Gurkha Francotte redux
Last week I posted images of my “untouched” Nepalese 1878 Martini-Henry Francotte pattern short-lever rifle as created by Gen. Gahendra Rana’s cottage gun smiths in the 1880s. (More info on these here ) Put in storage no later than 1919 if not a decade or two sooner, this poor weapon was stored in an open-air 16th century castle with the only protection offered being yak grease until it was salvaged and brought over to the states a few years ago.
In my possession for a couple weeks, it looked rough when unboxed.
In fact, I’ve seen relic weapons dug out of the earth that looked better than this poor specimen. Now as I said last week, my goal was not restoration or repair, but simply to clean away as much of the dirt, grime, rust and critters as I could to see what was underneath.
The results after the First Battle of the Yak Grease
Then there is the bayonet.
British-made Martini-Henry socket bayonets won’t fit the Nepalese Francotte but IMA did have a few period socket bayonets made by the Nepalese specifically to fit the thicker barrel wall on this rifle. Like the guns, they are handmade so length and shape vary quite a bit from blade to blade with IMA advising they range everywhere from 15-21 inches long.
I asked for a nice long one and they sent one that measures out to a full 24-inches and fits the gun like a charm.
Where to next? Well I will do a few more cleanings to see if some of these rust spots will even out a bit more with the pits and eventually may get a electrolysis bath going if I think it will produce more results.
There was a reason the Gurkhas moved past these guns as soon as they came up with something different. They were just too unsafe. You see the bore diameter varies considerably from rifle to rifle, which was made by wrapping a steel rod around a mandrel and hammering it out.
As scary moment of pause on this particular gun: the issued cleaning rod that came with the rifle was too fat to fit down the barrel, even after I cleaned the rust out, leading to the conclusion that either (1) the bore wasn’t swagged wide enough leaving under-powered loads to squib in the barrel and overpowered ones to shatter it, or (2) the cleaning rod was out of spec.
Even IMA says “These are 100+ year-old hand made guns, be very careful, IMA sells these for display purposes only, they are not intended to be fired.”
In short, this is a Khyber Pass breechloader before Khyber Pass breechloaders were cool.
I’m am, however, searching for a few rounds of vintage .577/450 Martini-Henry to put with the gun for display purposes. Nonetheless, as this rifle should never be fired, I will likely insert a cork plug in the breech throat with a warning written across it in ink so that no one comes behind me in future years and inserts said .577/450s in this gun and goes ka-boom.
As for repairing the piece, I don’t think I am going to go that route. Most parts from one Nepalese Francotte won’t fit another one, which means if I tried to do a restoration I’d have to fab my own parts which would mean that I have less and less a collectable piece of interesting mechanical and military history from the 1880s and more a construct that I created from the remnants of one in the Snatchat age.
The action cycles and fires as it is, which is all I could really ask. Since I am missing a front sling swivel, rear sight and butt plate, if I can find those correct parts (as well as possibly a decent period style sling) I will add them to the gun, but that’s about it.
Bring on the next 100~ years.