Ethnic prejudices on ammunition


I have read about the Indian rebellion of 1857, and have learned that the specific reason that triggered the rebellion was the assumption that cow or pig grease was used to lubricate the cartridges for the Enfield rifles introduced in the British Army in India in 1857. Since to be used the cartridges needed a membrane to be broken with the teeth, the Indian soldiers considered that the use of the animal fat was offensive to their religious beliefs. Although the British denied that the grease was of animal origin and even tried to replace the cartridges with others whose grease would be made by the cipayos themselves, the rumor did not vanish.

This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago. A commission from some arabic country was interested in purchasing some surplus 7,92 mm ammo from a Spanish arsenal. But they rejected the deal in horror after being shown some cartridges and finding that the primer seals were green in colour. Now this is peculiar because the green color is a sacred one in Islam, as it expects paradise to be full of lush greenery.

Maybe what they didn’t like was the sacred colour to be associated with war material. Who knows.


The teeth thing has reminded me of another curious and barbaric practice of the past times. The adoption of the metallic cartridge put an end to the practice of some men who had their teeth removed to avoid the army drafts. Being teethless, they could not break the paper cartridge with their teeth and thus they were not able to fire a muzzle-loading rifle, so they were exempted from the military service.

I don’t think this practice was exclusively spanish; it probably was done in every country where there were paper cartridges and a conscripted army.


Firstly, the Indian Mutiny story: Cow Fat and Pig Fat were routinely used (“Tallow”) without saying which type it was in waterproofing/lubing the paper cartridges. The Rumour, utilised as a rallying cry by both Hindus and Moslems in the Sepoy armies of the East India Company, was not stopped in time by the use of Beeswax as a Lube/waterproofer. In anycase, it is one of those stories, which origin is shrouded in “the Fog of War” and the propaganda of the initial Victors (the Mutineers, who were in Mutiny for many other reasons besides the Religious Taboo; ) The eventual victors, the British, who then tookover India from the East India Company, and made an Empire, also recorded History to suit themselves ( and further demonised the Mutineers, although there were plenty of reasons already for this.). It’s a good story, and makes exciting Hollywood.

As to the green colour of primer seals…European 7,9 makers have been using Green primer seals for Ball since the Germans introduced it in the 1930s. Nothing to do with Islam at all, just a handy excuse to avoid a contract which may have been too costly in any case (ever haggled with an Arab merchant???). Even 7,62 Nato made with German technology in (Islamic) Countries uses a green primer Seal ( Iran, Nigeria, etc).
Just another “Story”…

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


The P1853 ctgs were lubed with a mixture of mutton tallow and beeswax both of which were acceptable to the Hindu and Muslim religions. The rumour of the beef and pork tallow was spread by agitators. The mutineers did not hesitate to use the P1853 ammo after the shooting started.