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In the UK in my teens, did I own 45 cal dum dum ammo?

ORoyORoy Posts: 2 New Member
I was born and grew up just afterWW2 in southern England within a couple of miles of both Battle of Britain and Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy) airfields. At that time there were lots and lots of items strewn about relating to WW2 (and, in fact WW1 too). Most homes had war memorabilia. I lived in the countryside among farming communities and learned to shoot as a child. Initially, of course, airguns but also shotguns (.410, 3, 12 and 20 bore). I had a couple of military pieces too - a 7mm Mauser and a Beaumont - but I'll save that for another post.

I started collecting ammunition at the age of 12.  I also had a lot of other, er, military items. These days in England that would probably qualify me for psychiatric intervention if not imprisonment....

I also lived in Australia for a few years in the 1970s and had a couple of rifles - this was before the Port Arthur massacre effectively put an end to gun ownership -  I lived in Tasmania and have visited Port Arthur a few times. So I've always had a non-obsessive interest in firearms which, perforce, living in Inglistan, must remain entirely theoretical!

The ammo in question.
I had examples of many types from .22 lr up to 20 mm cannon shells - I have an amusing story about the latter which, if encouraged, I could recount: I think the Statute of Limitations probably protects me... But the strangest of all was a handful of 45 revolver shells. There were two types, one a type of shotgun shell with a brass case but a green and black checkered cardboard upper in place of a solid round. This contained small sized  birdshot.

The other 45 shells were also regular 45s of the size used in British Army Webley issue revolvers. However they had an unjacketed lead round with a CONCAVE profile. It appeared to me to be a dum-dum round. Which I understood to have been made illegal under the Geneva Convention.  For the past 60 years or so I've always wondered about these rounds. Maybe someone can clear up the mystery for me.

My mother threw all this stuff away when I went to University. Probably just as well on reflection. At the time I was furious!


  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,748 Senior Member
    The US military loaded a 45cal / 45acp shot shell. I believe for aircraft pilots and crews. I don't know, but I suppose the RAF may have also loaded a similar round.

    GB loaded a lead 45cal bullet for the Webley with a cavernous hollow cavity. I think it weighed 200grs and was called the "man stopper." They were prior to WWI and not in contention until later IIRC..
  • ORoyORoy Posts: 2 New Member
    Thanks - at least that confirms that I'm not dreaming.
    Well, that "cavernous hollow cavity" certainly describes the round in question. It was a hemispherical depression in the nose of the round and to the full width. But pre-WW1? I can't recall where I got these particular bullets but I'm sure both types came from the same source and as far as I can recall (ie. vaguely) both had the same manufacturer's markings on the shell case around the percussion cap. Also, the cardboard bird-shot round was in pretty much identical condition so I always had the feeling that they were from the same era.
    A quick check indicates that expanding bullets of less than 400 g were actually prohibited under the The Hague Convention of 1899. To my mind this  makes the mystery even deeper since these rounds probably came from the Battle of Britain airfield I mentioned.
    As an aside, I collected (and fired) plenty of .22 bullets - I believe they were designated "high velocity" - which also had a drilled round. Why would these be an exception to that prohibition?
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,748 Senior Member
    I can't recall the exact deal on those man stopper bullets. You can google them and compare the image. Might not be what you had.

    Supplies, weapons, and just about everything was very difficult to get during both wars. It would not be uncommon for people to aquire and use what ever they could get their hands on. In particular, the trenches were a place that soldiers wanted handguns. They didn't necessarily have the luxury of being issued one or making sure of what they got.

    Extremely difficult times for very ingenious and resourceful people.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,629 Senior Member
    The term "Dum Dum" is somewhat problematic...it could be applied to any ammunition produced at the Dum Dum Arsenal in India...

    There is a lot of firearm mythology surrounding the supposed "dum dum" bullets
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,761 Senior Member
    Time for me to get my Webley nerd hat on.

    The .455 MKI was a longer case than pictured above, was loaded with black powder, and fired a 265 grain hollow-based bullet, nearly identical to those pictured above.

    The MKII above with the 1917 production MKVI revolver shortened the case when the propellant was switched from black powder to cordite, and later, various smokeless powders.

    The MKIII "Manstopper" was a hollow-based, hollow-pointed bullet of 218 grains.  You were really fortunate to have one of those, as they were introduced and nearly immediately withdrawn due to that pesky Hague Convention, that says it's OK to shred people with artillery, or barbecue them with incendiaries, but Lord help you if you shoot them with a soft lump of lead. . .

    The MKIV looked pretty much exactly. . .LIKE THIS!

    This was a 220 grain hollow base flat nose dabbled with from about 1912 to start of hostilities in 1914.  While not as inherently vicious-looking as the MKIII, it too ran into Hague Political Correctness issues.  The MKV was the same bullet of a harder alloy.

    MKVI was the 265 grain, WWII-era FMJ version of the MKII.

    Thanks to Miha Prevec of MP Molds out of Slovenia for the excellent molds used to cast both the MKII and MKIV's:

    Unfortunately, it is not practically possible to cast a MKIII with it's double hollow ends.  You need swaging equipment for that, and that's a level of expense I'm not prepared for.

    As I understand it "Dum Dums" were more of a rifle thing - again of the pre-Hague era.  I find it funny that the Brits went from shooting things like .577 Snider and .577/.450 Martini-Henry with BIG soft lead bullets and it being seen as a perfectly acceptable tool of warfare to the world loosing their **** at the thought of a soft-pointed .303.  Insert eye-roll imoge here. 

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,748 Senior Member
    A kinder, gentler machine gun hand......
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,761 Senior Member
    More on the timing of the MKIII Manstopper. . .

    The round was introduced in 1898, the Hague laid down the prohibitions in 1899, and the official withdraw from military service was 1900.  Whether the MKIII got any extended production for civilian and police use, I can't say, but odds are it never had much chance to see extensive use.  Most of the actual "Manstopping" with the .455 Webley would have been done with WWI-era production MKII rounds that were softened from the usual 12/1 lead/tin ratio to nearly pure lead due to greater wartime need for the tin elsewhere.

    The MKII is a fairly impressive penetrator for it's sub-700fps velocity.  Modern police hollowpoints penetrate 3-4 1 gallon milk jugs filled with water.  The MKII is typically good for about 7 and the MKIV about 4.  I've always been curious about the MKIII because, on the one hand, it's a soft lead slug with a gaping front cavity; but on the other, the velocities on .455 rounds are so low, I'm a bit dubious of their ability to expand consistently.  Given the rarity and/or difficulty to reproduce, if I ever get my hands on any, I'll forgo the jugs and arrange for actual FBI-spec ballistics gel.

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • FreezerFreezer Senior Member Posts: 2,100 Senior Member
    Thanks guys this is info I love to read, Real history to research!
    I like Elmer Keith; I married his daughter :wink:
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 22,224 Senior Member
    Slug, even if it doesn't expand, you still have a near 0.5" "mesplat" with that flat nosed HP
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.

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