History of cartridge sectioning

What is the earliest known example of cartridges being sectioned for display or educational use. I know of the Polte boards from the Second World War era, but surely there are earlier…

How about “unofficial” sectioning, such as by cartridge collectors? Were all of the cutaway drawings in the Datig volumes based on sectioned examples?

Just curious, as I am a self taught “cutter” who got the idea from the Datig books and others of the era…


U.S. army ordnance had a large display of current and historical cartridges sectioned in its display at the 1876 Philadelphia centennial exposition. It has been covered in two publications by B. R. Lewis and perhaps others. Jack

I have .30 Army cartridge cases and bullets, sectioned by Winchester about 1898, probably done to show that the cases and bullets were being properly made. They put these in a .38 S&W box and wrote on one end, “30 U S G Shells OK”.

When I collected UMC stuff, I had several factory sectioned cartridges, probably done around 1900 or so…( A factory sectioned UMC Krag round would be a nice addition to the collection :)…)


I suspect that cartridge sectioning began right after the first metallic cartridge was made, maybe even paper ones, just to check that the rounds were made correctly. My involvement began when I was collecting .30-06 and Chris Punnett was sectioning them. Chris’ work is superb, as anyone who has read his .30-06 book will confirm, and Chris would sometimes section a few extra rounds and offer them to collectors. He did some very nice rounds for me.

When I was working on my Gyrojet book, I asked Paul Smith to do a few rockets. Then a few more, and now I just counted 57 of Paul’s masterpieces in the book. Here’s one of my many favorites:

This sectioned MBA 5.56mm “Ammunition Concealment Round” is a great example of the value of a well-sectioned cartridge. For the first time, I was able to see exactly how it was put together by MBA. I had no factory drawings of the round but, as I’m sure Paul will confirm, actual specimens sometimes do not match their “official” drawings and the only way to know for sure is to section one to see, even if you do have the factory drawing. I had all the components of the round but was not 100% sure how they went together. Sometimes I was very surprised at what a section showed, as with the MBA .45 caliber Gyrojet that turned out to have very thick case walls, a normal-looking nozzle with a normal-looking primer that appreas to be live, but no propellant in the case. You just never know what you’ll learn, and Paul’s work added a great deal of information to the book. Plus, they look really neat.

The British military issued “Boxes, Cartridges for Instruction” from the days of the Snider in the late 1860s. Contained inside was an inert example of each type of round, ball, blank, buckshot etc, both whole and sectioned.

The National Firearms Centre (Pattern Room as was) at Leeds has a number of early examples of sectioned cartidge displays from the late nineteenth century onwards.


Here’s a Canadian .303 Mk V (Dum-Dum) board that would date from the mid-1890’s

While I’d hardly include my name in this category, I will agree with Mel that the ‘inside story’ is nothing less than fascinating.