A couple 303 British Questions


Here are some rounds I could not find in Tony Edwards’ excellent 303 headstamp guide.

  1. Standard looking brass case, pointed gm projectile that has about the same profile as WWI German S-ball. Bottom 1/4 of case has thin blue stain applied. Headstamp reads “K39 303S.L.”

  2. Two blanks both with pointed wood blue projos, brass case and copper primer. They look like Mk 10z. Headstamps are “KYNOCH LEWIS” and “KYNOCH BREN”.


The LEWIS and BREN blanks are commercial I believe, and I think there is also a VICKERS version.

jonny is spot on, the Kynoch “Bren”, “Lewis” and “Vickers” headstamps are film blanks and the “K39 .303S.L.” is a commercial match round.

The “S.L.” stands for “streamlined”, meaning a boat-tailed bullet. These were made for long range (1000 - 1200 yards) match shooting at Bisley, often using the back position. The reason for the date is that the rules about what bullets etc. were allowed changed regularly. This round was essentially the pre-cursor to the military .303 Mark VIIIz ball round for the Vickers machine gun. The “blue” stain should actually be black but it is often applied thinly so looks blue.

Roger Mundy wrote an excellent article on these match cartridges in the Journal a year or so ago.

As they are commercial rounds they are not included in my book.


So the BREN, LEWIS, and VICKERS blanks were produced specifically for film use? Are they loaded differently to properly cycle the individual guns?
I can’t recall which I got first, but it was in Israel back in the 1980s. The guy I got it from told me it was from the set of the movie “Exodus”. Interesting.

The Use of Wood Bullet Blanks is very rare these days in Film production, for Safety reasons and "Public Liability."
In former years, 1950s and 60s, such things were done without too much “touchy-feely” Restrictions.
So the specific production of “Full profile” Blanks for specific MG use (Both Lewis and Brens Require a Full Profile Blank to function properly in feeding. ) was essential. The Cheapest way was to use the existing Mk10 design of wood bullet blank.

These days, we use Extended (or Long) Brass Blank, or “Plastic” Blank, for these Guns in Films…the Vickers can use Normal Blanks ( short or Ball case) with a Feed Block discriminator, or use Full length Blanks without discriminator. AVB-FOS makes its own “Long Blanks” in any calibre, by inserting an Internal-Case-diameter Brass Tube into a cylindrical Ball case, then Forming down to correct Case-Bullet profile. See “Beneath Hill 60” for successful use of this method in Lewis Guns and Maxims/Vickers.

BTW, for many years, the PLA Film Unit ( Studio August One “Ba-Yi”) used Ball ammo in its films about the China-Japan War and Revolution…They had the Guns, and tons of Japanese & Chinese Ammo left from the War and Korea, and the “Extras” were PLA troops. All the scenes with Guns firing were done in particular way ( offset to side) to permit safe use of Ball ammo.
Nowadays, only Blanks are used, but not with the expertise one expects from “Western” made Films. ( a Lot of CGI is used as well.)

Although, they are improving…a Film “Assembly” ( Revolution period, 1948) was made in 2005, with everything one would expect in a “Western” well-made film ( correct rifles, MGs, Tanks, Japanese Artillery, and correct Blank firing…even a Johnson M1941 Rifle in Blank fire, a very difficult thing to achieve, technically. ( only Johnsons seen before in BF, was in a very early “Dr.Who” episode back in the 1970s…guns probably supplied by Bapty’s of London.)

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services

Speaking of live firing in films. I am told, (don’t know if its folklaw) that in the old westerns like Hopalong Cassidy before the days of special effects. When the hero was hiding behind a rock and the baddie supposedly pings a bullet off the rock accompanied by a loud ricochet noise the effect was created by a marksman just off camera shooting a .22 (maybe an air rifle maybe a .22 short?) at a pile of dust on the top of the rock to give the visual impact (puff of dust)and then the sound was dubbed on later.
Totally off topic but just out of interest I wondered if Doc has any knowledge of this myth.
We don’t see enough of these old films these days for me to tell. Told to me by an old film technician, I worked for Kodak most of my life and there is a shooting club called Photon which comprises mainly of people in the film industry. This was one of the stories told one night in one of the clubhouse bars at Bisley after a few.

I’ve been waiting a long time to find a topic suitable to raise this one.

Live firing in Pre-WW II Hollywood movies…Not a Myth, but Reality.

Especially in the “Gangster” Movies…(James Cagney, Edward G.Robertson, etc) where Live Thompsons were used regularly…usually a Marksman did the shooting, and the Bullet strikes were Real.
Proper angled set up was essential to avoid hitting crew or actors.
( see one or other of the “Thompson” histories.).
So if Live Firing was done in some movies, it was probably done in others. Only after WW II did the Pyrotechnic industry have the new resources to do “Squibs”, Bullet strikes, and Richochets…wartime development of Miniature detonators, electric igniters, etc. etc.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Fil;m Ordnance Services.

PS, when “40,000 Horsemen” was filmed in 1940, on the sandy dunes at Cronulla Beach, Sydney, the Australian Army supplied Live-firing Vickers Guns ( with army crews) for the firing scenes. Sadly, when he Light Horse Story of Beersheba was remade in the 1970s, they used all Blankfiring Guns. ( and stuffed some of the scenes as well…Aussies marching with Turk Rifles, and the Incorrect Turkish rear sights shown ( “Western marked” 7,9 Turks, rather than Turkish marked M1903s.)
The Krupp 77 was correct though…


Thanks for the great information. The date on the 303S.L. round threw me off and Tony’s explanation makes perfect sense now.

I had a feeling the blanks were some sort of commercial rounds, but never would have thought movie blanks.

Thanks again!!!

Whilst most “Movie Blanks” are “In-house” production by Film Gun Hire companies, there have been(and still are) large scale manufacture of Movie Blanks by Commercial manufacturers.

Remington made and marketed the “5-in-1” Western Blank for many years, and Starline makes the empty brass case for it. (5 different Pistols and rifles ( 44-40 Win,45 Colt,.38/40 Win, and respective revolvers/lever actions with these chamberings).

The French SFM made a vaiety of Pistol blanks from the 1950s onwards specifically for the French Film Industry, as well as Gold-coloured Rifle blanks ( Bakelitten-type plastic); Nammo ( owner of Bakelitten patents and factory) also make Plastic Movie rifle and Pistol blanks; RWS/DAG makes a 7,92 Golden Plasblank for both re-enactors and Movies;
And several Blank makers in the USA ( Joe Swanson-Arizona is the best known) make a whole variety of Military and civilian cartridge blanks for Film makers.

Kynoch was the biggest (only?) maker of “Movie” type blanks in the UK, usually Pistol types such as .45ACP and 9mm, but for big contracts, also made Rifle calibre Blanks. (usually of a Pattern they already made for Military/Export contract.).

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services.

And don’t ask for our headstamps…we don’t have any…we re-use Military or Commercial brass…Only our Box labels are “Collectible”…if you can find them after a film…