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  1. #1
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    frown M-h, question

    the question I have is why are FRANCOTTES considered junk, and GAHANDRA'S considered good?I have a FRANCOTTE, that has a bore that is bright and shinny and i have shot it for several years now with out any problem. BTW. I got it from IMA,and spent many hours removing the YAK fat out of it. when done no broken parts and still functions fine. I figured that if the PAKS. shot them why can't I ? just curious.

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    My Francotte has a ringed barrel.
    Turning relics into near-relics since 2005.

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    Firstly, we need to be clear that we are talking about the Nepalese-made copy of the Francotte Martini, not to be confused with the real Francotte-made rifles. The main issue with the Nepali-made rifles is the heat treating, as a number of them have been observed with cracks & signs of brittleness, especially in the breech blocks I believe.....Douglas has examined a goodly number of these rifles firsthand &, with his gunsmithing background, feels they are unsafe to fire (as a group, individual rifles MAY be ok, but far too many have shown flaws to make him uncomfortable). I'm sure Douglas will be along shortly & will give us his opinion from his observations. In addition, whilst the Francotte-designed en-bloc system is probably the epitome of Martini design, it was likely too ambitious a leap for the Nepalese to tackle with their level of manufacturing capabilities.....I have personally seen probably a dozen or more of the Nepalese-Francottes were the rear of the action has been crudely peened to close the gap between the block & the knuckle which is certainly not conducive to safety. Also, it is on record that many of the Nepalese-Francotte, & Gahendras failed catastrophically when used with British manufactured .577/.450 ammunition, as it was more powerful than the locally made product. While I know of a number of the Gahendras being used, personally I would be a little uneasy firing one without a very close inspection, I have seen way too many with poorly fitted parts to make me comfortable. I'm unsure as to the timeline of the Nepalese-made arms, but I think the Gahendra came along after the Francotte, being made into the early years of the 20th century.

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    thanks for answering my query. now i know the reason they are suspect. i will relegate it to the wall and it's place in firearms history. sure scared me on learning the facts about them.

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    Well, I have been a leader in warning about shooting Francottes and I do not consider them Junk. They are an important Niche in the Martini design history and the History of the Nepalese cache. If you collect Martini's you should have one.

    The warning about them has to do with their construction. There is some very real problems with the metallurgy and construction methods when they were made. The issues are very real.

    Breech blocks with inclusions, excessively hard breech blocks-almost glass hard, soft receivers that stretch and deform causing excessive head space and trigger frame failure-all thse issue have been reported.

    Often these defects are very visible and no one in there right mind would advocate shooting a rifle in this condition.

    The problem is that the defects are not all readily apparent. These defect are not such that the gun will instantly fail upon being shot.

    Some years back, here on this board there were several discussion by fellows shooting these guns who suffered failures. One fellow shot some where between 100 and 200 shots through his Francotte and without warning a piece of breech block fell out of the gun during firing. The cartridge did not fail, just the breech block. Another had cracks develop in the trigger frame at the hinge pin holes. He was also starting to experience primer extrusion, and indication that there may be a headspace issue developing. Sadly we lost all those post during a server failure several years ago, so the skeptics don't believe. We can't show them these reports.

    These problems are real. Skeptics point out they have shot their guns and have had no problems. True enough. I like to point out the parallel to the low number Springfield issue. Not every low number Springfield is affected. There is no way to tell if the gun is affected. Failure does not occur from the first shot, although it could. The Low number Springfield that failed, all had passed proof. All had been shot a number of times before failure.

    In 1979 I visited Roy Dunlap in his Tuscon shop and he showed me a low number Springfield that had failed that had just came into his shop. The gun had been built into a beautiful sporter in the 30's and had been used extensively by the owner as a hunting rifle for over 40 years, before it failed.

    You may never have a problem with your Francotte, ever. Or it could fail next week. There is just now way to tell for sure.

    I am a Gunsmith and for pure liability reason, I would never recommend shooting any Nepalese Francotte.

    It is just not worth taking the chance.
    Douglas

    "And don't forget. That isn't your Martini you have. It belonged to others before you and will belong to others after you are gone. Look after it, and pass it on with pride. It deserves it." Malcolm Cobb, The Martini Henry Note-book
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    The Francotte portion of your question has been answered fairly thoroughly, however the Gahendra story is a bit more complicated. The Gahendra was made over a rather protracted period and reflects evolutions in metallurgy, part interchangeability, design and assembly. The early ones are far cruder and thus less trustworthy than the last. While none to my knowledge have shown the level of metallurgy defects found in the Francotte (which isn't to say there aren't some) you still will find inclusions in some blocks, generous headspace issues in some that may or may not be receiver stretch, broken hammers (vice just the tip) that reflect being overly brittle and the most common, broken main spring.

    In addition the majority have the early style barrels that are forged lap welded. These are inherently no stronger than the weakest point in a very long welded seam. Also in common with the Francotte, most Gahendras have undersized bores compared to their Brit counterparts. Throughout the many discussions of Gahendras on this and other boards is the warning to slug the bore to determine your maximum diameter and shoot appropriately sized bullets. Between the lap welded barrels and the often undersized bores you have a substantial part of the explanation why there were barrel failures when Brit ammo was introduced.

    The last model of the Gahendra had a revised "V" shaped main spring, a mono tube barrel, and substantially interchangeable parts. These improvements place the last Gahendras made in a totally different light than the first ones. At last count I have 11 Gahendra rifles that pretty much span the period of manufacture. The majority of them have been shot, with many hundreds of rounds being run through my favorite late production one. That said, the design is inherently weaker than the Brit Martini, the crude conditions of construction of even the last one made means that the metallurgy has to be inferior (albeit much improved), and the bores vary from the first to the last (which I believe were the Gahendra carbines of which I believe less than 20 are known to exist). I would not consider any of them for heavy regular use.

    The key thing to keep in mind when shooting any antique is that it has had over 100 years of unknown use and abuse. Metal fatigue is cumulative and current cosmetic condition can be extremely deceiving as to what use and abuse a rifle has been put to. Risk is relative, but there certainly is more risk involved in shooting antiques than current production rifles from reputably manufacturers. Taken to the next level, there is more risk in shooting antiques of lesser design and metallurgy than in shooting ones of equal age and apparent condition that were state of the art at the time. One saving grace here is that the Gahendra and Martini are tilting block actions with a lot of steel between the cartridge and the head of the shooter. Failures do happen, but the nature of most failures don't result in serious injury, unlike many other designs of the era that may be stronger....but when they fail too often result in serious injury.
    Rich in West Virginia, savoring life one cartridge at a time.

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    I can't thank you guys enough for the historical perspective on this fascinating gun. as i said my question has been answered fully and in an historical text. this is a great site!. THANKS!

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    Hanging a gun on the wall and not shooting it is ok, but at the risk of being accused of collector blasphemy, it might be fun to sleeve the barrel of one of these unsafe clunkers. While full military bp loads are unsafe, maybe these can be fired with low pressure ammo like .22LR, .32 long or even .38 S&W.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 45Auto View Post
    Hanging a gun on the wall and not shooting it is ok, but at the risk of being accused of collector blasphemy, it might be fun to sleeve the barrel of one of these unsafe clunkers. While full military bp loads are unsafe, maybe these can be fired with low pressure ammo like .22LR, .32 long or even .38 S&W.
    If I were converting one, I'd probably go for a CF round like .32 S&W LONG (not .32 H&R or .327 Federal, though I suppose they might be OK with a sleeved barrel and bushed FP). Be moderately priced since you'd have to do something about that huge chamber, much larger than any barrel liner I am familiar with. Need some custom machining for that. Probably a steel bushing for the chamber then ream barrel and fit the barrel liner. As I say - take some skill and work, wouldn't be cheap I betcha.
    Absent comrades (sound of breaking glass)

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    Besides the above, you'd still have the broken springs and broken striker/hammer issues to contend with. If you had a beat up late Gahendra it might be worth it for the "gee whiz" factor, but as stated, it wouldn't be cheap unless you are a skilled machinist with time on your hands. While I like all of my arms suitable for firing, as my collection has expanded beyond the products of the western world from the mid nineteenth century on, I have a growing number of ones I won't shoot. As such unique examples as "wall hangers" doesn't bother me a bit. I don't have the years remaining to shoot everything I own anyway unless I literally lived on the range.
    Rich in West Virginia, savoring life one cartridge at a time.

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    When I was a wee laddie,I was hired by a hardware chain to set up making 22 rifles for them to sell.Barrel boring increases the cost,buying one similar,so the solution was to get liners from England(this reduced the high Customs duty on barrels),make the action /barrel in one piece from tube,and the liner was cast into this tube with alumin alloy.The prototype had the liner cast in with Cerrometal,worked ,.but when left in the sun the Cerrometal melted and ran out.A similar idea would work to fit a small liner to a Martini.Or even castable epoxy.

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    Converting these guns, no that is not correct. Repairing these guns is possible, it's just not economically feasible.

    Those with barrel issue can indeed be relined, TJ's can even provide you with a Henry rifled .464 liner. I have had John Taylor reline a couple of Martini's for me as I do not have the tooling to do large bore my self. I am not sure TJ's liners however are large enough to do a 577/459 barrel in .22. He probably can provide one big enough if asked.

    That's the barrel issue. In the Nepalese Francotte you will have the breech block issue. You could have it X-ray for inclusions and tested for hardness. I am not sure that the breech block can be reheat treated, maybe. That as tried with the low number Springfield and it didn't work very well. You could make an entire new breech block. The breech block will of course have to be bushed and striker reduced. For rimfire the breech block will have to have the striker impact moved and the load position adjusted. Easily enough done if you know how, or can find some one who knows how.

    I have never looked at the Gahendra for conversion to rimfire, but the first thing that comes to mind is how to move the strike impact to the rim. This gun has a rotating hammer and the striker nose would have be moved, I think. Probably could be done, just not sure how.

    The other issue is the stretching of the Francotte frame. Something to keep in mind, is that even cartridges like the .22LR or 38 S&W have pressure. The .22lr has a 24,000 CUP psi working pressure, the .38 S&W is 14,500. They will still hammer the frame and the hard parts. While the working pressure of the .22LR is about the same as the .577/450 the smaller chamber actually equates to less force. Its pressure, pounds per square inch. There are less "square inches" in a .22LR chamber than a .577/450 chamber. But pressure-force is still there.

    If you have your own shop all this is possible. But for the regular guy who has to pay someone, this is just not economically feasible. $300-$500 or more worth of work on $250 gun? Really?
    Douglas

    "And don't forget. That isn't your Martini you have. It belonged to others before you and will belong to others after you are gone. Look after it, and pass it on with pride. It deserves it." Malcolm Cobb, The Martini Henry Note-book
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    To find things Martini go to: WWW.MartiniHenry.com

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    The idea is clearly for the knowledgeable guy with his own workshop, or in a gunsmithing class who might enjoy such a project. It's not a money making venture.
    Last edited by DoubleD; 05-19-2017 at 04:45 PM.

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    Sometimes I build something just 'because I can'.

    More than once I have spent $500 on a $100 junker rifle to produced a $300 working one, because I could and I wanted to. The value was in the fun of doing it. If I rebuild something and sell it to break even, I am happy. It means that my hobby isn't costing me anything.

    The Nepal Francottes are crap, to put it bluntly. Think of blacksmith technology not gunsmith technology.
    You are not buying a gun, you are buying archaeology.
    They are however interesting, cheap and available to the hobbyist. Something old and genuine and nothing to be scared to touch and work upon. Eventually the retail supply will dry up and the nice ones will be worth good money.

    I have 'restored' several. Some with new made wood and I made them look real purdy. But all were wall hangers.
    They were suspect even when new. They were put away into storage in rough condition.

    It must have been happy times for the Nepal soldier when the donation of refurbed British arms showed up in 1908.
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  16. #15
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    Nothing wrong with shop projects at all, Built my far share of them over the years. A number of shortened actions among my favorite. I think of these, as I just found two of them in a box while packing for the move.

    But these projects must be done with knowledge of potential risk. If you have the skill and tools go at it.

    But there are just some things that should be left alone, and the Nepalese Francotte's is one of those.

    Gahendra is completely different. Those are much better built. I have no qualms about working on them.
    Douglas

    "And don't forget. That isn't your Martini you have. It belonged to others before you and will belong to others after you are gone. Look after it, and pass it on with pride. It deserves it." Malcolm Cobb, The Martini Henry Note-book
    *********
    To find things Martini go to: WWW.MartiniHenry.com

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    x2 on leaving the Nepal Francottes alone if you want a shooter.
    They are beaters to say the least. I keep my eyes open for a decent one, but so far, no luck.

    The barrel is mandrel wound iron strip hammer welded. Not the strongest even when new. Plus cracked block frames, sloppy fit, mix matched parts that dont fit and peened action bodies to take up headspace. These were repaired by blacksmiths. Eeeek!

    I would put the risk factor of shooting a Nepal Francotte along side with free jumping off a bridge.
    I always wanted to do it but never had the nuts.
    It shouldn't be a problem.....in theory, but there is some considerable risk.

    In theory, practice and theory should be the same. But in practice, theory and practice are not always so.

    A liner in the barrel would indeed work and if it were chambered in something diminutive like 22LR, then it would probably be strong enough. A great project but expect to remake lots of parts. Francotte assemblies are not anywhere near interchangeable. Everything was hand fitted and poorly done.

    The Nepal made ammunition used a slightly undersize bullet compare to Brit 450/577 and was charged with weak local made powder. There were apparently a lot of problems of the Nepal Francottes blowing up when they received supply of British made ammunition via India.
    A larger bullet and greater pressure from stronger powder was the recipe for disaster with some Nepal Francotte rifles. There were documented failures back then. The Francottes were retired for a reason.
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    Never seen a Nepal Francotte, when mentioning Francotte in this country, a picture of a well made, Enfield '53, two-band look-alike in .48 cal pops up, made for the danish gun clubs, at a time when they were merely a territorial army

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    The Nepal Francottes are named as such because of the design. Unlikely a licenced copy from Francotte, more like a crude knock off. But these were based on the cutting edge design for the Martini with the modular internals. Just made on primitive machinery and a lack of good metallurgy technology.

    I put Nepal Francottes almost in the same league as some Khyber Pass knock offs. No where near the same quality as the fine Liege workmanship of Auguste Francotte.
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    I think Francotte patented his idea in 1871,the pity is that in slightly different circumstances the British could have been armed with Francottes.Martini.Still,they did allright with the one they had.

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    The primary advantage of the Francotte system is the enblock removal of the guts of the action, facilitating cleaning. This design of course was more complex and hence more costly, without any off-setting benefits in durability or function in battle. Not unlike other weapon systems over the years, the simplicity and lower cost won out over ease of cleaning. While perhaps a false economy in some people's mind, the main weakness of the Martini as it served then was the bloody composite cases and their sticking or separating in the chamber.....something that the Francotte system has no affect on. The real shame of the protracted adoption process was not rethinking the cartridge itself. By the time of general production of the Martini-Henry the Westley Richards No.2 Musket cartridge was a far superior cartridge, whose adoption would have side stepped the problems with the 577/450 and oh by the way, made life for us in the 21st Century a whole lot easier to bring these fine weapons back to life on the range.
    Rich in West Virginia, savoring life one cartridge at a time.

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