Posted in Editor's Picks, Surplus Classic And Tactical Firearms | 6 Comments

The Elegant .310 Martini Cadet

The Elegant .310 Martini Cadet

The milsurp stream is full of stylish military single 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.


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  1. Holt Baby– Ya done it!! Nearly 3 decades ago I picked up a BSA Martini Cadet in .32-20 (for $20), nearly identical to the one in your fine article. Accuracy?– put down the rifle and throw a rock!!… now I know why. Thanks for doing justice to a sweet little piece of history.

    I subscribe to a number of gun magazines and, frankly, pay more for yours than the others, but it’s worth it! John Taffin’s back page is the ‘first-read’. Hey, I remember Duke Venturino from back when he was Mike!! LOL One note– KEEP David Codrea and John Connor!!! Anybody who objects to the writings of these fine gentlemen is reading the wrong magazine. Their offerings are ESSENTIAL to true ‘gun people’.

    Keep up the fine work and I’ll keep renewing. GOD bless. J.C.

    • The 310 martini requires a projectile of about .325-
      .330 if you use smaller they shoot like a shot gun, all over the place.

  2. Walter W. says:

    I own one of those great little rifles too. I bought it to teach my grand-daughter how to shoot but as you mentioned a rock is more accurate. I don’t reload but the thought of converting it to .357 mag. really got my attention. Where could I have it done and can it be done without removing or damaging the patina.

    Thank you,
    Walter

  3. Don W Benesh says:

    I was with my dad in 1960 when he picked up 2 for $15. The plan was to keep the best one a .310 shooter, and customize the other with a more practicle round. He always thought a .22 Hornet would be nice. Over the years one has been misplace, but the other I acquired about 3 years ago and is now a beautiful .25-20 WCF with a laminated thumb-hole stock (I did myself) and a pistol scope mounted over the forend. It gets a lot of attention at he local range. Although I have picked up bits and pieces of info over the years, first time I have heard what the numbers on the stock meant. Mine was in service in Queensland (Q) in 7.11. Great article…thanks.
    Don

  4. My father purchased a Martini Cadet in the 1960′s and I still have it. The wood had been refinished to a nice commercial gloss , as well as being re-blued, looks nice. The gun was also re-bored to .357 magnum, but not marked as such. These guns were originally chambered in 310 Greener and the importer stamped the guns with a 32-20 caliber marking, as that was “Close Enough” to 310 Greener and it was thought they would sell better as a 32-20, since 310 ammo was and is hard to find, to say the least. No actual re-chambering was done, which accounts for the poor accuracy when shooting 32-20 in these guns. Accuracy in the .357 Magnum chambering is good, 1″ groups all day at 25 yards and bigger groups at greater distances. In my rifle, only 158 grain 357′s will shoot well, as that was what was available in the 1960′s and the barrel is rifled accordingly. 38 Specials and lighter bullets in 357 won’t shoot for Sh*t. So far 3 generations of my family (and friends) have now learned to shoot with this rifle and it will likely continue in this role until the rifle turns to dust. I have thought about having the gun re-barreled to 22 Hornet, 256 Win Mag, etc and adding a scope, but the gun is so handy and useful as it is, I have not had the heart to change it. 100 years old and worth every penny my Dad paid in the 1960′s.

  5. 20 years ago, I had a Cadet in 32-20: it was my “go-to” rifle for competition turkey shoots. I have read many comments about the Cadets that were re-chambered to 32-20 being horrible in accuracy, but mine, for some reason, was a tack driver. Sure wish I still had the beauty!

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