Rubin rounds

I would be grateful for any information on, or corrections to, the little information I have gathered on my selection of Rubin rounds.

Rubin rounds_zpskrq6ffs0

A - 7.5mm Rubin Model 1885. Manufactured at Thun for supply to the UK for the ‘Magazine Rifle Committee’. The bullet does not have a vent hole in the nose.

B - 7.5mm Rubin Model 1888. Manufactured at Thun for supply to the UK for the .303 Lee-Metford troop trials. Rim added at the UK’s request. The bullet does not have a vent in the nose.

C - 7.5mm Rubin Model 1888. Manufactured by Greenwood & Batley for the .303 Lee-Metford troop trials. No vent hole in the bullet nose.

The above three rounds have all been identified using the works of both Peter Labbett and Tony Edwards so I’m confident all the above information is correct. However I can’t find out anything about the fourth round despite the fact that this round appears more like a .303 than any of the others. This round does have a tiny hole in the bullet nose - to allow the escape of air when filling with molten lead - and I understand that this is a feature found on the early Rubin rounds…so why isn’t it also present on cartridge D? Written on the case side was ‘Schmidt-Rubin M1885’.

On Tony Edwards BOCN site, 3 of your cartridges are shown and described.
A .303 Rubin Rimless
B .303 Rubin rimmed, 1888 trials cartridge.
D “Powder, mark 1”.


Hi Cartridgecorner, thanks for your reply and interest. However I can’t agree that cartridge D is a .303" Mk 1 Powder bearing in mind that it has the flush brass Rubin pattern primer and also the small vent hole in the bullet nose. As far as I’m aware Mk 1 Powder rounds were all headstamped, had small Boxer primers, and had cupro-nickel bullet jackets. But it is strange that this early round looks more like a .303 than any of the others.

D is an 8x53 R Schmidt-Rubin M-1885
See Datig Vol. 1 pg 51 and Huon’s Mil. Rifle & MG cartridges middle of pg 116

A nice selection, Jim.

I’m interested to note that G & B did produce the Rubin cartridge in 1885. Perhaps it was some of this machinery which ended up at the 1888 Melbourne Exposition, where G & B had a huge display. Stan Robinson in his work, quoted from an original brochure put out for the exposition.Included in this display were 8 machines, in a working display, made expressly for the Colonial Ammunition Company, Limited. “The cartridge cases being made in the exhibition are the ‘Rubini’ pattern for the new repeating rifle. The Rubini cartridge is .303 inch, the bullet is of lead, being very long and having a nickel envelope drawn over it”.
I presume they only produced cases, because of the number of machines. The question is, were they straight cases, or bottle necked.?

Pete, thank you for that. So am I correct in concluding that there was a 7.5mm rimless M1885 and an 8mm rimmed M1885? It seems a bit back to front that the rimless straight-sided cartridge ‘A’ was the forerunner of the rimmed, bottlenecked .303 and that the rimmed, bottlenecked cartridge ‘D’ resulted in the rimless Swiss GP90.

John, I don’t think Greenwood & Batley were producing Rubin cartridges in 1885. My understanding is that they were awarded the contract in 1888 and that all ammunition before then was purchased from Switzerland…I think!


I am completely ignorant of the Rubin cartridge details, so forgive dumb questions.
Were the .303 Lee-Metford trials held with a bottle necked case, or were they straight cased, as the example shown?

Because of shipping times, and time to set up what was an enormous display at the 1988 exposition, I would think that G & B were equipped to make the .303 Rubini cartridge at least as early as 1887. Apart from the “machinery in Motion” display manufacturing the cartridges cases, they also had a static display showing “A Rubini case, bullet and envelope”.

The more I look at this, the more I think they were producing a bottle necked case, as one of the machines listed would indicate. The machines I believe were in the working display were, these from the original list.
Punching and Cupping Machine
Vertical drawing Machine
Necking Machine
Heading Machine
Machine to pierce fire holes
Trimming Machine
Head Turning Machine
Cap Chamber Boring machine.


I’ll deal with your question first, that’s the easy bit!..according to Labbett the 1888 Lee-Metford trials were conducted with a ‘rimmed, straight-sided case which had a brass split ring in the casemouth’ - These would be the cartridges ‘B’ and ‘C’ in my photo.

Labbett dedicates about seven pages to these cartridges so I’ll just summarise the more significant parts;
Britain’s interest in the Rubin began in June 1885 when they purchased one rifle (single shot bolt action) together with 500 cartridges from the Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft, Neuhausen. These were received in December and in January 1886 a further 500 cartridges were ordered. This ammunition was of the rimless, straight-sided pattern as per ‘A’ above. I notice Peter refers to this cartridge as .300 inch Rubin Cartridge 1886 rather than the 7.5mm Rubin 1885 as I’ve called mine but it is definitely the same cartridge.
In February 1887 the Committee ordered a further 2000 rounds.

Peter’s first mention of Greenwood & Batley’s involvement (the company held the UK patent rights to Rubin) is that in March 1887 the company submitted to the Magazine Rifle Committee a .300" Rubin repeating rifle together with 300 rounds of ball ammunition. He does not clarify whether G&B actually manufactured these 300 cartridges themselves or purchased them from Thun. Unfortunately Peter makes no mention of the primer types used on these cartridges but I am of the opinion that Thun used the flat brass Rubin primers while G&B used a copper primer.
The rifle was trialed but only the Swiss-made ammunition was actually used as the committee already held 2000 rounds of this in stock and used this instead.
In January 1888 it was decided to modify the cartridge by making it rimmed rather than rimless.
At this point Royal Laboratories, Woolwich became involved making & testing some semi-rimless cartridges, some necked, some straight-sided.

The troop trials were conducted in mid 1888 using a rimmed, straight-sided cartridge which had the brass split ring in the mouth. The bullet was copper jacketed and had a core of 98% lead and 2% antimony. It weighed 215gn. The charge was 70gn of compressed black powder.
The trial was conducted with 350 rifles and each rifle had 350 cartridges.
The bulk of the ammunition had no headstamp however a small quantity was manufactured by Royal Laboratories and did carry their headstamp. I think its fair to conclude that G&B manufactured the remainder of the unmarked ammunition.
There is no doubt that G&B definitely manufactured the 1888 trials cartridge ‘C’ but did they also manufacture the earlier rimless pattern ‘A’ or did they import it? I don’t know…

Thanks Jim, for that clarification.

Cartridge ‘C’ base has the typical look of the early .303’s manufactured by G & B for CAC, a considerable amount of which was not headstamped, and had that style of copper primer.
The ‘Rubini’ as it was called here, is only part of a large puzzle, what with trying to differentiate between components destined for Auckland or Footscray. The addition of Kings Norton and Birmingham Metal & Munitions to the mix, together with a large quantity of those unheadstamped cartridges, it’s quite a challenge.

Rubin-Rubin-Rubini…the result of trilingualism of Switzerland ( Rubini was from the Italian Language Cantons of Switzerland, but in general, his name was “Germanized/Frenchified” into “Rubin.”

Of course, this did not happen to “Von Martini”, who although has a Italian Origin Name, had a Germanic “Von” attached, so became a “German” Name, which even the Swiss maintained as "Martini"
Other Austrian/German Names of Nobility (“von”) with Italian origins, maintained the Italian Spelling. Even Vetterli ( or Wetterli) is Not Italian, but Swiss-German in origin ( the Ending in “i” is quite common in certain Germanic Swiss areas. ( eg, Sprungli, the Chocolatier --with Lindt.).

The two reasons for the changing over to a Bottle-necked rimmed cartridge from the Straight with split ring, was that too many rings were getting stuck in the barrel, and causing Barrel bulges; hence the “Fill the case, then neck” system, which was carried over to stranded Cordite as well. The reasons for the change to rimmed cases was that Machine guns “Needed” a hefty rim for extraction ( a Furphy soon contradicted in 1888 by the German Patrone 88, Rimless, and then used in the 1894 Maxim for the Imperial Kriegsmarine. ( and future use proved the validity of rimless cartridges).

The Swiss in the Patrone 90 just made the rim a little thicker…hence no rimless problems.

Doc AV

Your cartridge D is an 8.3x53 R by bullet measurement if the same as mine, Datig notes it as an 8mm and Huon calls it an 7.8mm, which I think must either be a typo or an cartridge I’m unaware of, which is a very real possibility.

“that the rimmed, bottlenecked cartridge ‘D’ resulted in the rimless Swiss GP90.” I’m not at all sure this connection can be made. Rubin had an involvement and hand in Swiss ammunition development but that your “D” is / was a direct link, if that is what your saying?

as to size; My rimless with a flush primer [your A], bullet is 7.93mm / .312"
My rimmed troop trials bullet [your C] is; 7.85mm / .309".
My rimmed troop trails drill bullet is; 7.57mm / 298". It has a well struck small copper primer, holed case with a wood distance piece seen. It also has a slightly thinner rim thickness and a .002" less mouth dia, 392" vs 394" than the live version but the same case length.
Don’t have the rimmed with the flush primer as I traded it for the trials dummy. Can’t have everything…

I’m not too sure the M-1885 designation is a correct “name” either. In several of our sales we had the rimmed version, with a flush primer, which we called a .303 Rubin Rimmed[color=#FF0080]*[/color] and noted it as ca 1887, agreeing with Peter Labbett. I think the M-1885 designation came from Fred Datig, which likely came from his living in Switzerland and very probably having museum(s) access.

Peter notes these as ca. 1887 (in June of 1887 the committee examined a rifle for a rimmed cartridge) and the 1888 issued trials cartridge had the small domed copper primer. However perhaps the flush primer is a M-1885 just that it took a few years for the British government to get around to investigate. So about that model designation, I just don’t know. However as all but “D” were part of the evolution of the .303 Inch my opinion is to consider them a .303 Rubin Rimmed or Rimless and not M-1885’s.
I would certainly welcome feedback on this.

In your series of Rubin’s there is one you are missing, the semi-rimmed {7.78mm /306"bullet dia.}. It has a neck and is very similar to a MK I Powder. photo below

The semi-rimmed was tested in April of 1888 and worked well, plus it was a fix to the problem of the collar lodging in the barrel. However the Superintendent SAAF Enfield rejected this and the troop trials version [your “C”] was issued.

E.L. Scranton, who along with being an important ammunition illustrator was a very serious British military cartridge collector / historian, and was advising us about this cartridge series and why we called it that in our Sale #4.

Hope this is of help.

SR Rubin amp MK 1 powder_zpshbwuehcu

Eduard Rubin (17 July 1846 - 6 July 1920) was born in Thun, where his father owned a mechanical workshop. Thun is located south of Berne where the Swiss speak German, definitely not Italian. His obituary in the Swiss military journal (on the title page, showing also Gazetta Militare Svizzera!) did not give any hint that his name could have been Rubini.

In my view, just another non-English name gotten wrong, like the notorious MG42 designer “Grunow” (really Gruner), or the German “Kurtz” (instead of Kurz) cartridge.

Swiss names tend to be pesky, even in Switzerland. There are, for example, those SIG-made Vetterli rifles that are marked “Syst. Vetterlin.” Jack

It was of great help Pete, thank you very much! Is it likely that the semi-rimmed bottlenecked round would have been made by Royal Laboratories rather than G & B?

Jim, the semi-rimmed has a flush Rubin primer, so I really don’t know who made it.

It is possible that the Swiss / Rubin supplied the rounds with the Rubin primer? The bullets in all the variations are all very similar. Just the primer in the trails round seems to be different plus the slightly hollow pointed bullet.

I just don’t know. Sorry