British cartridge question?

Is there any way of telling what the loading is (BP,NFBP,Nitro) in the 577/500 Magnum Express 3 1/8" witout checking inside? Same with the 577/500 No.2 Express (BP or NFBP)? Thanks; JackMack

there are different BP 577/500 cases with the same name and some of them are different to the NE case version ( informations picked up from COTW).The NE version named 577/500 3 1/8" has the same case as the older 577/500 BP express case 3 1/8 long.Often the cases loaded with cordite have their special headstamps that indicates the kind of the load.

The 577/500 N 2 BP was made in 2 lenghts:3 " and 3 1/8".The second type has the same case than the 577/500 3 1/8" NE round

Whatever the type of cartridge, instant visual identification of factory loads from Eley or Kynoch is straightforward:
Blackpowder = paper-patched lead bullet.
Nitro load to duplicate Blackpowder load = lead bullet without paper-patch.
Nitro load = metal jacketed bullet.
And yes the headstamp usually indicates a nitro loading.

John P-C–Thanks for pointing out how easy it is to tell the 3 types of British cartridges apart. I have collected cartridges for over 50 years and never knew that to tell Black Powder from Nitro for Black Powder that it was as simple as Paper-Patched vs No Patch. Is this 100% true?

Are Nitro loaded rounds ALWAYS metal cased, either Soft Point or Full Metal Jacketed?

I’d wanted to write the same things that Johnp-c wrote but I wasn’t 100% sure to be right.I have always seen BP loads with paper patched bullet and NE loads with metal bullet


Hi Ron - yes it’s 99.99999% true - but there may be some exceptions with non-factory loaded ctgs, e.g. Fraser & Gibbs may have loaded ctgs with BP & metal-jacketed bullets in early 1890’s - but factory loads from Eley & Kynoch will generally comply with definitions given. They had to supply visual clues to prevent full-cordite loaded ctgs being fired in BP prooved guns. The Nitro for BP loads had no paper-patch - but below the surface the lead bullet has a metal base or ‘gas-check’ in modern parlance. Aside from some hst clues, e.g ‘Nitro’ or ‘C’ for full cordite and ‘L C’ (Light Cordite) for nitro for BP loads, as another visual clue for customers - Eley Brothers from about 1902 cannelured case necks on cordite loads but this was abandoned after a few years - problems with case separations? JohnP-C.

Ron - as soon as I’d sent off my previous note - I remembered more exceptions to my BP/Nitro visual ID ‘rules’. Some small calibres such as ‘.425 Kangaroo’, ‘.360 Purdey’, ‘.295/.300 Rook Rifle’ don’t have paper patches in BP loads & there’s no way to distinguish them from later nitro loads without a box label - but these of course are not ‘Express cartridges’ anyway. However, Holland & Holland did not use paper-patches on their pre -1900 BP loads - and they made a virtue of that fact in their promotional material - they advocated their distinctive ‘grooved bullets’ (I would define them more as ‘rachet shaped’) to provide lubrication and scrape BP fouling as they traveled down the barrel. With the intro of nitro & metal-jacketed bullets around 1900, what shooters could becertain of was that metal-jackets meant a hig-pressure nitro load & lead bullets (whether paper-patched or not since they were loaded to similar lower pressures) meant a BP load.
Phew! Regards JP-C