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Old October 9, 2012, 09:51 AM   #1
aarondhgraham
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Lebel Model 1886 rifle ammunition color coding question,,,

I was in my favorite watering hole last night,,,
Having a few beers with a friend after a late afternoon range trip.

We were discussing old military rifles and I got to thinking about the Lebel Model 1886 rifle I had when I was a kid.

My Pop gave me the rifle and about 60-70 rounds of ammunition,,,
It was a WW-II bring-back sent home by his brother Oscar J.

The story goes that Oscar killed a "sniper" who was up in a tree,,,
He told the story that it was a French woman shooting at US troops.

Anyways as we got to talking about the rifle,,,
I remembered the ammunition had very distinct color (dye) around the primer.

There were rounds with:
No color
Red color
Black color
Green color

Dad kept the red and green colored ammo from me,,,
He said the black were armor piercing,,,
That the green were tracer rounds,,,
And the red were explosive.

Now bear in mind that while my Pop was a hunter/trapper in his youth,,,
His knowledge of firearms and how they worked was dismal,,,
He was in his late 70's before I finally convinced him,,,
There were more than one rifling groove in a barrel.

I fired all of the uncolored rounds and all of the black dyed rounds,,,
I remember thinking the black rounds had a lot more whang,,,
But that could have been "suggested" by what Pop told me.

Pop never did let me shoot any of the green or red rounds.

My question is this:

Do any of you good folk know what the color coding really represented?

I have searched the Internet this morning,,,
In a fruitless attempt to find any information.

Aarond

.
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Kirby: That's about all it takes, ain't it?
Combat: "A Silent Cry"
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Old October 9, 2012, 06:33 PM   #2
jonnyc
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Sorry to tell you, but French WWI primer seal colors had no meaning. Off the top of my head, brass-colored GM bullets (bronze actually) are ball, shiny nickle bullets are ball, black bullet jackets are AP, and dull tinned bullets are tracers. There are other loadings, but those are the main ones.

Last edited by jonnyc; October 9, 2012 at 07:04 PM.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:18 PM   #3
Mike Irwin
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Annulus color did mean something, even in the 8mm Lebel round, but it was apparently a fairly haphazard system until it was formalized with the adoption of the 7.5mm round in the 1920s.

According to my guide, brass/bronze colored bullets indicated ball ammunition, a blackened jacket indicated armor piercing, and a tinned (silver, I guess) color indicated tracer ammo, and a combination of varying bullet tip and primer annulus colors could mean... well, lots of different things.

As far as I know, though, the French never developed an explosive bullet for the 8mm Lebel.
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Old October 9, 2012, 09:59 PM   #4
jonnyc
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No, the primer seal colors had no meaning on the 8mm Lebel rounds. And the shiny silver (CN) bullets are ball, dull tinned bullets are tracer.
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Old October 10, 2012, 06:53 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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I should have been more effusive, but was falling asleep.

I have heard, but have not seen proven, that later production (1920s to right before World War II) 8mm Lebel ammo did follow the emerging tip and annulus system that the French were working out.

Jonny, you mentioned in your response "French WWI primer seal colors".

I think you're jumping to a conclusion that the ammo the OP is talking about was WW I vintage. It's true that WW I vintage ammo used no primer annulus color system.

But the French were producing military 8x50mm ammo right up to the time of the collapse in 1940. It's possible that the Germans even maintained production.
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Old October 10, 2012, 07:49 AM   #6
jonnyc
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I just read the OP again, and I did mistake the WWII for WWI, however, that doesn't change my answer at all.
I can't think of any 8mm Lebel ammo, produced anywhere, at any time, that had loads identified by either tip color or primer seal color. I will check my books and files on this, but I'm pretty sure of the end result.
Yes, the French continued production of the caliber for both German and Vichy forces, but no color tip or annulus IDs were used.
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Old October 10, 2012, 11:42 AM   #7
aarondhgraham
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I'm dealing with 45 year old memories here,,,

I'm dealing with 45 year old memories here,,,
So the details most certainly are a bit fuzzy at best.

I don't remember whether there was a difference in the bullet or not,,,
All I remember clearly are the colors around the primer and what Pop said they meant.

I'm certain he got his information from Oscar J.,,,
When he sent the rifle home from Europe.

Thanks for looking into this for me Gentlemen,,,
Honestly, I hadn't thought of this for years.

The rifle went away many years ago,,,
Wish I still had the big ugly slab-sided thing now.

Aarond

.
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Old October 10, 2012, 11:53 AM   #8
Mike Irwin
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You're not kidding.

I went looking to purchase an 1886 some years ago.

Stupid prices they want for them!
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Old October 10, 2012, 07:01 PM   #9
Famas
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While the color do not differentiate the types of bullets, I do believe they signify types of rims and powders. Those with red varnishes tend to have a different rim making them harder to load on the rifles not "N" stamped, (wrong info deleted). Sort of helps the shooter be aware of them if they haven't noticed the absence of the "N" stamp on their rifle.

Here is a link (in French) showing the different types of balles, their weights and types of powders - with pics:

http://www.armeetpassion.com/8%20lebel%202.html


Quote:
The story goes that Oscar killed a "sniper" who was up in a tree,,,
He told the story that it was a French woman shooting at US troops.
If I had a dime every time I read this on various forums, I'd have a sizeable sum of money by now. I'm sure it's false. Too many people out there looking for French-bashing stories including tales of French women in the trees by the thousands taking pot-shot at GIs.

Last edited by Famas; October 10, 2012 at 08:12 PM.
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Old October 10, 2012, 08:07 PM   #10
Mike Irwin
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Boy my French is rusty...

Fortunately I remember just enough either to get lucky, or more likely, get my face slapped!


"meaning nitrated powders."

This is sort of confusing, as I understand it the 8mm Lebel was developed for, and always loaded with, smokeless powders, which by definition are nitrated.
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Old October 10, 2012, 08:17 PM   #11
Famas
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Mike,
I believe you are correct, and I've corrected my earlier post. As I understand it now, the "N" stamp signified a slightly large bullet neck, and rifles not with the "N" stamp would have difficulty closing the bolt on this cartridge. My source indicate favorable to fire from the Hotchkiss machinegun as well given the heavier bullet weight.

I heard that the red varnish of these cartridge specifically designated such cartridges for the Hotchkiss and thus they were mostly found on the gun feeding tray. Loose rounds being pulled out of these trays later and sold in batches or individuals. I have not confirmed this and I must say I do not believe it holds much truth. There seems to be more correspondence between color/bullet weight rather than color/cartridge/gun use.
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Old October 10, 2012, 10:06 PM   #12
Mike Irwin
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Found the reference.

Huon's Military Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridges indicates that in 1932 the ball N was adopted and had black, purple, our green primer annulus.

While he doesn't specifically say those colors were used only on ball N, the only mention of primer annulus colors is in reference to the ball N.
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Last edited by Mike Irwin; October 11, 2012 at 05:18 AM.
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Old October 11, 2012, 06:25 AM   #13
jonnyc
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"While he doesn't specifically say those colors were used only on ball N, the only mention of primer annulus colors is in reference to the ball N."

Yes, I read that also. So at the end of the day, Balle N, Balle D, or any other loading could have any primer seal color. And I was able to confirm through my collection, and every other source I could find, that no color tip identifiers were used in this caliber.
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Old October 11, 2012, 06:53 AM   #14
Mike Irwin
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I just think it's interesting that he calls out those three colors specifically for Ball N.

And, I don't recall ever seeing those colors used on any earlier 8x50mm ammunition loaded by a French source.


Hey, what's the going price for one of the milled bullet rounds intended for machine gun use?

I came across one and the guy had $45 on it. Seemed to be WAY high to me.
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Old October 11, 2012, 06:58 PM   #15
jonnyc
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You mean the short-range rounds with opposite sides of the bullet milled away?
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