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Terrylee

.303 bullet

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Can anyone confirm from what this .303 bullet was fired? I found it at a very old shooting range some years ago. I was once told that it might have been fired from a Lewis Gun.

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The engraving seems unusually severe. I know the SMLE used 5-groove LH twist, but don't know the number of LH grooves in the Vickers - though it may well have been the same. But the Lewis, I think, had RH twist, so that's one gun I don't think it could be.

It's interesting that the bullet doesn't show the longitudinal v-shaped turnover snap fold that's common to 303s, and my guess is that means it was fired at long range and practically spent when stopped by whatever it hit.

Regards

MikB

PS. TonyE might know this - do the radiused lands on the bullet perhaps indicate Metford groove profile?

PPS. Hmmm... Metford appears to be 7-groove, though...

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Hi Terry,

It just looks wrong for a .303 . I realize that on an SA range, that is the most probable cartridge and that it is definitely not 7mm mauser or 7.62 NATO. The other two likely candidates.

If you know someone who has access to an x-ray machine this would give you more information. A .303 projectile will have a light metal (typically aluminium) or other filler tip inside the jacket, about ¼ inch long. This was to give stability in flight to the Mk VII & VIII projectiles.

Regards

Ross

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Is it a projectile from a rifle using a variant of the Whitworth polygonal 'rifling'? This was invented if I remember correctly in the 1850s. A quick google shows that 'Metford rifling' had seven groove barrels but Arisakas had between 4 and 6 http://www.hungariae.com/Arisaka.htm other sites say 4 or 6.They were issued in both 6.5 and 7.7mm On the other hand pictures of Arisaka ammunition seem to show a rounded bullet tip.

I notice that Terrylee comes from South Africa. Did he pick up the bullet on a range there? If so does this provide any clues?

Other sites suggest the MG42 had polygonal rifling, presumably in 7.92, but don't seem to specify the number of sides to the polygon.

Interesting morning for me- I had no idea Lee Metfords had polygonal rifling until this thread came up I had always assumed that the change to Enfield barrels was about using a better quality of steel!

No doubt Tony will know

Greg

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Is it a projectile from a rifle using a variant of the Whitworth polygonal 'rifling'? This was invented if I remember correctly in the 1850s. A quick google shows that metford rifling had seven groove barrels but Arisakas had between 4 and 6 http://www.hungariae.com/Arisaka.htm.

Greg

If that's so then 7.7 Arisaka may be a candidate - captured Japanese rifle?

Regards,

MikB

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Several points to note.

Although it looks in most respects like a .303 Mark VII bullet there is no evidence of a cannelure. What does the bullet weigh? It could be a very early Mark VII which weighs only 160 grains and has no cannelure but that is unlikely to be found in South Africa.

The rifling appear polyagonal as Greg says, but Metford rifling was not true polyagonal like a Whitworth but rather had smooth edged grooves and lands. It was five groove left hand twist with .004 inch grooves. Bore diameter was .303" and width of lands .023".

It is not an Arisaka either, as the envelope material is cupro-nickel and the Japanese used gilding metal for their ball ammunition. also, despite what that website says, Japanese rifling was standard right hand Mauser type.

I don't know what the answer is, but one possibility is that it was fired in a .303 inch sporting rifle with a polyagonal rifled barrel made by some unknown gunmaker.

Regards

TonyE

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A number of gunmakers in the middle of the 19th Century made sporting and target muzzle loading rifles using the polyagonal system. They were said to be a] very accurate b] very expensive c] slow to load and d] subject to rapid wear and were produced in very small numbers - very often on a one off made to order basis. Given that it was found on a "very old shooting range" I'd hazard a guess it came from a gun belonging to a well off enthusiastic target shooter.

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I should add that the Whitworth polyagonal system was rejected by the British army as being too expensive, not suitable for large scale production and subject to excessive fouling requiring cleaning after only a few rounds had been fired. It was deemed to be far more accurate than other rifling systems such as the Enfield (especially at 600 yards plus) and to have a greater penetration. In other words an enthusiast's weapon not a military one.

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One of the premier makers of super accurate target rifles was Nelson Lewis of Troy New York. His guns were made to order for wealthy clients from all over the world . He also made his own ammunition the rounds being specifically tailored for each weapon he made (so when you bought a gun from Lewis you also bought the ammunition to fit it). I don't know if he made any polyagonal rifles but if he did then your round could well have been fired by a Lewis - just not the sort we all have in mind!

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Looking at what photos I can find of polyagonal rounds yours looks closest to the original Whitworth round in proportion. The Danish army did use a polyagonal rifle but the round is much shorter as are those used by some Confederate snipers (the Union general whose last words were "They couldn't hit and elephant at this dist " was probably hit by one of these). Confederate snipers used a version of the Whitworth with a telescopic sight and a range of up to a mile and a half.

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Whitworth also used in the recent Ripper Street BBC series- along with pump action shotguns which I had not known existed that early. Probably did not use correct reproductions, though it caused me to do a bit of searching and learn a bit. Regards, Paul.

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Whitworth was given a grant of £12,000 ( a substantial sum in 1860) to develop his system but in the end the fouling problems proved too great. It however remained a favourite where extreme accuracy was more important than rate of fire. It could out range the famous Sharp buffalo gun. Lanchester came up with a similar idea but used an oval bore that twisted.

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Paul,

I'm at a disadvantage in that I don't watch much television, and so I have no idea what "Ripper Street" is, though I'll hazard a guess that it's about late 19th Century London crime ?

Pump action shotguns were certainly around in Jack's time - Spencers made one in the early 1880's - but it would have been rare for one to be seen in England, I think.

Winchester came up with the first really successful one as the M1897 (which was miltarised to become the Trench Broom). They also produced the 1887 lever action gun - was it perhaps one of these you saw, and mistook the lever reloading for racking a pump ?

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Hmmm! I tried entering polyagonal/ polygonal barrels and discovered that the Henry barrel in the Martini- Henry rifle has been described as a polyagonal barrel although the service barrel had seven grooves. The Martini Metford was in 303 with a Metford barrel, and the Westley Richards 'monkey tail' .457 also used a polyagonal barrel although in service use 8 sided. Later Westley Richards game rifles in .318 used Metford rifling. Somewhere else it suggested Metfords were made with five grooves. These were all popular in Africa. It sounds as if such barrels rifled on a polyagonal system were much more common than I had realised. Now all we need to do is to find a manufacturer who 'did' 5 grooves and a pointed rather than rounded bullet!

One thing which strikes me is that Terrylee has said it was .303 but I suddenly wondered if he had actually measured it.

Now I had better stop finding excuses and get back to work- nice as this little diversion has been!

Greg

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Hmmm! I tried entering polyagonal/ polygonal barrels and discovered that the Henry barrel in the Martini- Henry rifle has been described as a polyagonal barrel although the service barrel had seven grooves the Martini Metford was in 303 with a Metford barrel and the Westley Richards 'monkey tail' .457 also used a polyagonal barrel although in service use 8 sided. Later Westley Richards game rifles in .318 used Metford rifling. Somewhere else it suggested Metfords were made with five grooves. These were all popular in Africa. It sounds as if such barrels were much more common than I had realised Now all we need to do is to find a manufacturer who did 5 grooves!

Now I had better stop finding excuses and get on with work

Greg

A polyagonal barrel does not have grooves. Have you been reading Wiki again?

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One thing which strikes me is that Terrylee has said it was .303 but I suddenly wondered if he had actually measured it.

Greg

With an odd number of grooves, that's not actually straightforward.

Regards,

MikB

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Whitworth's original rifle had a 0.45 inch hexagonal bore and no grooves - the bore twisted - one turn in 20 inches, the bullet had an hexagonal cross section and fitted the bore. The bullet in the OP has a pentagonal cross section which suggests that whilst the Whitworth system was used in the gun design it isn't a Whitworth.

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Many thanks for the interesting input!

The strange bullet was found on the old Estcourt range (Natal Midlands) in the 1980s. This range was used by both the military and civilians. Unfortunately, I do not presently have a suitable scale to weigh it, but believe it to be a standard .303 Mk.VII.

For interest, I attach a photo of it with several fired .303 bullets for comparison: A Mk. VII fired from a Lee Enfield, a Mk.II also fired from a Lee Enfield and another Mk.II fired from a Lee Metford. It seems to me that the pitch of the rifling is similar in all cases.

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The bullet is pentagonal in cross section therefore how can it spin in a conventional circular rifled bore. If it is in a pentangular bore to what use are rifled lands?

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Centurion, bullets squeeze themselves (or rattle) down a bore of approximate size, even if they are not a perfect fit. Lots of examples - you can whack a .32-20WCF down a .310 Greener bore, for example. Not to be recommended of course, and I must echo the warning given on most US made ammunition and rifles - only use ammunition for which a rifle is chambered.

The bullet in the OP did not start out with a five sidedsection - it would have been round. The shape and rifling of the bore of whatever it was fired through is what has imparted this shape to it.

Polygonal rifling is still quite widespread - Glock pistols use it. You just shoot standard 9mm through, and if you examine the bullet later you can measure the slight distortion, which is just about discernible to the naked eye.

The puzzle in this thread is not what the bullet is - it is "what was it shot from?" Indeed , that's the question Terrylee posed.

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That's why I said the engraving is severe. I'd say it looks smaller calibre than 303. Tony E pointed out the absence of cannelure, whilst it's very clear on Mks. II & VII.

I wonder if we're looking for a proprietary sporting calibre in the .270/7mm. range with Metford-style/polygonal/paradox rifling - but if so, what's it doing with an FMJ? The Whitworth rifles were muzzle-loading BP and belong to an earlier era and technology than anything shooting an FMJ spitzer.

My reference to lands on the bullet was for lack of a better word - perhaps lobes would do - but the complication in measuring overall diameter is that the higher and lower diameters aren't opposite each other, so can't simply be miked.

Regards,

MikB

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As the bullet would have started off round in section. The deformation depicted appears to be well in excess of what would be required simply to impart spin, which in turn must have cuased high if not extreme chamber pressure. It must have had a kick like a mule.

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h Metford-style/polygonal/paradox rifling - but if so, what's it doing with an FMJ?

Regards,

MikB

A Paradox was a smooth bore with a few inches of rifling near the muzzle. Just a rifled choke, really.

Supposedly invented by Colonel Fosbery (yes, him) and patented by Holland and Holland.

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Hello Stoppage Drill. You are correct-Police drama set in Whitechapel six months after the murders. Shotguns were used by a gang of ex servicemen but did not look like the earliest images I could find. A well acted period drama in my opinion. Regards, Paul.

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