Austalian River brand commercial 308 Win


#1

I have a 308 Win soft point with the hs RBA .308 - my reserch suggests that this was produced by River Brook Arms Co. in Australia. Can anyone confirm this? If correct, can anyone provide a photo of the box the company used?

Dave S


#2

Dave, could it be “River Brand Ammunition”? I think I have run across that name before. The brass might be made by a relatively large Australian brass maker, whose name is escaping me for the moment. Bell?


#3

The name is “River Brand,” not “River Brook.” I have had boxes for .303 ammunition of this brand when I collected that caliber, along with .303s with the “RBA” headstamp.

The Australian brass maker is not Jim Bell - he is American and recently within the last few years) closed his factory near Las Vegas, Nevada. The Australian company is “Bertram Bullet Co,” a prolific brass maker down under, who uses the headstamp “BB” in one form or another on most of the cases they sell under their own brand. I don’t know if they made the “RBA” brass or not, but it is a strong possibility, of course.


#4

Yes, Bertram! I was talking to David and knew it was a “B” name. Thanks, John.


#5

Riverbrand Ammunition Company was founded immediately after WW II, in South Australia, using machinery acquired from SAAF nos 3 & 4 (MH and MJ) at Hendon, SA. The owner was Syd Churches, who also had a hand in the original “Taipan” Bullet co, also of South Australia.

Initially they made remanufactured .303 using Military (berdan) Cases, reprimed with Non-corrosive RWS primers, and Taipan Bullets, as well as a whole range of the .303 wildcats ( from .22 to .35). Initial batches of NEW (berdan)cases were made for them with the RBA (120 degree spacing) by SAAF Footscray ( MF) as a commercial contract. When Riverbrand got into making Boxer cases, the initial lots were also marked RBA…this changed to the full “Riverbrand” stamping as the quality got better, and they expanded into calibres such as .222, .222 Rimmed, 30/30, and other popular Aussie wildcats.
They continued recycling Army scrap brass, also when the Aus. Army went to 7,62 Nato in the late 50s early 60s…they also made .243W cases from the once fired 7,62 cases.
Again, some batches of boxer cases were also acquired in NZ, from CACNZ.

Riverbrand folded up in the late 70s early 80s ( the owner retired/died) and there just wasn’t the market for a second factory of commercial ammo in Aust. (the other major factory, Super Cartridge Co. had undergone a corporate restructure in 1977, and in 1980-82, had a long and costly patent litigation with Olin (Winchester) Australia, over Super’s use of “one piece shotshell” forming techniques ( similar to AA Shell forming of Winchester)…the Super shells did away with the brass rim and head, and used just the formed plastic to be the complete shotshell. Anyway, Olin had the money and the smart lawyers, and won the patent infringement case…and it cost Super dearly…they never made shotshells again, and a couple of years later, folded.Bruce Bertam bought the Super machinery in the early 1980s, shifted it to Seymour, a couple of hours north of Melbourne (Super had been opposite the Footscray Amm. factory in industrial Melbourne), and concentrated on Case making.

The Bullet making machinery from Riverbrand and Taipan ended up in Qld, with another Hobby bullet maker, who retained the Taipan name. It is still in operation, but at reduced production since the major toolmaker/die setter died a couple of years ago. Most of the machinery is Waterbury-Farrel (USA) or Heine and co (Sydney); all WW II acquisitions in the big ammo factory expansions.

Occasionaly we get “RBA” marked cases in scrap bins out of old gunshops.

Packets are very collectible these days, the Riverbrand packets were Green and Yellow, to contrast with the Red and White Super packets. When either company made ammo on Contract for large gunstores, the changed the colours, but the layout remained the same.

That is a potted history of the postwar Commercial ammo trade in Australia, 1947-1985. Two factories, several brands, and one independant Bullet-maker. Both Super and RBA also sold component bullets for reloaders.

All gone except for one Bullet original maker, although there are now several custom bullet makers across Australia, the most famous being in Melbourne,(Woodleigh) making English type Express Rifle bullets and general hunting bullets, and another in Darwin who makes 7,62 Target projectiles.

regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#6

Thanks for this detailed reply. Do you know of where I might be able to get some pictures of the boxes?

Dave S


#7

Here is a listing from about 1970 of River Brand, Super and Myra (which Doc did not mention). Sorry about the quality. It is a scan of a photocopy of a photocopy.


#8

Thanks for picking up on Myra, Ron.
Myra Sports Store (Broken Hill) had a very inventive Owner, who developed several unique wildcats, such as the 17 Myra Rimfie (necked down .22 rimfire cases) and sevral derivations of the .222Rimmed as well.
The Centrefire ammo was Made by Super in Melbourne(the carton printing was an adjustment to the standard Super Box). It was about the only “proprietary” cartridge series made in Australia. “Sportco” of Adelaide also had a small series of ammo made under its banner, (not known if Super or RBA…packets very similar to Myra packets…similar to Super Packets., but the quantity was a “one off” and thus doesn’t really qualify for the “proprietary” name.

The other Ammo factory I forgot, was ICI-ANZ, the Australasian branch of the British ICI Chemicals Combine. During WW II they had supplied (industrial) Explosives to the war effort, and after WW II, they got into local manufacture of Ammunition (Shotgun, rimfire and centrefire) as well as being the Local ICI (later IMI (Imperial Metals Industries)) Ammunition products.
They both manufactured cases in Australia as well as importing them from England for loading in Australia. They were Boxer Primed centrefires.

With the gradual movement away from ammunition manufacture by ICI/IMI in the 1970s, the factory at Deer Park (near Melbourne) eventually ceased cartridge production, by the late 1980s or so. They still make Industrial Explosives, under the ORICA Corporate banner.
ICI made .303, .303/25, .222, .222Rimmed, .30/30, .308, .243, and several Rimmed Pistol cartridges.(AFAIK) along with a full range of 12 ga.Shotshells specifically loaded for Aussie Conditions.
Packets were yellow and Blue and other colour combinations.

Members of the Australian Cartridge Collectors Association will probably have more detailed information and photographs of all these makers’ products, as well as the History of each one.

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.