Gratuitous Gun Pic: BSA-Martini Cadet

Before I talk about the gun, I want to talk a little about something that was once the only option, then fell by the wayside, and now is practiced by only a few hardy people:  hunting with a single-shot rifle.

To see that this type of hunting has not disappeared altogether, one only has to see the perpetual fascination for single-shot rifles in sales of guns such as the Ruger #1 (with its derivation of the Farquharson action), and the Winchester / Browning 1885 High Wall (with its “falling block” action).

I cannot describe the satisfaction one gets in working these exquisite actions.  Mr. Free Market, after our most recent Schutzenfest, confessed to me that of all the dozen-odd different rifles he fired, the one that gave him the most shooting satisfaction was my 1885 High Wall in .45-70 Govt.  Yeah, that one-at-a-time thing feels so cumbersome compared to the slick semi-auto and even bolt-action rifles of today — but there it is:  a single rifle is the bee’s knees, and certainly if that’s what you’ve just used to fell a deer, buffalo or bear, your chest swells with pride — and so it should.

So with that said, allow me to present to you the venerable BSA-Martini Cadet rifle:

This is hardly an unknown gun:  the old BSA has been used as a training rifle since the Stone Age, and is most commonly found in .22 caliber.  (It’s what we used back at St. John’s College for our musketry classes, and was capable of astounding accuracy — far more than I for one could achieve.)

The BSA Martinis were also chambered for the silly .310 Greener (“Rook”) cartridge, which is a decent training caliber, but useful for nothing else except hunting rooks.  Luckily, a large percentage of these rifles have been rechambered for other .30 cartridges such as the .32-20 and even the .357 Mag.  The action handles the heavier loads with ease, and the rifle’s lighter weight makes carrying in the field less problematic than with its heavier cousins.

Which brings us to today’s rifle, which is chambered for the wonderful and very much underappreciated cartridge, the Winchester .32 Special.  Most often compared to the .30-30 (.30 WCF), the .32 Win Spec is perhaps best described as the .30-30 on steroids.  One acquaintance told me of a black bear taken with a single shot in Pennsylvania, fired out of a Marlin 94 lever action with a 20″ barrel.

Now take that same bullet and fire it through the BSA-Martini’s 28″ heavy barrel… and I think you can all see where I’m going with this one.

Just practice, and get really good — because you only get one shot.


  1. Agree totally. My attraction to single shots started in the late 1950s when as a young squirt the old man took the kids to a local shooting range. The range officer suggested I use a cut down Martini in 22lr. Burned in my mind to this day is the view from above of those rimfire rounds sliding down into the chamber. Wow…

    Today my SS’s include an Italian replica of Sharps in 45-70 and a TC Encore with an MGM barrel in 30-30. I have of course other chamberings for the TC but the 30-30 seemed such a good fit. And it shoots like a house on fire for a 125+ year old cartridge. Pleasant to shoot and damn near perfect for the Eastern woods and deer.

  2. My wife’s grandfather had a single shot 22LR and 12 gauge shotgun. My first shotgun was a Stevens single shot 20 gauge. Having only one shot tended to make me a better shot.

  3. They’re very nice rifles but rarely see them for sale anymore. Did Ruger drop the No 1? if so, when was it dropped?


    1. This from Ruger’s website:

      “When You Only Have One Shot,
      Make It Count.
      No.1 Rifles are available in select, limited edition models each year.”

      Through various distributors, in this case, Lipsey’s

  4. Winchester 94 in 32 Win Special were the rifle of choice when I hunted deer in Sullivan County, PA with my friends family.
    Quick handling and shots were rarely over 25 yards in the laurel thickets.
    My father in law had a trombone slide Remington in 30 Remington which I think had about the same ballistics.

  5. Oh yeah, Martinis… Wish the hell I had bought them back in the old days when they were $19.95 from the surp dealers in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Currently have several Cadets as well as the larger Martinis. Actually have a Peabody in .45 Turk and o’course a 577/450. Most of my current collection has made its way from Ozzie land so we’re talkin’ things like .219 Zip, .222Rem rim and a weird 8mm that nobody can figure out. And the usual 32-20, a .310, and .357mag and even a Vickers .22. Had a chance to buy a whole collection from a guy in England but the deal fell through…

  6. My first levergun a Marlin 336 chambered in 32 Winchester Special. I love this gun but finding ammo Wow it is scarce. If you do find it is is outrageous, about $3-$4/round. Used to be 32 Win Sp was right next to the 30-30 every where and was just marginally higher in price.

    I would still love to have that Martini-Henry chambered in it.

  7. One of my favorite rifles that I have owned was as Ruger No. 1 in 7×57 Mauser, it was the International version with the Mannlicher stock. I purchased it about 20 years ago used in close to new condition for $600, I hunted with it a few times and shot a sheep with it in 2005 and then in 2008 when my son got married I sold it for a thousand dollars so I could give them a wedding gift and felt good about doing that. At times I wish I had it back and today I looked up current prices for that rifle used and they are selling for around $1,750. It is nice to see that some of these rifles are holding their values and that they are appreciated my current 7×57 is the CZ with the Mannlicher stock and it has been a good rifle.

Comments are closed.