.303 Identification


#1

Can anyone give me some information about these cartridges:

Many thanks
Philippe


#2

I can help with the first two cartridges as, coincidentally, I have recently acquired the same two cartridges myself. I didn’t know what they were either but my enquiries established that they are wound-test experimentals loaded by the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield in 1965.
Their correct title is .303 Ball (Special Bullet) and their handwritten boxes were marked with the following information - the round with the single green splash 'Nominal velocity of 1400fps’
and the round with the two green splashes was marked ‘Nominal velocity of 2400 fps’.


#3

The WRA 1943 looks like a reload with a cast bullet. Whether an official one or somebody’s personal one I wouldn’t like to say. The moulds are fairly common for casting .303 bullets. The ring around the nose is from the seating die.

People who reload ammo usually keep a “master” so they can set the dies up easily again without having to start from scratch. That could be what that is

As you are in France I might be able to offer a theory about its origins. Years ago we wouldn’t reload .303s because the ammo was plentiful and cheap. But in those days a lot of the re-enacters had Lewis and Bren guns that they used to shoot in Belgium (where the law permitted them to be used on ranges). They used lead bullet reloads to save on barrel wear because the barrels were irreplacable.

That would explain also why it is a WRA ( reloadable boxer) case. Just an idea, somebody else might have a better view.


#4

The right hand cartridge appears to be a ball round converted to dummy, there is a recent post by fede which may link into this one:

[i]Re: US troops issued with .303s in WW1
There is a brief and interesting mention of .303 British ammunition in U.S. service at History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Volume I p. 250-251; to summarize:

  • 28,419,000 rounds of Mark VII purchased by March 1, 1919 (with some indication to Mark VI also).
  • During 1916 FA converted Mk VII ammunition to dummies for training with the Lewis machine gun.[/i]

gravelbelly


#5

I don’t remember ever seeing a picture of an original Indian Dum Dum .303 round of the Boer War era. Has there been one submitted here? I’d just like to know what a real Dum Dum .303 expanding bullet cartridge looks like. I understand there were several types of such Dum Dum expanding bullets made there.


#6

Hello Phillipe, the WRA 49 is reported to be a contract for Pakistan. The US dummy could be of Italian origin, but I’m not sure; it is sand filled? The Frankford Arsenal dummies have the bullet soldered to the mouth case, but only 1,969 were made and none has been identified.


#7

I have a similar US 15 dummy round. I suspect these may have been supplied to France or even possibly made in France, along with the other USCCo cases for the French air service .303 Vickers and Lewis guns.

Dennis - here is a picture of an original Dum Dum Ball Mark II Special on the left with a Ball Mark IV on the right. The headstamp is a little hard to read but it is “D I”.
Regards
TonyE



#8

Thanks for the picture. I had understood there were several “Dum Dum” expanding bullet types, but I did not suspect that one was a hollow point. I assume that the RN shown at left was the first of the expanding variety. Were there more than the two types shown? What is the bullet jacket material? Looks like CuNi. Were these made at locations other than Dum Dum? Obviously, I don’t know much about the .303.


#9

[quote=“VinceGreen”]
As you are in France I might be able to offer a theory about its origins. Years ago we wouldn’t reload .303s because the ammo was plentiful and cheap. But in those days a lot of the re-enacters had Lewis and Bren guns that they used to shoot in Belgium (where the law permitted them to be used on ranges). They used lead bullet reloads to save on barrel wear because the barrels were irreplacable.[/quote]
I didn’t think spare Bren barrels were that difficult to find in the UK before the bans. Lewis barrels I can see being a problem.

Dennis:
The later mark IV bullet was a hollow point as the design had been improved for mass-production. These were made at almost every factory that was making .303 at the time in Britain and the colonies. I’m sure Tony can tell the story in much better detail than I can.


#10

As I said, the left hand one was the original type based on the Clay/Tweedie design and made at the arsenals at Dum Dum and Kirkee. This has a soft nose and was known as the Mark II Special. It was also referred to as the Mark II* in the UK.

Some were made in the UK by both Royal Laboratory and Eley but were not formally adopted for service. After extensive trials in the UK the first of the hollow nosed types was adopted for service in 1897 as the Mark III. This had a CuNi cup inserted into the hollow nose, but the first lot failed accuracy proof and was ordered to be used up in training. Only 197,000 were made and it is the rarest of all .303 rounds.

This was followed by the hollow nosed ball Mark IV which was made in the UK, Canada and New Zealand. It had a pure lead core which tended to blow through the envelope leaving it in the bore. To overcome this the Mark V was introduced which had the same bullet except that the core was made of a harder alloy of lead/antimony. The Mark V was widely made in the UK and Canada as Falcon says.

These hollow nose rounds were outlawed by the St.Petersburg Convention so the normal Mark II was reintroduced for the Boer War. However, the Mark V was still used against “savage” enemies and was last issued in 1905 for an expedition to Somaliland.

All these rounds were 215 grains and had cupro-nickel envelopes.

Regards
TonyE


#11

Was the blow-through problem not corrected for a while? Mark IVs seem to be far more common than Vs.


#12

I have picked up many fired Mark IV/V bullets in the butts of ranges which had been used in training. However, I have not yet seen one which had expanded after impact with a target followed by the sand berm. I know that they were intended to expand when striking humans but I am surprised that none that I have found had expanded at all.

gravelbelly


#13

Deleted and replaced by the following post.


#14

An excellent and thorough historical treatment of the .303 British Dum Dum bullet (snd indeed the development of .303 in general) and the 1899 Hague Convention (and beyond) can be found at pfoa.co.uk/248/dum-dum-bullets


#15

I found someonelse in France having the same US15 VII Dummy. So, as you say Tony, it might have been produced in France with US cases.
Both samples are empty cases without any sand.
As far as the WRA 49 is concerned, Fede, I understand that it should be a normal cartridge (Pakistan contract) whithout any hole and not a Dummy.


#16

Regarding Dum Dum cartridges, I found that:
Can anybody give me some information ; I’ve been told the third one was made in/for Sudan)!
Second is filled with wax and third one with lead.



Philippe


#17

[quote=“gravelbelly”]I have picked up many fired Mark IV/V bullets in the butts of ranges which had been used in training. However, I have not yet seen one which had expanded after impact with a target followed by the sand berm. I know that they were intended to expand when striking humans but I am surprised that none that I have found had expanded at all.

gravelbelly[/quote]

You are right, and its simple physics. if the surface area of the outside is greater than the suface area of the inside the greater forces simply close the hole rather than open it.
back in the days when we could experiment with hollow nosed cast bullets and drilled bullets we found the effect was zero. phone books, water containers etc the effect was non existent except when you reached manstopper proportions. Hollow point bullets are a myth as far as we could tell. We were experimenting with pistol bullets on the time limit range at Bisley (out of the sight of prying eyes) and we tried everything we could to make them work.

Our results were pretty conclusive, we never tried it with rifle bullets because we had no way of retreiving the bullets afterwards.

But let me tell another story, if you go onto the zero range at bisley you will find jackets from soft nosed bullets lying on the surface of the sand opened up like a flower sans core. The people using the range to sight their rifles using soft point bullets had obviously fired them. The sand in the butts had opened them up with no penetration from the jackets what so ever. The bullets must have broken up on the surface leaving the core to bury itself minus the jacket. They would expand on flesh no question, but a simple hollow point, no

Hollow point bullets though were a great disappointment, we were expecting much more and we got nothing. I think a lot of the dum dum mystique is closer to urban myth than reality but it gave confidence to the soldiers.


#18

[quote=“Falcon”][quote=“VinceGreen”]
As you are in France I might be able to offer a theory about its origins. Years ago we wouldn’t reload .303s because the ammo was plentiful and cheap. But in those days a lot of the re-enacters had Lewis and Bren guns that they used to shoot in Belgium (where the law permitted them to be used on ranges). They used lead bullet reloads to save on barrel wear because the barrels were irreplacable.[/quote]
I didn’t think spare Bren barrels were that difficult to find in the UK before the bans.[/quote]
Falcon, I think their concern was cost as much as availability. They used to get down to Bisley and shoot them (illegally) under the guise of being attached to a TA or Cadet unit or they would just wheel them out on the century range when not many people were about and fire them singe shot. A lot of things went on in those days that could never happen now. I’m sure TonyE could tell some tales if prompted in the right way. I have seen Brens, galil’s, full auto SLRs and all sorts on the ranges in the past, in those days you didn’t really bat an eyelid. Men in ordinary clothes with MGs, could be SAS, SBS don’t ask questions. Today there would be a full scale enquiry. I have seen people with MGs in the past year or so, on butt 0 where you did the .22 steel plate. Reported it to the office, they said yes we know, and didn’t elaborate.