Cordite Types

On another thread Dave E was going to illustrate a cartridge loaded with cordite. I’ve never seen this done before so thought I’d post photos of 12 different types from my “collection”. You guys across the pond must have a lot more varieties.


Nice pictures Ray. Funny, I always thought Cordite was relatively straight. Wonder how they stuffed that first sample in a small caliber shell case. Bill


That particular cordite is actually a thin ribbon in cross section, and I’d guess it started out straight and became wrinkled when compressed by the bullet.

Far right in the first photo is also a ribbon but must have been in a case where there was enough capacity so as not to compress it.

I don’t really know anything about cordite and the different sizes and shapes and would sure like to hear from someone who does.


Ray, ?when do your cordite examples date from? I had some Pakistani .303 cartridges dated 1966 that were cordite. When I took the bullet apart, the cordite was very similar to your straight examples, that is they looked like mechanical pencil lead the same color as your examples. George

“Text Book of Explosives 1938” The War Office lists the following types of cordite:

Cordite MkI
" M.D.
" M.C.
" R.D.B.
" W.
" S.C.

They differed in proportion of nitroglycerine and stabilser used. IIRC TOP two were used in SAA.


My samples came from different cartridges, both big and small, and I’d say they date from pre WWII to the 1960s or so. I didn’t really keep track and label all of them. When I collected them it was more for show-and-tell and less from a cartridge collector’s angle.


Besides the Military codes used for different Cordite formulations and Strand forms, there was some different “commercial” designations as well, “Axite” being a type used in some of the Kynock loads of African sporting ammo.

IN general, cordite of all types was loaded from “Cords” wound on a drum, and cut to length and fitted to a straight case or Un-necked Bottle necked case;

For use in the larger express calibres, this was relatively easy, as these cases had very little bottleneck, if at all; some of the more pronounced Bottle necked cases often suffered the “splitting” syndrome with long storage, due to the absence of annealing after the neck and shoulder had been formed…a factor seen in .303 cases, and leading to the mistaken impression the “mercuric” priming caused brittle cases…

The Use of Cordite may have influenced British cartridge case design ( long tapered cases, very little bottleneck)…???

Small cases, such as Pistol cases, used “Chopped cordite” ( effectively Tubular Powder, but uncoated) loads, and these were loaded by the traditional “measure” method. Some Loads used chopped flakes ( chopped flat strands) or Punched discs.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Would a word or two on Italian solenite not be appropriate in this thread? My understanding is that it is essentially cordite in a different (but still odd) format. The idea of a perforated powder granule so large it could be strung on thread is still as remarkable to me as it was way back when. How does it relate to cordite and why are the granules so outsized? Jack

The development of SOLENITE ( name derived from the “Solenoid” used in the then new, automatic telephone exchanges and remote control Door unlockers, etc) as the new granules resembled the "open tubular coils of copper wire used in the “solenoid”.

The Solenite was developed by the Italian Polveriera d’Avigliana ( a long standing Explosives Facility, outside of Turin, NW Italy)) which held licences from Nobel’s for the manufacture of Ballistite Powder (a double based Powder, coated) which was initially used in the Cartuccia M91 ( and also in the M1870/89 10,4 Vetterli cartridge).

The Erosive qualities of Ballistite on M91 rifle barrels, led to the Italian Gov’t taking steps to find a locally invented and made alternative Powder, which would also remove the Royalty payments as well as improve "burning Characteristics (M91 barrels with Ballistite were ruined within a few thousand rounds).

The Solenite ( big, maccaroni shaped grains) fit the bill, was cooler burning, and had a different composition to Cordite and naturally Ballistite.

Solenite can vary in colour from honey brown to dark brown, whether this is due to simple composition variation, or oxidation, I don’t know. In anycase, it is very stable, I have tested Powder from pre-WW I cartridges, and if the primer is OK, it maintains its ignitability and full efficiency, close to 100 years since manufacture. By about 1910, Solenite was the only powder used in 6,5mm Italian ammo, right till the end of production in the 1970s.

The only exception was the Hirtenberger lot made in 1936, for replenishment of inventory after the Ethiopian adventure; it was loaded with Austrian Flake Powder. ( and of course the “Kennedy” WRA lot of US manufacture post WW II.)

Ballistite “ran out” for Ball M91/95 cartridges ( case design improved 1895) in the first decade of the 1900s, but was still used for certain “specials” such as proof cartridges and some of the short range and frangible cartridges. It was also used in the short 45mm Brixia Mortar launching cartridge.

Avigliana Ballistite continued to be manufactured well after WW I, as a sporting (shotgun) Powder…I think any licencing/patents would have run out on the product by then.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

1966 is interesting because I didn’t think cordite was made that late. I believed that once 7.62 came in there was no commercial justification and in fact it only lasted as long as it did in the .303 because of inertia.

Perhaps someone could shed more light on dates?

Cordite was made in India and Pakistan well into the 1980s, maybe even the 1990s.
Now Pakistan loads .303 as “Mark 7z” ( nitrocelluose tubular powder,|) but I don’t know what India does…since Cordite was made close by the original .303 factories (Khirkee) there is a possibility it was (is) still made even later.

Britain stopped making Cordite in the 70s ( there is K70 ammo with cordite in it) and Australia stopped in 1962-3 ( last lots of .303 made for RAAF, MF62 7;
After that, Australia imported 1970s Khirkee (India) KF 71 and later ammo for Cadet and Overhead fire training use into the 1980s. The Vickers Guns at Canungra Jungle Training Centre were finally retired in the late 1980s.

As far as I can gather, Canada got out of Cordite making back in the 1950s ( DAC 7z with 50s dates is known) and South Africa and New Zealand stopped sometime in the 1960s-70s ( after they had adopted the 7,62-Nato cartridge.)

I don’t know whether NZ actually made Cordite itself, or imported it from Australia ( or initially, Britain)…anybody out there know?

Any factory which makes double based tubular Powder is capable of making Cordite…just omit the chopping blades of the extruder heads… and add a drum winder to collect the strand/s and twist it into a cord, after it has passed the dewatering stage and drying.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Doc: Thanks for your fine treatment of Solenite. In regard to the matter of when Canada quit producing cordite I have a couple of fired .303 blanks made with 1954 dated DA-produced mk. 7 cases. One is marked as mk.7 and the other as 7Z. Perhaps that was at about the point the supply of cordite ran out. Thanks again, Jack

Blanks made with “Mark 7” headstamped cases are not indicative of the charge in the blank, but rather the use of old or discarded Mk7 “Ball” cases ( either Pull down or factory reject). .303 blanks carry the “L” indicator headstamp (W- WII was LV, post-war was L9z.
I do have some full boxes of Canadian .303 Mk 10z ( wood bullet blank for Brens), with 1960s dates. (IVI).

Also the date may not be indicative of when the blanks were made, either, if the rest of the headstamp is other than an “L” series.

It could be that they stopped making Cordite and by 1954, the .303 ball cases were “turned around” to blank manufacture without the benefit of “L” headstamped cases.
BTW , a de-bulleted Mark VII cordite load ( star crimped) will function quite well as a blank, at least in rifles; ( done it to thousands of rounds of Iraqi .303–projectiles were worth more than the ammo.), so a Nitro load in .303 blanks is not an absolute necessity for function.

BTW , Mark7Z Canadian ammo was a “synchronised gun” ammo, mostly…crates are marked “Not to be used in synchronised guns after(date)” ( from a 1950 plywood liner.).

Doc A V
AV Ballistics.

Doc: I understood that the blanks weren’t loaded with cordite but rather that the headstamps on the 1954-produced cases indicated that DA made (or intended to make) mk. 7 ball ammunition alternatively with cordite and nitrocellulose propellant. These blanks are the non-bulleted type with a rose-crimp closure formed from the neck. Jack

Actually, to be fair to cordite it was remarkably consistant and even 50+ year old ammo still shoots tolerably well. Where it has been found to have deteriorated I suspect it was the fault of storage contitions rather than the ammo itself.

DocAV - Was the K70 cordite ammo you mentioned made for a UK contract or somebody else?

From what I remember of the headstamp of “K70” it was the layout used by Kynoch for Export ammo, probably to African users…in anycase, In Australia, it was packed in the normal Kynoch Commercial Packs (not bandoleers, or UK type military packs (ie, 32 round boxes etc)

Packed in nested 50 round Boxes of heavy cardboard. I probably have a couple of cartridges in my HS collection.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Doc, do you have any spares of the “K 70 7” ammo left? I have been looking for this HS for a while is all I have is a case with a damaged neck and a hole drilled in it.

John Kort wrote once about disecting vintage 30-30 cartridges.

Over the past 8 years or so, I had located a number of old .30 W.C.F. headstamped rounds at cartridge collector shows. I dissected a number of them and found several rounds that contained 30 grs. ± .5 grs. of a stick type powder which was somewhat translucent in color. Winchester lab. records from 1895 indicate that 30 grs. of DuPont .30 Caliber Smokeless Powder was used in the early loadings.

Any idea what powder, name and manufacture?

Would have helped if you had the length and diameter of the granules; not as hard to derive as one might imagine. Several of the popular early U.S. smokeless rifle powders tended to have a ‘fat and short’ shape. Jack