.303 British (7.7x56R) question

This Kings Norton 7.7x56R is made in 1911, I think. Are those reloding markings at 4 and 7 o’clock?

Vlad, they are overstamps indicating the the cartridge had been accepted for military service, as it was made on contract for the British government by a Civillian owned company. I think the use of these marks was dropped soon after 1911.

Since the .303 is an inch cartridge, I think for finding this thread later, it should have the inch designation in the title, not the metric. Most people would search it by inch. Just my thought.

The mark Falcon explained so well is often referred to as “The British Broad Arrow mark,” and appears on weapons and lots of other military equipment to denote acceptance as well as to indicate it is Crown Property. Generally, if something is sold surplus (not cartridges to my knowledge) they stamp a second broad arrow “point to point” with the original to indicated that it is no longer Crown Property. I have no idea why cartridges have sometimes one such mark, and sometimes two. I don’t think it is the same as they are not ever stamped “point to point.”

I believe this broad arrow mark is no longer in use since NATO was formed and the NSN developed. In the UK, many, many items are found with that mark that ended up in civilian hands. For example, there is a stilson wrench in the tool box downstairs with it on.

Where the broad arrow (also sometimes called a “crows foot”) is part of the original headstamp there is usually a single arrow, e.g. R^L. Where the arrows were added to an existing headstamp, as in this case, there are two to ensure that at least one is clearly visible. If a single stamp was made it may be obscured by part of the original headstamp.


Gravelbelly - thanks for the explanation. I never knew that, and have had headstamps with two broad arrows on them. Makes a lot of sense, actually. I think I have a .455 auto where one of the arrows is stamped over the date.
I love the little tidbits you learn on this forum. It is the difference between having a general idea of what you have in an accumulation of cartridges, and really knowing about items in a true collection.

Thanks, pardner.

Gravelbelly - thanks for the explanation. I never knew that, and have had headstamps with two broad arrows on them. Makes a lot of sense, actually. I think I have a .455 auto where one of the arrows is stamped over the date.
I love the little tidbits you learn on this forum. It is the difference between having a general idea of what you have in an accumulation of cartridges, and really knowing about items in a true collection.

Thanks, pardner.

I am going to repeat all this info about crow’s foot, and you, gentlemen, correct me if I am wrong. The two crow’s feet were added after this cartridge was fully manufactured to indicate that The Crown accepted its quality. Two are added to insure that at least one is visible. They were stamping a fully loaded primed cartridge next to an unfired primer. Isn’t it dangerous? Was it done manually by a human or by a stamping machine? Would not this process of adding bird’s feet make manufacturing more expensive and time consuming? What happened if The Crown did not fancy a particular lot of cartridges? How did they tell lots apart if there was only the year of production on the headstamp?

These 2 cartridges came together in a pile, they both carry 2 crow’s foot overstampings at about 90 degree angle, they probably were applied at the same time.

I wouldn’t have thought it was any more dangerous than stamping crimps to hold the primer in. I suspect that it would have been done by machine but then unskilled labour is cheap and always available.

Happy collecting, Peter

probably teaching granny to suck eggs here, but i thought it worth mentioning that the use of one or two broad arrow marks was used also in later .303 cartridge manufacture to conceal the identity of the then newly opened factories (one broad arrow = Radway Green / two broad arrows = Spennymoor).

hope this might save any confusion a new collector may have


I am sure that these were machine stamped. Other calibres such as revolver cartridges were also over-stamped in this way. As to the danger? A properly set up machine should pose no risk, after all, .577 inch Snider cartridges were primed after loading with powder and bullet! In Canada, many UK made .303 rounds were re-capped as the original primers proved to be unreliable. This was done without unloading the round.


Spennymoor was open in 1913 and Radway Green in 1940, I think. So, why would the rule of “2 broad arrows to insure visibility” be abandoned and the older plant getting 2 and newer plant getting 1 crow foot? Sorry, I guess I don’t know enough of the English intricacies.

just a guess,

I allways thought that around the first world war, the broadarrow added to a headstamp was a concealed marking for a special load (like tracer, armor piercing or buckingham, etc…)

Mayby mr TonyE has an answer?!?


Vlad - I want to review this myself, as I think it is getting confusing. I am not going to address the point about one and two Broad Arrow property marks used later to cnceal the manufacturer. While interesting of its own right, it does not address the question that started this thread.

When a British Government factory made their bunters, they included the Broad Arrow Crown Property Mark on the bunter - it was not an overstamp. It usually comes between the letters of the arsenal mark, as in "R ^ L."
Since it was an initial part of the bunter, and not an overstamp, it does not deface any other bunter entry.

When the broad arrows were added to the headstamps from commercial manufacturers who did not initially use the Broad Arrow on the bunter, then the mark will fall random anywhere on the headstamp when the rounds are run through the machine. Having two of them insures that at least one will be legible. Well, almost insures. I have a .455 Auto round where one fell directly on top of the “E” (Eley) and the other on the edge of the “2.” Just a little to the left and both the “E”, which is illegible now, and the two, which is legible, would have been hard to accurately read. I have another where the broad arrow on a “B” headstamp (Birmingham Metal and Munitions Co.) is directly over the “1” in the “13” date, making the date look like “^3”. You cannot tell, if you didn’t know the headstamping system of the caliber and the era, that the date is “13”.

Sir Joost - I can’t speak for .303, but on pistol ammunition, the double braod arrow (or single, for that matter) has nothing to do with special loads or the load at all. I have never in my life heard that it did on .303 either, even though I collected that caliber for ten years. Perhaps Tony E or Tony W can clarify that issue.

Falcon - it is clear from the rounds in my collection that this practice was stopped not in 1911, but sometime in 1914, which makes sense since it represented an extra production step when they were trying to gear up for a major war.

Aside from the “identity concealment factor,” which is a different issue and a different question, there would have been no point to putting two Broad Arrows on the bunter for a Government Factory headstamp.

I hope it is clear now.

Sorry for my late arrival on this thread but I was away last week. I hope the following will clear up some of the confusion about the broad arrow marks on British ammunition.

The Broad Arrow (I dislike the term Crows Foot) is more accurately called the Ordnance Mark and has been in use to denote property of the Ordnance Board since the 17th Century. Since the OB was responsible for procuring most stores for the army it will be found on all manner of things. It is even found carved on buildings and stones as datum marks for Ordnance Survey maps.

It was first used on metallic cartridges as a tiny stamp on the outer edge of the primer on rolled case .577/450 rounds (I forgot to scan one of those), and was also used with the familiar R^L mark on early .450 gatling rounds.

When the .303 Mark I was introduced in 1889 only RL made ammo, but when the Powder Mark II was introduced a few months later civilian firms received contracts and the headstamp sometimes included a Broad Arrow. Eley and Birmingham MMCo. (illustrated) rounds can be found with this style of headstamp. It only appeared on this mark of .303.

In about 1907 the practice of stamping commercial contract ammo with the two arrow overstamp began and continued until 1914. This was done to mark lots of ammo accepted by government inspectors.

Ammunition rejected by inspectors was marked with a pin stab and was often sold off to the gun trade.

During the early part of WWI a method was needed to distinguish special loads like tracer and incendiary, whilst hopefully keeping the identity secret from the enemy if a crashed aircraft was recovered by them. The method chosen was th overstamp the headstamp with either an inverted “VI” or a “VII”.

The early RL tracer had a spitzer bullet so it was overstamped with “VII” in the hope that the Germans would not notice anthing special, and the round nosed Mark I Buckingham incendiary was overstamped with “VI” in the hope it would be thought a Mark VI ball.

RL Tracer overstamped over a normal R^L 16 VII headstamp.

Whilst I have a Mark I Buckingham I do not have an overstamped example, but it looked loke this.

Britain had started the expansion program for Ordnance factories prior to WW2 and Spennymoor and Radway Green came on line in 1940 (Not 1913 for Spennymoor as quoted earlier). To preserve the identity of these factories if the ammunition was recovered they used a single arrow for RG and a double arrow for SR in 1940 and early 1941. By 1942 both were using their normal codes.

What I am unclear about is why some ROF factories used an arrow between their initials and some did not. BE and HN did whilst RG and SR did not. I suspect it is something to do with component and loading factories.

The above applies to UK ammunition. Commonwealth production is another story.


Well done Tony, a good precis of the story.
I stand chastised for calling the Broad Arrow a “Crows foot”, I merely passed on common slang from my youth.


No need to apologise Dave, although I am unsure about the bit regarding your youth. The Broad Arrow did not start until the 17th century!

Hope you are enjoying Portugal, we missed you at Bisley on Saturday.


My appologies for misinformation about Spennymoor, I took it from a very reliable source, IAA headstamp ID page. It says under “SR” headstamp: Royal Ordnance Factory Spennymoor, UK (1913-1945). Thanks for Ordnance Mark explanation, I personally needed that. Here is a visual confirmation of Tony’s account: a bottom of SMLE cleaning kit.

Tony, was Ordnance Mark placed on anything belonging to the Empire outside of Britain?