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Military rifle cartridges of the Netherlands: from Sumatra to Afghanistan.

While it is not common knowledge nowadays (a result of our history- and geography-deprived educational system) at one time the Netherlands, or Holland as it is more commonly known, was one of the world's major colonial, mercantile and naval powers. After breaking away from Spanish Hapsburg rule, Dutch sailors, soldiers and merchants embarked upon a series of dynamic expeditions that led to the establishment of colonies in Africa, Asia, India and the Pacific.

Amsterdam became the primary European port of entry for the Far Eastern spice trade, and vast wealth flowed into the small, previously poverty-stricken nation.

In 1602 the Vereenigde Oostindische Compangnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) was created to control the lucrative trade from the Indies. The VOC's fleet captured the Portuguese enclaves in the Moluccas Islands, establishing a Dutch presence in the region. A peace treaty signed with Spain, which controlled Portugal at the time, in 1609 turned over a number of other Portuguese possessions in the region to the United Provinces (as the Netherlands was then known).

The remainder of the 17th century saw VOC power expand throughout the region as it established trading posts on Bali, Borneo, Celebes, Ceylon. India, Java, Malacca, Timor, Sumatra, the Persian Gulf and as far away as Taiwan. A colony was established on the southern tip of Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope, to serve as a provisioning station for their ships in transit to and from the Indies.

The present day Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed by the victorious allied powers in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars from the defunct French-backed "Batavian Republic." In 1830, by royal decree, the Koninlijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (Royal Dutch East Indies Army or KNIL) was established to protect, police--and expand--their East Indian colonies. It was completely separate from the regular forces, the Koninlijk Landmacht and the Koninklijke Marine (Dutch Royal Navy). (1)

In the best traditions of interservice rivalry, these three organizations tended to adopt weapons that they felt best suited their needs. To maintain some degree of standardization, they were required to use the same ammunition.

In Dutch military nomenclature, ball cartridges were designated "scherpe patroon" (loaded cartridge)--plural tronen"--followed by a number, usually with no indication whatsoever of the caliber or weapon it was intended for. The navy and KNIL often used different designations.

In 1866 the Landmacht adopted its first breechloading, metallic cartridge rifle, the Geweer groot Kaliber. These were rifled muskets that had been converted to breechloaders by means of a Snider-type breech mechanism. The navy, Corps Mariniers (Marines) and some units of the KNIL were issued a similar, but shorter, rifle known as the Marinebus M.64/67. (2)

* Scherpe patroon No. 7--the Dutch Snider conversions were chambered a 17.5mm centerfire cartridge that used a rimmed copper case loaded with 77.5 grains of blackpowder and a 403-grain Minie ball type projectile. (3)

In 1871 the Dutch army adopted a single-shot bolt-action rifle designed by Eduard de Beaumont, the Infan-terij-Geweer M.71. Two years later the KNIL and navy adopted the Beaumont--suitably modified of course--as the Geweer M.73 (NIL) and Marine-Geweer M.73

* Scherpe patroon No. 8--the original Beaumont cartridge, to use its modern designation, the 1 1 x51R, consisted of a bottlenecked case 51mm in length with a 336-grain lead bullet that 58 grains of blackpowder pushed to 1378 fps. (4)

The Beaumont rifle used an unusual bolt with a V-shaped mainspring located inside the hollow bolt handle. Because the bolt handle could not be turned down, it was impossible to make a compact carbine. So, beginning in 1873, the Dutch army and KNIL ordered quantities of Remington Rolling Block carbines from Fabrique d'armes Emile et Leon Nagant in Liege, Belgium.

* Scherpe patroon No. 9--the Dutch Rolling Block carbines used a rimmed, straight-walled case 45mm long with a 318-grain lead bullet backed by 46.5 grains of blackpowder for a muzzle velocity of approximately 1300 fps.

In 1879, it was decided to upgrade the Beaumont with a more powerful cartridge. Needless to say, the KNIL and navy did not approve the new cartridge until 1881.

* Scherpe patroon No. 2--considerable controversy surrounds this cartridge because, while everyone agrees that it used a 345-grain lead bullet- and 60-grain charge of blackpowder for a muzzle velocity of 1476 fps, some sources state the case was 51mm in length, while others insist it was 1.5mm longer. But the No. 2's case and bullet had slightly smaller diameters then the No. 8, and while it will chamber in rifles made for the earlier round, the reverse is not always true.

As was every other army on the planet, by 1890 the Dutch were searching for smallbore, smokeless powder rifles to re-equip their troops. After trials that included the Krag-Jorgensen, Lebel. Lee-Enfield, Mauser, Parabellum and other lesser-known weapons, it was decided that one of Mannficher's clip-loaded rifles best suited their needs. In 1895, the Dutch army adopted a modified Romanian pattern Mannlicher as the Geweer M.95 Landmacht (naturally the Geweer M.95 Marine and Geweer M.95 KNIL differed slightly).

* Scherpe patroon No. 1--better known as the 6.5x5.3R Mannlicher, it used a rimmed, bottlenecked case 53.5mm long with a 159-grain round-nosed, full metal-jacketed bullet at a velocity of 2430 fps. The Dutch never upgraded this cartridge with a spitzer bullet, and the No. I loading remained in use for the service life of their Mannlichers.

An order for rifles and carbines was placed with Osterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellschaft of Steyr, Austria and local production began at the Dutch state arsenal, Hembrug Artillerie-Inrichtingen in 1901.

The Netherlands managed to stay out of World War I, but when the world went crazy again in 1939, the kingdom's days of neutrality were numbered.

On May 10, 1940 the country was invaded by the German Wehrmacht and the Dutch government capitulated five days later after the terror bombing of the port of Rotterdam. Queen Wilhelmina, the royal family and the government were evacuated to Great Britain. The Germans issued large numbers of captured Dutch weapons to their occupation forces, while FN and a factory in Austria manufactured the Scherpe Patroon No. 1 with steel cases for the Germans.

With their source of supply cut off, authorities on the Dutch East Indies looked to the Allies for equipment to resist the expected Japanese invasion. In 1941, the Dutch government in exile placed an order for 60,000 Johnson Semiautomatic Rifles.

Known in Dutch service as the Johnson Zelf Lading Geweer M.1941, less than half of the rifles had been delivered betbre the Dutch East Indies fell to Japanese forces in 1942. Others, en route to the East Indies, were diverted to Australia and were used to equip Dutch and KNIL forces who had escaped from the Japanese.

* Scherpe patroon No. 10--better known as the Cartridge Ball, Cal. .30 M2, the Johnson rifle fired the standard U.S. rifle cartridge with a rimless bottlenecked case 2.494 inches (63mm) long topped with a 150-grain FAT, spitzer bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2800 fps. (5)

The desperate KNIL also obtained Mo. 1891 Mannlichcr-Carca-no rifles and Breda Mo. 1930 light machine guns from the British, who had captured them during their Campaign to drive the Italians out of East Africa. It's not known how many of these ex-Italian weapons actually ever saw service against the Japanese invaders.

* Scherpe patroon No. 13--the Italian army's Cartucce a Paflot-tola cal. 6.5 utilized a'rimless, bottle necked case 52mm long loaded with a round nosed 162 grains FMI bullet moving at 2300 fps.

During World War II large numbers of Hollanders escaped to Great Britain, where they were used to form the Free Dutch Forces. They were equipped primarily with British pattern weaponry, including No. 1 and No. 4 Lee-Enfield rifles, while some KNIL units in Australia were armed with P/14 Enfield rifles.

* .303 Mark VH--consisted of a rimmed bottlenecked case 56mm long loaded with a 174-grain flat-based, spitzer type bullet and 37 grains of Modified Cordite, it produced a muzzle velocity of 2440 fps.

After World War II Dutch forces found themselves engaged in a savage guerilla war against Indonesian nationalists who wanted independence for the East Indian colonies. The Dutch were originally equipped with British small arms, 1411 in the 1950s the Land-macht, navy and Corps Mariners adopted the U.S. MI Garand as the Geweer Garand 7,62mm (army) and Geweer v/7,62 mm no. 2 S/aut (navy). U.S. MI Carbines (Karabijn 7,62nun MI) were obtained and proved very useful for the close range, jungle warfare that characterized the conflict.

* Scherpe patroon voor Winchesterkarabijn Kaliber .30 MI--the .30 Carbine utilized a 33mm rimless, tapered case loaded with a round nosed 110-grain FMJ bullet moving at 1970 fps.

To equip police units in the Netherlands (Rijkspolitie) and the East Indies, 7,92mm FN Mauser carbines, known as the Voorschrift Karabijn 98, were purchased from Fabrique Nationale.

* Scherpe patroon 7,92mm S--used the standard 57mm rimless, bottlenecked case as the "8mm Mauser" but to reduce recoil and muzzle flash in the short barreled carbine it was loaded with a 150-grain FMJ spitzer bullet at a reduced velocity. Some of these carbines were later converted to 7.62mm NATO (see below).

Around 1963, the Dutch government rearmed the Rijkspolitie with M1 Carbines, now known as the Politic Karabijn 7.62mm MI. About the same time the Landmacht and navy adopted the FN-FAL as the Geweer v/7,62 mm NATO FAL.

* Patroon 7,62x51mm--the FAL was chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, which consisted of a rimless, bottlenecked case 51mm long and a 148-grain boattail FMJ bullet at a velocity of 2750 fps.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the Dutch armed forces replaced their FALs with the Canadian-made Diemaco C7, a licensed copy of the Colt MI6. These include a rifle, the Geweer C7; six different variations of the Karabijn C8; and a SAW, the Geweer LOAW

* Patroon 5.56mmx45--Dutch issue ammo is the FN-designed 5.56mm SS109 with 45mm rimless, bottlenecked case loaded with a 62-grain FMJ bullet that achieves 3000 fps.

Since the late 1970s the Landrnacht and Corps Marechaussee have been involved in UN and NATO peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Cambodia, Haiti, Cyprus, Eritrea, Chad and Ethiopia. More recently they have seen service in Iraq (2003-2005) and Afghanistan (2002-2010).

Recently the Landmacht's Commandotroepen (special forces) have obtained numbers of Heckler & Koch HK416 (5.56mm) and HK417 (7.62mm) rifles for issue to designated marksmen.

I would like to thank Lou Behling, Mike Boccaccio, Mathieu Williemsen, Bas Martens, Gus de Vries, Gerben Klein Baltink, Garry James, Bruce Canfield, Bill Woodin and John Wall for supplying photos and information used to prepare this article.

(1.) Both the Landmacht and the KNIL maintained units of Corps Marechaussee, para-military gendarmes.

(2.) The KNIL called the Marinebus the Geweer, achterlaad, groot kaliber No, 1 ("Large caliber. breech loading rifle. Number I")

(3.) The KNIL called this cartridge the "scheme nautical tot achterlaadgeweer, groot caliber."

(4.) The KNIL referred to the cartridge as the "scherpe patroon ot achterlaadgewcer. klein caliber."

(5.) Post-WWII .30 M2 ammunition was referred to as the Scheme Patroon .30 MI.
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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