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  1. #1
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    9x19mm 115gr blt-When and Why

    When and why did the British adopt the 115gr bullet for the 9mm Mk1Z cartridge?

    I know that Peter Labbett says the spec for the 9mm Mk1z ball was written in June 1941, and that initial production was at RL in '41 with the Blackpole production starting at the end of 1941. The only earlier 9mm procured by the British military (according to Labbett and the OB Procs I have) was a Tracer by Kynoch with a very light bullet (about 85grs I seem to recall). The original spec DD/L/11833 was written for the Sten, Lanchaster and S&W machine carbine according to Peter Labbett. This seems pretty straight forward until today.

    I have two boxes of US made ammo with 115gr bullets, The first is a unique style Western box (pseudo-military) but the characteristics of the label would imply 1930s manufacture. The box code indicates the ammunition (Western hst) was loaded by Winchester (this was done as early as the 1930s). The date code on the box indicates the loading was done in 1935 or 1955. The second is a Winchester commercial box in the 1930 style, but with an overlabel identifying the bullets as 115gr. The code on this box indicates production in 1937 or 1947. The box styles would cause me to believe the 1930 dates, but who was using the 115gr bullet then---NO ONE THAT I KNOW OF!!! Neither of these boxes look like normal commercial production items, but rather something produced for a special order. (pictures of the boxes and discussion is on this thread: http://www.iaaforum.org/forum3/viewt...p=54391#p54391)

    I began to wonder if the British adopted the 115 gr bullet because of the rather delicate construction of the S&W machine carbine so I contacted a friend who is a S&W collector and on my behalf he contacted Roy Jinks who was the company historian and wrote the book on S&W aparently. Jinks looked in his material and told my friend that he had a document that said in 1939 the British provided S&W 10K rounds of 9mm for the development of the S&W Machine Carbine since the British ammo was more powerful than the US commercial ammo.

    WHAT BRITISH 9MM AMMO IN 1939!!! The gun was tested almost two years before the British spec for the 9mm cartridge was even developed.

    As far as I can tell, nobody was loading 115gr bullets before the UK started in 1941. The Italians began producing M38 steel jacketted ammunition in 1942 with an overall weight of 175gr-177gr which is consistent with a 115gr blt, but the 1941 steel jacket bullet in my collection weighs 190gr, consistent with a 124gr bullet. The 1938-1942 GM jacketted GFL ammunition I weighed was all 186-187gr consistent with a 124gr bullet.

    It appears pretty clear that the British pioneered the 115gr bullet as a submachine gun load from everything I can find.

    Three questions for the members:

    Why did the British select a 115gr 9mm bullet in place of the well tried and proven 124gr bullet???

    Is there any evidence anywhere (military or commercial) of British interest in a 115gr bullet before 1941????

    How can we explain the apparent disconnect in timing between the British records and the S&W records? What was the ammo supplied to S&W by the Brits in 1939???

    All info, opinions or thoughts are greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Lew

  2. #2
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    Well, I think I have perhaps answered my own question. I had some time this morning and dug out some Italian 9M38 dupes and started weighing them and taking some apart. I looked at about 10 "GFL9M38 1940" headstamped loads and all the bullet weights were between 114.5gr and 116.5gr, both magnetic jackets and non-magnetic jackets which confirms that the Italians were producing 115gr 9mm M38 ammunition a full year (or probably 3 years-1938 & 1939 dated loads weight the same as the 1940 loads disassembled) before the Brits wrote the Specification for the 9MM Mk1Z cartridge.

    The British Army would have encountered this M38 ammunition in the desert well before initiating the design of the 9MM MK1Z.

    My earlier confusion was the result of the high overall weights of the early M38 dated ammunition (~185-189gr where the typical wgt of a 124gr brass case load is a bit over 190gr). it turns out the early 9M38 ammunition used cases that weighed 67-69grs where the 1944 9M38 ammo had case weights of 56-58gr, a 10gr difference I had attributed to bullet weight.

    Lewis

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    S&W Light Rifle

    Lew,
    From Neil and Jinks book the following data. Name S&W Light Rifle Model of 1940. UK asked S&W to redesign the rifle to accommodate a 2 grain powder increase. S&W got one million $ advance for this work. The rifle failed(ammo load caused it to fail) and the advance was returned in the form of revolvers. However about 1000 were shipped to UK in 1941. The 9mm ballistics from S&W are MV of 1410fps and an energy of 510 foot pounds. Hope this helps

    Sandy

  4. #4
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    British 9mmP

    Hi Lew and a Happy New Year.

    I have been going through the Ordnance Board Proceedings and Small Arms Committee Minutes and I think you have probably answered your own question with regards to the origin of the 115grn bullets, but I have also found something else of interest (see below)

    First, the Italian connection. A Beretta machine carbine (SMG for non Brits) was tested in OB Proc 5,157 in March 1940. It performed well with its own Italian ammunition (4,000 rounds delivered with the gun) but failed with Kynoch ammo. No mention is made of bullet weight at this point.

    The comment was made that the Kynoch ammo had now failed in the Suomi, Schmeisser and Beretta weapons.

    The report of the acceptance tests of the S & W carbine was detailed in OB Proc. 6,778 of June 1940, and although the rate of fire of the weapon was far too high (1,200 rpm), the important comment was "I.C.I. ammunition functioned the weapon correctly, but does not possess the accuracy of the Winchester ammunition received with the weapon." Thus we know that Winchester ammuntion was being supplied to the UK in early 1940.

    OB Proc. 7,849 of August 1940 is basically about the failure of Kynoch ammunition to function properly. They were lent a Beretta carbine and 100 rounds of Italian ammunition, but said they would not make special bullets if the order was only 200 rounds and suggested using commercial soft nosed bullets from stock for the next trial. The military concluded that Kynoch's product and their attitude was "poor" and that "one of the new S.A.A. factories be set up to manufacture this ammunition and no reliance be placed on messrs. I.C.I. (Metals)."

    In OB Proc. 8,189 of August 1940, which was a further test of the Schmeisser, the ammunition used was Belgian FN and Kynoch. Again the FN functioned well and the Kynoch failed. It reveals that the FN bullet was round nosed but the Kynoch was truncated cone, and the overall weights were 189 grns for the FN and 188 grns for the Kynoch, showing that they both had 124 grn bullets.

    However, the crucial paragraphs occur later in the report. The Board wished to ascertain whether M.C. ammunition of American manufacture would function satisfactorily in the Schmeisser, and that 500 rounds of 9mm Winchester special ammunition was left over from the trials of the S & W. Note the use of the word "special". It also stated that 110 million rounds of M.C. ammunition had just been ordered in America.

    OB Proc. 10,478 of January 1941 was a report testing several different makes of 9mm ammo in various SMGs, including the British made Schmeisser (i.e. Lanchester). There was an accompanying ammo breakdown and the Winchester ammo had a bullet weight of 117 grns.
    Whether this was some of the early deliveries of Winchester contract ammo, or some of the earlier Winchester "special" ammo is unclear, but it could easily be the latter. The order for the contract ammo was not placed until 30th July 1940 and the trials in OB Proc. 10,478 would have been held some time before the Minute was actually printed in January 1941, so it is uncertain whther any of the contract ammo would have been delivered in time.

    Conclusions? It seems that the Italian 115 grn ammo performed well and was liked, and that a small order was placed by us with Winchester for "special" 9mm ammunition that was used to test the S & W carbines. This ammo was probably 115 grn also.

    It does not answer the question of the date of your box, but it is another piece in the jigsaw.

    I will go back and check the Ministry of Supply contract ledger at our National Archives as I remember seeing orders for ammunition for the S & W carbine there.

    I apologise for the length of this post as I know you probably have copies of most of these Procs., Lew, but I thought others might find it interesting. I will post this on the IAA Forum also.

    Regards
    TonyE

  5. #5
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    Tony, Thanks for the research. I sat down yesterday morning with my OB Procs writing an article for the Journal and had just gotten through 8,187!!! Thanks for the help and confirmation of what I had seen. I think your last point is very interesting. I have a bit of the early Winchester records, and know some people who have more. If you have the data on the early US contracts for 9x19mm, I may be able to find the associated Winchester and Western info on these contracts.

    The widespread use of the Sten after WWII guarenteed a market for 9x19mm with a 115gr bullet, and I think this was the reason for the two one-off boxes I have. The point on the 117gr bullet is important. The Original British contracts were derived from an earlier contract for the Finns. There was also a 1940 contract for the Dutch with truncated 124gr ammo that was relabelled by the Dutch and sent to the East Indies. All these had the WRA 9M-M headstamp. If the "Special' 9mm was actually 117gr then it may mean that the 115gr ammo postdated it. I will try to capture some of that in the article I'm working on.

    Many thanks for the details.

    Cheers,

    Lew

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by proditto View Post
    Lew,
    The 9mm ballistics from S&W are MV of 1410fps and an energy of 510 foot pounds. Hope this helps
    Is the barrel length quoted?

  7. #7
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    S&W Light Rifle

    The barrel length quoted in the book is 9 3/4 inches.
    At 50 yards MV 1240, at 100 MV 1115, at 200 MV 975 at 300 MV 875.All fps. Interesting design feature is the large magazine well is in fact an ejected cartridge chute at the rear and the magazine (20 round)mount at the front.
    What happened to the 1000 guns?

  8. #8
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    I understand that Jenks says all but five were chopped up and dumped in the Channel. Pity!!!

    Lew

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by proditto View Post
    The barrel length quoted in the book is 9 3/4 inches.
    At 50 yards MV 1240, at 100 MV 1115, at 200 MV 975 at 300 MV 875.All fps.
    Thanks, that's helpful.

  10. #10
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    I just received a copy of OB Proc 10,478 and found that the Finnish Sako ammunition tested in Jan 1941 also had a 115gr bullet. Sure enough, I just weighted my early Finnish ammo including a Sako round dated '38, an an undated Sako round, and an unheadstamped Sako round that is suppose to be their first production. based on overall weights of 184gr it looks like all have 115gr bullets. All three of these rounds have black pa and CN steel jacket bullets.

    Even more interesting is that a Sako headstamped round reputedly made by Geco or RWS headstamped "Sako . 9m/m . " also has a 115gr bullet. This was suppose to be the first 9mmP ammo used by the Finnish Military. This would push the 115gr bullet back as far as perhaps 1930 or 1931 with the Soumi. It would also imply that the first 115 gr ammunition was made in Germany and designed in Germany or Finland!!!

    For comparison, I pulled down a round headstamped "Geco . 9m/m ." packed in a blue commercial box but reportedly marked for the Finnish reserves with an "E. L." in a square box and 1.37. stamped on the back. This cartridge had an overall weight of 188.6gr with a 121gr bullet. The weights of other rounds in the box went up to 191gr.

    Any information on the early Finnish development of the 9mm cartridge for the Soumi M31 would be appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Lew

 

 
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