Unusual .303

The pictures show a 303 ball cartridge with a head stamp ‘2 C II’ which I took to be a MK 11 Cordite. On closer inspection I noticed that cartridge case has no indents for the bullet, but the bullet itself has a cannelure. Despite the C in the head stamp it was filled black powder. It is Berdan primed which if it was a MK II black powder should be a Boxer. Can anyone explain this? Thanks in advance.
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I have one similar only the head stamp reads R up arrow L C II I was told it was filled with cordite. Tom

Was the black powder loose or compressed pellet with hole in centre?

There was no central hole, but the powder was compressed and not in any way loose.

The British used a “C” to note a Cordite powder loading. The factory in this case was Government Cartridge Factory No 2 (at Woolwich) and in your round it was Royal Labs with the broad-arrow noting government ownership.

The Roman numeral II is Mark II & there was a Black Powder MK II often / formally(?) called Powder MK II with compressed black powder charge with a hole through the center and those used a small copper Boxer primer see below), and a Cordite MK II which used the Berdan primer.

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I have the same headstamped round, I may well have to pull mine to see what bullet/propellant is in mine. I will also check the primer.

Ian can you confirm that the cannular on your bullet is the normal round based rolled cannular, it just looks flat square based more like a machined groove than a rounded rolled cannular.


I know its a different headstamp but I recently inerted a .303 Mk II Cordite with the headstamp ‘MAXIM 1895’ and found it to be loaded with black powder.

Richard, it is a normal rolled cannelure.

Hi Jim, I had the same round filled black powder. I can only guess that the cases were made but due to problems with cordite manufacture none was available for filling hence black powder was used.

I believed the cordite charge was introduced in 1891 so the .303 became the .303 C MkI. So on a 1885 dated case it should be normal that it was black powder loaded?..

Laurent, you are of course correct. My headstamp should have read ‘1895’ and not 1885. However, you have clarified the point that post-1891 cartridges should be cordite. I shall edit my post to avoid further confusion.

From: ‘Temple’ .303 Ball, Book No 1. Page 13.
1892-1893…Interim design.

I don’t have the book, but; may be able to get a photograph of Page 13 before the end of the day.


I’ve just read p. 13 of Temple’s book referenced above and to me it would suggest that the BP loaded cases didn’t include the C in the headstamp and that his comments pertain to the use of the bullet that was developed for the cordite rounds. I could be reading it incorrectly…

When I looked in Tony Edwards HS guide, none of the BP rounds showed the C in the headstamp. Whilst I acknowledge that is isn’t all inclusive of every headstamp, it would appear that C cases were loaded with cordite.

Given that Buster’s rounds had loose black powder as opposed to a pellet with a central flash hole, is it possible that it is a reload?

The MAXIM stamped rounds were commercial ones made by Eley, so is it possible that they could have been loaded with black powder.

Well, I have just found my MkII 2 C II and I have not pulled it yet but when I shake it I can clearly hear a loose powder. I would not have thought loose black powder would have been loaded. I am thinking I am going to have to pull thye round to see what the loose powder is. My round has neck indents so looks correct for the MkII ball round.


Hope this may be helpful.


Hi Sam, thanks for the information above. To me it still does not explain the C for Cordite in the head stamp, or the fact that there are no intents on the cartridge case and that it is Berdan primed.
Best Ian