The Martini rifle has an interesting history. Martini is the abbreviated name for the Martini-Henry, a single shot, lever action rifle using an action Friedrich von Martini developed from the Peabody rifle. The barrel for the original Martini rifle was designed by Alexander Henry, had a 1:22 inch twist with seven grooves, hence the Martini-Henry name.
Four models of the Martini Henry rifle were produced. The Mark I, the MArk II, Mark III and Mark IV. The Mark I was first adopted by the British and entered service in 1871. The Mark IV ended production in 1889 and was still in service until the end of WW1.
The original Martini-Henry chambering was a rimmed cartridge similar to the .577/450 and was infamous for its heavy recoil. The large action Martini Henry rifles were used by the Australians from 1871 until the turn of the century, at first in .450 caliber and later in the .303 caliber service round. These military Martinis were very heavy, full sized rifles, too large and heavy for young cadets in the various militias of the time.
In 1910 the Australian government introduced a system of universal cadet training and issued what is now known as the .310 Martini Cadet rifle.
The Martini Cadet was made in the United Kingdom by both Greener and B.S.A. They were marked “Commonwealth of Australia” on the right side of the receiver and had a Kangaroo stamped on the rear.
The rifle was chambered for the .310 Greener, a small game and target centerfire cartridge similar to the Winchester 32-20. Following WWII, the Martini Cadets were sold to the civilian population and large numbers were sold in the United States. Quite a few of the rifles ended up being re-barrelled to more popular cartridges such as the 22 long rifle and the .22WRM and small game centerfire calibers like the . 22 Hornet and the .218 Bee. Despite the action being from the late 1800’s, the action in strong enough to support many of the smaller modern cartridges.
After talking with Brady the other night about buying a few of his guns, we got talking about one of the guns he owns, an Al Freeland BSA Martini. This gun isn’t just one sold by Freeland to Brady, it was one of Al’s personal guns. To make a long story short, Brady had sent in 1000 dollars to buy one of the BSA Martini’s after seeing them in various publications. After a year passed and Brady had no gun in his hand he called up AL and mentioned he was getting a little worried when he had nothing in hand after sending off 1K back a year ago. Brady said Al responded by telling him what the hold up was and promised to send him one of his guns and Brady could keep it for 3 days for inspection, if he didn’t like it send it back and Al would refund his money or he could keep it. Brady got the gun and was beyond pleased. It was a much better gun than the one he originally ordered. The Freeland personal gun having an Eric Johnson barrel. Hopefully I can get a few pictures of it for you when I go over there in a few days. Brady told me he found a website with photo’s of Al’s personal rifles and in one of those photos is the gun that now belongs to Brady. I been trying to find it but I’m having trouble locating the website. If memory serves Brady has an autographed copy of Al’s book shown below.
Anyway. Here is a RIAC Blog post about Uncle Al’s wonderful rifles. by Joel R Kolander
When it comes to competitive target shooting, a name that one finds frequently is Al Freeland. He was known as an accomplished rifleman, but also as a respected major supplier for others who strove to be as serious about their competitive shooting as “Uncle Al” was. How serious was he? He won numerous small bore championships and set several world records. Furthermore, he custom designed many of the rifles he used. Beginning with BSA Martini actions, he would assemble custom rifles capable of surgical precision.
Freeland made his own barrels, modified receivers, made and bedded his own forends (hand-checkered of course), and used his trademark 3-position aluminum buttstock which would become a standard feature on later BSA Martini target rifles. Seemingly never satisfied, he even designed and sold many of his own accessories including a rifle case that became a standard for many a target shooter in the 1950s – 1980s. It was exactly this type of serious involvement and expertise that had BSA engineers reaching out to Uncle Al to personally discuss his recommendations and ideas. In return, they gave him sole importer rights until his passing in the early 1980s.
The name of Albin Freeland is one that deserves to be remembered among firearms enthusiasts. He was passionate about shooting, firearms, and quality. Equipment made decades ago still serves its purpose today. For a more complete look at the man’s life and his contributions to the shooting world, the biography Uncle Al: The Life and Times of Inventor/Marksman Albin Freeland is highly recommended.
Rock Island Auction Company is pleased to have several items that were the property of the late Uncle Al in our May Premier Auction. Those with an affinity for winning target shooting matches or had a love and respect for our shooting heritage should certainly take notice.
Al Freeland’s Prototype BSA Martini
First on the list is this prototype crafted in part by Freeland himself. It comes only one buyer removed from the Freeland estate and is believed to be the basis of the “Mark Series” by BSA. The list of custom features and modifications is extensive. Of significant note is the “8 star” Eric Johnson barrel, who was one of the premier target rifle makers throughout the 1940s-1960s. 8-star represents his highest level of quality and is almost never seen. Prototype components and a barrel as rare as moon rocks all combine to make this a supremely rare and historic BSA Martini single shot rifle.
Al Freeland’s Custom Hand Built Martini “Super Rifle” – One of 21 Ever Made
Before the BSA Martini “Mark Series” of rifles was developed, Freeland was making his own designs off their modified actions and marking them “Super Rifles” – a remarkably appropriate name. 21 such rifles were produced by Uncle Al, and this one bears the serial number 019. Like the previous gun listed it also bears an Eric Johnson barrel and was purchased directly from Freeland’s estate. This beautiful, hand-checkered custom rifle can be found on pages 129-130 of his biography and remains in excellent condition.
Al Freeland’s Personal World-Record Breaking, Championship Winning Rifle, “Mariah #2”
This is Al Freeland’s personal target rifle that he used for over 25 years to win most of his small bore championships and set world records from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. Built on the BSA MkII target rifle action, the remainder of the rifle is hand built and earned the nickname “Mariah #2.” The cool factor is through the roof on this piece of firearms history. But be forewarned, if you can’t bust a 10-ring with this rifle, you will be left with zero excuses.
Al Freeland BSA Martini Mk II Target Rifle, “Mariah #5”
You’ve already met Mariah #2, so now meet Mariah #5. Also discussed in his biography, this is a mostly standard BSA MkII with the exception of two things: a custom, deluxe wood foreend installed by Al and a small paper tag still attached to the rifle that reads, “Not for Sale, personal Property of Ted Freeland Mark II.” Ted was Al’s eldest son. It’s in great condition and links directly back to the Freeland family.
Custom Winchester Model 52B Target Rifle with A. W. Peterson Barrel
Now for something completely different. Well, not completely, but is the only non-BSA Martini rifle of the Freeland items being offered in this sale. Shown here is a Winchester 52B target rifle that been given a custom stock, handmade by Freeland, as well as an original, custom barrel by A.W. Peterson of Denver, CO. Peterson. Peterson is also a well-known name in his own right, learning his trade from a line of highly respected barrel markers – namely George Schoyen, who in turn learned from the famous Carlos Gove. That’s a lot of clout in one Winchester.
Late Production BSA Martini MK III 22 LR Target Rifle
If you want all the innovation that Freeland provided, but at a price that doesn’t involve his direct provenance, this lot is for you. It’s a BSA Martini Mk III in excellent condition with the fully adjustable trigger and over travel. This is the exact style of rifle that has been used by top smallbore match shooters at Camp Perry and other notable competitions across the country. It’s a tack driver just waiting to hit the range again.
Five 22 LR (BSA and Remington) Target Rifle Barrels and Uncle Al Freeland’s Autobiography Book
Looking to begin your own target rifle build? Our May Premier even has a lot with five BSA & Remington target barrels in 22 LR that were originally obtained when Freeland’s Gun Shop closed in the early 1980’s. If they were carried in his shop, you can be sure they’re of a quality that Al wouldn’t have been afraid to use himself, and that’s as gleaming an endorsement as any. In case you need additional inspiration for your own target rifle build there’s even a copy of Uncle Al’s biography thrown in for good measure.
While I knew that Uncle Al was based in Rock Island, Illinois, a fun fact I discovered while writing this article is that the location he used to hold shop was less than half a mile from where I attended college. I had ordered pizza from across the street and eaten breakfast at the greasy spoon across the intersection, yet had no idea the firearms heritage that was in my very midst. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder what else is out there and deserves our respect.
There is no shortage of target rifles in our May Premier Auction, but few come with the prestige, provenance, and proven excellence rightly associated with Uncle Al Freeland. All the rifles and items shown here will be offered this Sunday, so there is still time to place a bid on these high precision machines and their proud heritage.
Perfection in a hunting shotgun, Model 31 is thy name.
It’s been a heck of a squirrel season. The new Model 31 in 12ga has not let me down. Money well spent. Brady has told me he is going to sell some of his guns and has offered me his 20 gauge Model 31. That would make me one of each type made. I have to say I doubt I will pass on that one.
I had these old adverts for the 31 I meant to use a long time ago and didn’t for some reason or other.
There isn’t a shotgun for sporting use I would recommend to anyone over the Model 31 if you can find one.
Season is winding down for me as various deer seasons start. Too many people in the hills hunting bigger game. I’m about to make the switch to coyote and deer myself. Here are a couple of photos from yesterday’s hunt where I didn’t see one squirrel. Still worth it though.
Winchester Pre-64 Model 70 Rifles Serial Numbers 1 and 2
Absent anything short of absolute certainty, each of these rifles stands among the world’s most important and valuable sporting arms. That they are paired presents an unequaled acquisition opportunity.
Serial Numbers 1 and 2
Both rifles have a captivating history. According to Roger Rule’s “The Rifleman’s Rifle”, serial number 1 was marked on January 20, 1936. As Winchester records are unavailable so far as supporting a proper factory letter is concerned, the actual shipping date and destination are unknown. As detailed in “Winchester Model 70 No. 1”, a feature article appearing in the June, 1990 issue of “American Rifleman” (bound copy included), the current owner’s uncle purchased the rifle from a hardware store in Durango, Colorado during the 1937 hunting season.
Whether new or used when that sale was wrung, the rifle was already fitted with a Lyman receiver sight. Upon returning from the hunting trip, the owner had the rifle drilled and tapped in order to install a 10x Fecker scope, then hunted with it for the next forty years. In 1977, after borrowing it over the course of several deer seasons, the current owner formally acquired the rifle still wearing the Fecker and with the Lyman sight in tow.
Staggeringly, another ten years passed before a chance showing resulted in a dealer getting the vapors and blurting a surprisingly high offer. This sparked a curiosity which lead to the realization that his plain old Model 70 was the first of its kind. With significant reservation, the rifle was retired from hunting after 50 years of faithful and flawless service.
Published in 1982 by Alliance Books, “The Rifleman’s Rifle” did much to expand and solidify collector interest in Winchester pre-64 Model 70 rifles. Quite naturally, the owner of the number 1 rifle acquired a copy as part of his research. Page 193 carried a photo of serial number 2 from the author’s collection, and page 52 showed a photo of a letter from Richard Pelton, Winchester’s Director of Marketing dated March 6, 1980. Written to Mrs. Ethel M. Lied, the letter mentions the January 20, 1936 marking date for the number 1 rifle and also states that assembly of Model 70 rifles did not begin until 1937.
Pointedly, the letter references Mrs. Lied’s inquiries as to the value of her rifle – serial number 2. No doubt, ownership of the number 2 rifle passed to Roger Rule at approximately this time. At some point thereafter, the number 2 rifle was presented for sale at a major gun show attended by the owner of rifle number 1. As things tend to do, one lead to another and ownership of serial number 2 transferred to him.
To no surprise, both rifles are of “standard” configuration and chambered in .30-06 Springfield.