WWI shrapnel?

This was sold to me as WWI shrapnel made by Air Brake Co. of Watertown, NY in 1917. The company did/does exist and made shrapnel during WWI news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2 … 36,6457443. But these still look like caltrops to me. So, is it shrapnel?

Photo scale comparison, please ( such as a 4 inch rule or a Coin, etc for size comparison.)

They definitely look like Caltrops, but who would want Caltrops in 1917 Flanders???(Mud) and Caltrops are much sharper and longer.

“Shrapnell” properly called, is round balls of iron or lead, about 1 inch in diameter, packed with a bursting charge inside a rather medium to large diameter shell ( say 3 inch and above.)

Designed to “Air-Burst” over the enemy trenches and cause “Hard Rain”. Major Shrapnell (Royal Artillery) designed the conical bursting shell back in the 1850s.

All other shell bits are “Shell splinters” or “Shell fragments”…despite what Ignorant Journalists write these days.


DocAV, also seen cubic shrapnels

seems like they are ‘jacks’ used in a childrens game called ‘Jumping Jacks’.

WWI era shrapnel was usually small in size, say 1/2" or so. A shrapnel projectile did not contain a bursting charge. It had a small charge of black powder in the base that was ignited by a train fuze, which then expelled the shrapnel out the front of the projectile. Forward momentum and centrifical force then spread the shrapnel in a shotgun-like pattern.

Fired shrapnel projectiles are commonly found in collections, with only the engraved rotating band indicating they had been fired. The fuze and other internals fell to the ground and were also found relatively undamaged.



My sister used to play “Jacks”, many, many years ago. “Jumping Jacks” is a different game.


Doc, here is a size comparison photo(s)

I am certain I have seen things very much like them, but I can’t remember where - But I don’t think it was in an ordnance context. Maybe it will come to me.

I found the following while browsing the web:

In a well-publicized case in 2009, another British soldier, 87-year-old Alfred Mann woke up with a strange object in his mouth: a half-inch metal shard – shrapnel from a battle injury he sustained 65 years earlier, according to ABC News.

Mann had been a nurse with the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II, and sustained injuries to his face, shoulder and leg from an exploding land mine in Italy. He complained of pain in his jaw and mouth for years, but doctors could find no evidence of any malady. In Mann’s case, the shrapnel had just been overlooked.

Similar items have been found in US Civil War campsite by people metal detecting and by campsite diggers and are identified as caltrops. Caltrops in campsites to me means the troops were playing with them, maybe something like jumping jacks?
There seem to be fair amount of these around and they appear at shows on occasion which makes me suspect these are fairly modern reproductions also the ‘older’ ones (the few that I’ve seen) usually look much better (if they haven’t been buried for 150 years) because they were cast in well defined molds.


Keep in mind there may be origins of items like this totally unrelated to military ordnance.
Possibly industrial uses of some sort.
I don’t know the answer.

Smugglers tools to be dropped on the tarmac with the intention of puncturing the tires of pursuing police cars? (I admit the edges should be sharper for this purpose. Sorry if I am totally wrong, but my upbringing on the German-Dutch border may have to do with it.)

These look like tumbler bits used to tumble larger steel parts and to remove rust and deburr edges.
Also the typical surface looks much like having quite some “tumbler milage”.
There are plenty of different materials used depending on the size and material which is going to be tumbled and also depending on the desired effect.