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20mm Cannon shell

Article about: Thanks Nick, I did see the head before it had been painted following rust being removed about 28 years ago now, and it was one solid piece without a separate cap. thanks for all your help

  1. #1

    Default 20mm Cannon shell

    Having read Wagriffs recent post on the same subject, I was wondering about this 20mm shell I was given many years ago by a REME armourer friend who retrieved it from a Typhoon crash site he was helping excavate in Dorset. The head seems solid and I would hope that given his profession it would not be dangerous but I would like your opinions. Before you ask the cartridge itself is empty and the primer has been oiled.

    Best wishes

    Robin20mm Cannon shell

  2. #2

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    I too have one of these, mine although is not as nicely deactivated as yours is. Mine has two holes on either side that appear to be drilled or something of the sort. The casing is dated 43' or 44' 20mm. But all in all a nice shell!

  3. #3

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    Given the history of where you got this IMO I would assume it is OK. As for drilling the cases, I was told that when EOD deacts a shell they have to drill 3 holes in it to show it is no longer live. I think they have to mark it INERT also.


    Happiness is a belt fed weapon

  4. #4

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    I dont think that is the case in the UK, We used to de-activate quite a few rounds of ammunition in the armoury, generally removed the head with a kinetic hammer emptied the propellant, oiled the percussion cap and then replaced the head no need to do any drilling.
    Regarding the 20mm its more the head I would like advice on it came from a box of similar items he had dug up the weekend before. I oiled the percussion cap but dont think anything was done to the head.

  5. #5

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    What is the base of the projectile made from? If there is a brass insert than it is one of the filled projectiles (either tracer or incendiary) if the base is the same steel as the rest of the projectile then it is ball so nothing to burn or go bang.

  6. #6

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    It certainly looks like a ball round head, but it sems to be painted? so cannot be certain from this picture. BTW the base of the projectile could still be steel if it was HE. I could photo a ball one later for comparison, but don't really want to encourage too much investigation by others - it sounds like you have got it from a trustworthy source in any case.

    Can anyone comment please on the phrase "primer has been oiled" as I have seen this a lot on this and various militaria collectors’ forums as being a way of rendering primers safe? I did ask on the BOCN but was studiously ignored – not sure if this was because it was too obvious a question or it is an unsafe practice?

    No inference towards the poster of this thread intended at all.

  7. #7

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    The HE projectiles need a fuse, which was screwed into the head on virtually every British 20mm design, the profile of the fuse is similar to the ball head but was apparently made of a different material (aluminium or brass?) so is very obvious, and even it was steel the join between the fuse and the rest of the projectile would still be obvious.

    Is that line which is apparent in the photo about half an inch down a band that runs all the way round the projectile?

  8. #8

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    Hi Nick,
    All I can say is my friend who was a senior army armourer used this method to kill the primer. if someone of his experience considered this method ok i think it probably is.

    best wishes

  9. #9

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    Quote by robin morley View Post
    Hi Nick,
    All I can say is my friend who was a senior army armourer used this method to kill the primer. if someone of his experience considered this method ok i think it probably is.

    best wishes
    Did you ever upset your friend?
    Only joking. I dug up thousands, yes I mean thousands of these things in South Wales. It's the ones with the separate screw in nosecones you need to be careful of. It was a derelict munitions factory that we were near. It was about 1972, I think. There are still hundreds of them there, but these things were never armed at the munitions factories as I understand. Just the round unfired, no case. Lucky for us, at the time.

    Best Regards,

    Last edited by aj4010; 06-06-2012 at 09:08 PM.
    Best Regards,


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  10. #10

    Default Re: 20mm Cannon shell

    Thanks for the comment on oiling – as you say it came from someone who knew what they were talking about.

    As Alan says – filled 20mm heads have a separate fuse – in either brass or alloy, which usually shows as a ring around the head of the projectile where the two parts join + the two parts are usually differently coloured. If they have been in the ground there is usually still an obvious difference between the corrosion of the two different metals, often making them more obvious – unless they are very severely corroded, when the rust can cover the fuse tip

    Ball rounds are turned from a solid piece of steel and when in good condition; the turning marks are uniform over the whole projectile. There should be no join or mark at all. Often aircraft on training flights or target practice seem to have been carrying all ball rounds.

    Yours still looks to be a ball head to me - but does appear to be painted? So I would not say for definite.

    20mm Cannon shell20mm Cannon shell20mm Cannon shell

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