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Thread: .303 Ball, South African

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  1. #1
    Really Senior Member lawrence_n's Avatar
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    .303 Ball, South African

    Good day all. I recently came into possession of a whack of .303 ball ammo, Berdan primed, headstamped U 60 MK7. I believe it to be South African, made in 1960. Some of the rounds are discoloured, I'm assuming from bad storage, but they don't look unsafe to shoot. We all know how hard it is now to find good milsurp ammo. In amongst the lot were some DA and DIZ (Boxer primed) and one lone DC16 round (WWI). I've been shooting Lee Enfields since before the Dead Sea was even sick, but I've not shot the SA stuff. My question for you guys is has anyone encountered this same ammo before? Though I value opinions, I'm more interested in actual experience with old ammo showing the same characteristics. IMHO, it's probably safe to shoot since for plinking ammo. I took the liberty of attaching a pic with a clean round in the middle. As you will note, some of the rounds are almost a copper colour.

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    They may have been handled, my hands will do that to brass...wouldn't worry about them. I'll bet these are as good as day one...
    Regards, Jim

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    Really Senior Member lawrence_n's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by browningautorifleicon View Post
    They may have been handled, my hands will do that to brass...wouldn't worry about them. I'll bet these are as good as day one...
    Some of them have verdigris on them, so for sure they've been exposed to damp conditions but I took that off with some very fine steel wool though the dark area where the oxidization was still remains. As I mentioned, I doubt that it'll affect function. I don't bother with the hassle of obtaining Berdan primers and trying to de-prime cases like these. I keep the brass in my scrap bin and when I've got about 50-60 lbs. of scrap, I take it to a scrapyard, get the money, and put it toward buying components.

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    That's what I do with much brass now also. We seem to be winding down for hoarding. I have two buckets ready to go now.
    Regards, Jim

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    Really Senior Member Daan Kemp's Avatar
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    Photo of the headstamp would help.

    Were it mine, I would shoot it through my LE without any concern, all of them.

    However, I wouldn't do any fast shooting, rather aimed shots. Sometimes the 'click' and the 'whoom' just as you lift your head, or just the click. That ammo is 60 years old now, and you should expect a hang fire every now and then. Were it me I would shoot all of them as time allows me to.

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    Member MSW2's Avatar
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    I had about a hundred from 1957. Used them within the last 5 years, no issues.

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    Really Senior Member old tanker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daan Kemp View Post
    Photo of the headstamp would help.

    Were it mine, I would shoot it through my LE without any concern, all of them.

    However, I wouldn't do any fast shooting, rather aimed shots. Sometimes the 'click' and the 'whoom' just as you lift your head, or just the click. That ammo is 60 years old now, and you should expect a hang fire every now and then. Were it me I would shoot all of them as time allows me to.
    I have wondered about Britishicon primers for a long time. It doesn't seem to matter which Commonwealth country loaded it, thirty year old Radway Green is as suspect as POFicon of equal vintage but click bang hangfires are not uncommon. I fired some 1963 vintage Mk VIIIz in Vickers belts and the gun had serious arrhythmia. On the other hand US and Germanicon ammo from WW2 invariably goes off like it was made last week. Greek .303 (HXP headstamp) has always been great, what did they know that Kynoch didn't? or is it just my imagination?

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    Really Senior Member Bruce_in_Oz's Avatar
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    It depends on the loading, the factory and the vintage of the ammo.

    If the .303 ammo has a .250", copper-coloured primer, it is mercuric AND corrosively primed AND, unless head stamped "Z", will be Cordite fueled.

    If the primer is brass-coloured, it will be "Lead" based, may or may not be corrosive. and the completed round is filled with a granulated, "Nitro-Cellulose" propellants and marked with a "Z" code to indicate that.

    Then it gets interesting, as noted in previous posts around here somewhere.

    The FIRST. serious .303 ammo was BLACK_POWDER fueled. Except, like the .577-.450 Martini-Henry round before it, the "black powder" was not actually in powder form, but in a single, highly compressed "pellet".

    And here is the start of the "fun" bits. Because of the size and shape of the "pellet", it could not be shoved into a formed and "necked" case. It was inserted when the case had been "neck-annealed" and primed, but was still "parallel-sided".

    Once the pellet was inserted and topped with a "glaze-board" wad, the case was "partially formed", then the bullet was dropped onto the wad atop the "pellet" and only THEN was the final forming and "necking' preformed. Several "stab" crimps were applied to the side of the newly-formed neck to retain the bullet.

    NOTE that the "cannelure" of a Mk 7 bullet sits nowhere near the front of the neck. This cannelure was formed to help retain the core in the bullet on impact AND to carry a bituminous material to "waterproof" the finished round.

    With the change from Black Powder to "Cordite", the procedure remained essentially unchanged; delete BP pellet and insert a tied bundle of Cordite "sticks", essentially the same length as the old BP pellet. This method rolled on into the introduction of Mk7 ammo.

    Where it varied was with the "contract" ammo suppliers. In both World Wars, the US makers and one Canadianicon "brand"; all used granular Nitro-Cellulose powders. Most of this ammo was also "corrosively" primed, but, using a LEAD-based compound. Most of this North American NC loaded stuff also used a "standard .210" BOXER primer. The ammo was assembled much as the manner familiar to reloaders around the planet, BUT on a spectacular scale. NO wad was used and there was neck tension and usually "stab" or other crimping to stop the bullet moving in the neck, especially in machine-guns.

    The lack of "neck" annealing after final forming in the "traditional" Britishicon / Commonwealth process led, eventually, to cartridge cases on ammo in long-term storage developing stress cracks in the neck and shoulder region, on firing and even fresh out of the can.

  11. Thank You to Bruce_in_Oz For This Useful Post:


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    Really Senior Member lawrence_n's Avatar
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    Thank you, all of you, for your input and some fascinating historical perspective. I found a couple of guys who were looking for milsurp ball to feed their Lee Enfields and I've sold off all of the ammo I picked up. I plan to use the money to purchase components and work up plinking loads. My nephew has 2 almost pristine rifles, a 1918 BSA made SMLE and a 1950 Long Branch No.4, both of which have probably seen less than 200 rnds. through them. I want him to have a goodly stock of bullets and powder so he'll be able to feed the beasts long after I'm dust.

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    Really Senior Member GeeRam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by old tanker View Post
    Greek .303 (HXP headstamp) has always been great, what did they know that Kynoch didn't? or is it just my imagination?
    The Greek HXP 303 stuff is most likely from the stuff made for the MOD in the early 1980's for the cadet force who were still using the No.4, so its not even 40 years old.

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