Knurled bullet cannelures


Can anyone tell me when knurling was first applied to bullet cannelures? I.m interested in production ammunition. If you know please include your reference citation. Thanks in advance fro your help


archresearcher–You need to be a little more detailed in your request. Are you referring to the crimping cannelure only or do you include grease cannelures on lead bullets? What type of bullet: FMJ, Soft Points, Lead, etc. How about country: USA, European, etc.? What era: Modern (after 1920) or all years?


I would say that knurled or rolled cannelures date from the start of swaging bullets. The swaging of bullets does not allow for cannelures so they have to be created as a seperate process after the event. Paper patched bullets do not need cannelures so in the abscence of a better date I would say they first appeared in the days of pinfire pistol and rifle cartridges.


Ron Merchant; I’m interested in the date when knurled cannelures on lead bullets were first introduced in production. I was not aware of any other use of cannelures on bullets other than to hold lubricating wax or grease. My primary focus is towards U.S. manufacturers of the mid 19th century but information relating to foriegn manufacturers in the same time frame would also be appreciated.

To illustrate the information I’m searching for; Barber shows a photo of a .41 long cartridge, that contains a bullet with an exposed knurled cannelure, manufactured by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. However, he ony lists the years of production for the company not when this particular caliber of cartridge was manufactured. I would like to find a reference for the the first manufacturer, and date of production, to incorporate knurked cannelures on their lead bullets of any caliber. If that information isn’t available for any caliber of cartrudge then I could narrow the field to the .32, .44, .45, .50 calibers and more specifically to the .44 Henry, and FLC, and 56/46, 56/50, 56/52, and 56/56 Spencer cartridges. Any information with references would be greatly appreciated.


Just for info…(I know little about older/lead-only projectiles)…

The ‘knurl’ or bullet cannelure on modern jacketed rifle bullets (specifically 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm) is a desirable feature and is specified in some modern product literature. The cannelure, in addition to serving functions related to crimp/seating/etc., can serve as a ‘weak point’ that assists in early bullet upset/fragmentation.

The Winchester 64gr .223 JSP (as sold to law enforcement) usually has the word ‘knurl’ somewhere in the product description/order code since that bullet feature is part of the spec for the rounds intended performance. I am not certain if the commercial analog uses identical projectiles.

Ex.----a distributor’s state contract LE price sheet for 2010 lists the RA223R2 (Winchester Ranger .223 64gr JSP) as “Power Point Knurl”. This load, and the similar load from Federal, have both been used by the CA Highway Patrol and other large agencies for quite a while.

arch, there’s a local guy who displays/collects a ton of older Winchester rifles and related ammo…next time I’m in his shop I’ll ask and poke around.


archresearcher–I can help answer your question as to what years U.M.C. produced a given load and case type. See my ad in the B/S/T Forum for my U.M.C. Master List CD’s.


Other purposes for a cannelure

  1. To aid in locking the core and the jacket togeather. Thus preventing the core from breaking free inside the jacket. At the moment of firing the bullet is almost instantly transformed from being at rest to revolving at about 180,000 rpm. Only the jacket is gripped by the rifling. The core, which is heavier than the jacket, (and therefore has inertia) can resist the turning force and slip.

Some .303 bullets have a deep semicircular cannelure much deeper than is needed for crimping and I have always assumed it is there to lock the core.

  1. To make the bullet longer for a given weight. Many cast bullets have much longer and deeper grease grooves than would be necessary purely for lubrication. Some have a whole series of deep grooves which makes the bullet a lot longer than it would be with out them. Think for a moment of the classic air pellet shape, without the waisted portion (which is still a cannelure) it would half the length, or double the weight.



I’ve been reading this thread and watching it go round in circles. I think it is because no one (me) is exactly sure what you are asking.

The cannelures or grooves on a bullet are produced in a number of ways. Cast, machined, rolled, milled, swaged are the most common. They are there for a number of purposes. To hold lubricant, for crimping, for identification, to bond jacket to core, to enhance or control bullet expansion, etc.

All of the early lead bullets that required lubricant had a groove or grooves to hold the lubricant. Some were smooth and some were “knurled”. I don’t think there was any significance to those that were “knurled” except that is the way the manufacturer chose to make them. (Perhaps it was thought that the knurled surface held the lubricant better?) If you are trying to determine when cartridge A , made by company B, first used a “knurled” groove I think you’re in for a long search for an answer.

Lubricating grooves on a lead bullet pre-date the metal cased cartridges and can be found on skin, combustable, and/or paper cartridges. Even paper cartridges having round balls often contained grease or other lubricants.

Regardless, I doubt if anyone can give you a date or dates when a particular cartridge or bullet first used a particular type or style of groove. Bottom line is, all lead bullets that required lubrication had grooves.




Cannelures in Lead Bullets: primarily to hold Lube, with one groove to crimp the case mouth. Also to reduce bullet- rifling contact, and thus reduce leading.

Cannelures in jacketed bullets…

A. in Military (FMJ) bullets: to Lock core to jacket to prevent shedding.
to allow for proper mouth crimp to hold bullet in place ( or for neck stab-crimp in some WW I and
WW II ammo)
to lock in a tracer capsule ( second cannelure)

B. in Sporting ammo: To lock jacket in place, allowing for controlled expansion but retaining rear-end mass
To crimp bullet into neck of case.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.