Printer Friendly


Editor's note: This little history lessons from J.D. has nothing to do with handgun hunting--but, like most things from J.D., is interesting nontheless.

"Cordite hung in the air." was a statement in a recent national LE magazine (not ours, by the way!). I instantly had visions of strings of cordite of varying sizes, floating effortless in the air as the result of someone having invented new anti-gravity material. For many decades authors of dramatic prose used the statement, "The smell of cordite hung heavy in the room," or some such nonsense when referring to the odor of gunfire or an explosion.

Cordite was one of the first smokeless powders and became the powder used in the .303 British in 1891 and continued to be used until into the 1950s when the .303 was phased out of military service in Great Brittan. It's highly unlikely many modern authors have ever smelled real burned cordite. I can't find any reference of cordite ever being used as propellant in US manufactured ammo. When you read those "cordite" statements, be aware the author in all likelihood is suspect in his conclusions.

Over the years the chemical composition of Cordite (58 percent nitroglycerine; 37 percent nitrocellulose; 5 percent mineral jelly) was only changed slightly, and its physical appearance very little. It was mainly manufactured in extruded strings or cords chopped to a certain length for loading. For example 5/12 Cordite was .05" in diameter and 12" long. It has also been shaved into flakes, pressed into ribbons and sliced. It was also used in some cannons as a propellant, and occasionally in pistol ammunition such as the .455 Webly.

Mark I cordite was the first version and used extensively. It did have a severe drawback in generating excessive heat, which caused excessive barrel wear. This in turn led to two significant developments. Cordite MD, which was easier on barrels, and the development of hollow-based ball ammunition which expands to fit the particular barrel it's being fired in. This works, and is also found in 7.62 Russian ball ammo.


COPYRIGHT 2008 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Jones, J.D.
Publication:American Handgunner
Date:May 1, 2008
Previous Article:Remembering Nyle: Nyle Leatham, innovative photographer and writer for American Handgunner for many years, died on November 23, 2007.
Next Article:Weird loading.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters