303 British, really


Municion.org says the following: Birmingham Metall and Munition Co. Ltd., F


Vlad, F. Joyce was a British ammo manufacture. We need a Brit to give the rundown on them. Only thing I know for sure is they made the most beautiful shotshells ever made.


F. Joyce was a small, private shotshell maker before WWI. Its factory was eventually absorbed by BM&M( a part of the Nobel’s Explosives group), and during WW I, was equipped to manufacture .303 Mark VII Ball ammo, using the headstamp maker’s code “J”. This lasted only from 1914/5 to 1918.

Several other small ammo makers were also “Taken over” by BM&M, Nobels, and Kynoch during WW I, and given letter codes, which may relate to their original name. All of these only lasted till 1918 (some closing earlier), and then in the early 1920s, most were absorbed into "ICI’ (Imperial Chemical Industries) run by the Mond Group of explosives makers, who dealt with All types of Explosives(Military and Industrial) and Ammunition. Smaller plants were dismantled, and the machinery either sold overseas, incorporated into the Kynoch Facility, or scrapped.
Some of the other WW I Codes:(.303)
B…BM&M, Birmingham
E Eley
G Greenwood & Batley, Leeds
J: Joyce
K: Kynoch
M: Nobels, Glasgow (?)
N: Nobels, Glasgow.
KN King’s Norton Metals
RW: Rudge Withworth Cycles
RL Royal Laboratories, Woolwich Arsenal (London)

Layout usually letter Plus two digit date, at 12 oclock (or 10 and two), with “VII” at 6 o’clock.
Broad Arrow (/I) used on RL, RW ammo(as in R^L, R^W)

Quality control was lacking in the production tolerances of a lot of ammo produced by the “smaller” factories, especially in the 1914-16 deliveries, which combined with the close tolerances of SMLE Chambers, and the Mud of the Western front, led to numerous jams and stoppages in action (especially in the Canadian Forces Ross M1910 Rifles) Particularly bad were B-14 and 15, and M-14 and 15) marked ammo.

This led to two things, the relieving of Rifle chambers (head diameter .464), the deepening of the head to shoulder length (major problem with this “non-standard” ammo) and of course the increase in quality control at all factories. By late 1916, the problem was overcome, but rifles retained their “oversized” chambers till war’s end.(the mud was still there.)

When Billions of rounds are being produced by people who, a few months ago, were Housewives or House servants, can lead to many “quality” problems.

regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


Just to add a couple of points to DocAV’s notes.

Joyce also made the experimental and early Mark VI drill rounds, using white metal cases. These are headstamped J.17 VII.

With regard to Rudge Whitworth, the format of their headstamp was normally R (date)W, not R /|\ W. I have never seen a broad arrow on an RW headstamp.

I have R16W, R17Wand R18W in the normal format and two variations. R17W with the VII inverted, which suggests the case was made for an RL trace but the date is a bit late, and RW18 VII. The change of format must mean something but I know not what.



Thanks for the correction, Tony E…I was confusing the “R(date )L” and the" R(date W" with the “R^L” marks.
I still have some doubts(in my own knowledge) regarding the exact ownership of some of the letter headstamps (M, N, etc) which are variously ascribed to Nobel’s Glasgow Plant.

Thanks and regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


The reason for the various headstamps used by Nobel/BMMCo/Joyce is uncertain, as you say.

The “J” headstamp from the old F.Joyce plant is obvious as is the “B” for the Adderley Road plant in Birmingham. It is the use of both “M” and “N” by the same company in the same year that needs an explanation.

An examination of the bullet base markings may help. There was of course a great deal of movement of components between manufacturers and within a group of manufacturers.

“J” headstamps have both “J” and “B” stamped projs whilst the few “M” headstamps I have pulled all have “N” stamped bullets, as do “N” stamped cases.

I suspect that either “M” or “N” indicates rounds made and loaded at the Glasgow plant and the other indicates components made at Glasgow and loaded at probably Birmingham. This would give a method of tracing faulty ammunition back to the loader in the same way that the variations in the RL headstamps do.

A WWI period official list of headstamps does not differentiate between “M” and “N”, listing both as Nobel Glasgow.



May be M = Nobel, Manchester.