Vickers Armstrong and the
THE VICKERS MARTINI TARGET RIFLES
The Vickers Armstrong industrial giant stemmed from the
foundation, in 1828, of the Sheffield steel and bronze foundry which later
became Naylor, Vickers & Co.
Born in 1804, Edward Vickers, a miller, joined, at around the time of
the birth of his first son, the steel firm run by his father-in-law, George
Naylor. His two sons, Thomas and Albert, eventually also joined the business
which, by 1867, had moved entirely into the hands of the Vickers family.
The company's move into armaments came in 1897 with the acquisition of
the Barrow ( in Furness) Shipbuilding company and its arms manufacturing
subsidiary, the Maxim Nordenfelt concern of which Thomas had become chairman,
and which company was itself a marriage of Hiram Maxim's firm, developed
on his machine gun designs, and the Nordenfelt business, which produced
the famous multi-barrel (four) quick-firing small-calibre cannon. The
outcome of the merger was the Vickers, Sons and Maxim company.
They are, in small-arms terms, probably most well known for the notorious
and effective - "Grand Old Lady of No Man's Land" - the Vickers
machine gun. Collectors of more readily publicly available Vickers' production
items will also know them for their versions of the No.1 bayonet for the
S.M.L.E. (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle)
Vickers' foray into the small-bore rifle arena came in the very early
1920s. By 1924 they were advertising their Mk.I Martini target rifles
and accompanying sporting versions. In 1927 the business merged yet again,
this time with Armstrong Whitworth, itself an amalgamation of the interests
of the well known industrialist, Sir William Armstrong, and Joseph Whitworth,
the famous self-taught engineer responsible for so many advances in rifle
design and most of the thread and engineering standards which unified
manufacture in the latter period of the industrial revolution.
The Vickers Armstrong empire was effectively broken up, between the 1960s
and 1990s, into parts respectively forming into sections of, amongst other
things, the nationalised British Steel Industry, the British Aircraft
Corporation (latterly BAE), and Marconi - by then part of General Electric.
At the end of the 'last' Century, Vicker's, who had acquired the Royal
Ordnance Factory in 1986 ( now closed, and from whence the 'Enfield Pattern
Room' National Firearms collection was, in 2004, removed to the care of
the Leeds Royal Armouries), were taken over by Rolls Royce and.
For whatever reason, the company then opted to join the fray with the
Birmingham Small Arms Company, W.W. Greener and those other arms manufacturers
who took up the gauntlet on behalf of the Earl Lord Roberts who, at the
beginning of the Twentieth Century, was instrumental in the encouragement
of rifle-shooting within the populace, and the associated formation of
the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs.
Vickers' small-bore Martini rifles proved, over their comparatively
short production span between the early 1920s and the Second Warld War,
to be highly competitive. They developed a deserved reputation for accuracy,
still displayed by many of the surviving examples.