Cracked at the top of the neck to the shoulder:

As a collector or at least trying to do this and learn more, one of the questions is, an original cartridge, ie, 30-03 has a crack only at the neck, and one does not, both are in good condition otherwise. How much does this affect the value, along with that, cartridges that have been drilled.
I am just trying to get an idea to this, Thank you as all ways, Tony Albanese,

If the brass is not of high quality and the annealing process has been done in the wrong way during production, necks could crack due to radial tension of the bullet. This can happen shortly after production or even several years later.

I have 2 boxes of 505 Gibbs ammo by BELL that has been sold as collector ammo by the gunshop since all the necks have cracks due to a wrong annealing process.

First lots of 9 M38 ammo just cracked in the factory, shortly after being loaded. This was due to worng annealing process too.

Dear craftee158,
You have just been introduced to “age cracking” or “season cracking” in brass cartridge cases.
As mentioned by Pivi, it is due to no or incorrect annealing of the fomed case before Loading, and is due to the hardness of the brass from forming (work hardening) and the neck tension from the seated Projectile (bullet) in the Neck.

The “season” term arises from the wide range of temperatures from summer to winter in Northern climates, which also affects the brass over time.

Before WW I, most countries did NOT anneal the cartridge neck and shoulder after final forming, and before Loading…as a Result, cases made before 1925 (esp. in the USA) will almost always show this cracking. Western Cartridge Co. introduced neck and shoulder annealing in 1916, for the Russian 7,62x54R contract, due to the intervention of the Cheif Russian Inspector at the time.

The US Gov’t only introduced Neck and shoulder anneals in about 1925, due to (a) Billions of rounds of wartime .30/06 which had begun cracking the necks by 1919, and (b) the development of both Machine Rifles ( the BAR and Lewis Guns) and new, prototype Semi-auto rifles which required reliable, non- cracked ammo, with good, expandible brass necks.

For further info on this problem, read up Frost’s Book : “Ammunition Manufacture” (NRA Publications)…it is a bat-and-ball account of Frost’s Life at Western Cartridge Co in the 1930s and 40s, and details ammunition production from brass strip to finished cartridge, including Powder and Primer manufacture as well.

Welcome to Cartridge Collecting.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics Technical Services.

I have noticed that used copies of Frost’s book have become rather expensive. It had originally been published by NRA, but I don’t see it on their current listings. It would be great if someone would re-publish it, as it is not only a great sourcebook on small arms ammunition manufacturing but is also a very entertaining read.

It isn’t just necks that can crack. In American large-caliber black powder rifle cartridges of the last quarter of the 19th century base cracking seems more common than neck cracking. Jack

I have also a 303 british from 1942 that cracked at the head.

What is the headstamp of that .303?

As far as I have seen, .303 are not affected by cracking as much as some other calibres can be.

Base cracks in .303 are associated usually with stretch in firing and occours an 1/8" up from the rim. Its for an entirely different reason, ie tapered case and loose chambers.

The base cracks in American black powder rifle cartridges I mentioned earlier are found in unfired loaded rounds; they are radial cracks, extending from the edge of the base toward the primer pocket and, in some cases, up the side of the case. Jack

The cause of Head cracks in early US BP cartridge cases is due to the “folded head” construction of the case…the modern thick head web had not been developed, and the thickness of the head was similar to that of the walls at the head, with a balloon- shaped Primer Pocket, also pressed inwards.
This put a lot of work-hardening stress into a thin head, causing cracks to appear later on…also, because of the hardness requirements of the head, no annealing was done in the Folded head cases. This also contributed to the over-stressing of the brass. (in its thin walled form).

AS to .303 cases separating at the head ( slightly forward of the web) this has nothing to do with Age cracking, and everything to do with bad chamber size and excess headspace. ( and bad reloading practices as well).

Cordite loaded .303 do have a “Neck cracking” problem, due to how the cordite is loaded into an untapered, un-necked case…no annealing is possible after the Cordite has been seated and compressed by case forming…so usually Cordite loaded .303 will crack on firing, either by neck split or by shoulder perforations… Although I do have some .303s from both WW I and WW II which have suffered from “Season cracking,” without firing… and the WW I Mark VIIz (Nitro Powder cases) are notorious for case neck splits, both before and after firing. (no annealing).


Falcon, it is an AP round. When I got it it was a live round ( not a fired case). I dismantled it because I can’t have AP bullets at home and to make it inert. Cordite powder was in good conditions

Hds: DAC 942 WI

Doc: In the early American cartridges the head cracks are not necessarily produced by folded-head construction, tho the cracks seem more common in that type. I have two specimens of WRA-made .44-77 Sharps of solid-head form; the reload (with incorrect nickel primer) is sound, the factory-original round has developed a head crack. It figures, I guess. Jack

The crack-heads I have seen were mostly on the solid head cases. I know there’s a fine line between folded head and solid head but they are, technically, solid head.

This is a Cal .45 Rifle, F 1 97