enfield and Metford rifle entered service and the old single shot black powder Martini was now obsolete. They still were good weapons and rather than being moth-balled with the chore of collecting dust in the back rooms of arsenals, the Martini Henry was spun-off to the various British colonies like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and of course, India, which received a sizable portion of surplus Martini Henry's. In fact, India really benefited heavily from the Mark IV which was the last and most improved variation of the Martini Henry. Off the top of my head, the Mark IV was produced from 1886-88. These rifles were virtually BRAND NEW when the Lee Enfield put them out of commission. Of the Martinis shipped to India/Nepal, they would have served (by my estimation) from around the late 1880's through the early years of the 20th century as many show arsenal rebuild dates from the early 20th century. At some point, they were either sold or given to Nepal...eventually reaching the end of practical service and winding up stored in the old Royal Palace. Before being stored, each rifle was covered in grease so you can imagine 80-90 years later, this old coat of protection had turned black with dirt, dust, pollution, soot, etc.
Overall Condition is NRA Antique Fine with most of its old 19th century armory blue remaining on the frame and block. Barrel blue is thinning to gray with blue in the more protected areas. Bore is Excellent! Action is nice. Nice markings throughout. Every part on this rifle is stamped with little inspector markings as well as numerous War Department Broad Arrows. I believe everything on this rifle has "Enfield" inspector stamps with the exceptions of the buttplate and lever which are Birmingham which have a tiny "B" in script instead of the "E". Wood is Very Good...solid and one of the minority of Enfields you'll find with an original Mark I stock upgraded to Mark II that has SURVIVED with its Enfield rRoundel stamp intact. Most of these were rubbed off or over-stamped with Indian Arsenal roundels. This one is not only there, but it's sharp. Note the Allahabad Arsenal stamp/roundel next to the Enfield. This arsenal was located in Northern India just to the south of Nepal. The bayonet is in Fine Condition with super markings and a nice original leather scabbard with tons of British inspector markings, etc. Original brass muzzle cover is the early pattern with solid top and British markings. Great rifle with matching period accessories...I won't call it 1 of a 1000 but probably more like 1 in 320 in terms of detail, condition, and correctness.