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Old May 23, 2020, 04:57 PM   #1
Join Date: August 8, 2011
Location: Midlands, UK
Posts: 92
Ground dug 303 cartridge case restoration

Hi All

With lockdown in full swing in the UK, I have been unable to get out and recover any WW2 relics. This meant that, due to a heightened level of boredom, I had to find something to do with the relics I have already recovered. You may recall I had some fun last year at a dump pit used by the RAF, ( ), recovering not only a large number of bomb fuzes, but also a considerable number of spent cartridge cases. As I had so many, (around 10,000 WW2 dated 303s and about 4000 WW2 dated 9mm), I decided to turn them in to something I could use when I do displays at military shows. I already have a nice 250rnd Vickers belt filled with WW2 dated 303s, but have always wanted a disintegrating belt display, to show the kind of thing the RAF were loading into the wings of Spitfires and Hurricanes at the start of the war. So, I ordered some 303 bullets from a dealer, along with some disintegrating links and set to work.

The cartridge cases had been in the ground for 70+ years so I had to try and get them back to shiny brass. I did this by giving them a bath in citric acid for about 5 minutes, then a buffing with a wire wheel on a pillar drill. The reason for the buffing is that, while the acid bath gets rid of the mud, clay and aged patina, it dissolves the zinc first, leaving the cartridge cases with a copper look. The wire wheel removes this thin layer of copper to reveal the brass beneath.

Once clean, the cartridge cases had a 303 bullet glued in place, but not before I placed a small piece of metal inside each. This is to make them rattle when shaken, to show they are inert. In the UK, a used primer isn't enough!! You have to make the cartridges rattle to show they are truly inert. Daft I know, but these are the laws we live with and I for one will abide by them!

I don't reckon they have turned out bad at all! Take a look........

Before any cleaning

After cleaning and with the bullet now in situ.......(just a few of the 210 I put together)

Examples of some of the headstamps...

Now the completed belt.....

Some of the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the Bren fired cartridge cases. Despite being found on an RAF bases, and initially believing they were spent cartridges from the Lancaster bombers based there, because we found other calibres, and a large number of Lee-Enfield charger clips, we have speculated that many came from the small arms range. Hence the presence of the Bren fired cases!

Not a bad job I reckon, for cartridge cases buried 4 foot down in the ground for 70+ years!
Huge amount of info on weapons and ordnance of WW2 to be found on my website, along with thousands of ground dug WW2 relics.....
RRPG is offline  
Old May 23, 2020, 07:40 PM   #2
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Join Date: April 21, 2020
Posts: 7
Nicely done. Should make a great display.
sgtgeorge is offline  
Old Yesterday, 02:46 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: September 2, 2001
Location: Out West in Rim Country
Posts: 930
You did a very nice job on that old brass.

BTW, Would it be a major transgression in the UK to have a live .303, or other centerfire rifle or pistol round?
COTEP 640, NRA Life
rock185 is offline  

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