.45 Round ID - uncovered during an archaeology project

This item was uncovered recently during an archaeological excavation on the site of a military camp site on Salisbury Plain. Amongst the artefacts found were several items of ammunition. The project is currently working through finds identification and I have been unable to identify this item. Its calibre is .45 inch. The bullet is contained within the remains (neck)of the case. It has been separated at some stage from the rest of the cartridge. What remains was the neck wrapped around the bullet with the wad at the base of the bullet.
The bullet is seated well into the neck - there is no sign of it having been jammed into the cartridge (ie misfeed). The base of the bullet has a copper base plug. Can anybody ID?
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.450 Martini-Henry Bullet…is there remains of Paper Patching over part of the Lead?

The deteriorated Case was probably a “Rolled Foil” case,( .450 Mark I) with an Iron Base Plate, brass rivet Primer Pocket, inner cardboard base, with a coiled Brass Foil body, with paper interleaved with the Foil.

A very Fragile design ( “Boxer’s Patent”) and soon supplanted by the Solid Drawn brass case ( as other modern cartridge cases.).

Further examination of the soil around the initial find should show the Base (iron disc), maybe the Copper or brass rivet Pocket, and other foil remains. Depends on the acidity of the soil.

An excellent book on the Boxer Patent Cartridges (.577 Snider,.450 Long Henry, .450 “Short chamber” Martini-Henry cartridge, and several Pistol cartridges) is “The Boxer Cartridge in British Service” by Barry Temple et al. ( Published in Australia, back in the late 70s early 80s, but should be available in good Libraries of Militaria and Mil.History. in the UK).

Books by Labbett are also valuable ( UK Author).

There is a Bookshop in London which specialises in Military-related books (?Foyles? or similar name,-- I Bought several books there many years ago, incl. a reprint of U.S. Grant’s “History of the Civil War”)

A Place like Salisbury Plain has been a British Army training area since Napoleonic times…so all sorts of ammunition and relics are Possible. The secret is finding the correct context and Layers of the find. ( Basic rule of archeological research.). ie, Not earlier than the very late 1860s ( probably early 1870s) and no later than WWI ( or even the Boer War, 1899-1902).

Doc AV
Down Under.

Doc AV - thanks for your reply. yes, my initial thoughts were Martin-Henry. The bullet in question doesn’t match a Martini in any of the excellent reference books you mention however. Its not on Tony Edwards site either. I head up the archaeology sub-group on this area of Salisbury Plain and have worked archaeologically on many similar projects and cant ID this example. There was no evidence of paper patch (the case is tight to the bullet). Also the round is seated very deep in the case (and shows no evidence of having been forced into the case). Additionally the cannelures don’t match and the bullet is much shorter than a normal .455 Martini.
I have added a Martini comparison photo to my website image page. I have also not previously come across a copper base to a Martin-Henry bullet.
Further thoughts welcome.

Possibly a Kynoch sporting round due to the gas check on the base which Kynoch put on their cordite loaded rounds for black powder rifles starting c1900.

Bullet profile looks like a U.S. .45-55-405 carbine load, which used cardboard wads. Probably a long shot, but perhaps used in some sort of comparison trials, or joint exercise. These would have been circa 1874-1890s.

Since the bullet has grease grooves one wouldn’t reasonably expect it to be paper-patched. Jack

Could you weigh the bullet please? A weight might just help narrow it down a bit.

Could be .450 No2 Carbine ( a Westley-Richards Cartridge, used in the Westley-Richards Lever action Carbine–a variation of the MH design. ( Boer War Period).

The grease grooves (No Paper Patch) Make it more likely to be a “Commercial” rather than “Military” cartridge, and Later rather than earlier in the 1800s/1900s

Bullet Weight would help narrow it down.

Doc AV

Many thanks to all for replies. I don’t currently have a precise weighing tool - I will seek one out and update. Based on responses, it’s looking like commercial round - as DocAV posts, perhaps of Westley Richards lineage. The copper gas check I believe is related to higher velocity And as such a cordite/nitro cellulose propellant (rather than black powder). I wish my good friend Tony Edwards was still here - I’m sure this would have intrigued him. Thanks again for all replies.

The gas check was used by Kynoch with the cordite loads yes, but not for high velocity, but in nitro for black loads (NFB) to the duplicate the ballistics of black powder loads with nitro / Cordite powder because double rifles were regulated. ie: - both barrels at a set range to impact within a certain limited area (usually a couple of inches or less at 100 yards). Because most doubles have iron sights (Express sights where a leaf would be folded up for the next range, usually a 100 yards) & to change a load means new sights OR re-regulating the gun, which requires undoing the rib & positioning the barrels so they again shoot at the same point of impact & putting it back together again. So if you change the load the gun does not shoot as it should & the elephant could make a mud pie out of you. Thus the NFB load was devised to allow folk with BP guns to shoot them with nitro / Cordite powder with out major expense requiring master class workmanship. And it sold more ammunition!

We all wish Tony was here,

Pete - excellent many thanks for clarifying that. Much appreciated.


There is a Bookshop in London which specialises in Military-related books (?Foyles? or similar name,-- I Bought several books there many years ago, incl. a reprint of U.S. Grant’s “History of the Civil War”)

sportscoalition.org/wp-conte … t-2014.pdf

Doc AV
Down Under.[/quote]

The best bookshop and my particular favorite was Motorbooks in a little square off St Martins Lane. Very close to Thomas Bland Gunsmith. Sadly both are now gone. Foyles is still there, in Shaftsbury Ave but its lost a lot of its market for specialist books to the internet.

I would direct any enquiry to the HBSA

I believe Salibury Plain was also used for civilian shooting way back in the same way that Wimbledon Common was so it could be anything, even a Creedmore. Teams from the US did cross the atlantic regularly to compete even in those day.

following the civilian route, the curator of the NRA Museum at Bisley might be worth a try but there was a plethora of civilian rifles and calibres in the early days.

The two cannelures on this bullet, doesn’t exclude it from being from a .45 Martini Henry round.
As Doc Av says, a check in Barry Temple’s book will confirm this. There will be in it a section detailing the construction of the various Henry bullets.
I was involved with Barry during his research, and still have about 20 pages of notes and drawings we were working on. The improved rolled case rifle Mark 3, of around 1873 vintage, had a weight of 480 grains and two cannelures. The carbine load weighed 410 grains, and also had 2 cannelures. However, none of them had a gas check, or similar, in the base.


John: I checked out an online copy from a 19th century English publication which shows the cannelures clearly and the case mouth crimps which were pressed into those grooves. Paper-patched bullets as an ordinary thing are uncrimped, and it had been a good long while since I’d properly admired my .45 and .577 cartridges. I’ll attend to that later this evening; and thanks for the nudge. Jack

Jack; just be aware, the early rolled cased .45MH Mk 1 and Mk 2, only had one cannelure.
Barry went into great depth in his studies and I’m sure his work eventually had a chapter on the Henry bullets, showing all types and dimensions.
I don’t have my copy with me, but if you want more detail send me a PM and I’ll try to get relevant details for you when I get it back.