THE BSA MARTINI INTERNATIONAL .22RF TARGET RIFLE
(latterly known as the Mark I) ~ and its successor - the Mark II
See also the BSA Martini International Mk.III and the BSA Martini Internationals Mks. IV & V
The introduction of the BSA Martini International was heralded by an article in the British National Small-bore Rifle Association's (N.S.R.A) monthly journal, The Rifleman, in March 1950.
A facsimile of the article is shown below.
A New B.S.A. Match Rifle
THE MARTINI action has stood the test of time for 70 years and, during this period, has undoubtedly proved itself to be one of the finest actions in the world for building into precision target rifles.
In many quarters of the globe, including the United States of America, this " old-timer " in its original form is even today preferred by many front rank small-bore riflemen.
The main protagonists of the Martini in Great Britain are, as everyone knows, the Birmingham Small Arms Company, who consider this action, far from being obsolescent, deserving of a yet greater prominence the world over. Accordingly, they have seen fit, in response to many requests for improvement, to undertake the modernisation of the .22 " Martini " match rifle as a whole. This work has been carried out with the co-operation of both British and American small-bore rifle experts.
The new model, which has been aptly christened the " Martini-International," is undoubtedly a rifle of character, and B.S.A. Designs staff have, in our opinion, achieved an outstanding success.
The first feature which strikes one forcibly is the handsome stock and fore-end which give to the rifle an air of being " custom built." In point of fact, we understand that the woodwork incorporates the ideas of the well-known American small-bore connoisseur, Mr. Al Freeland of Rock Island, Illinois, who has co-operated closely with B.S.A. throughout the development.
The butt and fore-end have been specifically styled to meet the demands of the most discriminating shooter. The butt, with its comfortable cheek piece, has just the right depth of comb to suit both iron and telescopic sights and the broad beaver-tail fore-end complete with an adjustable handstop provides a perfect hold.
Apart from this great advance in stock design, major modifications have been made to the action, and the new square type, straight line body is, in itself, a thing of beauty. Probably the most outstanding feature is that the action has been equipped with a Power Ejector. A mechanism has been incorporated to ensure positive extraction no matter how slowly the cocking lever is operated. The extractor, loaded by a strong spring reflex, will, when released, throw the fired case clear of the action. After firing a round, minimum pressure on the cocking lever allows the breech block to fall and as soon as it is clear of the chamber, the spring loaded extractor is released by a cleverly arranged secondary sear which immediately ejects the case rearwards, the loading platform groove deflecting it in an angular direction to the rear.
The trigger mechanism is an item of major interest as it is not merely adjustable for weight of pull and sear engagement but it also has a regulating screw to eliminate backlash. The trigger itself is broad and grooved for maximum finger control, and is supported by an axis pin of generous proportions, common in dimensions to those which support the breech block, cocking lever, tumbler and extractor. All adjustments can be made with Allen type keys, which are supplied with the rifle. The heavy barrel has a bullet lead designed to ensure that when the cartridge is fully seated the bullet will be engraved by the rifling. The face of the breech block is cam grooved so that after the cartridge has been inserted by hand the block will, on rising, lever the round fully home as it reaches the closed position.
Boring and rifling characteristics have been modified following exhaustive tests which have been conducted, with the most modern types of ammunition currently manufactured in the United States, and under these conditions the new " Martini-International" barrel has, the manufacturers claim, consistently produced 1.25in. groups in or cutting, at 100 yards.
For those not requiring a heavy rifle a standard weight barrel with plain woodwork is planned. Apart from these two variations the rifle will be similar in every respect to the " Martini-International" but will be known as the " Martini-International " (Light Pattern).
The back of the body is radiused and chequered to provide a comfortable thumb rest, and the full pistol grip is of the close-up type; the grip, incidentally, has a " palm swell " on the right-hand side to give additional comfort. The large knurled knob located on the right-hand side of the body enables the action to be removed from the body in an extremely simple fashion.
Messrs. Parker-Hale Limited are to be congratulated on having manufactured special sights for this rifle, of extremely solid design. The tunnel foresight has an anti-glare flange. A further feature of this latest addition to the Parker-Hale range is that it is adjustable longitudinally for eye relief, which will be a boon to many shooters. The sight-line is common to both iron and telescopic sights thus eliminating the necessity of stock alteration when using the latter. Standard U.S. dovetail 'scope blocks will be fitted on every rifle.
For the interest of our readers, we are tabulating below general technical data in regard to this interesting new Match rifle which we feel will be universally sought after directly it becomes available ; in this respect we are informed that initial production will be entirely for export, and for the time being B.S.A. cannot accept orders for the Home Trade.
Overall length : . . . . . . . . 44.2in.
Barrel length : . . . . . . . . . 28in.,
tapering from 1.12in. at breech to - .875in. at muzzle
Rifling : . . . . . . . . . . Six grooves twist 1 in 16
Bore tolerance : . . . . . . . . .0005in.
Weight of the rifle : . . . . . . . . Approximately 14 lbs.
Stock : centre of trigger to butt plate . . . . 13.75in.
Drop at comb
from line of standard sights zeroed for 25yds. . 1.6in.
Butt plate : . . . . . . . 1.94in. x 5.45in.
Fore-end : . . . . . . . Parallel 2..44in. wide, 16.37in.long.
. . . . . . . Handstop with 2.5in. of adjustment.
Sights : Sight base . . . . . . . Adjustable from 29.0in to 31.4in.
This picture was taken when Mr. A. J. Warwick, B.S.A. Sales Manager, called at the N.R.A. of American Headquarters and except for Mr. D. Waite,
includes the technical staff of the American Rifleman. Left to right they are : Edwards Brown, J. G. Rose, General Julian S. Hatcher (Technical Editor),
A. L. Barr, and the figure on the right, probably well known to our readers, is the Olympic 50 Metres Prone Rifle Champion, Arthur Cook.
Left to Right: Edward's Brown; J. G. Rose; A. J. Warwick; Gen. Julian S. Hatcher (A.H.); A.L. Barr; Arthur Cook
As hinted upon in the above article, the design for the BSA Internationals was influenced by Al Freeland of the U.S.A., who developed two Martini falling block type rifles in the late Forties (of the Twentieth Century )- the Freeland Super Rifle and the Freeland Free Rifle. The International rifle, for which production commenced early in 1950, carried his stock design very little altered. The Internationals, built in England by the Birmingham Small Arms Company, were subsequently distributed by Freeland in the U.S.A.
The Freeland Super Rifle
The Freeland Free Rifle
Freeland's rifles were largely custom built in that clients could have the furniture cut to fit and the barrel weight of their choice, although the standard barrel was of the "bull" type in the terminology of the day, referring to its comparatively heavy weight in relation to the then norm for a small-bore target rifle.
The Freeland catalogue of ca. 1950 carried publicity on the back page
for what was effectively the preceding BSA Model 12/15 actioned rifle,
fitted with the early version of Freeland's stocking, and which shows a definite semblance
of what was to come with the first of the International BSA type rifles just shown above.
The rifle in the catalogue above was a furtherance of an earlier model of Freeland's rifles.
And here another contemporary 1950's advertisement for the first of the new rifle on Al Freeland's home territory.
The prices are more or less the same as those soon after asked for the Mark II in the U.S.A.
Marketed in the U.K. by Parker-Hale, and provided with their sights, the rifle first appeared for sale in their 1951-52 catalogue.
It was also shown in the catalogue for 1953 but, sadly for potential British customers, there was no price shown in the associated retailers' price list, and the relevant column bore the text "For Export Only"
beside the entries for both the standard heavy-barrelled model and the optional lighter weight version.
The BSA International ( latterly known as the Mark I ) RHS
The BSA International ( latterly known as the Mark I ) LHS
As can be seen below, the first model was simply marked up on the RHS of the receiver body as
" B.S.A. MARTINI INTERNATIONAL"
".22 LR "
whilst on the LHS, at the very rear lower corner, was lightly stamped
"MADE IN ENGLAND"
in lettering less than half the height of this representation.
Below, the falling block and the extractor / ejector lever can clearly be seen. The large slotted srew to the left side of the action is the locking screw for the dovetail on which the Parker-Hale PH25 rear-sight mounts, permitting fore and aft adjustment. The original issue PH25 sights were just 4 clicks to the minute adjustment. The later rifles were fitted with PH 25A through E rear-sights with 8-click to the minute adjustment. We have seen a PH25A sight fitted to a rifle with the serial number "U1578H", a heavy barrel model, believed exported to the States between 1951 and 1952. The serial numbers of the "Mark I" rifles were prefixed "U" and the heavy barrelled ones suffixed "H". The few left-hand models built in the second year of production were prefixed "UB". Many of the "Mark I" rifles were understandably retro-fitted, by their owners, with the finer adjustment sights. The knurling on the rear of the action, under the eyepiece, is a non-slip thumb contact area for the "thumb-up" hand hold position. The groove just visible on the centre-line, below the knurling, is the cut-out for the aperture through which a barrel cleaning rod can be passed. The groove is continued back into the comb on the raised cheek-piece of the butt-stock. The standard comb height was too high to otherwise permit a clear run for the rod.
The underlever is clearly shown in the two images below, as is the section of the pistol-grip. The blacked disk at its base is the Parker-Hale storage drum for the fore-sight elements. The inverted lid simply unscrews. The underside of the action is one piece with the trigger-guard. In this original production International, trigger adjustment could only be achieved by removal of the action - a simple task involving only the unscrewing of the action locking pin with its large diameter knurled knob. However, whilst it is possible to access the three adjustment screws without removal of the falling block ( a workshop job, since the extractor lever bears back hard against the front of the falling block, with its considerable leaf-spring pressure, and itself needs to be removed before the fulcrum for the block can be driven out) one -drag adjustment - is accessed with a small but long allen-key through a hole in the lower face of the extractor lever, the second small and the third larger - vertically orientated - screws, respectively the central and smaller of which is the backlash adjustment and the third front screw bearing on the trigger's tensioning leaf spring for weight adjustment, are less than a half inch under the falling block and require short cranked allen-keys. This design was not conducive to quick adjustment on the range, and the modification, carried by the Mark II rifle to put the weight and travel adjustment screws into the front of the trigger-guard accessible externally from below, was also available as a factory retro-fit for the owners of first production "Mark I" rifles. This modification, and the addition of the designation "MK II" in place of the original marking " .22 RF ", were the only externally visible differences between the two Marks of standard rifle.
Even the "PATENT APPLIED FOR" marking in front of the trigger-guard remained the same.
Both the action / trigger-guard machining and the falling block had the serial number, less the prefix and the suffix letters, stamped on them to coincide with the main number struck on the RHS of the barrel just in front of the receiver body above the fore-end woodwork. This example is there marked up " U1505H".
The image to the left shows the action with the falling block up in the loaded / cocked position, whilst that on the right illustrates the block lowered for loading and the action locking screw back in position.
Below: the disassembled MK.1 action - an early example; serial number U 193.
Top left is the cut-off chamber section of the barrel, showing the threaded breech-end that screws into the receiver.
The Parker-Hale "PH1" fore-sight is mounted on a 'scope' type dovetail centred about one and a half inches back from the muzzle. The wide flanged rear screw fitting, loosening of which permits the changing of the fore-sight elements, made its first appearance here as a production item; otherwise, the sight tunnel was much the same as that which had been fitted to the BSA models 15, Centurion and 12/15, and was retro-fitted by many owners to their models 8 and 12 rifles. The International tunnel was longer, but remained the same diameter as its predecessors, the Parker-Hale "FS21" and "FS22", and the BSA and preceding A.G. Parker equivalents. ( The FS21 was for fitment to a barrel dovetail block as the International fore-sight, but the FS22 fitted into a laterally machined dovetail in the barrel).
Below is a facsimile of the advertisement published in the 1951-52 Parker-Hale catalogue
after the introduction of the original International, and further down this page is a second set for the later Mark II.
We are fortunate to be able to show a particularly interesting early International.
This rifle is a "Mark I" that has received the modification of the adustable trigger.
It carries the very rare serial number prefix "X", and the number 1032.
This is one of a very few built up experimentally for the Eley Ammunition Company, to be used
to test the then new Tenex cartridge being manufactured as their premiere competition round.
The "Tenex" rifle in the 3D image below can be rotated through both axes by dragging your cursor left to right.
It can be zoomed and panned by clicking with the magnifier, and viewed full screen using the arrows top right.
The markings on the rifle are exactly as those of a standard Mark I, and the only updates, apart from the fine finish, are the adjustable trigger and the PH-25 B rear-sight still with just 4-clicks to the minute adjustment,
although improved to 8-clicks per minute on the following PH 25C model.
THE BSA MARTINI INTERNATIONAL Mk.II
The Mark II rifle in the 3D image below can be rotated through both axes by dragging your cursor left to right.
It can be zoomed and panned by clicking with the magnifier, and viewed full screen using the arrows top right.
BSA International Mk.II - Right side .............................................and underside forward of the action, with the fore-end wood removed, showing trigger adjustment screws in the trigger guard
Below: the barrel and action from above - showing usually standard telescopic sight mounting blocks and left hand rear sling swivel mounting eye for a right-handed shooter. Two point slings were still in vogue at this time, although single point slings were beginning to make significant inroads in the higher echelons of the sport.
Below: fore-end and action from underneath. This rifle has been fitted with a longer drilled strip for sling swivel adjustment; its owner presumably shooting with a short sling and the hand-stop well aft!
Below: the fore-end removed. It is held by only one screw into the underside of the barrel, thus transferring the sling load directly to the barrel. This was altered on the subsequent Mark III rifle, which was effectively a fully-floating barrel arrangement.
Below is a facsimile of the advertisement for the then "New" Mark II rifle, published in the 1953 Parker-Hale catalogue.
As already mentioned, the aperture rear-sight supplied with the early Internationals was the Parker-Hale Model 25.
The "Mark 1" had that sight, and the immediately following PH25A,
but the Mark II was graced with the updated PH25B, for which we show below the 1954 catalogue entry.
Below is the three-page centre-spread
The text on these three pages is as follows ............
"Produced by the Craftsmen of the Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited, England, the "Martini-International" Mk.II is the culminating achievement of almost a century of experience in the manufacture of High Grade Small Arms. Continued requests for improvements to meet the ever-present world demand for super accurate precision weapons have again encouraged B.S.A. designers to produce what we believe to be the finest match Rifle yet offered to satisfy the exacting requirements of the smallbore marksman.
"Continuous attention has been devoted to the further development of the "Martini-International" trigger, and after considerable painstaking research by our technicians an outstanding success has been achieved in the Mk. II mechanism — the ingenious design of which provides a trigger weight consistency within limits not previously considered possible.
The mechanism can be considered as two separate units -- comprising trigger release and striker release.
The trigger engages a sear on the pivoted hammer 'B' which is lightly spring loaded and is prevented from rotating by this engagement. This unit is isolated from the striker release mechanism — thus permitting extremely light unit loading on the contact faces, which is the secret of the amazing consistency found in this trigger. This feature allows a very fine but absolutely safe engagement — coupled with virtually complete absence of wear on these vital surfaces. In the striker release mechanism sear 'C' engages tumbler 'D' which holds the firing pin in the cocked position. The engagement of the sear and tumbler is generous and is factory regulated. On squeezing the trigger the hammer 'B' is released and, rotating about its axis, strikes sear 'C' out of engagement with tumbler 'D', permitting the firing pin to travel forward. The lock-time of the whole sequence of movement is exceptionally fast. The trigger let-off weight is governed by a spring at 'T' which has external micro-adjustment. The trigger backlash adjustment is carried out through screw 'E' in a simiiar manner and means are provided for locking these adjusting screws.
RIGHT-HAND • LEFT-HAND
HEAVY & LIGHT MODELS
Designed in close co-operation with small-bore experts on both sides of the Atlantic the B.S.A. "Martini-International" Mk. II provides the complete comfort necessary for improved scores, for both:- right-hand and left-hand marksmen — an exclusive feature not available on contemporary Match Rifles."
We have tried below to separately approximately replicate the last page of the brochure with its lengthy prose.
Since its introduction - more: than seventy years ago, the Martini action has proved to be one of the finest mechanisms forbuilding into super-grade Match Rifles.
The whole action is of unit construction and is easily removable from the robust body in which it is housed.
No pressings are employed. All components are fully machined from solid forgings and hand-fitted in keeping with the established traditions of the English gunmakers' art.
The under-lever loading principle of the Martini action is conducive to ease and speed of operation enabling the marksman to re-load without moving either elbow from the ground or the rifle from the shoulder.
In addition, the inherent shortness of the action facilitates correct location of centre of gravity in the weapon as a whole, which gives perfect balance - weight distribution - and consequent steadiness of aim.
The whole action is of unit construction and is removable from the robust body in which it is housed.
The "Power" ejection system has been re-designed to give full support to the cartridge in the chamber. No matter at what speed the cocking lever is operated ejection is faultlessly consistent.
Undoubtedly the most important unit in the quest for supreme accuracy, the B.S.A. "International" barrel is manufactured only from specially selected highest grade Jessop steel and infinite care is exercised during each production stage.
After precision fine boring and rifling each barrel is individually hand-lapped. This produces the internal finish so vital to the uniform accuracy which every marksman seeks to achieve.
The Manufacturing sequence is subject to the most stringent inspection conditions, and internal bore tolerance is held within .0005" and parallelism within .0002".
The rifle is subjected to stringent accuracy tests utilizing special "match" ammunition. Shot from a machine rest the B'S.A. "Martini-International" Mk II must achieve three consecutive ten-shot groups cutting a 1" circle at 100 yards.
The P.H.25B. Aperture rearsight and P.H.1 Tunnel foresight are specially manufactured by Parker-Hale Ltd. for the B.S.A. "International" Mk II.
The dovetail sight bar on the action body provides the rearsight with 2r of tor for eye relief. The eye piece incor porates a six hole
attachment wail aperture variations from .080 to .030".
The foresight is supplied with six interchangeable elements contained in a box which can be fitted in a position to suit the individual. Standard telescope blocks are mounted on the barrel and the sight line it common to both iron and telescopic sights.
The "custom" woodwork of "Freeland" pattern is a feature to
which special attention has been devoted. The matched butt and
fore-end made from French Walnut have been specially styled to meet the demands of the most discriminating shooter.
The butt, with its comfortable cheek piece, has the right depth of comb to suit both iron and telescopic sights, and the broad beavertail fore-end with adjustable handstop is ideal for "hold". Checkering* on butt and fore-end extra.
* In the U.K., this would be spelt as "chequering", which indicates the hoped for main market for the brochure, if not the rifle.
Supplied with each new rifle, in addition to the maintenance pamphlet .
.(do you by any chance have one of those available for copying here?)
was this folding card relating to the Parker-Hale sights supplied as standard.
The later Mk.III rifle had an improved Model 25 rearsight with one-eighth minute clicks
instead of the one-quarter minute clicks of the Mk.I and Mk.II rifles' sights shown on this page.
Below is an exploded view of the Mk.II rifle (click to view in greater detail),
and below that the official sectioned drawing with parts identification
Below, the drawing of the Mk.II International as illustrated in the contemporary BSA Spare Parts List
Click on the image to view the original sized drawing
and the associated key tables showing the parts and their contemporary pricing in Pounds Sterling
( with shillings and pence as prior to 1971 decimalisation).
Several specialist sight systems were produced for the BSA Martini International rifles,
one of which was the "KR" in three marks.
Below are the details advertised for the KR Mk.III model suitable for both the Internationals Mk.II and III.
`KR' MARK 111 TUBE-SIGHT
"Spring loaded vertically and horizontally with 1/8th minute clicks on 1/2 inch diameter knurled wheels.
Tube of best quality steel with anti-glare internal thread.
The front fits directly onto the rear telescope block on top of the barrel and is held in position by one screw.
The rear end of the tube is held between three spring-loaded rollers inside a bronze casting. This substantial casting is fixed directly to the side of the mechanism in place of the present sight holding bar, using the same two fixing screws. The main body of this casting is behind the breech block giving support just where it is needed and bringing the adjusting wheels nicely within the reach of the right hand. Takes the standard 6 hole or Iris eyepiece, which is not supplied with the tube-sight. Finished in gun-black throughout, this sight fits B.S.A. Mk. II and Mk. III International rifles. (Right hand only at present.)
Price, including plywood box £6 5s. plus 1/3d postage. Obtainable from the N.S.R.A. "
One interesting modified Mark II rifle came to our notice a while ago. Probably engineered after the introduction of the International Mark III, and in an attempt to emulate that rifle's free-floating barrel configuration, an enterprising owner took the significant step of upgrading his Mark II with an inventive outer sleeve arrangement for the barrel to support the fore-end woodwork, from close to the receiver, and clear of the major part of the barrel. Two bolts passed through the fore-end into threaded lugs on the sleeve. These are not bedding bolts, but only fasten the fore-end to the barrels new outer sleeve.
Quite apart from such as the modified rifle above, and the ongoing popular and long-term use
of standard form rifles in historic competition,
it can be seen below that a Martini International Mk.II's day is never done!
The above rifle has been especially modified for benchrest use.....................
....................... visit WWW.BENCHREST22.ORG
Or see the "bull-barrelled" Mk.V shown on the page for the Internationals Mks. IV &V.
See also the BSA Martini International Mk.III
More to follow
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