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Prewar 303's for i.d

Article about: Essentially yes, although I was specifically describing the situation in WWI. By the 1930s the Lewis gun had been largely replaced by the Vickers Gas Operated (GO) Class K gun but the same c

  1. #1

    Default Prewar 303's for i.d

    10 prewar 303's dated 35-37 9 are stamped "r broad arrow l"vii.1 is stamped "k"vii.regards minnie.
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  2. #2
    ?

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    All are Ball Mark VII for Air Service ( as identified by the full four digit date). R^L is Royal Laboratory , Woolwich and K is Kynoch , Birmingham.

    Regards
    TonyE
    British Military Smallarms and Ammunition
    Collector, Researcher and Pedant
    https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/

  3. #3

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Thanks tonyregards minnie.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    You can find a lot of these air service rounds on land ranges used by the Army and home guard as the air service ammunition had a short life span. I cant remember the exact life but it was on calender and flights I think. When it was no longer fit for use on aircraft, it was down graded for normal use, hence why it can be found or land ranges.

  5. #5
    ?

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    That is only partially true.

    Air service ammunition for synchronised guns (Red Label) was normally marked "Not to be used in Synchronised guns after (date)", this usually being two years after manufacture. The ammunition could be retested for hangfires and if satisfactory given a new service date. Otherwise it was relegated to "Special for RAF" and could be used in non synchronised guns. I have seen no evidence that relegated ammunition was ever transferred to the army.

    In any case, in WW2 all this was obsolete, mainly because there were virtually no synchronised guns left in service. In 1939 a decision was taken that ALL .303 inch ammunition was to be made to Air Service standards and marked with the full four digit date. In 1942 a further directive stated that from 1st january 1943 ammunition would continue to be made to the same standard but only marked with two digit dates.

    Thus from 1939-1942 all ammo had four digit dates which explains why you find them on army ranges, nothing to do with the RAF.

    Of course, changeover was not immediate at all manufacturers and you will find occassional rounds that don't obey the above.

    Regards
    TonyE
    British Military Smallarms and Ammunition
    Collector, Researcher and Pedant
    https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/

  6. #6

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Hi Tony, Thanks for that, that answers alot of questions, I didn't know that ALL .303 from 39 to 42 had the four digit date as standard. That explains why I find lots of them on my home guard range but rarely do I find a 2 digit case. I dug quite a few cases out of the range at RAF Halton in 1995 and it was/is still in use, it was quite odd firing 5.56 and seeing the odd .303 case sticking out of the dirt!

  7. #7
    ?

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Always glad to help!

    The study of the vagaries British military small arms ammunition is always an entertaining and occassionally frustrating past time!

    Cheers
    TonyE
    British Military Smallarms and Ammunition
    Collector, Researcher and Pedant
    https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/

  8. #8

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Cheers again tony but now im truely confusedi only started the thread to find the makers stamps etc,whats all this AIRSERVICE and SYNCHRONIZED GUNS about?regards minnie.

  9. #9
    ?

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Quote by moaning minnie View Post
    Cheers again tony but now im truely confusedi only started the thread to find the makers stamps etc,whats all this AIRSERVICE and SYNCHRONIZED GUNS about?regards minnie.
    Have you got a couple of hours?

    OK, here we go.

    Synchronised guns were machine guns that fired through the propeller arc of the aircraft. This was done using a synchronisation gear running off the engine such that the gun only fired when the bullet would not hit a propeller blade. There were several different types of synchronisation gear but in British service in WWI and later the Constantinescue gear became standardised. Aircraft armament was mixed, with Vickers guns firing through the propeller using synchronisation gear and Lewis guns fitted over the upper wing to clear the propeller. In two seaters the observer's gun was a Lewis. The reason that Lewis guns were not used for synchronisation was because it fired form an open bolt and so the "lock time" could vary. Without getting too complicated this means that the bolt was held open after the previous round had been fired and when the trigger was pulled the bolt moved forward, picked up a round from the magazine, chambered it and then fired it. Things like drag from the magazine etc could affect the time this took such that the bullet might hit the propeller.

    The Vickers gun on the other hand fired from a closed bolt. The gun sat there cocked with a round in the chamber and when the synchroniser trigger motor fired the gun all that had to happen was for the firing pin to travel a very short distance to fire the round, giving a far more constant lock time.

    Obviously, when firing through the propeller at a carefully timed point to miss the prop blades, any hangfire or delay in ignition would not be a good idea, so early in WWI ammunition was specially selected from normal production that was known to be consistent. This was packed in specially marked packets for the RFC/RNAS with green printing and became known as "Green Label" Ammunition.

    About 1917 ammunition started to be specially made using tighter manufacturing tolerances and inspection standards. This was packed in packets with red printing and of course was "Red Label". Additionally, the headstamp included all four digits of the date as an identification. This practice continued after WWI and it became "Red Label - Special for RAF" and was known as Air Service ammunition. After 1939 when all .303 ammunition was made to air service specification the "Red Label" designation mainly ceased but packets were still marked "Special for RAF".

    Attached is a 1918 Red Label ball packet from my collection.

    Regards
    TonyE
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    British Military Smallarms and Ammunition
    Collector, Researcher and Pedant
    https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/

  10. #10

    Default Re: Prewar 303's for i.d

    Cheers Tony that explains things a lot.so "AIR SERVICE AMMUNITION" fired from a VICKERS or lewis gun most likely mounted on a swordfish or gypsy/tiger moth or gladiator,is that about right?cheers minnie.

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