.450 Adams Mk I, II, & III Cartridges - Military Packages


The following is the little I know about the military packaging for the above rounds. It will probably appear eventually in the IAA Journal but I wanted to see if anyone on the forum could add more information.

I stress that I’m talking about military packaging and not the .450 Boxer commercial loadings even though some were sold in boxes and tins labeled “For Adams Revolvers”.

Adams Mark I Packages.
Majendie & Browne state on page 118 of their Military Breech-loading Rifles (published in 1870) that Eley made the all of the Adams [Mark I] cartridges up to that point. How Eley packaged these cartridges and how they were issued is unknown (to me). Following Col. Boxer’s forced resignation in 1869, the Royal Laboratory started issuing the Mark 1 cartridge and between 1870 and 1878 they issued 2.2 million rounds. However, no packages of Mark 1 cartridges have been seen or reported as far as I know. There is a sketch made by the late Adrian Caruana from a “book of plates” found in the Royal Armouries that showed the then current (1868) packaging for a variety of rounds - both rifle and revolver. This sketch was reproduced in the 1983 Canadian Journal of Arms Collecting, Volume 21, No. 1, page 6, and is shown below.

Sketch of an 1868 Mk 1 string-tied, paper-wrapped package of 12 rounds

The fact that none of these packages has been seen or reported MAY be due to the fact that the Adams Revolver and the Adams Mk I cartridge were only approved for the British Navy [LoC’s 1738 & 1739] (the British Army did not approve the Adams revolver for use until 1877 [recorded in LoC 3316 of 1878], by which time the Mk II cartridge was in use). I do not know if the Navy was issued the Mk I cartridges in paper packages.
QUESTION #1: Has anyone seen a package of Mk I rounds like the above label?
QUESTION #2: Does anyone have information on how ammunition was packaged for the British Navy in the 1868-1877 period?

Adams Mark II Packages.
The Mark II cartridge was approved for use by the British Army (specifically the cavalry) in September 1877 and between then and fiscal year 1881/1882 the Royal Laboratory issued nearly 5½ million rounds. So it is not surprising that packets from this period do exist. So far, I am aware of 4 packet variations: 1879, 1880 (2) and 1881. The 1880 packets exist both with and without the black circle denoting Ball rounds – a marking that was introduced that year and recorded in LoC 3757.

All the above Mark II packets contained unheadstamped cartridges with a brass base disk.

From fiscal years 1882/83 to 1887/88 the Royal laboratory did not issue any .450 Adams Mk II cartridges, apart from a small quantity in 1886/87. However, from fiscal years 1888/89 to 1896/97 they issued 1¾ million rounds and no packets from this period exist (again, to my knowledge).
QUESTION #3: Has anyone seen any Mark II packets other than those shown above?

Adams Mark III Packets
The Adams Mark III cartridge was introduced in 1909 for those units that were still using the Adams revolvers. The Royal Laboratory design drawing was initially dated 1909 but there were frequent, though minor, revisions to the design up to and including 1927. I have found no production figures for this mark and the rounds, at least those made by Eley, are not rare. However, so far I have only seen 1914-dated packaging. The package contained the usual Eley production with the deep cannelure on the case and two broad-arrows added to the headstamp. You will note that the text on the packet does not include “Mark III” or “Adams” even though the design drawing, RL 16433(1), refers to it as the “Cartridge S.A. Ball Pistol Adams (Mark III)”.

Label portion of paper wrapper (string removed) for Eley Mk III Ball cartridges, dated 11th August, 1914.

The Royal Laboratory made a small quantity of the Mark III cartridge just before WWI headstamped R L III, though these are extremely rare.

QUESTION #4: Has anyone seen Eley Mark III packets with different dates than that shown above?
QUESTION #5: Has anyone seen Royal Laboratory packaging for the Mark III? In theory it should be similar to the Eley one above but with “RL” as the manufacturer.

That sums up what I know about Military packaging for Adams cartridges, so I’m hoping someone can add to it.


Hi Chris

Sorry,no help with your questions about the packets but I’m sure Royal laboratory production of the MkIII Adams used cut down MkIII .455" Webley cases?



Hi Tony,
You may well be right about how RL made up the short run of 450 Mk III rounds. I have been told that this RL III headstamp does not appear on a 455. HOWEVER, I am no expert and just because no one has seen that headstamp on a 455 it doesn’t mean that RL didn’t have a few cases left over after the demise of the short-lived .455 Mk III. The .450 Mk III RL round is rare – I know of only 2 or 3 examples but I suspect that there may be more languishing in .455 collections mistakenly identified as stunted .455 rounds!

There are a number of .450 cartridge that have been made from cut down 455 cases so I wouldn’t be surprised if RL took the cheaper route. Now, you say you are “sure” that they used a cut-down 455 – the implication being that you’ve seen some documentation or records that will excite both .450 AND .455 collectors. Please share!

Chris P.


Hi Chris,
link to the source of my info :)



Thanks Tony,
Unfortunately the author of that piece doesn’t give his sources (at least as it pertains to the origin of the cases) and makes the same statement that Peter Labbett made in one of his works. Unfortunately Peter rarely recorded his sources either ! Do you know if this site is still being managed as I would like to correct the photo of the R/\L III round which shows no cannelure on the case while the round actually has a deep cannelure?

Chris P.


Hi Chris,
TonyE was a dear friend and mentor to me for years and I was lucky to have spent time with him a few weeks before he passed away.
Yes I do know who has took over the site and had Tonys vast ‘paperwork’ collection,there are a few subjects that need updating on his site in view of new information that has surfaced since he passed away,two of which I have come across since and would have shared with him,ie ‘no British service 50 BMG blank’ and that 'Mk V .455 Webley ball was only made by R^L.'
I have offered my help to the ‘new’ site owner (publicly on BOCN) but never recieved a reply
I do agree with you about the cannelure on the case as my Mk III also has one( admittedly a Eley accepted into service version).
Chris something didn’t ‘sit right’ with me with your photo of the Mk III Adams headstamp then it came to me this morning…if these were supposedly made from cut down .455" Webley cases they would have the C for cordite included in the headstamp…have you come across a R^L manufactured Mk III Adams with the C included in the headstamp?



I have never seen or heard of an Adams Mk III cartridge headstamped R /\ L C III (as found on .455 Mk III rounds) and I believe that this is why the 455 experts say that the Adams 450 MK III with the R /\ L III headstamp could not have been made from a cut down .455 . Personally, I’m not so adamant!!
Chris P.