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.303

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Also known as 7.7x56R

Standard cartridge of the British army from 1888 until it was gradually phased out from the 1950s, although it was still in use in the No.4 Mk.I T until the late 1960s or possibly early 70s (someone who was there might like to correct that), and with Cadet forces until the 1980s.

The big mystery about .303" is that is is rimmed. Rimless .303" ammunition had been submitted, but was objected to on two wholly spurious grounds: the danger of misfires, and the feed of machine guns. These spurious grounds completely overrode the genuine grounds against rimmed ammunition which were voiced at the time, namely the extra size required for the magazine, and the danger of rim-jams (i.e. one rim catching another. [see Skennerton, p. 44]. Such are twists and turns that lead to the great British Military Procurement Mysteries.

.303" started as a black powder cartridge, but was filled with cordite from about 1891 onwards.

In 1910 it lost its 215gn round-nose bullet and gained a 174gn spitzer (pointy), although it was still flat-based. This had significantly better ballistics. This was called the .303" Mark VII. To increase the range of the Vickers gun, in 1938 the 175gn boat-tailed Mk VIIIz (z means that it was loaded with nitrocellulose and not cordite - Mk VIIz was also later produced) was introduced, but could not be used in rifles due to the higher chamber pressures in anything other than emergencies.

The rim on the cartridge was a total PITA as soon as the Bren gun was introduced - the magazine was large and heavily curved to accomodate the rims. Also, in the SMLE, P14, No.4 and No.5, the rims can cause difficulties when charger loading. The rims were bevelled to reduce the risk of rim misfeeds, but it didn't work 100% satisfactorally.

.303" was superceded by 7.62mm NATO from the 1950s onwards.

Interestingly, although the .303 Mk. VII was not the most powerful rifle cartridge of the two world wars (that honour goes to the rather spicy 7.92 mm sS Patrone of German World War II fame), it undoubtedly had the best terminal ballistics due to the lightweight aluminium or fibre tip filler which pushed the centre of gravity nicely towards the rear of the bullet. This improved centre of gravity, combined with the composite core, led to some impressive tumbling and fragmentation when it was doing what it was supposed to be doing. The Box o' Truth Does .303"

Headstamp Markings

The .303 British Service Cartridge WW1 & WW2 Headstamps:

/|\ Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway Green, Cheshire, U.K. (1940 - 1942)

A F Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Melbourne, Australia

A /|\ F Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Melbourne, Australia

B Birmingham Metals & Munitions Co. Ltd., Birmingham, U.K.

BE Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Blackpool, Worcestershire, U.K.

B /|\ E Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Blackpool, Worcestershire, U.K.

BM British Munitions Co. Ltd., Millwall, London, U.K.

CAC Colonial Ammunition Co., Melbourne, Australia

CAC Colonial Ammunition Co., Auckland, New Zealand

CP Crompton Parkinson Co. Ltd, Guiseley, Yorkshire, U.K. (1939-1945)

C-P Crompton Parkinson Co. Ltd, Doncaster, Yorkshire, U.K.

D Dominion Cartridge Co., Brownsburg, Quebec, Canada

DA Dominion Arsenal, Montreal, Canada

DAC Dominion Arsenal, Quebec, Canada

DAL Dominion Arsenal, Lindsay, Ontario, Canada

DAQ Dominion Arsenal, Quebec, Canada

DC Dominion Cartridge Co., Canada

D /|\ C Defense Industries, Brownsburg, Quebec, Canada

DF ÃŽ Indian Government Ammunition Factory, Dum Dum, Calcutta, India

DI Defence Industries, Inc., Verdun, Canada

D ÃŽ Indian Government Ammunition Factory, Dum Dum, Calcutta, India

E Eley Brothers, Ltd., Edmonton, London, U.K.

EB Eley Brothers, Ltd., Edmonton, London, U.K.

F Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Melbourne, Australia

G Greenwood & Batley, Ltd., Leeds, U.K.

GA Grenfell & Accles, Ltd., Perry Barr, Birmingham, U.K.

GB Greenwood & Batley, Ltd., Leeds, U.K.

GBF Greenwood & Batley, Ltd., Leeds, U.K.

GKB George Kynoch, Birmingham, U.K.

G 18 F.1 Government Cartridge Factory N°1, Blackheath, Staffordshire, U.K., 1918

G 18 F.3 Government Cartridge Factory N°3, Blackpool, Worcestershire, U.K., 1918

H /|\ N Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Hirwaun, South Wales, U.K. (1939-1945)

J Birmingham Metals & Munitions Co. Ltd./Nobel, Birmingham, U.K.

K Kynoch & Co. (Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd.), Birmingham, U.K.

K2 Kynoch (I.C.I.), Standish, Lancastershire, U.K. (1943-1944)

K4 Kynoch (I.C.I.), Yeading, Hayes, Middlesex, U.K. (1942-1944)

K5 Kynoch (I.C.I.), Kidderminster, Worcestershire, U.K. (1944)

KH Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Khamaria Arsenal, Jubbulpore, India

K ÃŽ F Indian Government Ammunition Factory, Kirkee Arsenal, India (1940-1945)

KN Kings Norton Metal Co. Ltd., Birmingham, U.K.

KYNOCH Kynoch & Co. Ltd. (Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd.), Birmingham, U.K.

L Lorenz Ammunition & Ordnance Co., Millwall, London, U.K.

LAC Dominion Arsenal, Lindsay, Ontario, Canada

M Nobel Explosives Co. Ltd.., Manchester, U.K.

MAXIM Maxim Arms Co., London, U.K. MF Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°1, Footscray, Melbourne, Australia

MG Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°2; Footscray, Melbourne, Australia

MH Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°3, Hendon, Australia

MJ Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°4, Hendon, Australia

MQ Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°5, Rocklea, Australia

MS Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°7, Salisbury, Australia

MW Small Arms Ammunition Factory N°6, Welchpool, Australia

NA National Arms & Ammunition Co., Birmingham

N ÃŽ Indian Government Ammunition Factory, Dum Dum Arsenal, Calcutta, India

P Peters Cartridge Co., Kings Mills, Ohio, U.S.A.

PC Peters Cartridge Co., Kings Mills, Ohio, U.S.A.

RA Remington Arms Co., Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.A.

RG Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Radway Green, Cheshire, U.K.

R /|\ G Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Radway Green, Cheshire, U.K.

RH Raleigh Cycle Co., Nottingham, U.K.

RL Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal, Kent, U.K.

R /|\ L Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal, Kent, U.K.

ROF.B Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Blackburn

RR Co Ross Rifle Co., Montreal, Canada

RW Rudge Withworth Co., Nottingham (1914-1918)

SAAF Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Melbourne, Austrralia

S ÃŽ Indian Government Ammunition Factory, Dum Dum Arsenal, Calcutta, India

SR Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Spennymoor, Durham, U.K.

S /|\ R Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF), Spennymoor, Durham, U.K.

TR Dominion Rubber & Munitions Co., Three Rivers, Quebec, Canada

U South African Mint, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa

U <> South African Mint, Kimberley, Republic of South Africa

US US Cartridge Company, Lowell, Mass., U.S.A.

VC Defence Industries, Ltd., Verdun, Quebec, Canada

W Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.

WCC Western Cartridge Co., East Alton, Illinois, U.S.A.

WRA Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Colour Coding

Headstamp ID. Primer annulus color. Bullet tip color. Other features & functional types:

VII or VIIZ Purple None None Light ball

VIIIZ Purple None None Heavy ball

G1, G2, G3, G7 or G8 Red None None Tracer

G4, G4Z, G6 or G6Z Red White None Tracer

G5 or G5Z Red Gray None Tracer

W1 or W1Z Green None None AP

B4 or B4Z Blue None Step in bullet jacket Incendiary

B6 or B6Z Blue None None Incendiary

B7 or B7Z Blue Blue None Incendiary

O.1 Black Black None Observing

PG1 or PG1Z Red None Blue band on case base Practice-tracer

H1Z None None Front half of case blackened Grenade-launching

H2 None None Entire case blackened Grenade-launching

H4 None None Case blackened 3/4-inch from each end Grenade-launching

H7Z None None Rear half of case blackened Grenade-launching