Spanish .303 for Egypt, 1957


#1

In 1956-57, an order was fulfilled at the Fábrica Nacional de Toledo in Spain, for one million .303 MKVII ball cartridges. The contract was awarded by Egypt. Order number was 5-4-55/R and the cartridge would be known as “7-Z .303” in the factory. Leftover cases were later loaded with soft point hunting bullets for the civilian market and are not hard to find.
The spanish cartridge was based on the current british round at the time, and some samples were adquired in the UK. High pressure, low pressure and ball cartridges were brought to Spain, in the quantity of a wooden crate of each type.

The specifications for the Spanish cartridge were:

  • Crimping force: => 27 kilograms.
  • Powder weight tolerance: 0,1 g.
  • Velocity 731,50 ± 12 meters / second.
  • Mean velocity variation will not exceed 9,15 m. - calculated at 27º C.

The acceptance tests would be those applied to Spanish light ground machine gun ammunition (medium quality).

They were to be waterproofed by applying a lacquer seal around the primer and a varnish coat inside the case neck.

Both the British and the Spanish rounds have gilding metal bullet jackets with a crimping cannelure.

Here I am presenting a 50-round box of the low pressure test rounds. There are also similar carton boxes for high pressure test cartridges, with the pressure figures varying accordingly. The ball cartridges came in the standard 15-round cartons of no special interest.

Cheers,

Schneider.


#2

That is very interesting information about both the Spanish contract and also the rounds supplied by Radway Green in the UK. I have one of the soft point loads and wondered why Spain was using a British designation.

The packet for the low pressure rounds is a standard British 32 round carton (not 50 rounds), and although you say the ball cartridges came in the standard 15 round packet, these are actually far more scarce that either the 32 round carton or the 50 round cotton bandoleer. As far as I can tell, the 15 round packet was mainly used by the Royal Navy.

At that date RG was still loading .303 Mark 7 with cordite propellant and the cases you have were originally for this. They have been overstamped with a “Z” to indicate nitro-cellulose prop. This overstamp can also be found on rounds in the UK, but AFAIK thay are ordinary Ball Mark 7z rounds, not low pressure.

It seems there is no marking on the low pressure rounds and one cannot identify them once out of the box. Is that the true? Also, are the high pressure rounds British military proof rounds with copper washed cases and typically “RG 55 Q3” headstamp?

Regards
TonyE


#3

Well, Tony, thanks for the ration of humble pie for me to eat.

The carton is for 32 rounds, of course. I never counted them.

The high pressure cartridges look identical to these low pressure ones, with no identifying features. The cardboard boxes are also identical except, of course, for the inscription.

Thanks again.


#4

Sorry Schneider, I did not mean you to eat humble pie! I only wanted to point out that it was a standard size British military box.

Please enjoy a plate or two of tapas on me.

Regards
TonyE


#5

So Spain acquired .303 ammunition from RG to copy to sell to the Egyptians so they could shoot it back at us. Similar things have happened more than once.


#6

[quote=“TonyE”]Sorry Schneider, I did not mean you to eat humble pie! I only wanted to point out that it was a standard size British military box.

Please enjoy a plate or two of tapas on me.

Regards
TonyE[/quote]

Please don’t worry, Tony. I’m just somewhat angry at myself for having disassembled the box and not having counted the holes in the perforated carton. I am sure you didn’t want to punish me. Thanks again.

Now I’d have to find the 15-round box that I thought was so common I just stashed somewhere I can’t remember.

Cheers,

Schneider.


#7

Spain ( FNT and PS) were already making .303 ammo earlier in the 1950s. With a .217 berdan primer…so why change over to making a"new" .303 case which is a copy of the British case, especially since they (Spain) didn’t have .250 Primer making capacity???

Looking at the “FNT” cases, I strongly suspect they were at least “Made and primed” by RG ( same headstamp Font and Primer crimp, and copper primer…all Spanish primers at the time were brass or nickeled brass), if not fully loaded by RG using the “Covert” FNT headstamp…for whatever reason… Egypt in 1955 was not yet the radical state it became in 1956, with the Suez War etc…

Could it be another "Covert Supply to Egypt ( like the “AOC-1340” delivery from BPD of Italy?

Whilst the “FNT font” is similar to one on a sample of FNT 7x57 Cartridges (1950) that I have, again, could it be that the Primed cases were headstamped in Spain, or actually using a Spanish-made Bunter in England…the use of the .250 diameter primer for only ONE Lot of ammo, is a question which sticks out like a sore thumb…

The “FNT” case projectile should be pulled to inspect the base for typical British ID marks (star compression, or Letter ID), and weighed and X-rayed to see if it is a Real Mark VII/7 projectile…the PS 1950 .303 bullets were just lead core, no fibre or aluminium inner point.

Also, whilst the Brit. supplied “test ammo” was in 32 round boxes, the Normal Spanish pack for .303 was 50 round loose pack cartons (They were destined for AirForce MGs ( Vickers K and Brownings).

I doubt that the Spanish would make a special 32 round box, with special ammo crates to suit, just for ONE lot of ammo.
If the Egypt Contract was packed in 32 round Boxes, then this is also a possible indicator that the ammo was assembled in England.

Note that the cartons ( of Test ammo) shown have NO standard IAA Green Print Labels ( “H” coded) but only a strip of brown tape…and the ID of the Cartridges is a made-up Rubber stamp…hardly the normal product of a Gov’t Factory ( the carton is identifiable by the embossed stamp of the Maker…). Another hint of an “off the books” Operation.

I have serious doubts that Spain actually “made” this Ammo, rather that
RG, with MoD and Foreign Office approval, made up the ammo for Spain to pass onto Egypt. ( for reasons of its own…stranger things have happened in British Foreign Policy).

Too many inconsistencies.

Just the Devil’s Advocate at work.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#8

An interesting thought Doc!

I agree that the cap and annulus looks very “RG”. I do not have one of the FNT ball rounds so cannot check on the bullet, but I have one of the soft nosed ones made with surplus cases mentioned by schneider so I will pull that and see what we have. If the case is internally marked with an “R” then there will be no doubt.

If they are RG cases then I think they were loaded at FNT, otherwise there would be no point in sending the high and low pressure rounds. The only point of your post I would take issue with you about is the rubber stamping. It is not unusual for RG to use rubber stamps like that on special or experimental ammo. I have several examples and even some with handwritten labels.

I will report back later.

Schneider - can you get a proj. X-rayed as Doc suggests?

Regards
TonyE


#9

I’m afraid I can’t, but I have the original loading books from the FNT, where they wrote the daily production of bullets and cases, and the daily controls applied to the finished cartridges. They even wrote the crate numbers they were filling (I mean serial numbers).

DocAV arguments are sound, but from those books I can add the following information:

  • The order started in december, 1956, but only bullets were made at that time.
  • The loading of cartridges was made between march and april, 1957.
  • The bullets were made at FNT.
  • The cases were made at FNT.
  • The cartridges were loaded at FNT with spanish No. 131 powder.
  • The order was shipped in 781 1.280-round crates plus a crate with 320 rounds.
  • The first 231.580 cartridges had cases headstamped 1956. The rest, 1957.
  • There was a surplus of 4.000 loaded cartridges that, of course, remained at the factory.

The 1.280-round crates suggest the use of 32-round cartons like the samples from RG. But I don’t see no problem for a factory like FNT, which had its own carpentry, to make 782 non-regulation wooden crates as per customer’s requests.

The same with the odd diameter primers. An order of one million would probably qualify for making the required new tools. Plus, maybe some other orders were to be expected…

Cheers,

Schneider.


#10

In the 1950s Spain -as well as Italy and Sweden- sold to Egypt and Syria some military equipment , not only ammo but also other items as fighters (i.e. the HA SAETA designed by Messerschmidt in Sevilla) or Panzer IV H (used by Syria, some of them can be seen in Israel in the Tanks Museum of Massada)
FNT was selected to produce this ammo because it was the most modern and well equipped in Spain. FNT also produced other “amazing” cartridges as 9,3x74R with military head stamp for the drilling rifles of the German bombers we had in our Air Force or 7,62x54R.
A part of the .303 surplus remaining in the plant was loaded with SP bullets packed in 10 rds boxes for the use by the Hunting Society of the FNT and military .


#11

Dear colleagues,

SCHNEIDER just passed away this morning (cancer)
He was one the best experts on Spanish SAA and my teacher on these issues.


#12

That is very sad news. I always enjoyed his posts on all the interesting rounds made in Spain.

My condolencies to his family and friends.

With kind regards

TonyE


#13

I, too, am deeply saddened by Schneider’s passing. What a wealth of information he gifted us here
on this Forum. My condolences to his family. He will be missed here, that is for sure.


#14

A Major loss to the entire cartridge collecting world! I will greatly miss his wisdom and insights!

Schneider will be irreplacable, but I hope the Spanish organization is able to preserve his reference material. Far too often, when one of the wizards of our world pass, the family sees no value in the notes and other paper and they are destroyed, and with them irreplacable information is lost. I believe this is something that all our organizations should give thougth to. Scanning documents is cheap enough today that there is no excuse for losing this data.

Lew


#15

I sadly bow before a great man, my condolence!

Hans


#16

I am very sad to hear this. What a loss to our community!
My condolences to his family and all who appreciated him.


#17

Rest in peace Miguel Suárez!!

Your friend David.


#18

A very sad surprise…

I feel very deeply for the passing away of Miguel Suarez…I had been in touch with him since a very long time … A very nice and discret fellow, one of the leading authorities about Spanish ammunition.

I wish to send all my thoughts and condolences to his family, and will always remember the nice fellow he was.

Phil Regenstreif (stuka222)


#19

A great loss not only to his family & friends but to cartridge collectors everywhere.
rest in peace