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.

Nice shiny bore!

Nice shiny bore!

You know you want one...after you get your tetanus shot

You know you want one…after you get your tetanus shot. By the way, that sling swivel is non-moving

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 armament:

Stack of hotel handtowels, both aerosol and non-aerosol Ballistol, direct from Germany, brass and plastic brushes, green pads

Stack of hotel hand towels, both aerosol and non-aerosol Ballistol, direct from Germany, brass and plastic brushes, green pads..

Pre-1982 pennies are 95 percent copper, and, as long as you keep them lubed up, work great at removing heavy rust from iron/steel without harming the base metal

…Pre-1982 pennies are 95 percent copper, and, as long as you keep them lubed up, work great at removing heavy rust from iron/steel without harming the base metal

The battle:

francotte clean (2)

A full day spent like this, disassembling the action, soaking, scrubbing with pads, brushes and Lincolns, wiping away the debris (oh the debris…) then hitting repeat on the soaking, scrubbing with pads, brushes and Lincolns, wiping away the debris cycle over and over and over….

The first patch down the barrel...

The first patch down the barrel…

...But far from the last. Overall, while the bore is dark and the barrel is pitted inside and out, it is solid with no pinholes or splits and there is still some visible rifling

…But far from the last. Overall, while the bore is dark and the barrel is pitted inside and out, it is solid with no pinholes or splits and there is still some visible rifling

These guys put in a workout and work much like copper scouring wool, but are so much easier to use. Just don't use too much pressure and keep them lubed the whole time

These guys put in a workout and work much like copper scouring wool, but are so much easier to use. Just don’t use too much pressure and keep them lubed the whole time

Sadly the outer metal parts were extremely pitted, but the rust did part enough to show off this only marking on the gun, protected from the elements by the cocking lever while in storage

Sadly the outer metal parts were extremely pitted, but the rust did part enough to show off this only marking on the gun, protected from the elements by the cocking lever while in storage

The markings under better light and viewed from another angle

The markings under better light and viewed from another angle

The results after the First Battle of the Yak Grease

When compared to the before pictures, it's a night and day difference...

When compared to the before pictures, it’s a night and day difference…

I was able to get off most of the blackened grease to show the asphaltum (a mixture of tarmac and mineral spirits used to seal the grain) on the original wood underneath

I was able to get off most of the blackened grease to show the asphaltum (a mixture of tarmac and mineral spirits used to seal the grain) on the original wood underneath. The butt has decayed to the point of no return so I wasn’t able to do much with it for fear it would crumble.

While the metal is still in horrible shape, it is now at least smooth to the touch with the red rust removed and the steel coated with a layer of Ballistol to help keep it from coming back

While the metal is still in horrible shape, it is now at least smooth to the touch with the red rust removed and the steel coated with a layer of Ballistol to help keep it from coming back– and the sling swivel actually moves freely now!

Overall, you can touch the gun without having to take a shower after

Overall, you can touch the gun without having to take a shower after

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.

They look good together

They look good together

The bayonet came coated in rust, but cleaned off much better than the rifle, showing off a handsome patina

The bayonet came coated in rust, but cleaned off much better than the rifle, showing off a handsome patina

The Gurkha who carried this bayonet really loved it, it has been sharpened nearly razor-thin on at least two of the leading edges

The Gurkha who carried this bayonet really loved it, it has been sharpened nearly razor-thin on at least two of the leading edges

And of course has a needle point.

And of course has a needle point. You could give a Gurkha one of these alone and expect him to hold a hill until he died of old age.

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.

Firing?

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.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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