Originally Posted by kronckew
the martini-henry was present for one of the worst disasters in british military history. the defeat at islandlwana in 1879. one of the accepted reasons for the defeat of the british armed with these rifles, aside from arrogance, was the cartridge. the foil had a nasty habit of crushing, especially after the rifle had been fired rapidly and heated up, resulting in a massive jam. 1300 brits dead. one contested opinion was the quartermasters did not distribute ammo fast enough, and the troops ran out of ammo. an effect of the rifle's massive rate of fire (compared to earlier rifles). wellington broke the old guard at waterloo with three volleys, and he had smoothbore muskets.
it took more for the zulus. zulu distraction tactics and sheer stupidity of lord chelmsford and his officers ensured the brits were too widely separated for the martini to be effective.
at rourke's drift at the end of the battle of islandlwana, 4000 zulu attacked 139 brits with martini's. chard made better use of his troops behind primitive defences. he repelled the zulu by more skilful use of the martini's firepower - with plenty of ammo. the movie zulu, while one of my favourites, and one that made michael caine a superstar, showed the zulu repeatedly engaging in hand to hand combat at the barriers. in truth, most of the zulu were killed at 400-600 yards. the martini in skilled hands handled correctly showed what it could do. (the zulu had about a thousand rifles and some ammo themselves, having borrowed them earlier in the day, thus actually being better equipped than the brits. but they were not proficient with them. most were not at that later battle anyway.) the zulu king had told his brother not to attack any fortified positions. his brother ignored that at the drift.
the thin cartridge walls were thickened in later production runs.
the rifles are still being made. not only in the west for enthusiasts, but in pakistan where they have been skillfully copied by hand for a hundred years or so. (tho the ak-47 has become even more popular)
it even comes in pistol: