Sniper ammo before 1945


#1
  • I would like to know if special sniper ammo [like 7.92X57, .30-06, .303 British or 7.62X54R] was manufactured and used by the end of WW2. If this type of special sniper ammo existed already by 1945, I would like to know which country had manufactured it. Is it true that special 7.92X57 s.S. ammo was manufactured for the German snipers before 1945??? Thanks in advance for any help, Liviu 01/09/09

#2

For the U.S. Army prior to the end of WW2, I have not seen any references that suggest anything but regular ball ammunition was issued for sniper use. Of course, sniping was sort of a novelty and the tactical use and equipment was not firmly established by doctrine or regulations. It was very much experimental, and out of the mainstream, almost neglected. In general, the attitude seemed to be that fitting a rifle with a telescope made it a sniper rifle, and the user a sniper. And, often the “sniper” was assigned to regular infantry tasks, not sniper duties.

The WW1 U.S. snipers were mostly armed with M1903 rifles with M1908 or M1913 Warner Swasey scopes, or a few with Winchester A5 scopes, but the rifles and scopes were turned into surplus in the 1920s. Sniping was not tried again to any scale until the appearance of the M1903A4 sniper rifles in 1943, followed by the M1C in late 1944 or early 1945. Given that there was no real attention paid to achieving special accuracy with these rifles (special barrel selection or bedding or fitting of parts), it is not surprising that no special ammunition was prescribed.

Of course, National Match ammunition was available, and MAY have been obtained by some snipers for their use, but if so, it was probably on an unofficial basis, not a matter of a benevolent Ordnance Department ensuring that the best possible combination was provided.

The U.S. Marine Corps took a much more scientific approach, in their 1941 Van Orden report on selection of a rifle and scope combination for sniper use. It went to great lengths to list various rifles and scopes, and decided upon the use of the Unertl 1 1/4" 8 power scope on either the Winchester Model 70 or the M1903A1 Springfield, the latter usually National Match rifles. I would expect that the Marines with their traditional emphasis on marksmanship and rifle team performance would have tried to use NM ammo if they could obtain it, but I have seen no documentation to support that during WW2 or Korea. In Vietnam, use of “white box” NM ammo seems to have been common and encouraged and officially supported, at least with the Marines.

Peter Senich has written many good books on sniping matters, along with USMC Lt. Col Norm Chandler’s Death From Afar series which encompass many varied aspects of sniping, especially USMC sniping programs, in which he was a key player.


#3

Going back to the era before 1900 when a “Sniper” was called a “Sharpshooter” there was the .45 Whitworth with the hexagonal bullet used by the Confederate Army. In the 1880’s there was the .45-80-500 Springfield used in the “Model 1881 Springfield Sharpshooter Lengthened Chamber” rifle. It was also called the “Long Range Springfield Rifle”.


#4

Although it wasn


#5

Here is a box label from cartridges also used by snipers.

Dutch


#6

I have a copy of a British packet label from November 1917 for a 48 round box of Mark VIIP armour piercing cartridges made by RL with an oversticker “SPECIALLY SELECTED FOR SNIPERS”.

The use of AP for snipers was to defeat the German armoured loopholes, although the VIIP was not a particularly good AP round and is comparatively rare today, having been superceded by the Mark VIIW in 1918.

Regards
TonyE


#7

Ron

The Springfield Long Range Rifle (I’ve not heard it called a Model 1881) was actually a competition rifle in disguise. In 1879 the Army was interested in National and International competition but the Congress was in no mood to fund such an extravigance so someone in Ordnance cooked up the idea that a “sniper” rifle was needed for use against hostile Indians on the wide-open Western Plains. They proceeded to develop both the rifle and the 2".4 case with a 500 grain bullet. A paper patched WRA bullet was used at first soon followed by the inside lubricated lead bullet. Less than 200 of the rifles were made.

Except for barrel twist, sights and an added pistol grip, the Long Range Rifle differed little from the standard issue. They were more accurate, but only because of the 500 grain bullet, not the extra 10 grains of powder. This led to adoption of the standard issue 45-70-500 service cartridge. The “Sharpshooter” label attached to the 2".4 case was never official. It was officially the 2".4 Case, Model 1881.

By 1882 resistance to funding such things as competition had eased but no more Long Range Rifles were made, the service rifle being used instead.

A special Marksman’s Rifle was made in very limited numbers (only eleven known) and it was truly a thing of beauty. It was given as an award for outstanding Army marksmanship. It was chambered for the standard service cartridge.

Ray


#8

Ray–The “Model 1881 Springfield Sharpshooter Lengthened Chamber” rifle. It was also called the “Long Range Springfield Rifle”. is a quote from Hoyem, Vol. 2, Page 68.


#9

Dutch,

I remember many years back I saw a box stamped label overstamped "Nur f


#10

Ron

Hoyem just might be wrong. Those are very descriptive names but not official or used by any serious Cal .45 collectors that I know.

AFAIK there is no Model 1881 except for the Model 1881 Forager.

Ray


#11

Hans,

I have never seen or heard of a "Nur f


#12

[quote=“Hans”]Dutch,

I remember many years back I saw a box stamped label overstamped "Nur f


#13

Dutch and pbutler,
I wrote “…Maybe one or the other word in abbreviation…”. I just remember the meaning of this information, not the exact wording. So it may as well have been "n. f. Scharfsch


#14

In " With British Snipers to the Reich" Captain C. Shore states :

" I used a good deal of American .303 (particularly WRA) and this gave consistantly fine shooting ." page 221

Glenn


#15

[quote=“TonyE”]I have a copy of a British packet label from November 1917 for a 48 round box of Mark VIIP armour piercing cartridges made by RL with an oversticker “SPECIALLY SELECTED FOR SNIPERS”.

The use of AP for snipers was to defeat the German armoured loopholes, although the VIIP was not a particularly good AP round and is comparatively rare today, having been superceded by the Mark VIIW in 1918.

Regards
TonyE[/quote]

Does that mean specially selected for (the use of) snipers or specially selected for (use against) snipers?

I still have an article in Sept 1994 Guns Review by our mutual aquaintance the late Pete Bloom entitled “Sniping in the British Armed Forces” which gives a good roll out of events and the role played by Heskith-Pritchard. In another article which I can’t find he decribes how snipers were taught to hoard batches of ammunition that they found particularly accurate. this implies there was no designated sniper ammunition at that time.

Indeed there was no proper sniper rifle until quite late in the war when a scoped P14 was issued. There were side scoped SMLEs around that but thats just what they were, standard SMLEs with a side scope fitted. Although names like Purdey and Holland & Holland were employed to fit the scopes their remit did not extend to accurising or tuning of the action.

Experienced snipers would often use the scope for spotting but retained the ordinary sights as well. Before that there were Lattey sights etc but H-P was using civilian rifles, big game rifles and captured German rifles in 1915.

Its a fascinating subject all the more so because it was nearly all based on civilian marksmanship and unpaid amateurs.


#16

In 1915, the Germans issued a general order regarding “SmK” ammo, just introduced. This was one of the first AP rounds developed in WW I.

The order restricted its use to specially selected MG shooters, and to Scharfschuetzen use, for the purpose of “Loophole” destruction ( Counter sniping). It was not to be issued to the general Infantryman.
These restrictions were due to the costly and slow delivery of this type of ammo, so its use was carefully husbanded to where it did the most good.
Mostly it was destined to the Aircrews, as it penetrated Engine Blocks with ease

In WW II, the Germans developed a “soft” 7,9 cartridge, the Nahkampf Patrone (Close Combat cartridge) to be used by Snipers with Schalldampfers ( snuffers) Fitted to their rifles. The Cartridge was usuable in either Kar98k or G43, and saw most use on the Eastern front.
(See Kent and other Books on the 7,9 cartridge).

Anecdotally, also on the Eastern front, Snipers accumulated Luftwaffe brass cased ammo, as this was more consistent and reliable than the Steel version on general Issue ( Just as MG crews did, especially during Winter.)

Outside of these examples, and the “Anschuss” Ammo mentioned previously, I don’t know of any Specific ammo used by German Snipers.

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics


#17

Vince

I am quite sure that this meant for the use of snipers, as there was a lot of experimentation and debate about how to defeat the German loophole shields.

They were defence against normal .303 ball at even quite close range and that led to the use of various express rifles.

Hesketh-Prichard (Sniping in France) reports that his .333 Jeffries defeated the shields easily. The Ministry of Munitions attempted to buy as many large calibre (up to .600 Nitro) rifles as possible, but when they discovered the cost of these they cancelled the orders. In the end they only purchased 52 Express rifles.

Some of the calibres used.

  1. .303 Ball Mark VII (for comparison)
    2. .500 Nitro 3

#18

DocAV,

many interesting details, thank you. Just a small thing: it was not “Nahkampfpatrone” (close combat cartridge) but rather “Nahpatrone” (close range combat)


#19

Austro-Hungarian army used special ammo for snipers already during WW I. It was derived from the cartridge for synchronized aviation machine guns. Bullet was crimped and primer was lacquered green or green-blue and also three times crimped (I am not sure if this word is correct, but I hopu that you will understand me|. Boxes containing 10 rounds were except of other normal markings additionaly marked with "F


#20

Tony

Nice picture, although there were few rifles purchased lots more were donated and in the earlier part of the war officers were reduced to having their own rifles sent out to deal with the problems.

The key point about the side mounted scope on the SMLE was that it prevented its use with the steel loopholes (except by canting the rifle which plays havoc with accuracy). So shooting from loopholes was done largely unscoped which reduced the advantage.

That is one of the reasons why British sniping developed in the way it did using “ghillie” suits and long crawls on the belly. There was a lot of emphasis on stalking and fieldcraft.
Because of the roving snipers, sniping became combined with scouting and intellegence gathering and achieved a lot of its official recognition as a result of that rather than for the shooting aspects.

People today often fail to realise how pathetically slow the British were to get up to speed on sniping and recognise its benefits. There was even an undercurrent of belief that it was not the sort of thing they considered gentlemen should condone. That belief was not shared by those in the field (clearly) but it goes some way to explain the inertia, even hostility, towards sniping.