Non-standard small arms ammunition loaded in UK and CW

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by TTH, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    My never-ending quest for odd British WWII equipment information has led me to consider small arms ammunition. British and Commonwealth factories produced mountains of ammo in the standard calibers, those being .303, 7.92mm, .380 revolver, 9mm. I imagine some 15mm Besa, .5 Vickers, .455 Webley auto, .22 Long Rifle, and .455 revolver was loaded too, and possibly .50 Browning as .50 Browning guns were used on some British-made aircraft late in the war.

    So far, so clear. But my poking so far has shown that the British and CW forces used a wide range of non-standard small arms during the war, many of them in odd calibers such as .32 ACP (Colt pocket automatic, Webley autos used by police, Llama autos used by SOE), .380 ACP (Colt pocket auto again), 7.63mm Mauser (handful of Mauser and Astra autos acquired in Belgium and Shanghai), 9mm Browning Long (Webley auto used by South African and other imperial police forces). Some .32 caliber revolvers were acquired in the US (Colt, Harrington & Richardson, and Iver Johnson). I imagine these were probably in the common .32 S&W Long or Colt New Police, but I am not certain. There were some .38 Special Colt and S&W revolvers, too, and a small number of Colt Super automatics in the .38 Colt Super ACP (not the older less and less powerful .38 ACP). I even have references for stray pistols in .38 Colt Long (old Colt Army Specials) and .32-20 Winchester (Spanish G.A.C.), and .25 ACP automatics were used by SOE and aircrew.

    Enormous quantities of ammunition for the US guns were imported during the war, but I wonder if any of these odd rounds were loaded in the UK and Commonwealth. Some of these calibers (.25, .32, and .380 ACP, 7.63mm Mauser) were common commercial rounds as well, so British and CW production of them on some scale before and during the war would not be surprising. (I am pretty ignorant about the UK and CW ammunition industry in this era.)

    During the course of the war Britain also found itself supplying the forces of a number of Allied exile governments. Of these, the French, Belgians, and Dutch had large colonial empires with local forces still carrying native-pattern weapons. Some re-equipment with British and American arms was eventually done, but I know that the French at least always retained some of their older weapons and so did the KNIL in Indonesia. So, was any ammunition for these old foreign guns loaded in UK and CW factories? Local stocks must certainly have gotten depleted as the war went on. The rounds were:

    Belgian: 7.65mm Mauser
    Dutch: 6.5mm Dutch Mannlicher, 9mm Browning Long
    French: 8mm Lebel, 7.5mm MAS, 7.65mm Long, 8mm Lebel revolver

    And then there's the .320 Revolver cartridge. I don't know if any of the Webley revolvers chambered for it were used as service weapons, but with SOE and the Home Guard you never can tell...
  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Had never heard of that one before. Thanks.
    Another tidbit to take up brain real estate
  3. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

    You missed mentioning the .55 Boys and the .30 US (.30'06) used in Browning MGs fitted to a lot of US vehicles acquired by Lend-Lease.

    In its history Kynoch made a huge range of military cartridges, many of them for foreign customers. These are listed in Peter Labbett's booklet on Kynoch ammo production, but the ones actually made in WW2 are not specified in detail. The principal ones which are mentioned as the main output of the new factories set up to mass produce ammo are: .303 (various loadings); .55 Boys; .5 Vickers; 7.92mm. He also mentions that .32 Auto (7.65mm) and .380 Auto (9mm short) were ordered.

    In another Labbett booklet on the .50 Browning he states that a lot of this was made in the interwar years for British tests and foreign customers but interest in it had lapsed by the war, so much of the ammo used in WW2 came from the USA. The main exception was incendiary ammo which was made in the UK as the British didn't like the US design.
  4. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    I was just thinking that we had not had an interesting thread on SAA for some time when you come along and open this! How long have you got?

    I will post a few thoughts now and later some more details.

    Most of the odd ball American weapons you mention (.32s, .38s etc.) came from the "Guns for Britain" campaign as did a lot of the ammo. We also placed orders with Remington in 1940/41 for further supplies of ammunition for these weapons. This is one order from 1941:

    January 1941 Remington order
    .32 Auto Oil Proof M.C. 60,000
    .32 S&W Oil Proof Lead 5,000
    .32" Short Colt 5,000
    .38" Auto pistol Oil Proof M.C. 11,000
    .38 S&W Oil Proof Kleanbore 5,000
    .38" Short Colt 5,000
    .45 Colt Auto Pistol Oil Proof M.C. 5,000
    .30" Mauser Auto Pistol Oil Proof M.C. 6,000
    9mm Luger Auto pistol Oil proof M.C. 15,000
    .450" Revolver 5,000

    Later, small orders for odd calibres were also placed with Kynoch in 1944/45 but these were mainly for dropping to resistance units. Examples are 75,000 7.63mm Mauser in May 1943 and 60,000 in September 1944.

    With regards to manufacture here, we made some foreign ammo. Kynoch made several million 6.5 Krag rounds with a clandestine headstamp for dropping in Norway and also 5 million 6.5mm Mannlicher in 1943. (Picture of Kynoch KJ attached)

    Dominion Cartridge Co. in Canada made military .45 Colt (revolver) for the Canadian navy and Kynoch made .380ACP for the RAF for aircrew Colt pistols. SAAF Footscray in Australia made 7.65mm also for aircrew.

    With regard to .50 calibre, although we used milions of rounds of US ammo, we generally did not like it (especially the incendiary as Tony says) so from 1942 ROF Spennymoor started domestic production of .50 calibre. they made ball, AP, day tracer, night tracer, incendiary and drill rounds in some quantity. They also experimented with a lot of rigid AP shot and even explosive loads. (Picture attached)

    I gave a paper on British ammo purchases in the US at the IAA annual meeting last year and wrote an article for the Journal as well.

    I will dig out some more info later.



    Dave55 likes this.
  5. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    A couple of further thoughts:

    A lot of French weapons came back with French troops rescued from Dunkirk nad these were issued to the LDV (Home Guard). Some ammunition came with them but we purchased 2 million rounds of 8mm Lebel from PCH in Greece.

    A vast amount of Italian weapons and ammo was captured in North Africa and much of this was sent to India to arm second line troops. We officially took 6.5mm Carcano, 8x50mm Mannlicher and 8mm Breda into British/Commonwealth service.

    See my website here;

  6. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yes, I don't know how I omitted those two rounds, silly of me. TonyE's website has good information on both.

    I have learned just enough online to know that Kynoch made heaps of stuff for foreign orders. To take just two examples, they made some 8mm Lebel for Romania in WWI and they had been loading the 7.63mm Mauser commercially since the turn of the century.
  7. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I think you posted that ammo list in my oddball weapons thread, Tony. I am still trying to figure out what on earth they could have done with all that .32 Short Colt and .38 Short Colt. Was the former interchangeable with the .320 round used in Webley pocket revolvers of the era?

    Hmm, I am wondering where in Europe they would have dropped all that 7.63mm Mauser. The C96 was popular in its way, but it was expensive and never a first-line weapon with any major army. Some MP28 SMGs were made in 7.63mm for the Dutch, but this is still a puzzler to me.

    Going by your info on the manufacture of 7.65mm auto and 9mm short, it seems that the Colt pocket auto in those chamberings was much more widespread in British and Australian service (RAF/RAAF) than I had thought.

    It's curious that the Canadians would chose to make .45 Colt for the RCN, instead of re-chambering the revolvers to take the .455 cartridge.
  8. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    I will post some pictures and details tomorrow.

  9. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    here is a picture of some of the non standard calibres.

    The Italian rounds were from stocks captured in the Western Desert and used by secondary troops in India.

    Left to right they are:

    .32ACP (7.65mm) by SAAF Footscray, Australia. H/s "MF .32 AUTO"
    .380 ACP (9mm Short) by Kynoch. H/s "K44 .380" with ICI monogram on primer
    .45 Colt by Dominion Cartridge Co., Canada. H/s "DC 44 45 COLT"
    6.5x55mm Krag Jorgensen by Kynoch. H/s "6.5 KJ"
    6.5mm Carcano by SMI, Italy. H/s "SMI 936"
    7.35mm Carcano by Capua, Italy. H/s "A.A. C-38"
    8mm Breda by SMI, Italy. H/s "SMI 938"


  10. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Thanks for that, Tony, nice pictures. Your website is very good too, but I caught some typos on it.

    About that 5 million 6.5mm Mannlicher, did the Dutch underground take all of it? The NEI was gone by 1943 but the Dutch still had garrisons in the Antilles and Surinam, as well as a few people in Australia and Dutch New Guinea (Merauke garrison, air units, navy).

    I have an old special supplement issue of Guns and Ammo magazine from the 80's with an article about surplus MAS 36 rifles. According to the article, the British made some 7.5mm MAS ammo. Is there any truth in that?
  11. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    I have never seen or heard of British manufactured 7.5mm MAS. AFAIK, all stocks in Britain were ex French military.

    I don't know if all the 6.5mm Mannlicher went to Holland. I have an SOE "Shopping List" that agents could order from and there are no Dutch weapons or ammunition on it.

    I would also be interested in your source for the statement that Kynoch made 8mm Lebel for Roumania during WWI. They certainly made it in the 1920s for Roumania but I have no record of manufacture in WWI. Kings Norton made 6.5mm Mann. for Roumania in WWI though.

    I know there are a few typos on my website but I have been more concerned with getting the information posted. i will do some more proof reading later.

  12. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Tony, I read the comments about 8mm Lebel ammo on another site which I think you belong to. I was mixing up the manufacturers, Kings Norton did indeed make the WWI stuff for Romania, not Kynoch.

    If not for the Dutch, then who was that 6.5mm Mannlicher for? Romania was an Axis power, but I don't think a lot of their weapons were floating around in resistance movements...but weren't the Dutch & Romanians using different 6.5mm rounds?

    No surprise about the 7.5mm MAS reference being wrong. As for your webesite, I like it a lot and you are indeed doing a great job of getting the info out there. I learned a lot I hadn't known before my visit. It's highly interesting that the British army considered changing from the .303 to US .30-06 during the war. That might have made sense in the end, but it would surely have involved great difficulties of manufacture, supply, etc. The Japs and Italians tried to change cartridges and got caught in midstream.
  13. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Also, about that SOE shopping there any chance that you could post it here sometime? It sounds fascinating.
  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I just had a thought. Was the 6.5mm Mannlicher perhaps really 6.5mm Greek Mannlicher-Schoenauer?
  15. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    It could well have been. I am only going by an entry in the Ministry files that says "6.5mm Mannlicher". Certainly the Greek round makes sense.

    I will post the SOE shopping list shortly.

  16. TonyE

    TonyE Senior Member

    Here is the SOE shopping list as promised.

    Attached Files:

  17. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    That is a fascinating list Tony, many thanks for posting it. Do you know if this was a general SOE list for all of Occupied Europe, or just the Med? The presence of so much Italian stuff (and the absence of any French, of which the British had some at least in 1940) makes me curious. Of course, it could just be a matter of what SOE had on hand, the customer being obliged to pick from the stock no matter where they were located.

    I suspect the list is not complete, perhaps it was changing all the time. I see some handgun ammo but no handguns listed. Iver Johnson revolvers, Llama autos, and other odd handguns are often described as SOE items, but they are absent here.

    I note the presence of some B.A.R.'s. There is no indication of the subtype. Could these have been some M1918A2's that the US threw into the pot, or older M1918's that had been sent to Britain in 1940? I had thought the latter remained in Home Guard service to the end, but perhaps I'm wrong.

    In general, this list is a mixture of 1) captured stuff, 2) old and odd types no longer needed by British forces, and 3) standard types at last being produced in ample numbers (Lee-Enfield, Sten, Bren). I don't see any P14's or US M1917 Enfields, I suppose the Home Guard and the French hung on to those. The US .30-06 Lewis gun is on the list, but the British .303 Lewis isn't. I guess the latter was still considered worthwhile for shipboard LAA armament, training, Home Guard, etc. No Thompsons, but the less numerous Marlin SMG is on the list. Well, it took 9mm (more readily available on the Continent) so I guess that explains it. The 9mm Beretta 'automatic rifle' would be the M38 Beretta SMG.

    The fact that German items were offered is significant. The US green book on re-arming the French says that so few German items were recovered intact after the Tunisian surrender in May 43 that ex-German stuff was not an important factor in French rearmament. Yet SOE had MP40's, Kar98K's, MG15's (ex-aircraft?), and even the MG34 and the 81mm German mortar.

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