.303 projectile mystery


#1

This is taken from another site. Can anyone help ID this bullet?

[quote]Re:unusual 303 identification please:
The picture shows a 303 bullet recovered earlier in the summer from an aircraft (Blenheim) crash site in the UK. The aircraft crashed in July 1942 while on a training sortie. As you can see there’s a rather odd looking spigot sticking out of the base of the bullet. The spigot appears to be an extension of the core because (apart from a slight ability to ‘wiggle’) it is solidly fixed in the jacket. It appears to be made of lead and is about the same length as the bullet (approx 34 mm or almost 1.5 inches in old money). The remains of about 200+ rounds were uncovered at the site, but this was the only one of this type that I found. All of the ammunition had ‘cooked-off’ in the crash and was mostly split open. The majority of the cartridge cases were fired (I don’t know if the Blenheim retained its empty cases on firing). I kept one of the cases - it has the Broad Arrow, Roman “VI” (for Mk. 6Z ??)and “1941” stamped on it. Assuming that the spigot took up space for propellant in the case and would have affected the ballistics of the bullet in flight, the only thing that I can think of is that is is some sort of low power/low velocity training round, but that’s only a guess. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Anyone got any ideas?
[/quote]

Here is a reply to the above post…

[quote]Re:unusual 303 identification please:
I have seen this before on bullets recovered from aircraft crash sites.

I realise it is hard to credit but I believe this is the core of the bullet that has been extruded from the bullet. This can be caused if the bullet had a fibre or compressed paper tip instead of an aluminium one (this was a wartime expedient to save valuable Aluminium). If the round is subjected to enough heat to burn the fibre/paper, but not enough to melt the lead, then the gas pressure produced by the burning tip will force our the lead core. The reason it is so long is that the base of the bullet where the envelope is turned over is smaller than the lead core diameter.

I suspect if you were to section the bullet you would find that this is the case.
[/quote]

A response from another forum.

[quote]I would propose to weigh it first and then x-ray it before you do anything violent to it.

I think that 1st. given answer is very much unlikely.[/quote]


#2

I fully support the extruded core theory.

I have seen a similar projectile where the core extruded out of the front because it was a soft point, although in this case it was due to impact, not heat. Still not sure how that one happened!

I also have in my collection an M-855 projectile that came form an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon “cook-off”. The gun was so hot from firing that the cartridge “cooked-off” before the bolt had time to lock. The case head seperated, leaving the case body in the chamber and pushing the projectile 1/2 way down the barrel. The barrel was so hot that the lodged projectile got hot enough to melt the lead core out leaving an empty jacket with the steel penetrator tip rattling around inside. The green tip color burned off, leaving a black residue. The point being that heat can cause the lead core to do funny things. I’d say that the .303 was exposed to lower, prolonged temperature to cause the neat and uniform extrusion versus the core melting and leaving a puddle.

Neat!

AKMS


#3

The problem that I have with the melted theory is that the base is too uniform. If it were to melt there would not be a nice cylindrical shape. I would also think that if the lead was hot enough to melt there would be enough heat that it would ignite the powder or cordite in the case causing an explosion.

just my 2 cents…


#4

Suggest to the original poster that he cut open the jacket. If empty, we know it’s the core.


#5

But didn’t he write that “all of the ammunition had cooked off”?

Being the only round found like that out of 200, and the fact that a design like that could serve no purpose that I can dream up, I would guess that the lead core was partially melted and extruded.

It would be easy to X-Ray.


#6

Just weigh it,if it’s the proper weight it has extruded.


#7

Just tapping on the jacket should be revealing. With that much lead out the back, it has to be empty.


#8

Calling Gravelbelly!

Dave, it is my theory about the extruded core (posted on another forum) that Missing Something has quoted in his original post above.

I seem to remember you posted some pictures of similar bullets in the ECRA journal a couple of years ago. If you still have the pictures it would be useful if you could post them here.

Regards and Happy Christmas to all,
TonyE


#9

[quote=“Missing Something”]The problem that I have with the melted theory is that the base is too uniform. If it were to melt there would not be a nice cylindrical shape. I would also think that if the lead was hot enough to melt there would be enough heat that it would ignite the powder or cordite in the case causing an explosion.

just my 2 cents…[/quote]

The whole point of my suggestion was that the lead did NOT melt, but the heat was enough to char the fibre tip filler and this produced enough pressure to extrude the core. The base would then look just like it had when it was in the bullet so it would look manufactured.

regards
TonyE


#10

[quote=“TonyE”][quote=“Missing Something”]The problem that I have with the melted theory is that the base is too uniform. If it were to melt there would not be a nice cylindrical shape. I would also think that if the lead was hot enough to melt there would be enough heat that it would ignite the powder or cordite in the case causing an explosion.

just my 2 cents…[/quote]

The whole point of my suggestion was that the lead did NOT melt, but the heat was enough to char the fibre tip filler and this produced enough pressure to extrude the core. The base would then look just like it had when it was in the bullet so it would look manufactured.

regards
TonyE[/quote]

TonyE, I have no problem with the theory. I am just wondering if there was enough heat to [quote]char the fibre tip filler and this produced enough pressure to extrude the core.[/quote] would there not be enough heat to set the propellant off?
I am under the impression that cordite is fairly unstable and when heated would become volatile.

As for the bullet, a dental xray of the whole thing would also verify if the core was hollow. Weight of the projectile would also answer a few questions. Just from the pictures the core looks to long to be extruded from the bullet.

This is just my opinion and I am no where near the expert that TonyE is but my untrained eye has questions.


#11

No one has yet offered the weight of the projectile in question. Perhaps it is not known, since this came off another site. It could be nothing more than a defective bullet where lead “wire” was used in the manufacture of the core, and was cut off incorrectly during the manufacturing process. It is, though, hard to believe it would get loaded, but I describe below a case of a similar bullet being loaded. If the bullet is much heavier in weight than normal, that would be a logicaql answer, as the prtoruding wire of itself looks like just about the right amount to presure-form a complete core. I have had examples of defects similar.

I agree that the wire, or stem, looks way too regular in diameter, etc., to be the result of melting.

I had A Spanish 9mm Para that was supposed to be FMJ. The jacket somehow was formed around the core backwards, so that it became a soft-nose bullet with a clsed base, but with a piece of lead wire very much like shown, regular in diameter, sticking almost 3/4 inch out of the tip of the bullet. Somehow, it got actually past the inspectors and was loaded and packed that way, perhaps due to automated packaging, I just don’t know. It was found in a box and the wire was bent over under the other bullet tips, or between them, I should say. I still have the round, but unbelieveably, I showed it to another person once and he said something to the effect that “it was easy to fix” and purposely broke off the piece of lead protruding. I could have Loaded that cartridge in a pistol and used it on him! I had kept it as an intresting defect - having a very small collection of defects found on loaded, boxed, 9mm ammo. When the wire was attached, that round weighed about 14 or 15 grains heavier than any other round in the box. In the case of wire protruding from the base, once loaded, it could not have been seen by an inspector, although you would think machinery would have safeguards against loading a bullet tyhat weighed especially heavy (or light!).


#12

Since the bullet is no longer seated in its case, I would think it is a given that the cordite cooked off. The bullet would not necessarily travel too far, and as long as it remained in close proximity to the the heat, the extrusion of the lead as described above could occur.

As to whether or not there is too much lead to have been the bullet core, the lead piece sticking out is about the same length as the jacket, and its diameter is significantly less that the inside diameter you’d expect the jacket cavity to have. I believe it would fit inside the jacket.


#13

In my opinion, the bullet was subjected to enough heat to char the fiber tip and produce gas pressure and to turn the lead core into a putty consistency, but not melt it. The core was then extruded out the base. The smaller diameter is due to the “turn-over” of the jacket to hold the core in. The smaller diameter of the hole in the base would act as a die to make the extrusion smaller.

Just another opinion, for what it is worth.


#14

Please finally weigh that thing!


#15

[quote=“JohnMoss”]No one has yet offered the weight of the projectile in question. Perhaps it is not known, since this came off another site. It could be nothing more than a defective bullet where lead “wire” was used in the manufacture of the core, and was cut off incorrectly during the manufacturing process. It is, though, hard to believe it would get loaded, but I describe below a case of a similar bullet being loaded. If the bullet is much heavier in weight than normal, that would be a logicaql answer, as the prtoruding wire of itself looks like just about the right amount to presure-form a complete core. I have had examples of defects similar.

I agree that the wire, or stem, looks way too regular in diameter, etc., to be the result of melting.

I had A Spanish 9mm Para that was supposed to be FMJ. The jacket somehow was formed around the core backwards, so that it became a soft-nose bullet with a clsed base, but with a piece of lead wire very much like shown, regular in diameter, sticking almost 3/4 inch out of the tip of the bullet. Somehow, it got actually past the inspectors and was loaded and packed that way, perhaps due to automated packaging, I just don’t know. It was found in a box and the wire was bent over under the other bullet tips, or between them, I should say. I still have the round, but unbelieveably, I showed it to another person once and he said something to the effect that “it was easy to fix” and purposely broke off the piece of lead protruding. I could have Loaded that cartridge in a pistol and used it on him! I had kept it as an intresting defect - having a very small collection of defects found on loaded, boxed, 9mm ammo. When the wire was attached, that round weighed about 14 or 15 grains heavier than any other round in the box. In the case of wire protruding from the base, once loaded, it could not have been seen by an inspector, although you would think machinery would have safeguards against loading a bullet tyhat weighed especially heavy (or light!).[/quote]

John,

.303" cores are formed pretty much to final shape before being inserted into the jacket, after the light tip filler. They look nothing like the extruded “wire” hanging out of this bullet. I am pretty sure that the complete bullet, as shown, will weigh close to 174 grains and will be largely hollow. It could not have been loaded into a case with that tail as the base of a bullet is pressed tightly against the wad which is pressed tightly against the cordite, it is all a close fit, no room for a long tail. I favour the pressure extrusion of the core theory and have seen similar, but lesser, examples before. Perhaps I could try heating a loose mark VII bullet to see what happens. The trouble is we don’t know what material the tip filler was made of on this oddity. It is certainly not any form of manufactured bullet, the long soft tail would spin off sideways due to the centrifugal force and be totally unstable after exiting the muzzle. Another bit of evidence for the extrusion theory would be the presence of a manufacturers mark on the end of the tail which originally was on the base of the core.

As for reversed 9mm “soft nose” bullets. I used to have several similar oddities taken from standard RG ball cartons in the 1960’s. There was no lead wire in this case and the weight was similar to normal ball. I found four in one carton which had slipped through inspection. The small hole through which your wire escaped is probably an air escape hole to allow a normal jacketed bullet to slip into the cavity before final pressing to shape.

Tony,

I know the article with images of extruded cores that you mean. However I don’t think that I contributed the pictures, just responded to the original acticle.

Ron,

You don’t have to heat lead alloy much, if at all, to extrude it. Lead flows easily, more pressure/force = faster flow. Even light pressure causes lead to flow, just slower. This property was used in timing fuzes for delayed explosions.

gravelbelly


#16

The other possibility is that the “VI” refers to a Buckingham Mark VI (6) Incendiary loading (common in aircraft belts), and that the Incendiary pellet in the nose “cooked off” and the build up in gas pressure pushing the lead core out through the base rollover of the jacket.
When did Mark VII (ball) officially change from an aluminium tip to a pressed fibre tip???-- a 1941 date could still be aluminium tipped, given overlap between manufactured components and actual “orders” from above.

“Cooking off” can happen in various ways; the cordite can burn first, igniting the primer ( a slow cook-off); the primer can ignite, then flashing through the cordite, as in normal (gun) ignition, a faster and more violent effect.
Several things can happen: the primer can be extruded from the pocket, the case can peel open, with the bullet remaining pretty well where it is, or the case can “rocket” away, only slightly expanded, but otherwise undamaged.

As correctly stated, the bullet, being the heaviest component, moves the least (Inertia)…so all the Movie “bullets in the fire killing people” is a lot of crapola Hollywood style ( I have seen people injured by flying cartridge case fragments, though, from burning ammo, during my service days).

regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics


#17

Gravelbelly. Thanks for the explanation on the .303 - also to everyone else. It is likely not a manufacturing error as I supposed. I had forgotten about cordite and over poweder wads, which not every .303 manufacturer in the world use.

Regarding my Spanish 9mm, I decided that since its amusement value was largely ruined after another collector purposely “improved it” for me by breaking off the exposed lead wire, which stuck almost 3/4 inch out of the nose of the bullet, to pull the round apart this morning, It is NOT, as I had thought, a case of jacket reversal. The base is open with lead exposed, and perfectly formed.

However, that said, I don’t understand your explanation about an “air escape hole” in the nose. I have lots of bullet draw sets showing the steps of manufacture, and I have seen no jacket for a FMJ bullet that has, at any stage of manufacture, any kind of hole in the tip of the bullet jacket. Can you expand on how, with a jacket on a finished bullet that shows no sign of any hole ever being there (I am not now speaking of my Spanish round, but upon examination, I am speaking of other Spanish rounds of the same manufacturer and era, as well as any other FMJ 9mm bullet), the process you described worked, an example of who used this process, and how one spots FMJ bullet tips that originally had a “air escape hole?”

Or, have I totally misunderstood what you said?

I am sorry to put you to more work, and I admit that from a purely technical standpoint on the manufacture of ammunition, I am not very well versed, the thrust of my interest in ammunition being historical rather than technical (other than ammunition I load and shoot, of course).

John Moss


#18

[quote=“JohnMoss”]Gravelbelly. Thanks for the explanation on the .303 - also to everyone else. It is likely not a manufacturing error as I supposed. I had forgotten about cordite and over poweder wads, which not every .303 manufacturer in the world use.

Regarding my Spanish 9mm, I decided that since its amusement value was largely ruined after another collector purposely “improved it” for me by breaking off the exposed lead wire, which stuck almost 3/4 inch out of the nose of the bullet, to pull the round apart this morning, It is NOT, as I had thought, a case of jacket reversal. The base is open with lead exposed, and perfectly formed.

However, that said, I don’t understand your explanation about an “air escape hole” in the nose. I have lots of bullet draw sets showing the steps of manufacture, and I have seen no jacket for a FMJ bullet that has, at any stage of manufacture, any kind of hole in the tip of the bullet jacket. Can you expand on how, with a jacket on a finished bullet that shows no sign of any hole ever being there (I am not now speaking of my Spanish round, but upon examination, I am speaking of other Spanish rounds of the same manufacturer and era, as well as any other FMJ 9mm bullet), the process you described worked, an example of who used this process, and how one spots FMJ bullet tips that originally had a “air escape hole?”

Or, have I totally misunderstood what you said?

I am sorry to put you to more work, and I admit that from a purely technical standpoint on the manufacture of ammunition, I am not very well versed, the thrust of my interest in ammunition being historical rather than technical (other than ammunition I load and shoot, of course).

John Moss[/quote]

John,

What I meant, but probably didn’t explain very well, was that there may be a tiny air escape hole in the die cavity to ensure that the jacketed bullet fills it out fully into the final form. The jacket would not extrude but lead might. We now have a further mystery in your 9mm bullet with a tubular jacket!

gravelbelly


#19

Gravelbelly - Yes, you are right. I always assumed that the bottom of the bullet would be completely jacketed. I was quite surprised to find it normal, and perfectly formed. I have seen cups accidentally reversed before in the manufacturing process and they extruded lead, not quite as dramatic as mine, out the front. That is now a mystery to me too - how did they even get a lead core into them with the bottom of the jacket closed off?
Sounds impossible to me!


#20

[quote=“JohnMoss”]Gravelbelly - Yes, you are right. I always assumed that the bottom of the bullet would be completely jacketed. I was quite surprised to find it normal, and perfectly formed. I have seen cups accidentally reversed before in the manufacturing process and they extruded lead, not quite as dramatic as mine, out the front. That is now a mystery to me too - how did they even get a lead core into them with the bottom of the jacket closed off?
Sounds impossible to me![/quote]

John,

When I found the Radway Green 9mm with soft nosed bullets in standard Naval issue cartons I pulled a couple and found a completely closed jacket at the base. The explanation from RG at the time was that the cores were popped into the jackets and then passed to the die for final pressing to shape. However, a few got tumbled over and entered the final press die upside down. The press then forced them to shape, in reverse, what should have been the base became the nose etc. They didn’t offer an opinion on how these passed through inspection to issue to us.

gravelbelly