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Military rifle cartridges of Israel from Hashomer to TAVOR.

While the modern nation of Israel was established in 1948, the area--once known as Palestine--had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1516 but since the 1890s had been attracting Jewish settlers from Europe and Russia.

Known as Zionists, these hardy souls purchased land and established farming communities (kibbutz) in an attempt to reestablish the Jewish homeland. Besides the difficulties of reclaiming arid lands for agriculture, they had to deal with raiding Bedouin tribesmen and unfriendly Arab neighbors Corrupt Ottoman officials did little or nothing to provide security, so the settlers began taking matters into their own hands At first they hired local Arab or Druze warriors, although eventually these guard units were formed from the settlers themselves.

Known as Hashomer (the Watchman), they were armed with a miscellany of small arms, some of which were obtained locally while others were brought in, often clandestinely. from Europe. Among the long arms used were Turkish and British Martinis, Steyr-made Gras and Italian Vetterli rifles and carbines supplemented with Mausers purchased from less than honest Turkish officials and army personnel.

In 1874 the Ottoman Turks ordered 600,000 Martini rifles from the Providence Tool Company of Rhode Island. They were widely distributed over the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans.

* 11.4x55R Turkish Martini--the Turkish 11.4x55R cartridge utilized a 55mm rimmed, bottlenecked case whose 465-grain paper-patched, lead bullet was driven to 1280 feet per second (fps) by 80-grain of blackpowder.

* .450 Martini--by the 1880s, the various models of the British Martini-Henry rifle were widely distributed in the Middle East. They were chambered for a bottlenecked cartridge with a coiled brass body 58.4mm long, attached to an iron or brass base, with a 480-grain paper-patched bullet driven to 1350 fps by 85 grains of blackpowder.

* 11mm Cartouche a Salle Ordinaire Modele 1874--Zionist groups in Europe sent the settlers Steyr-made Fusil d'Infanterie Mle. 1874 ("Gras") rifles and carbines which were chambered for a rimmed, bottlenecked cartridge with a case 59mm in length containing an 81-grain charge of blackpowder with a 387-grain paper-patched, lead bullet at a velocity of 1490 fps.

Italian Fucile di Fanteria Mo. 1870 (Vetterli) were common around the Mediterranean and were used by the Hashomer.

* 10.35mm Cartuccia a Pallottola Mo. 70 & Mo. 90--the Vetterli's cartridge consisted of rimmed, bottlenecked case 47mm long loaded with a 313-grain round-nosed, lead bullet which 62-grains of blackpowder propelled to approximately 1400 fps. The Mo. 90 used the same case but was loaded smokeless powder and a 313-grain full metal-jacketed (FMJ) bullet moving at 1900 fps.

Advances in small arms design led to the Ottoman army adopting a series of repeating rifles developed by Waffenfabrik Mauser. By various means--fair and foul--Jewish settlers obtained numbers of these.

* 9.5mm Kartusu 1887--the Turkish Tiifek 1887 was a bolt-action design with an eight-round tubular magazine in the forearm, chambered for the 9.5x60R cartridge. This consisted of a rimmed, bottlenecked case, 60mm long with a paper-patched. 285-grain flat-nosed lead bullet that 70 grains of blackpowder pushed to a velocity of 1760 fps. Only limited numbers of M1887 rifles were obtained by the Zionists.

* 7.65mm Kartusu 1890 & 1910--with the advent of the smallbore, smokeless powder military rifle, the Turks quickly ordered Tiifekli 1890, 1893, and 1903 Mausers chambered for a cartridge with a rimless. bottlenecked case 53mm long, loaded with a 211-grain round-nosed, FMJ bullet at a velocity of 2132 fps. In 1910 Turkey adopted an improved loading with a 154-grain FMJ, spitzer bullet moving at 2755 fps.

In 1914 the Ottomans expelled most of the Zionist settlers to Egypt, where the British army formed volunteers into a transport unit that served with distinction in the Gallipoli campaign. In 1917 additional volunteers from Palestine, the USA, England and Russia were organized into the 38th. 39th and 40th (Jewish) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, also known as the Jewish Legion. The Legion served with British forces and took part in the conquest of Palestine from the Turks. The unit was disbanded after the war and many of its veterans choose to settle in Palestine where they were instrumental in organizing the Haganah (see below).

After Turkey's defeat in World War I, the League of Nations transferred Palestine to British control. Arab/Jewish tensions increased, leading to the creation of a Jewish militia known as the Haganah. It eventually encompassed most of the youth and adults in the settlements and initiated training programs and officers' schools. Clandegine arms depots were created in which small arms obtained locally, and from Europe, were stored.

In order to placate Arab feelings, the British attempted to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine, but by 1939 more than 360,000 European and Russian Jews had arrived in the region. In order to discourage Arab attacks on Jewish settlements, the Haganah created commando-like units--the Palmach--that launched pre-emptive strikes into Arab territory.

Despite the disapproval of London, during the Arab Revolt (1936-1939) sympathetic local British commanders supplied the Haganah with No. 1 Mk. III* Lee-Enfield and P/14 rifles, and British small arms soon predominated in the Jewish settlers' armories. The British also established an all- Jewish paramilitary police force, the Notrim, to protect Jewish settlements and communities.

* .303 Mark WI--the Lee-Enfield's cartridge consisted of a rimmed, 56mm bottlenecked case loaded with a 174-grain FMJ spitzer bullet and 37 grains of Modified Cordite, which produced a velocity of 2440 fps. The Mark VII would remain standard issue with the Israeli army until the mid-1950s.

With the outbreak of World War II, thousands of Palestinian Jews volunteered for service with the British army. In September 1944, the War Office announced the formation of the Jewish Brigade Group of the British army in Egypt and the Zionist flag was officially approved as its standard.

More than 5,000 Jewish volunteers were organized into three infantry battalions of the Palestine Regiment. Many of these volunteers were members of the Haganah, who gained a great deal of experience they would later put to good use. During the war, some of the Brigade was reequipped with No. 4 Lee-Enfield rifles.

The Jewish Brigade saw extensive action on the Italian front. After the war, they searched for survivors of the concentration camps, provided them with aid, and assisted in their immigration to Palestine.

The horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people by Nazi Germany led to a postwar call for the establishment of a Jewish state and, despite British disapproval, Jewish refugees began pouring into Palestine. Not only did this reignite the Arab/Jewish conflict, but radical Jewish elements (the Stern Gang and the Irgun) began a terrorist campaign against the British with the aim of driving them out of Palestine and forcing the UN to recognize a Jewish state.

With the expectation of having to fight Arab forces once independence was achieved, the Haganah began smuggling large quantities of arms into Palestine. The postwar arms market was flooded with German. Czech and Belgian 98-type Mausers, and Israeli agents bought them up as fast as they could.

* 7.9min Patrone sS--in an ironic twist, the most common rifle used by the new state of Israel was the ex-German Kar. 98k Mauser chambered for the 7.9mm Patrone sS (schweres Spitzgeschoss--heavy pointed bullet") whose 57mm rimless, bottlenecked case had a 198-grain FMJ, boattail, spitzer bullet, moving at 2575 fps.

There were also large numbers of ex-Italian Mo. 1891 and Mo. 1938 Carcano moschetti (carbines) available in the region, and these were purchased for issue to kibbutz security personnel and reserves.

Cartuccia a Pallottola cal. 6.5--the new service cartridge utilized a rimless, bottlenecked case 52mm long loaded with a round-nosed 162-grain FMJ bullet moving at 2300 fps.

* Cartuccia a Pallottola cal. 7.35--utilized a .29 cal., 128-grain projectile at a velocity of 2485 fps. The oddly shaped bullet had an aluminum filler in the nose which caused it to tumble upon impact, inflicting considerable on-target damage.

* In 1948, the UN recognized the nation of Israel, and the fledgling state was immediately invaded by Arab armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. To the amazement of all, the Israelis defeated the invaders decisively and established the borders of their new nation. In 1949, Israel purchased an entire factory from Czecho-slovakia for producing Mauser rifles. Apparently this facility was only used to recondition weapons and (see below) re-barrel Mausers for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge.

In 1955, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began a program of replacing their collection of World War II rifles with the Belgian FN-FAL which were assembled in Israel with FN and locally produced parts.

* 7.62mm NATO--the FAL and heavy-barreled FALO were chambered for a round with a rimless, bottlenecked case 51mm long loaded with a 147-grain FMJ spitzer bullet traveling at a velocity of 2750 fps. The IDF also rebarreled large numbers of Mauser rifles for this cartridge for use by reserve units.

With the coming of the Cold War, most of the Arab nations aligned themselves with the Soviet Union while, in response. Israel became a firm ally of the United States. Additional conflicts with the Arabs in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982 saw the Israeli army emerge victorious time and again.

As a result of their victories against Arab armies, the IDF captured large quantities of AK-47 and AKM rifles. Many were issued to airborne units because they were compact--and proved more reliable than the FAL--and are still in service with Israeli Special Forces today.

* 7.62mm patron obr. 43--as manufactured by IM I this cartridge uses a rimless, bottlenecked brass case measuring 39mm in length whose 124-grain FMJ spitzer bullet achieves a velocity of 2280 fps.

The U.S. has provided Israel with large quantities of military equipment including MI Carbines and M14 rifles. The former were issued to security personnel at settlements and schools and are still in service today.

* .30 Carbine--used a tapered, rimless case 33mm long with a 110-grain round-nosed, FMJ bullet at a velocity of 1975 fps.

Founded to provide the nation with military weapons and equipment, Israel Military Industries (IMI) has become one of the world's leading suppliers of military products ranging from pistols to jet fighters. Their designers have developed a number of small arms including the Gaul ARM assault rifle, which was adopted by the IDF in 1972 and has been sold to more than 25 countries.

To supplement the Galil, in the late 1970s the IDF began purchasing M16 rifles from the USA, while additional numbers were provided as American military aid. The Israelis also purchased large numbers of M4 Carbines, which replaced the Galil in most units.

* 5.56nun M193 & M885--at present the IDF uses both the 5.56tnm M193 cartridge with a 45mm rimless, bottlenecked case whose 55-grain FMJ spitzer bullet achieves a velocity of 3250 fps and the improved M855 with a 62-grain steel core bullet moving at 3100 fps.

In 2009 the IDF adopted the TAVOR (also known as the TAR-21), a bullpup style assault rifle designed by Israeli Weapons Industries (formerly IMI) and it is planned that it will replace all other 5.56mm rifles in IDF service.

My thanks to Lou Baling, David Stone, Brad Washa, Vince DiNardi. Doss White, John Wall. Astrid Vallati, Paul Ruffle, and for providing cartridges. photos, and information used to prepare this article.

By Paul Scarlata / Photos by James Walters
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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