Educational Zone #30 – The Smell of Cordite

If any of you have ever read British military history, they are always talking about the “smell of Cordite” on the battlefield. 

Some folks probably don’t even know what Cordite is.

I recently bought a 550 round ammo can full of mixed WWII era .303 British ammo.

Here it is.

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As you can see, it is a “mixed bag”, full of old, dusty, and sometimes corroded ammo.

But it was cheap and it goes Bang most of the time. Some of the ammo is WRA, meaning Winchester Repeating Arms, and it is Boxer primed and I can save the brass for reloading.

The rest is British, Indian, and Canadian loaded, and is mostly Breden primed, and cannot be easily reloaded.

But Tman was able to identify a few headstamps and find out where this stuff was loaded and when.

I had always read about “Cordite”, the powder used by the British to load ammo in the past. Instead of normal powder granules, Cordite is made a “strings” of powder, stacked into the case like spaghetti.

I wanted to see what it looked like, and thought you guys might be interested.

I broke down a few rounds to see what we could see.

To pull bullets, it is best to first run the cartridge into a seating die and push the bullet down into the case about 1/16th of an inch, just enough to break the seal.

I did that, and then used my vise-grip pliers and a washer on my press to pull the bullets on a few rounds.

Here is the set-up.

Just pull up on the loading press handle and the bullet comes right out.

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I found that the Cordite rounds had a small piece of cardboard over the Cordite.

Here’s a few rounds.

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The one on the left is a round from the Indian ammo factory in Dum-Dum India.

The middle one is a round of WRA, loaded with Ball powder, surprisingly.

The one on the right is from the Royal Laboratory in Woolwich Kent, England.

It was loaded with the Cordite that you can see there.
You can also see the small piece of cardboard that covered the Cordite.

I just had to see how this stuff burned, so I took one piece and held it with a pair of pliers and lit it with a match.

Here it is burning.

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I timed it and it took about 5 seconds for the piece to burn from one end to the other. 

Like other powders, if it is not confined, it burns fairly slowly.

Of course, if it is contained in a chamber, it burns quickly.

That’s me, burning some quickly.

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Conclusion:
Always interesting stuff to learn.