Military corrosive ammunition dating
In 1898, though, something happened that doomed all of the black powder Express cartridges to obsolescence forever.
The year 1898 saw the introduction of a cartridge called the .450 (3¼”) Nitro Express by the venerated London firm of John Rigby & Co.
Purdey likened the bullets that his rifles fired to an Express train – they travelled fast with a flat trajectory.
Over the years, the British gun trade adopted the word “Express” as pretty much a standard term and used it as part of the description of many of the black powder cartridges introduced during the 1880s and 1890s.
Cordite was produced in bulky strands which took up considerable case capacity and just about all of the cartridges originally designed with cordite in mind therefore featured big cases with ample capacity to house a meaningful charge of cordite propellant.
In due course a host of Nitro Express cartridges followed in the .450’s wake, all the way up to the mighty .600, and all of them quickly carved out reputations for deadly efficiency on large, dangerous game.
As premier examples of the gunmaker’s art, best-quality rifles from this era are in a class all by themselves.
(A Tonkin Collection) Cordite’s third vice was that it burned at high temperature and was, in conjunction with the corrosive primers used in earlier British ammunition and steel-jacketed solid bullets, very hard on rifle barrels.
A disassembled British-made military .303 cartridge dating from 1940.
In addition to the bullet and case, note the strands of cordite propellant as well as the over-powder wad which had to keep the propellant firmly in contact with the flash hole.