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GUNS Magazine November 2011 Digital Edition - Page 30
HOLT BODINSON thE ELEGANt .310 MARtINI CAdEt he milsurp stream is full of stylish military single T shots, but no model approaches the sheer elegance of that little, delightful wand of a rifle we call the .310 Martini Cadet. largely made between 1911-1913 by Birmingham Small Arms Co. (BSA) and to a lesser extent by W.W. greener, the model was used for cadet marksmanship programs, especially in the Commonwealth of Australia. Imported from Australia in the 1950s and 1960s by American surplus arms dealers, thousands of Martini Cadets arrived on our shores and could be had for as little as $9.95 in their original .310 chambering. Unfortunately, equally impressive quantities of .310 ammunition did not accompany the guns, so a lively trade developed in rechambering the cadets to .32-20 and .32 Special, as well as reboring them to .357 and .44 Magnum. This upped the price a bit, rechambered jobs fetching $15 to $20 and rebored guns, $30 or so. When the dealers still couldn’t unload them, they stripped the cadets for their small Martini actions. What followed was a decade or so of custom single-shot rifles being built around the little action in a variety of small game calibers ranging from the .17 Hornet and .222 Rimmed to the .44 Magnum. This scaled down version of the Martini-Henry was originated by Francotte of Belgium and is often referred to as the Francotte Patent action. The design is significant because by removing a single split pin the complete internals of the action can be detached from the frame as a single unit. Anyone who has fussed with stripping and reassembling a large Martini-Henry action will appreciate the advantage of the Francotte system. Typically, the right rear of the buttstock (above) is stamped with the state abbreviation, new serial number and date of acceptance; in this case “8/11,” more than 100 years ago. Other buttstocks (below) carry an acceptance date, the Commonwealth seal and the new serial number. Universal Cadet training In 1910, the Commonwealth Government of Australia initiated universal cadet training for Australian youths. To arm their young cadets, both W.W. Greener and the Birmingham Small Arms Co. were commissioned to build a lightweight, centerfire, singleshot, training rifle on the miniature Francotte Martini action. According to Frank de Haas in his exceptional book, Single Shot Rifles and Actions, approximately 80,000 Martini Cadets were manufactured by BSA alone between 1911 and 1913. From the standpoint of the milsurp stream, I’ve handled a number of Martini Cadets over the years but have never seen a Greener Australian model. The cartridge selected for the new training rifle was the .310 Greener, an existing small game and target cartridge, sporting a heeled, 120-grain, lead, hollowpoint or solid bullet at approximately 1,200 fps. Think a .3220 Win. The .310 Greener is so close to our .32-20 in case dimensions that .310 Greener brass can be made from .32-20 cases fairly simply. What is remarkable about the low-powered .310 Greener cartridge holt’s Martini Cadet had been rechambered to .32-20 ages ago and never was a very good shooter since the .32-20 bullet is too small for the Cadet’s bore. now, loading the proper bullet from the RCBS mold, it is very accurate. 30 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • NOVEMBER 2011