Lengthwise grooves on British Express cartridges


#1

Can anyone tell me if there is any significance to the single lengthwise groove in the side of the bullet on each of these cartridges, a Holland’s .450 3 1/4" with copper tubed bullet, and an Eley .500/450 No 1 Express with a wood plugged bullet. The groove is at a slight angle, suggesting it might be intended to stabilize the bullet. Is it possible these were made for use in a smoothbore gun? I have seen others, including the .500-3 1/4" that is pictured on page 64 of Hoyem’s History & Development of Small Arms Ammunition Vol 3.


#2

Hi Guy - have these ctgs had the powder emptied? In my experience a groove of this type is caused by de-bulleting and catching on the heavy stab crimp. Regards JohnP-C


#3

I don’t believe they have been made inert. I would not expect the groove to be so far towards the nose of the bullet. That would indicate the bullet was pushed into the case, which would not be possible with a black powder or cordite load. In addition, the No 1 Express has two stab crimps and only one groove.


#4

Anyone?


#5

Defective bullet mold where some idiot tried to use it like pliers and managed to deform some of the metal at the joint, so that it causes a groove in the bullet when cast?


#6

John,
I hope its not that simple. Actually, one of the bullets is a copper tubed express and the other is a solid nose. I assume these would use different molds.


#7

Guy
I don’t have the answer,but I checked my cartridges,& I have one with the same bullet.The hs is "HOLLAND & HOLLAND 500 ",very lightly stamped.The bullet appears to be identical to yours,even has the slight angle to the left,& it has a wooden plug in the nose.I would bet it has never been pulled.


#8

Dick,
I think we would both be surprised how many collectors have similar bullets that they have not noticed. I though the first one I found was a reload with a damaged bullet, but then I ran across three of them in a group of cartridges I bought in an auction. What convinced me that they were made that way was that the groove looks exactly the same in all of the ones I have seen.


#9

Guy

Interesting stuff. I wonder how many collectors may have had one or more of these and then tossed them after they had “upgraded” to one without the groove. That is something I would have done.

This Forum and posts like yours only add to our knowledge of different and strange cartridges. Just when we thought we knew everything . . .

Ray


#10

Would guess that by the time these cartridges came along the bullets would be swaged. Realize that the British used the boxer case for these cartridges for many years none of mine even several paper covered boxer cases have the grooved bullet and all appear to be swaged bullets. If one was used can’t imagine the “grooving machine” would line the bullet up to cover the mold marks every time.

Gourd


#11

I have not seen one of these bullets in a coiled Boxer style case. I believe the lead bullet with three or more grooves outside the mouth of the case is sometimes referred to as a Holland’s bullet, as that company favored these at some point, so perhaps this lengthwise groove is a Holland’s thing also. I suppose I need to ‘bite the bullet’ and pull one to see if the groove extends all the way to the base, as well as what other unusual characteristics they may have.


#12

Guy - finally got around to checking my collection - and BINGO! Found two ctgs as you describe with vertical groove on the blt:
(. HOLLAND . .450) + (. HOLLAND & HOLLAND . .500)
Both with ‘Holland’ - 3 greased cannelures above casemouth & copper-tubed. Both ctgs have blts secured with 2 stab crimps - not aligned with the crimps.
Also found plenty of examples of ‘Holland’ blts without vertcal groove mark - but all in Eley cases.
How significant is the ‘Holland & Holland’ hst in relation to these grooved blts? Perhaps they were made up in the field with cases & bullet mould & crimping tools supplied with the gun? Perhaps the special & unique to H&H bullets were cast by H&H themselves & loaded by them? Is it a mark left by a die used to swage down a cast bullet. I’ve done my share of making lead bullets but never come across the vertical groove.
Help - any forensic experts out there??? Regards JohnP-C.


#13

Guy and John P-C are all the bullets with the grooves definitely cast bullets? Very interesting puzzlement.

Gourd


#14

JohnP-C,
Perhaps the one in the picture above with the Eley headstamp was loaded for Holland & Holland. I need to check others in my collection to see what others I can find. The groove was not something that I paid much attention to until I found these two together.
Do the marks on yours appear enough alike to have been made by the same tool?

Gourd,
The bullets on the two in the picture have no mold marks evident, so I assume they were swaged.


#15

A long shot…could the groove be left on the bullet by loading and unloading the round from the rifle ? or some other action the firer carries out ?

I have a couple of .500 rds with a slight mark on the primer where I assume the rd was in the second barrel and the firing pin left the mark due to recoil when the first barrel was fired then the live round was unloaded later and never fired.


#16

Armourer,
I don’t think so. These have been found so far on .500 and .450 cartridges, so at least two weapons would have to have been involved, and the marks are too much alike to have been made by chance.


#17

As far as I know this groove is found only with H&H loaded rounds in both drawn & Boxer cases and in various British sporting calibers. The thought after much ? & A in / through B.R.I.T. issues was; that this cut allowed air to ecsape the case when seating the heavily lubricated multi-grooved lead bullets common to H&H loads.
Hope this is of help


#18

Thanks, Pete. Sounds logical to me.


#19

When loading benchrest ammo it is common to mark the cases - than in the loading process the cases where always set by this mark- and of course you load the cartridge always with this mark at the same location- may be to the top. So the ammo was loaded and fired - always in the same position and that improve accuracy.

May be this is a positioning mark too- may be this marked rounds are for the right or left barrel or should be loaded with this mark to the top.


#20

[quote=“genkideskan”]When loading benchrest ammo it is common to mark the cases - than in the loading process the cases where always set by this mark- and of course you load the cartridge always with this mark at the same location- may be to the top. So the ammo was loaded and fired - always in the same position and that improve accuracy.

May be this is a positioning mark too- may be this marked rounds are for the right or left barrel or should be loaded with this mark to the top.[/quote]

I don’t think so, as these were / are all old black powder, or perhaps nitro for black, dangerous game loads & all double rifles should have the barrels “regulated” when made. IE; both barrels shoot at the same point of impact at the different sight ranges. Often the load was printed on the gun case label with a specific bullet weight and powder charge, even specifing the type of powder.
Personaly I would not want to be trying to kill one of the ‘big 5’ knowing I had to keep my ammo oriented for either left or right barrel when I had to reload. It was, & is, common for the double rifle hunter to carry 2 extra rounds between the fingers of the non-trigger hand for easy & fast reloading in case of a charge.