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Originally Posted by Steve Helsley
"I took the 230-grain shell to be an explosive shell." -- Why?

British rifle ammunition for the 450/400 3 1/4" cartridge was made primarily (and perhaps exclusively) by Kynoch and Eley.
Their early 20th Century catalogs make no mention of an "explosive shell" nor does Fleming in "British Sporting Rifle Cartridges."

Can anyone cite a source for explosive bullets in British commercial metallic sporting rifle ammunition?

Explosive bullets are historically associated with Sir Samuel Baker and George Fosbery. In Baker's case, his bullets were being
launched from a 4-bore barrel. A detailed study of explosive rifle bullets used in the Civil War can be found in the journal of
the American Society of Arms Collectors. They were used to shoot at observation balloons in WWI and Germany experimented
with the B-Patron in WWII. If they were ever practical - as bullet size decreased, they became impractical.

Pantaman - suggested topic for your next investigation. Weight of the priming compound in the No.40 Berdan primer.

This particular antique sacrifice/ study bullet is from a factory Eley round. Its diameter is .400" and I am hoping, after failing with some other diameter bullets in this Lancaster rifle, that I can get its alloy figured out and thereby cast something close in the Brooks mold. Unless they had their own mold etc with the gun, Lancaster oval bores generally shot whatever was standard for caliber. This Eley round is very much what was the market standard for the 450/400, and I want to replicate it, having failed with others.

Some custom rifles beyond "the Baby" fired explosive bullets, made up by the shooter with the tools and materials that accompanied the rifle. A number have been paraded in DGJ over the years. I think Frank Findlow wrote an article about a .577 that had some explosive compounds and hollow tips; Ross Seyfriend for sure did. I know I have seen some for sale over the years. What do you suppose this gun's ledger entry means? Why the distinction between a 225 grain bullet and 230 grain "shell"? While zero tools accompanied this gun, it was made in 1894 for a maharaja who liked it so much the Lancaster ledgers show he had another exact same one made the next year. The maharajas could order anything, and get exactly what they ordered. If he wanted an exploding shell for his 450/400, he could get it. Incidentally, I recently finished reading Baker's Rifle & Hound in Ceylon, Wild Animals and Their Ways, and The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia. He really did use the exploding shells in hippos, rhinos and elephants. I think some buffalo, too.

Mike Rowe, I agree with you this is complicated, but what else is to be done? The other bullets I either cast or bought did not work as expected. I felt fortunate to locate some original antique 450/400 Eley rounds that were surely the industry standard, and which the Lancaster probably shot very well. So I am trying to replicate that Eley bullet. Having failed to come up with the correct formula for comparing the factory bullet to one cast of pure lead and getting the Eley bullet's alloy mix, the mass spectrometer is the only way to definitively answer the question of what the Eley bullet is made of. And no, my lead tester did not work, because the copper tube in the nose squished down and the slight cup in the base interfered with the tester. So, maybe this is too complicated, but no one here knows how else to get the bullet's actual alloy. You said it was likely 12:1, and you are probably right. Hopefully we find out tomorrow.

Finally, Steve, I did as you requested, and arrived at the average Berdan primer compound weight of between 1.112 grains and 1.159 grains per primer. But as I was increasing the N to get a more robust confidence in such a huge variation, I noticed the tips of my fingers were disappearing from exposure to the fulminate. So I had to stop, because my thumbs were unable to manipulate those tiny primers very well.

More tomorrow!


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This is definitely not that hard or complicated. Just set the mould for the same length as the original and cast in a few different alloys from 16:1 to 40:1. I doubt you will be able to tell the difference, but pick up and read the paper patches to confirm what is working.

I seriously doubt that "shells" refer to anything explosive. All my life I have heard people refer to both cases and cartridges as shells. Nothing to do with explosive projectiles whatsoever.


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I
Originally Posted by BrentD
This is definitely not that hard or complicated. Just set the mould for the same length as the original and cast in a few different alloys from 16:1 to 40:1. I doubt you will be able to tell the difference, but pick up and read the paper patches to confirm what is working.

I seriously doubt that "shells" refer to anything explosive. All my life I have heard people refer to both cases and cartridges as shells. Nothing to do with explosive projectiles whatsoever.

Brent, I hear ya. It ain't me making this distinction, it is in the 1894 ledger entry for the gun. Why the gun manufacturer distinguished between a 225-grain bullet and a 230-grain "shell" is mystery, but they for sure did it for a distinct reason with a real purpose in mind. I am sure a five grain difference in bullet weight does not matter in a black powder gun, so it must have meant something important to them at that time. And your advice is good. The only thing is the Brooks mold is one of those adjustable nose-pours, that even experienced casters are occasionally challenged by. So I am trying to keep my casting time with this mold to a minimum. The more I experiment, the much much longer the project will take. If Mike Rowe is correct, and the 12:1 alloy is standard (in this Eley bullet), and that little cup on the bottom is sufficient for spreading the heel into the rifling, then that is the alloy mix I will try first. A regular base-pour mold is not intimidating; this one is.


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A few grains of bullet weight either way doesn't make a darn bit of difference to an Express rifle. Nor does the bullet alloy if it's anywhere from 1 in 12 to 1 in 20 or so. So long as it's a lead/tin mix. The cup on the base does little, if anything, for obturation. The bullet fore shortening does that - and black powder does a fine job of it.

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Personally, I think 12:1 is too far, but whatever. Better to make some bullets and get them airborne than beat the issue to death without ever launching one.

I've cast many a nose pour. Why are you finding it intimidating? In so far as casting goes, it is all pretty much the same to me. I have two nose pours that I use. One I use a lot. It's as easy as any. More important will be bullet diameter, paper thickness, and bullet seating depth. And what did you find between the bullet and the powder? That will be more important than alloy.

I would love to see photos of the original cartridges you have and some dimensions for them. I've spent 25+ yrs shooting paper patches with blackpowder for hunting and competition. It's the only rifle shooting that is very interesting to me.


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First - the 12 to 1 theory is not mine.

I assume that there are two reasons why Eley or Kynoch wouldn't want the bullets to be any harder than necessary -
expansion in the target is one and the other is cost (tin being more expensive than lead).

The "cup" in the base of the bullet should be for the twisted end of the paper patch.

In my 'ill-spent' youth I made explosive Minie balls. They worked.

I am a fan of Baker and have studied him extensively (including corresponding with his great-great grandson who lives in England).
I am convinced he used explosive bullets but his descriptions don't 'add-up.' He described using a 1/2 pound (3500 grains) bullet
with either "10 drachms of powder" in the bullet or as the propelling charge. In my 8-bore, I used 10 drachms (280 grains) of powder
behind a 1605 grain bullet that produced a velocity of 1040 fps. That charge behind a bullet weighing more than twice as much, in a larger
diameter barrel, would produce an anemic velocity. If Baker meant that the 10 drachms was the explosive charge in the bullet, by
volume, it would displace 2000-grains of lead unless the bullet was substantially lengthened. Seems like a great project for "Myth Busters."

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Originally Posted by Steve Helsley
First - the 12 to 1 theory is not mine.

I assume that there are two reasons why Eley or Kynoch wouldn't want the bullets to be any harder than necessary -
expansion in the target is one and the other is cost (tin being more expensive than lead).

The "cup" in the base of the bullet should be for the twisted end of the paper patch.

In my 'ill-spent' youth I made explosive Minie balls. They worked.

I am a fan of Baker and have studied him extensively (including corresponding with his great-great grandson who lives in England).
I am convinced he used explosive bullets but his descriptions don't 'add-up.' He described using a 1/2 pound (3500 grains) bullet
with either "10 drachms of powder" in the bullet or as the propelling charge. In my 8-bore, I used 10 drachms (280 grains) of powder
behind a 1605 grain bullet that produced a velocity of 1040 fps. That charge behind a bullet weighing more than twice as much, in a larger
diameter barrel, would produce an anemic velocity. If Baker meant that the 10 drachms was the explosive charge in the bullet, by
volume, it would displace 2000-grains of lead unless the bullet was substantially lengthened. Seems like a great project for "Myth Busters."
On Baker, I took his charge descriptions to be the propellant, not the explosive. He does not describe the explosive bullets in detail. In a couple animals he describes the explosive internal results, which sound right.
Brent, I’m trying to save time on this by researching before casting more bullets, because I have already expended what to me is a great deal of time on this. As anyone who has tried to get a black powder oval bore to shoot right learns, they are an acquired taste. Whatever you believe you know about ballistics, throw it out the window. When the correct round is fired, the oval bore is phenomenal. Finding that correct round is a long road littered with wasted time and unhappy gun owners. It’s a well known story with this rifling. So instead of spending my limited time sending more incorrect rounds down range, I’m hoping to find out for myself what exactly this old Eley round is made of. As for posting pictures here, the process is still clunky. I would like to know what it would cost to make this site like so many others, where posting photos is easier than posting text.

Hopefully we learn all we need this morning at the lab


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Well, well, well... isn’t this mass spectrometer result interesting.
The 228-grain Eley 450/400 paper patched copper-tubed bullet is
92% lead
7% tin
1% copper plus other contaminant stuff that was likely all on an individual basis byproducts of the various processes associated with mining and refining lead and tin separately, and then again those processes associated with combining them together.

I think Mike Rowe gets the prize for being right, again. Bravo! If I respected your opinion on these matters before, I really really respect and value it now.

Now, about that C&H #6 gunpowder that was in the Eley case...we also studied this in the mass spectrometer, and obtained some fascinating results. If the readings are correct, then C&H had a secret ingredient that made their powder especially energetic. Their ratios of carbon, sulfur and potassium are also unique. We are going to further study the powder in a destructive way in a mass spectrometer better designed for analyzing the organics inside the black powder. Then we will know for sure what C&H was up to, and why their powders were so highly successful.


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Steve, no theory about the 1 in 12 mix. It's on the Kynoch factory's blueprint.

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Originally Posted by Mike Rowe
Steve, no theory about the 1 in 12 mix. It's on the Kynoch factory's blueprint.
That may be, Mike, but isn’t it satisfying to see the mass spectrometer analysis confirm it absolutely.
I thought the test results would generate more discussion. The C&H #6 results especially. There’s been so much discussion about that central powder


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