The Box O’ Truth #37 – The Deadly .303 British and The Box O’ Truth

My friend FreeWilly sent me a note asking if I would be interested in him sending me some assorted .303 British ammo to test. Of course, I said, “Sure!” smilie

He was particularly interested in the bullet construction of these rounds. He had sectioned some of the bullets to allow us to see how they were constructed.

As we noted in an earlier post, the .303 British round is an old round with a lot of history. The British attempted to “improve” its lethality and accuracy in several ways. One was to cut off the nose of the bullet, as shown in the Dum-Dum Bullets O’ Truth post.

This practice was outlawed by the Hague Convention, but the Brits didn’t give up. They noticed that if you had a light-weight nose on the bullet, it would tumble (actually yaw) more easily. This would cause more destruction and make them more deadly. So, they often made bullets with a light-weight nose.

They also believed (correctly) that a bullet with a light-weight nose would be more accurate. (Modern BTHP rifle bullets like the Sierra 2200M, .30 caliber, 168 gr. bullet are also based upon this idea.)

The Brits were convinced that their bullets actually “settled down” at long distances and were actually more accurate at long distances. This idea was originally laughed at by American competitive shooters; until they watched the British shooters shoot tighter groups at long distances than at close distances.

We took the Waterbox O’ Truth to the range, along with 34 gallons of water, and did some shooting.

I was shooting my Savage No.4, MK1.


First a round of Greek XTP, which has a standard, full lead core.

It is good ammo and totally reliable.

I first shot at a paper target to establish the sight off-set.

You would be surprised at the difference in the sight off-set shown in the samples we shot.

It varied from 3 to 6 inches above point of aim at 45 yards.

I had to adjust for each ammo type.

37-2We were then ready for a shot at the Waterbox.

37-3As expected, the bullet did not upset very much, but did flatten a little bit.


Next, a round of South African Ball R/M, that has an aluminum core in the nose.

Since it is British stuff, be sure to pronounce that Al-U-min-e-um.


It hit the water jugs and deviated so much from the flight path, that it hit the side of the box and was lost.

We had to take a second shot.

It was flattened out and bent in the center.

Here's the result.

Here’s the result.

Next a round of British RG50, with a wooden nose cone.

It is rumored that the Brits actually sterilized this wooden plug before making the rounds.

I guess they didn’t mind blowing a big hole through your guts, but didn’t want you to “get a nasty infection, old boy”.

Also notice the cardboard plug, which was placed above the cordite.


This round busted the jugs and the heavy part, the lead filled jacket was recovered in the last jug it penetrated, while the empty bullet nose was on the floor of the box.

We didn’t find the wooden nose plug.


You will also notice that the old Waterbox O’ Truth is taking a beating.

I tried to push it back together to finish the shoot.

37-9Lastly, a round of British GB 1944, which also had the wooden core.

37-10The water jugs are starting to pile up.

37-11This bullet was badly flattened and bent into a “J” hook,


Another angle.

Another angle.

Looks like I am going to have to re-build the old Waterbox, yet again.

It is a pitiful wreck.

It sure takes a beating when we shoot rifles into it.

Most people are just not aware of how powerful a battle rifle cartridge really is.


Lessons learned:
  1. As expected, the Greek solid lead filled bullet stayed together pretty well.
  2. The bullets with the light weight front cores bent or broke apart, as designed. The action to the Waterbox was violent.
  3. All of the bullets deviated from the straight flight path upon hitting the water jugs. We lost a couple of them out the top of the box and had to re-shoot because they left the Waterbox.
  4. It is easy to see why this ammunition had a reputation as excellent anti-personnel ammo. Anyone that says that getting shot with Ball ammo is like getting stabbed with an ice-pick has never shot much of this stuff.
  5. Shooting stuff is fun.

Thanks to FreeWilly for the ammo, and thanks to Tman for the photo help.

4 Comments on The Box O’ Truth #37 – The Deadly .303 British and The Box O’ Truth

  1. Ronald Dunne // May 1, 2016 at 10:07 am // Reply

    Box O Truth #37- Your results with .303 FMJ military are quite similar to my own, both with surplus .303 and 7.62X51. The projectiles tend to tip and yaw… if they strike bone they react violently and tear big holes. My “testing” in real life convinced me that these will, at least at closer ranges @100yds or less- will take deer or elk. Never tried grinding off the tip. I have noticed that some mil-surp projectiles have a small air-space under the under the copper point tip. This would guarantee upset on contact.

  2. Chris Miner // August 27, 2017 at 9:31 pm // Reply

    I have a 303 mk 4 . Its been sportaized. Coustem stock, shortend barrel. And cattyies a 3x9x50 scope. I have shot every thing from rabbits to moose with this gun. I own many other guns but when its time to put meat on the table ole trusty comes out to play. My hunting buddys call it the cannon. She ain’t pretty but she gets the job done. No fail.

  3. There is still a lot of love for the 303 Brit, so much so we’re pushing for Lithgow to produce a ‘special edition’ LA102 in the calibre. ‘Lithgow’ and ‘303’ go together like ‘Winchester’ and ’30/30′ or ‘Levis’ and ‘501Jeans’

    If you love the 303 and would love to see it resurrected in a commercial rifle, please support this petition.

  4. Alan Carnell // January 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    Love the site.

    I have a 1918 MK III* SMLE that the forearm has suffered many splits etc and I think is past repair.

    I love what you did for the one you found and restored.

    Is there any chance you could do the same for mine.
    I will pay for your service or supply you with items for you next video.



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