The Adam Park Project


Cartridge with granular charge

Item Information:

Catalogue Number: 09/07/033, 09/19/007 Source: TAPP Archaeology Surveys Location: No9 Adam Park Report No: Report No.16 Artifact Type: Ammunition Production Date: 2013-01-16 00:00:00 Dimensions of Item: See Report 16 Copyright with The Adam Park Project

Other Description:

Two cartridges 9/7/003 and 9/19/007 were notably unusual in that they were found to be charged with powder granules. The vast majority of cartridges issued to the British forces in Singapore were packed with cordite which was believed to be more water resistant.

Historic Context:

The original .303 service cartridge employed black powder as a propellant, and was adopted for the Lee-Metford rifle, which had rifling designed to lessen fouling from this propellant. The Lee-Metford was used as a trial platform by the British Committee on Explosives to experiment with many different smokeless powders then coming to market, including Ballistite, Cordite, and Rifleite. Ballistite was a stick-type smokeless powder composed of soluble nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. Cordite was a stick-type or 'chopped' smokeless gunpowder composed of nitroglycerine, gun-cotton, and mineral jelly, while Rifleite was a true nitrocellulose powder, composed of soluble and insoluble nitrocellulose, phenyl amidazobense, and volatiles similar to French smokeless powders. Unlike Cordite, Riflelite was a flake powder, and contained no nitroglycerine. Excessive wear of the shallow Lee-Metford rifling with all smokeless powders then available caused ordnance authorities to institute a new type of barrel rifling designed to increase barrel life; the rifle was referred to thereafter as the Lee-Enfield. After extensive testing, the Committee on Explosives selected Cordite for use in the Mark II .303 British service cartridge.

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