.375/.303 Kings Norton Metal Co. Ltd


#1

Would be grateful for help in pinning down more detail on the following.

Cartridge measurements;

Case length: 2.50"
Bullet diameter: 0.310"
Base: 0.4585"
Rim: 0.506"

Headstamp appears to be: Kings Norton Metal Co. Ltd, Abbey Wood, Kent, UK.

My searching has come up with a number of different cartridge names:

.375/.303 Westley Richards Accelerated Express
.375/.303 Axite
.375/.303 Swift

Could anyone indicate if one of the above names is more appropriate, or if there is another more applicable name?

Would be grateful for any additional background information, further to that provided by RichT appended below.

Sam3

303-1

20180204_150245

EDIT
Appreciate earlier IAA post from RichT:

RichT
Nov '14

Joe here is something I found, I cant remember where or when I got this but it is about the match bullets from the same era.

The .303” “Patent Pointed” Cartridge.

This cartridge was intended for “Match Rifle” shooting. This is a specific discipline, shot at distances from 800 to 1,000 yards initially, and from 1910 at 900 to 1,100 yards, under NRA rules, and was intended to be semi-experimental in nature, in that, provided the rifle and ammunition were of a military character, almost any combination of action, barrel and ammunition could be used. Prior to 1897 there was no restriction in calibre, but in that year a maximum calibre of .315” was introduced, together with a weight limit of 3.25 lbs. for the barrel, and so the previously favoured black-powder rifles, mostly in .450” calibre, disappeared, being replaced by the .303” and the .256” (6.5mm) Mannlicher, the latter being the favourite as the ammunition was considered to be better than the .303” that was available.

In 1903, the “Palma Trophy” match was shot at Bisley, and the King’s Norton Metal Co. (who up until then had been known to shooters mostly for their .303” ammunition made for the Government) were persuaded to make a better quality .303” cartridge for the British team. It had a bullet of about 225 grains weight (10 grains more than the Service bullet) and a heavier charge of powder, and shot very well, and because of this was then marketed commercially as the “.303” Palma”, with many of the Match Rifle shooters changing over to it…

In 1905, Kynoch introduced their .375/303 Axite round, loaded with a 225-grain bullet, in competition with the “Palma” cartridge, this new round having a larger case, and a higher velocity.

All the above cartridges had round-nosed bullets, but in 1906 at least two of the Match Rifle shooters had the King’s Norton Co. make them some pointed bullets, which they shot in competition, with some minor success. More work to improve the bullets was done by both the KNMCo and Kynoch, resulting in each of them announcing for the 1907 season the “Palma Pointed”, and the “Swift” bullets, respectively. Both these bullets weighed 225 grains, and were very similar to each other.

It was at about this time that the Birmingham Metal & Munitions Co. decided to get in on the act, by introducing their “Patent Pointed” cartridge. This had an even heavier bullet than the other two, at 235 grains, and was stated to have a high velocity, but I do not know what the actual figure was. The Patent referred to was British Patent No. 3429 of 1905; however, this was not taken out by the BM&MCo., but by DWM of Germany!

The shooting quality of this round must have been quite good, as it was seriously considered as the round for the British team in the rifle shooting events of the 1908 Olympic Games; however, in the end the team chose the “Palma Pointed” round, as it was considered that the quality control of the KN Company was better.

There was a relatively small market for any of these rounds, as the “Match Rifle” discipline was shot by only between 60 and 100 persons (compared to about 1,500 competitors who shot for the “King’s Prize” in the “Service Rifle” events), most of whom were well-off gentlemen with plenty of leisure time, and there was plenty of competition for their custom, with Eley, King’s Norton, and Kynoch all producing .303” and .375/303” (and later.280”) ammunition with pointed bullets of various weights. The “Patent Pointed” cartridges were relatively expensive at £9/2/6d per thousand (“Government” ammunition being £5 per 1,000), and do not seem to have been anywhere near as popular as the KN-made cartridges, with the result that very few are seen today.

This packet is the only one I have ever seen, (it’s not in my collection, alas) and must date from about 1907-1908. The round is advertised in a BM&MCo catalogue/price list of about 1907 vintage (as shown below), and was still in the Nobel’s Ammunition Price List of 1912-13 (still at the same price). With the outbreak of the First World War, all Match Rifle shooting was suspended, and when it resumed in 1919, all the competitors were obliged to use the .303” Magnum cartridge, and so the “Patent Pointed” passed from the scene.


#2

Hello Sam3,
According to my information, I think you have a .375/.303 Westley Richards Express. The .303 Axite and .303 Swift have a 2.470 inch long case where the .375/.303 Westley Richards Express has a 2.50 inch case length.
Unfortunately, my information also states that the .375/.303 Westley Richards Express cartridge used a 0.330 inch diameter bullet.

“The .375/.303 Westley Richards Express was a rimmed cartridge introduced by Westley Richards in about 1906. The cartridge was not a true .303” as the bullet had a diameter of .330”. It did not have a long life, being superseded by the more powerful Westley Richards .318” Rimless Nitro Express cartridge (also with a bullet diameter of .330”) in about 1910.”

Here is an image of a Kings Norton Metals box for the cartridge.
image
I’m sure others will chime in to correct me if I am way off base :-)
All the best,
Brian


#3

Hi Brian,
Many thanks for your reply and the photograph of the box…much appreciated.

I’ve measured the bullet again, as seen on the photographs, and can confirm that the diameter is: 0.310".

The bullet is not loose and I can only measure as seen.
Could there be a 0.02" difference?

Regards,
Sam3


#4

I looked at 3 references (COTW last, case length 2.47). The other two (Fleming, Datig Vol. 1) listed case length as 2.493" and bullet diameters as 0.310"

W-R produced a bullet that was .330" in diameter for their “.318 W-R”. They might well have loaded this bullet into the .375/.303 case by expanding the case neck to accept the larger bullet diameter. In those days, the customer was king. W-R would have made a custom double rifle or a single barrel for the man.

The Match Rifle game was played by wealthy or well-connected & sponsored gentlemen, with quite controlled specs for both rifle (much like the Creedmoor specs) & cartridge. The rifles were custom made and the ammunition was loaded to match specs. The game is still played. AFAIK, the present cartridge is restricted to the 7.62x51 mm NATO case. An acquaintance recently beat me to a Match Rifle built on an 1893 Rumanian Mannlicher action with a Match spec barrel in 7.62 NATO case.

Also the earlier 0.315" limit was on bore diameter. Bullets used were 0.322" and the most common case was the 8x50 R Austrian Mannlicher. We see these listed as .322 Swift, etc.


#5

Hi Waterman,
Having a small confidence wobble; I measured the case and the bullet again with an alternative steel mm caliper (Mitutoyo, Japan).

The case length: 63.55mm
Bullet diameter: 7.85mm

Appreciate your comments, particularly with respect to:
“The rifles were custom made and the ammunition was loaded to match specs.”

I’ve labelled it as a .375/.303 Westley Richards Express, because of the case length.

It’s an anomaly and I’m not quite sure whether to be happy or sad.

Regards,
Sam3


#6

The Axite cartridge would have had the powder Axite on the headstamp and Swift was a Kynoch brand name for a bullet. So as a result you can have Swift bullets in an Axite charged case. OR the W.R. case with Axite powder.

The Swift bullet is a long pointed type, such as you have.

edited to remove my previous comment about the bullet seating & shape.

So to sum up, Axite powder was used in the Swift match and the W.R & all of the cases are W.R. it’s just the bullet causing your confusion in names. A small variation in measurements of the case can be because of manufacturing by the different companies. Kynoch, K.N. & Birmingham Metals & Munitions Co. made this case over a period of time.

Below a article, with thanks to Jim Buchanan, from The Kynoch Journal which may help explain it.



#7

The whole subject of the technical evolution of competitive long range shooting (Wimbledon, Creedmoor & Bisley) is quite interesting, esp. considering the rules surrounding the Bisley matches. The latter pages of the 1915 book “Rifles & Ammunition” by Ommundson & Robinson tells a bit about it. Both were competitors; O from a relatively wealthy family, R a good rifleman who was sponsored. Competition was extreme, a battle of technology then & now. New rifles, or at least new barrels were needed every year or two. Competitors went to custom gun makers, and the makers benefitted by advertising if their rifle won. My impression is that the gun makers worked with the ammunition companies, esp. Kings Norton, to load ammo especially suited to a few particular rifles, much like the big car companies have racing car teams. Once a load proved accurate, it was produced in modest quantities. Shooters tracked manufacturing lot numbers, just as they do with high-end .22 rimfire ammo today. Ammo companies, esp. KN, might reserve particular lot #s for certain shooters, again, just like Eley does today.

Dixon lists weights for 2 samples. Can you weigh your ctg? That might tell us more.

I think you can order the O & R book as print-on-demand today, but the copy used to make the masters was damaged & the POD masters are a bit blurry.


#8

Hi,

Many thanks to everyone for their detailed input.
In searching around I copied the following comments from “Roger,” from the BOCN Forum:
http://www.bocn.co.uk/vbforum/threads/80806-bullet-identification?highlight=palma

“This 225 grain bullet was introduced about 1906, and was made by not only Kynoch, but also King’s Norton, and BM&MCo. It was used for Match-Rifle shooting, and was loaded in both the ordinary .303 case, and the longer .375/303 case that was introduced in 1905 by Kynoch (and called by them the Kynoch Axite; - this case is frequently referred to by various sources as the .375/303 Westley Richards Accelerated Express, but this is quite wrong, as Westley Richards had nothing to do with the development of this round).
Kynoch referred to their design of bullet as the Swift, but the design was modified about 2 years later by Hookham (one of Kynoch’s employees), and was then given what might be described as a “bevelled” tip.
KN referred to their bullet as the “Pointed Palma”, and when loaded into the .375/303 case the round was referred to as the “Long Palma”.
Regards,
Roger.”

My deduction is that the case length points to this cartridge being the; “.375/.303 Westley Richards Accelerated Express,” with a (.310" diameter) .303" bullet.

The cartridge looks closest to the Kynoch .375/.303 Swift except for the case length.

I’m finding it hard to believe that bullet diameter and case length differences would fall under the description of normal variance within manufacture.

Also found the following at the IWM Web site:
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30026906
"History note
Introduced c. 1906 by Westley Richards as a sporting rifle cartridge, essentially a rimmed version of the .318 Accelerated Express and intended for double rifles, single shot rifles and Lee bolt action rifles, it was in the same performance league as the .300 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum. ‘Axite’ was a propellant advertised as less erosive and corrosive than cordite. The cartridge attracted the attention of long range match rifle shooters, concerned with accuracy at 1,000 yards plus, and this specimen is such a target cartridge. It is known that Kings Norton produced .375/.303 Palma Match cartridges for L R Tippins of Mistley in Essex, and this may be an example. Luke Tippins, a former headmaster and keen rifle shot with strongly-held opinions on the sport, had become a gunsmith specialising in target rifles, and wrote three books on rifle shooting between 1900 and 1910: ‘The Service Rifles’, ‘The Rifleman’s Companion’ and the influential ‘Modern Rifle Shooting in Peace, War and Sport’. His son John had joined him in the business. John was one of the outstanding shots of his generation, having represented England many times between 1905 and 1913, including at the Olympics, and had also been a member of the Empire Team. A Territorial, he went to war with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion The Essex Regiment, and was killed on 26 November 1914 (while serving a machine gun in place of his Sergeant, who had been killed) by which time he had been credited with 20 kills with his rifle. (Reference: Barnes, F C : 1972 : Cartridges of the World : Digest Books Inc : : p 216)"

I have written to the IWM to ask for their assistance and will post any reply.

Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

Sam3


#9

Only marginally OT, Ommundson & Robinson (1915) wrote that “serving officers were obligated to use the King’s rifles and ammunition” and “the Lee-Enfield usually fared badly at long range”. But a Martini with a Match Rifle barrel chambered for the issue .303 military cartridge (but loaded by KN with the heavier match bullets and perhaps Axtite powder) might meet the “serving officers” requirement and make the shooter competitive. Hence the Swift bullet in a regular .303 case.

The IWM reference tells us that KN was producing custom loads for Tippins. If some competitor wanted a slightly longer neck on his .375/.303 because of the internal characteristics of a rifle’s chamber, he might well have received them.

While .003" might be a bit too much tolerance for loaded high pressure ammunition, it is well within the range of case lengths encountered if you purchase a couple of bags of empty unfired brass from Remington or Winchester today.


#10

Further to my request for information from the Imperial War Museum, I received the following reply today.

"Thank you for your message, which was forwarded to me.
I’m afraid that, not being an expert on firearms or ammunition, I have little to add to the discussion. I don’t have any further information on this cartridge beyond what you have seen on our website.

We have no images of this particular cartridge at present. IWM can provide good quality images on demand of items in our collection but we charge for this service.
If you would like to request an image, I can forward your enquiry to the appropriate team who can provide further information."

Sam3