.303 British headstamp query


Hi all,

I have a query over the headstamp of a Mk II .303 British round…

it is i think a commercial loading on a surplus case as it has a soft point bullet (see photo’s below)

the round on the right h/s is R^L C II which i know is Woolwich Arsenal (Royal Laboratory) Cordite Mk II

the round on the left h/s is E C * II which presumably is Eley Cordite Mk II, but what does the * (star) stand for?

could this be an overstamp to indicate a commercial reload (in the same way the broad arrow overstamp is found on rounds from commercial contract which had been accepted into military service)?

it may appear in the photo’s above that the round i’m questioning has an odd looking primer and appears quite glossy…

this unfortunately was due to a previous “collector” who not only polished and lacquered the case, but also (presumably to render it inert) drilled the primer!!!

thankfully i don’t know the individual…!

many thanks in advance for any assistance given.


The * was used rarely in .303 military hst’s - I can only think of the Drill Mark VI* which was the Drill Mark VI chromed plated by the British Navy & the * added to show this change in mark. The * was used to indicate a special loading - the ‘E C * II’ hst you illustrate was normally applied to an all lead RN bullet Short Range used where a full-scale range was not available. Kynoch also used a * (sometimes 2 x *'s to indicate a special loading, e.g. I have a 'KYNOCH * *) hst to indicate a special lightweight case.
Your SN bulleted ‘E C * II’ is a case diverted to sporting use.


Another example of the use of the * to show a modified design is the .303 inch R mark III explosive. A slight change in the bullet design is shown on rounds headstamped R^L 1933 RIII*.

I will post a picture later today of the correct bullet for your E C * II headstamp.



Many thanks for the responses guys, i had a feeling there would be a reason such as you’ve explained, just never come across it before.


do you have examples of R mark III rounds?




Just a side issue but look at the difference in the shoulder profiles between the two cases. This variation is very common, you could start up a whole new area of interest talking about .303 shoulders.


[quote=“magpie”]Many thanks for the responses guys, i had a feeling there would be a reason such as you’ve explained, just never come across it before.


do you have examples of R mark III rounds?



First, here is he correct bullet for the Eley short range load with the headstamp E C * II. It was produced to compete with the Canadian Gaudet and various other lead bulleted short range proposals, although in the event none were adopted.

I have two Britsh explosive /incendiaries. One is an RIII*, headstamped R^L 1931 RIII* and the other is an experimental (unfilled) explosive from around late 1918 that followed the RTT. It is referred to as the “milk bottle bullet” and is shown in the Jones notes. I have attached a picture but as my RIII is not to hand I will post that later.

This was a simplified RTT with the two chamber sytem replaced by a single charge of explosive ignited by a cap on the nose. It is loaded in a KN 1918 VIIG case.



Hi Vince,

i think in this case its just down to the angle / lighting of the photo, because the shoulder profiles are identical if you compare them side by side.

it’s a shame the previous “collector” treated the round with such disrespect…

thanks for the photo’s TonyE, wish mine had the correct head!

The milk bottle bullet looks fantastic.

is there a decent source of “interesting” .303 rounds in the UK? I’d love to have some of the exotic stuff in my humble collection.

cheers guys,



Hi magpie

Are you a member of the European Cartridge Research Association? The ECRA has two meetings per year at Bisley plus another one in Lincolnshire. There are usually plenty of interesting .303s there. It is well worth joining as you get the monthly journal as well.

Can I make one small plea? Bullets are bullets, not heads. The head of the cartridge is that part of the case that surrounds the primer, hence “headstamp”. Sorry, but it is a bugbear of mine!



Hi TonyE,

Visit the Bisley show?

Some British collectors told me that it is not so easy to take live ammo from the continent into the UK and back.



I am afriad you are correct. It is not very easy. It is possible to get a temporary permit but it is a lot of hassle.

European visitors are always welcome but it might be best to come without any live rounds the first time.



Hi TonyE,

apologies for the use of “heads”, had my sunday head on (no pun intended) after cutting what felt like several acres of grass, which in reality is just a small garden, I wasn’t thinking too cleverly…

Do you have a link to the ECRA by any chance?

would the pheonix be one of the Bisley meets?




Hi magpie

Here is the link to the ECRA site.


PM me and I will send you contact details for joining in the UK…But also join the IAA!

The Bisley meetings are in the NRA pavillion, separate from the Phoenix meeting.