Brief History of Ammunition Introduction

The first forms of ammunition consisted of loose powder, carried in a flask or horn, and various projectiles which were loaded into the barrel from the muzzle end. These early projectiles were often irregularly shaped stone balls or arrowlike objects.

By the fifteenth century, ammunition had become fairly standardized and consisted of 'black powder' propellant (a mixture of charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate), followed by some wadding, a spherical lead ball and further wadding to retain it all in place. Materials other than lead had been used for the projectile, and it was recognized from an early period that the lighter the material, the higher the velocity. However, due to its ballistics properties and the ease of casting it into spheres or bullet-shaped projectiles, lead remained the preferred material.

Elongated bullets with hollow bases (to move their centre of gravity towards the nose of the bullet) and pointed noses had been experimented with for some time, but they did not receive any real favour until the mid-1800s.

During the later part of the sixteenth century, as a result of the need for rapid reloading, pre-measured powder charges were introduced. These were contained in small paper bags which were torn open and the contents poured down the barrel. The paper bag followed this as did the wadding. The bullet, which was carried separately, was hammered into place last of all.

Handbook of Firearms and Ballistics: Second Edition Brian J. Heard © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Towards the end of the 1600s, the bullet was tied into the top of the powder bag resulting in the first 'self-contained' cartridge.

These early 'self-contained' cartridges still required an external priming method to provide a flash to ignite the main propellant charge. It was not until the introduction of the breech-loader, where the ammunition was loaded from the rear of the barrel, that true self-contained ammunition appeared.

Early attempts at including the priming charge within the cartridge include the volcanic, lip, cup, teat, annular rim, needle, pinfire and rimfire systems. Most of these had a very short life span and, with the exception of the rimfire, only the pinfire attained any degree of popularity (Figure 2.1).

The pinfire was at its most popular between 1890 and 1910, and was still readily available on the continent until 1940. It had, however, fallen out of favour in the United Kingdom by 1914 and was virtually unobtainable by 1935.

Calibres available for use in pinfire revolvers were 5, 7, 9, 12 and 15 mm, whilst shotgun ammunition in 9 mm, 12 bore and various other calibres was also available.

Of the early ignition systems, only the rimfire has survived, and this only in 0.22" calibre. In rimfire ammunition, the primer composition is spun into the

History Ammunition
Figure 2.1 (a) Pinfire cartridge; (b) lip fire cartridge; (c) cup fire; (d) teat fire cartridge.
Detenation Rim Fire

Priming compound in rim

External lubricant groove

Priming compound in rim

External lubricant groove

Figure 2.2 Rimfire cartridge.

Pinfire Cartridge History

Figure 2.3 Centre fire cartridge

Flash holes Primer cap

Figure 2.3 Centre fire cartridge hollow rim of the cartridge case. As a consequence, the propellant is in intimate contact with the priming composition. On firing, the weapon's firing pin crushes the thin rim of the cartridge case, compressing the priming composition and so initiating its detonation (Figure 2.2).

Calibres of rimfire ammunition up to 0.44" rifle were available around the 1850s, but it was not possible, with the technology available at that time, to produce a cartridge case strong enough to withstand reliably the pressures produced.

The centre fire cartridge removed this limitation by providing a relatively soft cup containing the priming compound (the priming cap or 'primer') which was set into the centre of the base of a much stronger cartridge case. Although practical centre fire cartridges were available as early as 1852 in Britain, the final forms were not perfected until 1866 by Colonel Berdan (an American) and in 1867 by Colonel Boxer (an Englishman). These primer cap designs have never really been improved upon and are still in use today. Interestingly, Boxer-primed cartridge cases are normally used in American ammunition and Berdan in European ammunition (Figure 2.3).

A list of the dates of introduction for some of the more popular calibres of ammunition follows (Table 2.1).

Table 2.1 Dates for the introduction of various calibres.

Calibre

Date

Calibre

Date

0.17" Remington

1971

0.30-06 Springfield

1906

0.17" Rem Fireball

2007

0.30-30 Win

1 895

0.204" Ruger

2004

0.303" British

1888

0.218" Bee

1938

0.303" Savage

1899

0.204" Ruger

2004

0.30-40 Kraig

1892

0.22" Short

1857a

0.307" Win R

1982

0.22" Long

1871

0.308" Win

1954

0.22" Daisy Caseless

1962

0.308" Norma Mag

1960

0.22" LR

1887

0.32" ACP (7.65 mm)

1900

0.22" WRF

1890

0.32" Short Colt

1875

0.22" Win Auto

1959

0.32" Long Colt

1875

0.22" Rem Jet

1960

0.32" Win

1905

0.22" Hornet

1930

0.32" S&W Rev

1870

0.22" PPC

1974

0.32" S&W Long

1896

0.22-250 Rem

1965

0.32" Win Spl

1895

0.220 Swift

1935

0.32" H&R

1984

0.221 " Fireball

1963

0.32-20 Win

1 882

0.222" Rem

1950

0.325" WSM

2005

0.222" Rem Mag

1958

0.343" WSSM

2003

0.223" Rem (5.56 mm)

1955

0.338" Win Mag

1958

0.223" Win SSM

2003

0.338" Lapua (8.6 x 70 mm)

1983

0.224" BOZ (British)

2006

0.348 Win

1 936

0.225" Win

1964

0.35" Rem

1906

0.299" Cruz

2006

0.350" Rem Mag

1965

0.243" Win

1955

0.351 " Win SL

1907

0.243" Win SSM

2003

0.357" Mag

1935

0.25 Win SSM

2005

0.357" Sig Auto

1994

0.25" ACP (6.25 mm)

1906

0.358" Win

1955

0.25-3000

1915

0.358" Norma Mag

1959

0.25-06 Rem

1969

0.357" H&H Mag

1912

0.25-20 Win

1894

0.357" Sig

1994

0.25-35 Win

1895

0.375" Win

1978

0.250" Savage

1915

0.38" Dardick

1958

0.256" Win Mag

1961

0.38" ACP

1900

0.257" Roberts

1934

0.38" Short Colt

1875

0.264" Win Mag

1958

0.38" Long Colt

1875

0.270" WSM

2001

0.38" S&W

1 876

0.270" Win

1925

0.38" Spl

1902

0.280" Rem

1957

0.38" Super

1922

0.280" British (EN1)

1948

0.38" Super Auto

1929

0.284" Win

1963

0.380" ACP (9 mm Short)

1908

0.30" Carbine

1940

0.38-40 Win

1 878

0.30" Luger

1900

0.38-55 Win

1 884

0.30" Rem

1906

0.40" S&W

1990

0.30" Herrett

1973

0.400" Corbon

1997

0.300" H&H Mag

1925

0.408" Chey Tac

2001

0.300" Savage

1920

0.41" Action Express

1986

0.300" Win Mag

1963

0.416" Rem Mag

1988

0.300" WSM

2001

0.416" Barrett

2006

Table 2.1 Continued

Calibre

Date

Calibre

Date

0.44" S&W

1869

6.5 x 50 mm Arisaka

1897

0.41" Rem Mag

1964

6.5 x 55 mm Swedish

1895

0.41" Action Express

1986

6.5 x 68 mm

1939

0.44" Spl

1907

6.8 x 43 mm Rem SPC

2003

0.44" Rem Mag

1955

7 x 57 mm Mauser

1892

0.44" AMP

1971

7 mm Exp Rem

1979

0.444" Marlin

1964

7 mm-08 Rem

1980

0.44-40 Win

1873

7 mm Rem Mag

1962

0.450" Marlin

2000

7 mm WSM

2002

0.450" Adams Revolver

1868

7.5 x 55 mm Schmidt Rubin

1889

0.450" Mars

1902

7.62 x 39 mm Russian

1943

0.450" Nitro Express

1895

7.62 x 51 mm USA

1950

0.45" GAP Austrian

2003

7.62 x 51 mm NATO

1953

0.45" ACP

1905

7.62 x 54 mmR

1891b

0.45" Colt (0.45 Long Colt)

1873

7.65 mm Browning (0.32acp)

1899

0.45" Win Mag

1978

7.6 mm PB (7.65 mm Luger)

1900

0.455 Webley

1889

7.7 x 58 mm Arisaka

1939

0.45-70 US Govt.

1873

7.92 x 33 mm Kurtz (German)

1938

0.454" Casull

1954

7.92 x 57 mm Mauser

1888

0.458" Win Mag

1956

7.92 x 107 mm DS

1934

0.460" Weatherby Mag.

1958

8 x 57 mm

1905

0.470" Nitro Express

1907

8 x 68S

1939

0.476 Enfield

1880

8 mm Rem Mag

1978

0.480" Ruger

2001

9 mm PB (9 mm Luger)

1902

0.50" Action Express

1988

9 mm Browning Short

1812

0.500" S&W Magnum

2003

9 mm Win Mag

1978

0.50" Remington Army

1867

9 mm Federal Rev

1989

0.50" Browning M/G

1921

9 x 57 mm Mauser

1894

0.50-90 Sharps

1872

10 mm Auto

1983

0.600" Nitro Express

1903

In the above table, the following abbre

viations apply:c

Metric

Date

ACP or acp Automatic Colt Pistol Auto Automatic, that is, for self-

4.6 x 30 mm German

2000

1 oading pistol

4.7 x 33 mm H&K D11

Win Winchester -

cartridge

Caseless

1989

designed by the company

5 mm Rem RF Mag 5.45 x 39 mm Russian M74

1968 1974

Rem Remington - cartridge designed by the company S&W Smith & Wesson - cartridge

5.56 x 45 mm NATO

1960

designed by the company

5.56 x 45 mm Rem

1963

H&H Holland and Holland -

5.56 x 45 S-109

1979

cartridge designed by the

5.6 x 45 mm GP90 Swiss

1987

company Sig Sig Sauer -

cartridge

5.7 x 28 mm Belgium

1990

designed by the company

6 mm Rem

1963

Mag Magnum

6 mm PPC

1975

Rev Revolver

6.5 mm JDG

1978

Exp Express cartridge

6.5 x 39 Grendel

Win SSM Winchester Super Short

6.5 mm Rem Mag

1966

Magnum

a Oldest commercial cartridge being loaded today. b Oldest cartridg e still in official military use. c See Appendix for a full list of ammunition abbreviations.

a Oldest commercial cartridge being loaded today. b Oldest cartridg e still in official military use. c See Appendix for a full list of ammunition abbreviations.

+2 0

Responses

  • FRANCIS
    DID 1979 5.56 X 45 WINCHESTER HEADSTAMP,USE BALL POWDER?
    6 years ago
  • Rita
    When did pinfire cartridges cease production?
    6 years ago
  • kedija
    What explosive used in 0.22 cap of 5.56mm catrage?
    5 years ago
  • samlad
    Is 7.92 x 57mm ammo interchangeable with 7.92 x 33 mm kurtz ammo?
    4 years ago

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