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Old April 23, 2012, 03:27 PM   #1
jag2
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303 enfield

A friend gave me some 303 enfield rounds, circa 1953. Naturally, being a reloader I had to take one apart and see what was inside. The bullet released easily with the second hit of my kinetic puller but no powder came out. Looking inside I see a plug, looks like maybe cardboard that is keeping the powder in and I guess compressed or at least right on top of the powder. Is this common with milsurp ammo? I don't ever buy any and have never heard it mentioned in any forums before but probably wasn't thinking about it anyway.
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Old April 23, 2012, 03:37 PM   #2
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I don''t know about 1953, but the old cordite "powder" came in long sticks, like miniature spaghetti. It was loaded into the primed case and a cardboard wad put on top before the case was necked down and the bullet inserted. AFAIK, that system was used only by the British. They claimed that the cardboard wad reduced throat erosion by some means that has never been clear to me.

I thought by 1953 they were using normal nitrocellulose powder, but I could be wrong on that. Or they could have continued that loading procedure even with regular powder.

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Old April 23, 2012, 04:00 PM   #3
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I saw the same thing,,,

Back in the early 60's I had an Enfield,,,
I took some of the milsurp ammo apart,,,
It found the same spaghetti like substance.

Burned real quick when you put a match to a strand.

Aarond

.
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Old April 23, 2012, 04:13 PM   #4
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It is absolutely SOP with .303 British ammo unless it is marked as MkVIIz. All Mk 7 (or Mk VII) is cordite-filled with the card wad. You are seeing the wad jammed into the case as it was filled before being necked down. Imagine that nowadays with OSHA! Filling a primed case & then squeezing it down!
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Old April 23, 2012, 08:10 PM   #5
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Great info, yes it does have a 7 so I guess its time for the safety glasses and a dental pic to dig a little further. Thanks to all.
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Old April 23, 2012, 08:55 PM   #6
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The kinetic puller will remove the strands. Just give the round a few more wackes.

TK
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Old April 24, 2012, 09:33 AM   #7
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Mucho thanks for all for the time of posting this and the photos.. I almost would not have believed it if I had not seen it.. Never knew they built 303 rounds like that.. Again thanks
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Old April 24, 2012, 11:35 AM   #8
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What's the headstamp on the cartridges?

.303 was made in other parts of the world. India and Pakistan, for example, continued to use cordite for quite a few years after the British moved to flake nitrocellulose powders.
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Old April 24, 2012, 03:53 PM   #9
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I think most of the countries that made .303 kept with the (z) convention when using modern nitro powders. For example I have some S/A R1 M3z that is not cordite.
The British loaded cordite for ever, denoting the change with the (z) suffix. I've had RG (Radway Green) from the late 50's that is still cordite.
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Old April 24, 2012, 04:47 PM   #10
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I once decided that the .303 had to have been designed by a Royal Commission on the grounds that no one individual could screw up that badly. The cartridge is rimmed, tapered, corrosive, erosive, and with a cupro-nickel jacket bullet. The .30-40 Krag suffered from all those problems as well, but the U.S. was smart enough to get rid of it after ten years.

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Old April 24, 2012, 04:54 PM   #11
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Actually, I believe that Col. Rubin (of Schmidt-Rubin fame) had something to do with the development of the .303.
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Old April 24, 2012, 10:16 PM   #12
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Headstamp is RG, has a 7, and 53. I believe it was Royal Ordinance, I looked it up on a headstamp site. Thanks again, really interesting info.
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Old April 25, 2012, 06:40 AM   #13
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Yep, it's British made.

RG stands for Radway Green, part of the Royal Ordnance system.
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Old April 25, 2012, 06:58 AM   #14
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"The cartridge is rimmed, tapered, corrosive, erosive, and with a cupro-nickel jacket bullet."

Rimmed. Yep, and it still made a rather distinctive accounting of itself through two World Wars and multiple colonial excursions with remarkably little fuss or trouble, both in bolt and fully automatic weapons.

Tapered. Just about every cartridge is tapered to some degree, even the .30-06. It's the amount of taper that needs to be considered as to whether it becomes a hinderance or not. In a cartridge like the 8mm Lebel, it's a huge hinderance. In the .303, 7.62x54, and rimless cartridges, not such a big deal at all.

Corrosive. EVERY nation used corrosive ammunition as its primary military priming right up through World War II. Some Combloc nations used it long after that. Proper training of soldiers in their cleaning routines obviates that issue.

Erosive. All early smokeless powders were, to one degree or another, erosive. Some of the early American military smokeless powders were like stuffing an Oxy-Acetylene torch down the barrel they burned that hot.

Coupled with the softer steels that were in use at the time, it could be a pretty bad problem, but it was rather quickly addressed with new powder formulations and harder barrel steels. By about 1910 the cordite formulation had been adjusted to the point where it was really no more erosive than any of the other similar powders in use at the time.

cupro-nickel jacket bullet. .30-03 and early .30-06 bullets also used cupro-nickel jacket bullets. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe that the roundnose cupro-nickel jacket was replaced with a spitzer bullet jacketed with gilding metal around 1899. I'll have to check on that when I get home.


In other words, the .303 British cartridge was very similar to virtually all of its contemporaries. While it kept the rim, and the British kept the cartridge, for a number of reasons, none of what you've listed was really a killer issue, and in fact the .303 British gave incredibly good service over its life.
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Old April 25, 2012, 07:06 AM   #15
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"Actually, I believe that Col. Rubin (of Schmidt-Rubin fame) had something to do with the development of the .303."

I sincerely doubt it.

At the time the .303 was being developed Edward Rubin was director of the Swiss military's manufacturing and research arm. Given that the Swiss were officially neutral, they tended not to (and still don't) lend out their military people to assist other nations in developing weaponry.

Rubin's primary contribution to the .303 was the same as his contribution to the 7.92 Mauser, the 7.62 Moisin Nagant, and the .30-40 Krag rounds... Rubin developed the first practical full-metal jacket bullet, a concept that was quickly adopted world wide.
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Old April 25, 2012, 08:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
I once decided that the .303 had to have been designed by a Royal Commission on the grounds that no one individual could screw up that badly. The cartridge is rimmed, tapered, corrosive, erosive, and with a cupro-nickel jacket bullet. The .30-40 Krag suffered from all those problems as well, but the U.S. was smart enough to get rid of it after ten years.
Yes, but you're ignoring the environment at the time of it's design & adoption.
It was originally issued for use with a lever action single shot rifle. The rim & heavy taper were designed to allow for positive extraction & ejection from that rifle.

1888 was the design date for the .303 British & the 30-40 Krag came a few years later (1892) & was designed for a bolt action rifle with strong primary extraction camming & still the advantages of the rim (for positive grasping with the extractor claw) & the heavy taper (to allow the dirty chamber walls to release the fired case) were still very much in vogue. So much so that U.S. Ordinance copied many of the features.

Corrosive? yes, but what wasn't in the 1890's?

If you separate the product from it's environment you will almost certainly have a distorted view!
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Old April 25, 2012, 09:13 AM   #17
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Nice point, Wogpotter, I'd forgotten that it was originally designed for use in the Martini-Henry.

The considerations to ease of extraction are no doubt based on the known propensity of the .577-.450 M-H to suffer extraction issues during prolonged rapid fire.

It's theorized that rifle problems contributed to the British defeat at Isandlwana. Being caught in the open and faced with a large number of Zulus required the British to lay out as much fire as they could, as quickly as they could.

Once the cases started to stick in the chambers, the extractors either tore the heads off the composite cartridge, the neck ripped off in the chamber, or the extractor lost grip on the rim, leaving the rifle badly jammed.

Interestingly, the US suffered the same kinds of issues with early Trapdoor rifles chambered in .50-70. The extractor was very small on the Model 1866 Trapdoor and, combined with the soft copper folded-head cases, proved to be a big problem.


Got to agree, though, that bashing the .303 Brit on those points is kind of silly, and is like bashing the telegraph because we live in a computer world.
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Old April 25, 2012, 09:38 AM   #18
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cupro-nickel jacket bullet. .30-03 and early .30-06 bullets also used cupro-nickel jacket bullets. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe that the roundnose cupro-nickel jacket was replaced with a spitzer bullet jacketed with gilding ....


I think the US Army used 30-06 Cupro-nickel bullets all they way through WW I into the 20s.. And then they used up the older surplus rounds for training into the 1930s
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Old April 25, 2012, 09:43 AM   #19
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You know, Indy, I think you're right, I think the cupro-nickel jacket was used until the M1 ball cartridge was adopted in 1926.

That would have been the first recorded change, as denoted by the M1 designation. I doubt that the military would have simply changed the jacket material and not have given it a new designation.

I'm pretty sure that the .303 British (again, I'll have to check my copy of Huon's Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridges when I get home) had LONG abandoned the cupro-nickel bullet jacket by that time.
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Old April 25, 2012, 10:39 AM   #20
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Just goes to show that one should not engage in humor or satire without a permit.

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Old April 25, 2012, 10:47 AM   #21
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Quote:
Just goes to show that one should not engage in humor or satire without a permit.
At least not without using the proper graphic indicators, such as , , , , or ...
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Old April 25, 2012, 11:04 AM   #22
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It's us Brits mate, don't worry about it. We do tend to be a bit zealous regarding the old free oh free though.
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Old April 26, 2012, 05:55 AM   #23
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Doing a little research last night with Jean Huon's book, and I found some interesting information on the .303...

First, the guilding metal jacket was adopted for use in 1910, but was used concurrently with cupro-nickel jackets and cupro-nickel washed steel jackets for what appears to be quite a few years. I guess they left their options open.

Secondly, and this is for you, Gyvel, Huon mentions that the .303 was developed based on a cartridge that had been developed by Col. Rubin. That was something I never knew.

Rubin was a prolific cartridge designer, and developed a series of small bore black and smokeless cartridges in the 1870s through the early 1900s, some of which were produced commercially in Europe.

Apparently the British took one of those cartridges as the starting point for the .303, but as I noted below, it's EXTREMELY unlikely that they ever discussed that fact with him.
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Old April 28, 2012, 08:48 PM   #24
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Quote:
Apparently the British took one of those cartridges as the starting point for the .303, but as I noted below, it's EXTREMELY unlikely that they ever discussed that fact with him.
If I recall the account I read, Rubin developed the original round ca. 1882. It is referred to as the ".303 Rubin" in various references, and a picture is included in Skennerton's book on Lee Enfields.

Whether the British Small Arms Committee consulted with Rubin regarding this round is somewhat obscure, but I would be willing to bet that it was tested by the Brits with his full knowledge and cooperation.

At any rate, the original .303 round was a black powder affair, later modified for use with the then-new smokeless Cordite. In 1888, it was cutting edge technology and gave good service for decades, much to the chagrin of its detractors, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

The .303, in addition, has probably killed more varieties of game than any other cartridge, and is still used as a military round in some third and fourth world countries today. Lee-Enfield rifles continued to be produced in .303 well into the 1980s in India, as well. (Mine is dated "1986.")

Furthermore, Lee bolt action rifles in .45-70 were officially adopted by both the U.S. Army and Navy as the Models 1882 and 1885 respectively, later followed by the 1895 Lee 6mm Navy straight pull rifle, many of which were on board the U.S.S. Maine when it was sunk in Havana Harbor in 1898.

Last edited by gyvel; April 28, 2012 at 11:57 PM.
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Old April 29, 2012, 09:13 AM   #25
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"Whether the British Small Arms Committee consulted with Rubin regarding this round is somewhat obscure, but I would be willing to bet that it was tested by the Brits with his full knowledge and cooperation."

As I said, I really wonder about that given his place in the Swiss military and the nature of the international accords in place at that time.

According to the various treaties that came out of the Congress of Vienna, the ONLY formal military contact Switzerland was allowed was with the Vatican regarding the Swiss guard. That's what led to the thriving Swiss arms industry. It wasn't until World War I and the after effects of that that the Swiss started actively going outside of those limitations.
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