Japanese used .577 Snider


#1

Looking for any information, pictures, references, etc. relating to Japanese made or Japanese used .577 Snider cartridges and their (Japanese?) packaging, etc.


#2

You certainly learn a lot on this forum. Sorry not to be able to answer your question but I think a lot of us would be interested to know about the Japanese use of .577 Sniders. Were they captured rifles or purchased?

I have just Googled it and came up with the Boshin War but its not a war I know anything about.


#3

Vince,

A bit of background first. During the last days of the Shogunate and the early days of the Meiji restoration, there were many different arms in use in Japan, these included ‘gewehr’ (Dutch), Minie (French), and Enfield (English) rifles. Some clans had started making copies of western arms prior to the Meiji restoration (1868), other arms had been purchased from western nations.
Civil wars and rebellions marked the change from Shogunate to Imperial power, these included the Boshin War and the Satsuma Rebellion. (There is some information on others here en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:R … s_in_Japan)

In 1870, the Enfield rifle was adopted as the standard arm for the Japanese infantry. This was the .577 2-band short rifle with 5 groove rifling. See here militaryrifles.com/Japan/JapShortPattern.htm
The Tokyo Arsenal was also established in 1870 replacing the Arms Office, and work began making Japanese copies of the Enfield. (July 1876, the first rifles were made in the small arms works at Tokyo Head Arsenal)

In 1873, machinery was purchased enabling Enfields to be remodelled as ‘Allumettes’, but what is an ‘Allumette’? There is some opinion that it was actually the Albini conversion, but there is an Enfield conversion at this link that is neither Albini nor a usual pattern of Snider. militaryrifles.com/Japan/Jap … eMaybe.htm

Japanese Albini’s are shown here, militaryrifles.com/Japan/JapAlbini.htm

In 1875, machinery arrived from England allowing manufacture of ‘Snyder shells’ at a rate of 50,000 daily. It is thought that these ‘shells’ are the cartridges for Snider rifles. (The spelling of Snyder is used in the context of Snider rifles throughout one of the most used references “Military Industries of Japan” by Ushisaburo Kobayashi (1922), however the word ‘shell’ in the same publication is used in the context of artillery projectiles) If this is the start of Japanese manufacture of Snider cartridges, then they must have been imported previously.

In 1876, every powder mill in Japan was making ammunition for the Snider and Allumette.

In 1877 ‘Allumettes’ were remodelled as Sniders, thus it might explain why the identity of the ‘Allumette’ is uncertain if they had been converted for a second time to conventional Sniders.

(During the Satsuma rebellion 1877, Tokyo Head Arsenal made Sniders from the Allumetes that had previously been remodeled from Enfields, however the Hagi small arms factory under the jurisdiction of Osaka Branch Arsenal made Allumettes during the same period)

In 1878, selected rifles from the old Enfields were remodelled as Sniders.

There exists both Albini and Snider conversions of the Enfield with Japanese markings. These rifles are sometimes void of any markings other than Japanese, and these are thus though to be Japanese made arms, others are clearly Belgian or English made. The English ones include both TOWER and BSA marked arms.

The Snider and Albini cartridges it seems are the same, (at least by comparing photos in Japanese publications) ie the .577 Snider cartridge made of coiled brass. If the Allumette is indeed a different arm to both Snider and Albini, being as how it was a conversion of the Enfield it is possible that it too was chambered for the .577 Snider round.

This is about the extent of my knowledge at the moment. I would like to be corrected if anything is incorrect, and to learn more about the Japanese use of the .577 Snider cartridge.


#4

Allumette is a match, like in a matchbox.


#5

That’s the French meaning (also applied to potato chips) but in the context of converting an Enfield percussion rifle-musket to breech loading, what was the conversion that the Japanese called ‘Allumette’ ?

Was there a French designed breech loading conversion called Allumette ?


#6

Is it possible that the Enfields were altered to use a match and flashpan with hinged cover in the traditional matchlock style perhaps to meet a demand for more traditional style weapons, or perhaps for issue to less trusted or loyal units or warlords?

Many percussion arms were converted to flintlock for the African or colonial trade, so the reversion to an earlier style is not unheard of.


#7

Thats a fascinating reply, thank you very much for that. Its a whole area of the Snider’s history that I knew nothing about.

Don’t worry about the mis-spelling of Snider/Snyder such things were quite common.

I can envisage the rifles being converted to matchlock because of a shortage of percussion caps (maybe).


#8

I think this is very very unlikely given the actual situation in Japan at the time, and the lack of any evidence either written, illustrated, or actual specimens.

It is the (unproven) opinion of many knowledgeable and experienced collectors/researchers of Japanese arms that the ‘Allumette’ is one and the same as the Albini. A number of things support this view but there is no firm proof. I personally believe that they are correct and have a theory that I’m attempting to investigate which might just offer an explanation for the use of the term ‘Allumette’.

Anyway, getting back to the topic of my original post, I have this illustration from a Japanese publication which shows a Japanese .577" Snider round.

Note that although the case appears to follow the same construction method as a British case, the bullet is very different.
British Snider bullets have a nose cavity that is either plugged, or is closed by being spun over. This Japanese bullet has the base cavity simply extended forward into the body of the bullet. Note also that this Japanese bullet has only two cannelures, whereas British bullets have three or four.

Does anyone have an example of this type of bullet?


#9

Technically, they are not cannelures they are grease grooves. So the number is not significant.

The bullet is basically the same bullet as was used in the muzzle loading Enfield and indeed the Springfield of Civil war days. Its interesting to see it still retains the 45 degree chamfer on the lower edges of the driving bands which would be meaningless in a cartridge but useful in a muzzle loader where you have to push the bullet down the barrel.

I would suggest they were cast and thats why they were simpler in design. The chamfer would then aid extraction from the mould. Possibly armoury moulds left over from the muzzle loading era.


#10

Vince, I’ve always thought of a groove to hold lubricant as being one of the definitions of cannelure, and indeed it is listed as such here, cartridgecollectors.org/glossary.htm

I agree that they are cast bullets, and if (as is likely) they are the same ones that the Japanese used in their Enfields, this would identify that the Japanese used a Minie type bullet in their Enfields as opposed to the smooth sided Pritchett used by the British.

I’ll have to keep an eye on the Japanese auctions to see if anything comes up.

(As an aside I once had stacks of spent Pritchett bullets that I dug up from the original site of the NRA ranges in London. I traded them with a dealer in Islington and he promptly sold them as original ACW)


#11

Sorry, I did not mean to take you to task over the cannelure. I tend to assume a cannelure as being for crimping purposes and separate that in my mind from a grease groove.

Official British military bullets for the Enfield weren’t cast they were swaged but the rifles ended up all over the world sold to different countries and indeed private militias in Britain. Its very likely that moulds were made and sold although I can’t remember ever seeing one.


#12

Vince,

Moulds were made for the Enfields. I have a brass and steel single cavity mould that casts a 0.565" Pritchett ball for paper patching. i found it on the speedbid auction site for a reasonable sum. I’ve also seen cased English rifles in .577" with a mould.

The 1870 publication ‘Military Breech-Loading Rifles with detailed notes on the Snider and Martini-Henry Rifles and Boxer Ammunition’ includes the following description of manufacture of Mk VII Snider bullets,
"the bullet is formed by squirting the lead into “rod” and then cutting it into the necessary lengths and compressing it into the shape required, except the cannelures and point in two operations."
This was the way the British made them.

The 1922 publication ‘Military Industries Of Japan’ includes the follow comments on bullet manufacture,
"At the time of the establishment of the arsenal in Tokyo in February, 3 Meiji (1870), the bullets for the various kinds of rifle were made only as needed, but after the adoption of the Enfield in the same year as the regulation military rifle, bullets for the same rifle were chiefly made and those for others were made only as supplementary. The bullet adopted at that time was the cast oval bullet of lead."
I’m assuming the same manufacturing method (casting) was used by the Japanese for their Snider ammunition.


#13

Sorry, I didn’t pick up on this before. Actually the MkI, MKII and MkIII British Snider bullets had rounded cannelures, but then the MKIV through to MKVII all had cannelures that were chamfered on the lower edge. (Like on Minie balls) The 1870 book I mentioned above describes them as “saw-shaped” and states “on discovering that cannelures of saw shape (Vide, fig. above) carried the lubricant better and kept the rifle cleaner in the case of continual firing, this form was adopted”


#14

I can guess where you found them. I have never thought to take a metal detector out to there as I thought it would have been all gone. TonyE lives very near there, perhaps you have given him an idea. I have been there and paced out where the ranges were. I considered looking beyond the ranges to where any “overs” might have come down but there are houses there now.

What were you doing in London? it sounds like you lived here.
Were you involved with any cartridge collecting organisations while you were here?


#15

Vince,

Yes lived in London. My excavations would have been about 1980. At the time I was a member of the MLAGB and worked in the gun-trade in Surrey. I found a butt that was not on the 1860 range map over near the Ro*****ton side. Pritchetts, Sniders, & Martini-Henry heads all in abundance. Also found one .44 revolver conical ball and what I think was a .54 carbine bullet. Traded or sold almost all of them in the subsequent years. I think I might have kept half a dozen or so, but no idea where they are since I moved house some years ago. From what I recall most of the Pritchett and Snider bullets found still had clay base plugs intact, and most of the Sniders had wooden nose plugs (Sycamore wood). Some had obviously hit something hard in the butt and had splayed out to more than 2 inches across.

Have not been involved with cartridge collecting organisations, only shooting clubs/associations at various times.


#16

The range you found could possibly be a zero range used for setting the zero on the rifle sights. The fact that it was not recorded on the map and off to the side gives some support to that view. Also the degree of damage to some of the bullets would suggest they were fired at close range. Since the range would only be about 25 yards long it could well have doubled as a pistol range hence the .44 CB.

Interesting aside, it wouldn’t have been called a zero range in those days it would have been called the White Butts or the White point or POINT BLANC, the origin of the expression “point blank” still in use today.


#17

Vince - that is interesting about the origin of “Point Blank.” I had never thought of it before, as often as I have used the same expression, a commonly used expression based on an incorrect English translation of “Point Blanc.” These are the nifty little things you only seem to learn on this Forum! Thanks for posting it.

John Moss


#18

John Our friend Falcon on here lives very close to the site of an old 1860s military range now long since built over. In the roads around the vicinity of where the ranges were there is a small road called “White Butts” I’m sure nobody except Falcon and I know how it got its name. If he gets handy with his camera perhaps he could post a picture of the street sign on here over the weekend.
There is also a long straight road called “the Fairway” which given its position and orientation is clearly a reference to the old range as although the word is now used to describe the ‘line of fire’ on a golf course it is in fact an older word pertaining to a rifle range. In this particular instance it would be the safe area behind the range.

Looking over the old maps of the range its clear that the bullets must have passed directly over the site of my old childhood home although we never found anything in my garden except an old WW2 era MG cartridge that must have falled from a German plane.


#19

The fact that a lead bullet of around 1860 is flattened may not necessarily indicate that it was fired at close range. There are hundreds of rifle ranges in Britain which were built at the time of the “French Invasion” scare. These originally used iron targets which the bullet flattened against, leaving a grey mark. The target plates are generally 2 feet wide by 6 feet tall, bolted together to make up the requisite full target. Military targets were divided up into 6-inch squares, those for civilian shooting had enscribed circles. When these ranges were later converted to gallery ranges, with canvas/hessian/paper targets, the iron plates were taken down, many being used as reinforcing in the new butts to protect the markers.

These old target plates can be found all over England and Wales, on ranges which extended back to 900 yards. There is usually debris of old bullets close by, those that hit the target being flattened to varying degrees depending on the remaining velocity. There will also be a lot of lead “spatter” which frequently shows up as an area of dead ground on which the weeds won’t grow.

gravelbelly


#20

Gravelbelly, you put me in mind of the steel deer outside the NRA offices.

Given the fact that they had no radios in those days you would either have to be very trusting, or owe everybody money, to go up and re-whitewash the target each time without saying a little prayer first.

Nothing to do with the thread but a little story to entertain you. About 25 years ago Stanmore Rifle Club took over the ranges at Harrow School (on the Hill.) on condition that they restored them to current working specification.
These ranges dated back to Victorian times and were a little time capsule with pictures on the walls of teams from the early 1900s with their high collared cadet uniforms and the old martini cadet rifles. Sadly, many of the pictures had been annotated later under the names with “d 1917” "d 1916 " etc

The backstop of the range was a solid wall of oak into which decades ( almost a century) of lead bullets had impacted to form a hugh mass of solid conglomerate several tons in weight. To get it out they had to chop it up with axes. I really wish I had taken some pictures it was quite a sight.

Me? I never forgot those old photos. Seriously, it turned my stomach. So many fine young men sacrificed for nothing on the battlefields of northern france.