Johns Patent Sporting Shrapnel and Some Unknowns

I’m trying to sorted out a box of “unknowns” which I was given about 15 years ago.

One I know, the John’s Patent Sporting Shrapnel but only have a small amount of info on (is this complete?).

The others I don’t know, both lead bullets are badly oxidised. All sizes and weights are approx with the larger one being 45 grams, 18.8 mm diameter (.737 in), 24.8 mm length (.976 in). Due to the state of the paper I can’t make out what is written but I think it may be something self loading.



The smaller one is 29 grams, 14.26 mm in dia (.752 in), 25.14 mm length (.990 in). The larger one also has the same inner design.


As for the two wooden bullet shaped items I don’t even know if they are ammunition related. They all came in the same box so I’m presuming they are. They have a spiral groove around the circumference, the larger one being 19.47 mm dia (.757 in) and in 36.60 mm length (1.439 in). The smaller is 17.39 mm dia (.680 in), 24.32 mm length (.954 in).



If anyone has any information that can shed some light on these it would be much appreciated.


John P

From my book on Early Shotshell Concentrators and Spreaders:
"The Automatic Shrapnell Co. operated from 36 George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. It began operations by the inventor, John Watson Johns, with a patent in March 19, 1884. The company may have closed near August 31, 1892 when it seems that Mr. Johns may have died, however, this event has not been substantiated.

John’s patent shrapnell shell is an interesting design with two brass egg shell-like segments filled with shot that are held together by a straight wire spindle fixed at one end to a wad. The segments are meant to slide along the spindle before opening and allowing the shot to spread. Air friction after firing a loaded shell pulls the cardboard and felt wad and attached straight wire spindle through the guide holes in the shot segments and allows the segments to separate and release the shot. The wire was intended to be cut at chosen lengths to adjust the distance at which the shot would spread. Alternatively the wire could be bent or hooked so that the segments could not slide off the wire spindle thus allowing the unit to stay together and act as a slug for use with large game.

Both spherical and conical (or elongated) shaped shells were made. All of the brass segments bare the inscription, Johns’ Patent Sporting Shrapnell No. 5101. The designation No. 5101 refers to the patent number as issued on March 19, 1884 by the British patent office."

Your John’s concentrator is complete, except for the shot perhaps. You didn’t mention that.

The other bullets look interesting and somewhat familiar but can’t put my mind on them. Certainly they are not in my slug or concentrator collection. The wood one my be a concentrator. Stranger ones were made. Have you tried a patent search for the name on them?
Gary Muckel

John, the last bullet is a fantastic item. It is a wooden model of a conodial shape bullet with spiral grooves designed by H. Kemp to be used in smooth-bored muskets. Several of these designs were tested in 1854-1860. A wonderful piece, congratulations!

The first bullet with internal spiral grooves is also a British design related to the wooden model that was designed by Mr. Keyes and dates from 1856. I believe that the label says: “Keyes Self rotating”. Another great piece!

How did the internal grooves on the Keyes bullet cause the projectile to rotate?

The Keyes bullet was supposed to receive rotation from the pressure of the powder gases and the Kemp from the front pressure of the air. The grooves were arranged spirally to achieve this end.

So did the Keyes bullet work in reality?

Falcon, sorry, I don’t have a report describing its performance. Several designers proposed projectiles having this construction -including artillery ones- so I assume that some of these may have worked to some extent.

Great thread and great items!!!


GaryM and Fede, many thanks for the information.