Years of British .50 BMG production


I have the following HS on various British .50 BMG cases - Ball: K 63 L11A1, Ball: K 69 L11A2, Blank: K 69 L11A2, Dummy: K 76 L1A1, Ball: K 79 L11A2. Was .50 BMG only produced in the UK in certain years. I have never seen a modern British .50, 1979 is the Latest British round I’ve seen. Also does red primer annulus indicate tracer? On post-1963 .50 BMG? As all my rounds bar dummy have red annulus, but these are fired cases with bullets replaced.

12.7x99R .5 Flanged ball

The earliest British 50 BMG I have is headstamped: G K32 G .5V A-C (read 3,12,9, 6) red annulus purple bullet tip. G code is Tracer.
Next one is: K.34 12.7m/mCOLT (read 12 &6) ball ring crimped primer black or very dark purple annulus.
Latest is an empty case: ODL 50 94 (read 12, 7, 5)
.50’s used the same letter & primer annulus coding format as other British ammunition. And when the U.S. supplied 50’s (during WW II) even the colour tips on AP were green instead of the normal US black.
Hope this is of help.


ODL is a New Zealand Company


They make a lot of blank for the New Zealand Army, I didn’t know they made .50 but I think they have the equipment to do it.


These are all made at a stage when the British letter code system to indicate bullet type (which I am familiar with) had been dropped. These all have “L” Codes as with later ammunition. I think that black annulus you describe is in fact very dark purple, as the purple used on British rounds can sometimes look black. I would also like to know when the letter codes (G for Tracer, B for Incediary, W for AP etc) were dropped in favour of the “L” codes, eg. “L2A2” on 7.62 ball, “L13A1” and “L13A2” on 7.62 blank, and “L42A1” on 7.62 Match. On 5.56 Ball I have “L2A2” and “L1A2” and “L1A3” on 5.56 blank.


The L designations replaced the “Mk. I II II IX etc” codes as standard around 1954. Almost everything in the armed forced was eventually changed over the L designation. In the Australian Army they ended up going to ‘F’ designations and the Canadians to ‘C’.

here’s the details on the L2A1 from the List of Changes, note the date:-

[b]C 6324
ROUNDS, 7.62 MM., BALL, L2A1 (Cat. No. Q1/QV 8GF) . . L


A drawing (QV 8GF) has been sealed to govern manufacture of the above-mentioned round, which is hereby introduced for use in Land Service.
The round comprises the following components:


Earliest UK production of .50 BMG was 1926 (by both RL and Kynoch) Last hst I have is K 87 M17 on a tracer. There were some .50 K hst’s about this time (some with Russian primers) but dates unknown. JohnP-C.


As John says, first production was 1926 for British military trials, but there was little British official interest after that until WW2. The 1920s/30s Kynoch production was mostly for export.

During WW2 we imported large quantities of US ammo for Lend Lease aircraft and vehicles. There was also some British production at Spennymore in 1943 and 1944 of ball, tracer and AP plus some experimental types.

Post war Kynoch made .50 both for British military and export contracts in a variety of loads. For British military use the codes and colours were as normal. When the “L” system took over in about 1954 the colour codes remained the same. Most of the British military ammo was for the tank ranging MG on some Marks of Chieftain tank and these were L11A1, L11A2 and L13A1. These had a red and yellow tip and a red p.a.



@ John P-C: Russian primers in 1987? wasn’t this still during the Cold War??

@TonyE: Red and yellow tip - I thought this indicated Observing, is that the case for the rounds you describe?


This is one. Headstamp: K 68 L11A2, red primer annulus. These are indeed observing (ranging) rounds for tank MG’s.

Kynoch stopped small caliber ammunition manufacturing in 1969-1971 but produced .50 BMG until 1980. During this time .50 BMG cases with Kynoch headstamps have been produced in several other European countries like Norway.
Source: the old IAA forum.


I have one like this marked K 70 L11A2 red primer annulus, yellow red tip.



Nice round! How is an observing round used? Does the trace change colour over a certain range or similar? I was also under the impression that these producea flash or smoke on hitting something, is this correct?


Hi Falcon,

An observing cartridge is used to observe the trajectory of the projectile and to mark the point of impact. The bullet has an incendiary composition in the tip, a flat steel slug in the center and a tracer composition in the rear. Upon impact, the incendiary composition indeed produces a puff of smoke and a clear visible flash.

These cartridges were used in some British post-WW2 tank MG’s for ranging the main gun. When an observing bullet from the coaxial MG striked the target, the main gun was fired, hopefully striking the same target as the MG did. I think the ballistic properties of the .50 observing projectiles are intended to be comparable to those of the main gun ammunition, especially on short distances.


You cannot get those .50 observing rounds here very easily, because they contain an incendiary composition, they are illegal.


[quote=“NZ L1A1 Collector”]ODL is a New Zealand Company


They make a lot of blank for the New Zealand Army, I didn’t know they made .50 but I think they have the equipment to do it.[/quote]

Thank you!


Here are some of interesting British 50s:

The first British manufactured .50 incendiary was the B Mark I and like the early .303 B.Vi had a weakened nose that had a very fine hole filled with solder. You can just about see it in this picture.

These were loaded into Canadian DI manufactured cases at ROF Spennymore.

The BI bullet was quite finely pointed.

The subsequent B Mark II did not have the solder filled tip but kept the same very pointed profile. These were loaded into cases with an SR 44 .50 headstamp, very finely stamped. Unfortunately it did not photograph well.

As well as ball, tracer, incendiary and drill, Spennymore experimented with solid steel AP shot.

When Kynoch were developing the L11A1 Observing round to match the Chieftains 120mm trajectory they loaded inert filled observing rounds for development range testing. These were identified by a mustard colour tip.
Headstamp was K66 L11A1.

When this was replaced By the L13A1 the first experimental loads were headstamped K 70 XL13E1 and had the normal purple tip for experimental ammo.



Thanks everyone for your info, the “bullet” on the round I got on Sunday that started all this is an empty copper jacket.


Hi Falcon -
these were made to develop primers for Iraqi made 12.7 x 108.
Got my first Iraqi 7.62 x 54R cases via Kynoch in the 1980’s - primer development programme - ironic isn’t it?
Incidently - the G17 (Greenwood & Batley) headstamped 7.62 x 54R on another thread - after WW1 G&B sold excess machinery to guess where? You got it - Iraq!
Does anybody read history anymore?


Hmm, wonder if Iraq were still making 7.62 x 54R on our old machinery before the 2003 war (I imagine the factory would have been bombed since). We supplied them in he 1980s because they were at war with Iran, whom at that time we considered more of a threat. It would be interesting to compare a Greenwood & batley and Iraqi 7.62 x 54R side by side. All of the Machinery from the Webley & Scott factory also went to Pakistan in the '80s.