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 Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.

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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Thu Apr 07, 2011 9:23 pm

Came across this while reading through "Surgical Experiences in the Zulu and Transvaal War 1879-1881" By D. Blair Brown. Who states:

“After the disasters they became possessed of immense numbers of our modern rifles and ammunition. However, with very little exception, they were unacquainted with their use. In many instances Martini-Henry bullets were found in cowhide pouches around their waists, cut in two and separated from their usual cartridges combination. The power being doubtless mixed with other in their cow-horns which served as their powder flasks and hung by their side. The majority of their bullet consisted of spherical masses of lead, generally hammered into a form and not moulded, others were roughly shaped and had rough prominence on the, while a few were carefully made. The latter were generally surround by a piece of thin cloth sewn accuracy on them. Between this and the bullet a powder of herb supposed to be poisonous was placed. These were “doctored” bullets
Which the witch doctors had given them as being certainly fatal”


If my memory serves me right, someone as mentioned before that a lot of cartridges were found at Isandlwana, which had been torn open (Teeth Marks) to get at the powder. (Or along that lines) With the Zulu’s apparent lack of knowledge did the British really have cause for concern? If the Zulu had modern rifles as they did know how to use them to deadly effect.

Looking for other accounts (Factual) of the Zulu inability to use the M.H.



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impi

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:00 pm

There was obviously gun trading of some kind, Surly the traders would have shown the Zulu’s how to used them. (Or is there a reason as to why they wouldn’t show them.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:01 am

One main reason that these weapons were not in the hands of natives at this time can be answered in one word, cost! In 1877-78 a Martini, made at the RSAF cost approx £2.13s to make, add on any traders mark-up and the cost doubles.

In South Africa the main source of up to date firearms were through main export dealers such as Blakemores' and,Kings' who had direct contact with the Birmingham gun trade, in particular BSA & M Co, who were an amalgamation of the great and the good of the Birmingham manufacturers, BSA was formed to allow these manufacturers to compete in Governmental contracts by pooling their manufacturing, in the mid 1870's there costs just about competed with the RSAF, so dealers still could not acquire Martini's in particular at competetive rates, hence the wholesale sale of Swinburns (via Abingdon Works) and Sniders which could be made at the right deal ...for Colonial militias and Volunteers, but out of reach of the natives.


In late 1878 the cost of a Martini plummeted, (too late for any willing buyer in the AZW) and contracts were cancelled, BSA nearly went bust, and the RSAF had by late 1877 begun to tool for the new arrival the MH Carbine Interchangeable IC1, The reason?, the Weedon Small Arms stores was packed to the gunnels with Martini's as manufacturing had far outpaced requirements, by then over 850,000 Martinis had been produced, when the Army only amounted to 450-500,000 men, so foriegn and Empire armies were offered Martini's on the cheap, Canada, Australia, New Zealend,the Cape Authorities and even a large order from China were accepted.

The opportunity to acquire good quality RFG2 powder would not be lost on any Zulu armed with a musket, the quality of this powder, both from Waltham Abbey or Curtis and Harvey would have surpassed anything they could get locally, hence the unfired cases would have been gobbled up for the powder.


In respect to wrapping the ball in cloth, this was nothing new, from the early days of the flintlock, and into the latter days of the perfected rifled musket like the Brunswick or the Baker, a cloth patch was applied over the ball to create a better gas seal. The chances of this staying on after the explosion of gas and friction of the bore I would question, but not beyond reason.

In respect to a Zulu's not knowing how to use a Martini, this I doubt, as the action is so very simple, they would have come across more complex breech loading action than this, be it a Calisher, a monkey tail or a Snider. What they would not have got is the sighting increments, in the range graduations, which differ considerably than a Buckhorn type sight found on early muzzle loaders, or the comparative range variant than say a more "modern" whitwort type found on P53 Enfield models
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:01 am

Damn you just beat me to it Neil
:lol!:

Regards
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:22 pm

Thanks for the replies makes sense.

Just another one.

What doe’s Blair Brown mean with reference to Bullet wounds. In one case he says A spherical Bullet (which would be the .HM) had acted like a round bullet when entering and exiting the body. Would this have meant the guy was lucky and it was a clean show with out causing much damage.
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Saul David 1879



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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:33 pm

I think the spherical bullet, had a tumbling effect therefore causing more damage than a lead ball. So I guess he is aaying that the spherical bullet came to a stop not having time to start it's tumbling effect. Hopefully Neill can confirm.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:23 am

Saul


The two main variances is a) balistics, b) Bullet hardness.
A)
A traditional musket ball is not round, but has a flat spot (the sprue) where it was moulded, so it moves about in the air, without spin being imparted it'll do what it wants. its whole surface area then meets the target so the effect is catastrophic from the moment of impact as the area of the ball cannot expand much more.

A modern Bullet by its whole shape is spinning like a top and will enter the target point first (most times, although an air pocket in a lead bullet, or the paper patch not delaminating will effect ballistics and the round will begin to tumble). As I mentioned in an earlier post, a Snider is an wholly more lethal round as the nose originally had a hardwood point, later rounds from the MkX111 of 1869 had the tip spun over, so hollow cavity was behind the nose, this would open up like a umbrella on contact, in effect a dum dum round.

B) Bullet hardness:
In the limited basic tooling of Southern Africa, a native bullet caster would not know how to create lead alloys, so the ball he moulded would be pure lead, in itself a softish compound, hence the initial "splat" effect on contact. C1870's industrialised London knew by adding tin to the lead 1:12 the bullet became harder, hence its ability to penetrate various protective surfaces, and still cause wounds after. Imaging the effect here then of a) the bullet passing through flesh, it could go clean through as the mushrooming effect does not take place, as the bullet is harder than the target and stays pretty much intact. b) If it hits bone the effect quite literally is shattering as the whole thing opens up.......nice.



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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:55 am

Thanks for replies.
Looking for information on the Wesley Richards Rifle. Who would have used this rifle in the Zulu War.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:38 am

Chelmie, Westley Richards was a commercial manufacturer (still going in Birmingham), he had various Patents and there were two types in common use, the Monkey Tail and the 1869 tipping block, the latter favoured by the Boers.

In Colonial hands the Monkey Tail was coming to the end of its life, albeit well liked as it accepted a self consuming paper cartridge and the round could be made "locally".

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Here is one at MD Long, its Whitworth Rifled so don't collapse at the £3300 price.

The Bullet was a .450 calibre, in effect was a chrtismas cracker with paper wrap, the bullet held by a twine in the end, as it had a wider driving base to accomodate the twine, the powder was in the tube behind, At the rear was a waxed felt pad,in effect a seal, this prevented the inevitable blast back of gas on ignition. Westley Richards also patented specific parrafin wax waterproofing of the cartridges. You open the trapdoor, slide in the cartridge, close the trapdoor, apply a percusion cap to the nipple, and the explosion of the primer burns through the paper and ignites the charge, the explosion destroys the paper or blows it out of the muzzle, hence "self consuming".

Yo can always make out a WR bullet as it has no cannelures
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:35 am

Excellent. Would the Zulu's have used these rifles or would it be most likely the Colonial troops.

If the Zulu's did have access to these weapons would they have known how to use it, including the sight workings.
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:53 am

Chelmie

Unlikely, but not impossible. The sighting is Whitworth as a Martini, so unless they understood say 200 yards and how that represened on the sight bed, its dubious.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:17 pm

Following this discussion with interest, but knowledge-wise, I am out of my depth.

Have only fired the "civil servant" on ranges before with any skill and tried a few gimpies/minimies on occasion, but judging from some of Neil's previous posts about the effectiveness of the MH, Would I be right in assuming however, that a MH would be quite a deadly weapon, even if handled by an amateur who didn't know how to use the sights? Or would the home made Zulu ammo completely nullify the weapon's effctiveness?
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:32 pm

Tasker

Home made ammo wouldn't fit a precision breechloader like a MH, but a simple muzzle loader if it can be stuffed into the barrel it will.

up to 250 yards on a line of sight a MH would be pretty much point and shoot, but 350+ over a level bead you'll hit the floor just before it got to the target, at 500 yards it will be well short as the trajectory at that range is 8 feet from floor.
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:43 pm

Thanks Neil, I would have had no idea as to what the Zulus were and were not capable of doing with weapons. Obviously the Zulus weren't hand loading bullets then.
It seems then that the MH was as sophisticated as modern day weapons and were only able to fire the correct calibre round which the Zulus would never have been able to manufacture?
Am I right in thinking this was a .45 round? Also, would the MH have been able to fire any .45 round, or were special cartridges produced exclusively for the MH?
I guess the Zulus must have had a plentiful supply of captured British ammo.
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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:33 pm

Neil. Help me out with this..
Can't get me head around this. Quote " It was a large Enfield Rifle Bullet, which from the absence of groovings on its surface, proved it was fired from a smooth bore gun"
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Neil Aspinshaw

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:58 am

Chelmie
The Enfield Bullet and the Snider, is in effect a large traffic cone, hollow inside. In the base is either a boxwood, or latterly beeswax saturated clay plug. When it fires the plug is rammed into the the hollow base forcing it open like an umbrella, this forces the bullet (which bare in mind has to be smaller than the bore to muzzle load) outwards to pick up the rifling grooves. It was know as the Minnie bullet. An Enfield Rifle or later Snider has three or five deep parallel grooved rifling, which leave indelible high and low grooves in the bullet sides.

I'll post some images of both Enfield, Martini and Snider bullets (I actually have already on the site somewhere, check my posts) that have been fired.

Tasker

There is no round apart from the 577/450 Martini which will fit the MH, as the bottle shape boxer cartridge is such a unique shape. The Boxer cartridge was designed to be loose fitting, apart from the baseplate which is near perfect fit (otherwise there is no gas seal) on firing it opens out and then retracts allowing extraction. Even deformed, if it would go in it would go off.

A Snider round will not fit, (a Martini will go in a snider , never shot one though). hence Donald Morris's, and most previous authors writings about Durnfords Snider armed men being denied ammunition, the 24th's Qmrs were not out to deny them ammo, they simply did not have it.

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John

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:17 am

Could the enfield bullet head mentioned had been fired from a Brown Bess as used by the Zulus and did they have access the the Enfield bullets.
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Chelmsfordthescapegoat

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PostSubject: Re: Modern Weapons, Zulus and Bullets.    Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:13 am

Thanks for all the replies. I will open another thread with ref: to a subject i'm researching. .
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