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Military rifle cartridges of the Sudan from the Khartoum to Darfur.

The modern history of the African nation Sudan began in 1820 when Ottoman forces from Egypt conquered the northern portion of the region, seeking to gain control of the ivory and slave trades that prospered in the area. Although Egypt claimed all of the Sudan and established the province of Equatoria in southern Sudan to further this aim, it was unable to establish effective control over the area, which remained an area of fragmented tribes subject to frequent attacks by slave raiders.


In the late 19th century, British missionaries traveled from what is now Kenya into the Sudan to convert the local tribes to Christianity. During the 1870s, European initiatives against the slave trade caused an economic crisis in southern Sudan, precipitating the rise of Mahdist forces.

In 1881, a religious leader named Muhammad ibn Abdalla proclaimed himself the Mahdi ("guided one") and unified the tribes in western and central Sudan. Taking advantage of conditions resulting from Ottoman-Egyptian exploitation and maladministration, the Mahdi led a nationalist revolt culminating in the fall of the capital Khartoum on 26 January 1885. The governor-general of the Sudan, the British Major-General Charles George Gordon, the garrison and many of the inhabitants of the city were massacred.

During the fighting the Madhists captured large numbers of Remington Rolling Block rifles from the Egyptians. They also obtained considerable numbers of Snider-Enfields from various sources, including the infamous gun runners of the day.

* 11mm Egyptian--the Rolling Block rifles were chambered for the ".43 Egyptian Remington," which used a rimmed, bottlenecked case 50mm in length whose paper-patched 400-grain lead bullet was propelled to 1330 fps by 75 grains of blackpowder.

* 577 Snider--the Cartridge S.A. Ball B.L. Snider Mark I used a case made up of overlapping, flat brass strips and was encased in a brown heavy paper tube for additional strength and protection. Attached to this was a drawn brass base cup with an iron rim and a centerfire primer. Its 480-grain hollow-based bullet had a hollow point that was filled with a wooden plug, while a clay plug in the hollow base assured that the bullet expanded upon firing to engage the rifling. Seventy grains of blackpowder produced a muzzle velocity of approximately 1200 fps.

The Mahdi died in June 1885 and was succeed by Khalifa Abdullah, who began an expansion of Sudanese power into Abyssinia (Ethiopia). During these campaigns, the Mahdists captured large numbers of Italian Mo. 1870 Vetteri rifles and carbines that the Abyssinians had obtained--by capture and trade--from the Italians.

* 10.35mm Cartucce a Pallottola Mo. 70--the Vetterli's cartridge consisted of rimmed, bottlenecked case 47mm long with a 313-grain round-nosed, lead bullet backed by 62 grains of blackpowder. Muzzle velocity was approximately 1400 fps.

At the Battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898, a British/Egyptian army commanded by the British Gen. Sir Herbert Kitchener defeated the army of Khalifa Abdullah, demonstrating of the superiority of a highly disciplined European-led troops equipped with modern rifles and artillery over tribesmen with older weapons.

As they did in all their colonies, the British made wide use of locally raised troops known as askaris. Sudanese askaris were originally armed with Egyptian Rolling Block rifles, but during and after the Omdurman campaign, these were replaced with Martini-Henry rifles that would remain in service in the Sudan well into the first quarter of the 20th century.

* .450 Martini--the Martini-Henry was chambered for the Cartridge S.A. Ball for B.L. Martini-Henry which used bottlenecked, Boxer-type cartridge with a coiled brass body attached to a rimmed, brass base, topped with a 480-grain paper-patched bullet that was driven to 1350 fps by 85 grains of blackpowder.


Sudanese askaris became known for their discipline, loyalty and bravery and were much sought after by the colonial powers. Besides Great Britain, the French, Germans and Belgians all hired them to serve in their African colonies.

From 1898, Britain and Egypt shared the administration of the Sudan with the northern and southern regions administered as separate colonies. The cultures of the two regions differed with that of the north--under Egyptian control--being primarily Arabic and Muslim, while under British control, in the south, African tribal society still predominated, Christianity was widespread and English became the language of government.

In the early 20th century, the British began rearming some of the more "reliable" units of their native forces in India and Africa with "Long" Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles.

* .303 Mark VI--adopted in 1904, the Mark VI used a rimmed, bottlenecked case 56mm in length topped with a 215-grain FMJ bullet that 32.5-grain charge of Cordite drove to a velocity of 2050 fps.

In the aftermath of the Great War, the British embarked upon a program to reequip all their native forces in India and Africa with the standard No. 1 Mk. III rifle.

* .303 Mark VII--this round was approved for service in 1910. It was loaded with a 174-grain FMJ, flat-based, spitzer bullet which 37-grain of Improved Cordite drove to a velocity of 2440 fps.

In 1925, the various regional askari units were reorganized into the Sudan Defense Force (SDF) under British officers. The Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1936 led to an increase in the force and by June 1940 the SDF comprised 21 companies, with troops of both Arab and African ethnicity, totaling 4,500 men. During World War II, the SDF served with British forces in the East African and North African campaigns.

In 1946, the British colonial authority integrated north and south Sudan under one government. Many southerners felt betrayed, because they were largely excluded from the new government. The language of the new government was Arabic, but the bureaucrats and politicians from southern Sudan had, for the most part, been trained in English. Of the 800 new governmental positions vacated by the British in 1953, only four were given to southerners.

In the postwar years, the British supplied the Sudanese with numbers of No. 4 Mk. I* Lee-Enfield rifles.

Sudan achieved independence on 1 January 1956, however, the Arab-led Khartoum government reneged on promises to southerners to create a federal system, which led to a mutiny by southern army officers that sparked 17 years of civil war (1955-1972). In the early period of the war, hundreds of northern bureaucrats, teachers, and other officials serving in the south were massacred.


Between 1956 and 1969, Sudan had a series of civilian and military governments that proved unable either to agree on a permanent constitution or to cope with problems of factionalism, economic stagnation, and ethnic dissidence.

In the 1960s, the Sudanese army purchased a quantity of Armalite AR-10 rifles but these were replaced by the Heckler & Koch G3A3, which was adopted as standard issue.

* 7.62mmm NATO--the AR-10 and G3A3 were chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge which uses a rimless, bottlenecked case 51mm long and a 148-grain boattail, FMJ bullet at a velocity of 2750 fps.

The late 1970s saw the Sudanese government grow closer to the USSR. As a result large amounts of Soviet weaponry entered the country and by the 1980s, the primary rifle for the Sudanese army was the ubiquitous AKM, in addition to some SVD sniper rifles.

* 7.62mm Patron obr. 43g--the AKM series of rifles use a cartridge that consists of a rimless, bottlenecked case 39mm long with a 124-grain FMJ spitzer bullet that is propelled to approximately 2280 fps.

* 7.62mm patron PS--an updated version of the venerable 7.62x54R cartridge. It uses a 54mm rimmed, bottlenecked case, it was loaded with a 147-grain FMJ boattail spitzer bullet with a steel core surrounded by an envelope of lead (to ease the bullet's passage through the bore) inside a steel jacket plated with a copper/zinc alloy. Muzzle velocity was 2800 fps.

Sudan also received weapons from various eastern bloc countries, China and Egypt. These include numbers of the new Chinese Type 81 rifle.

In 1983 the north/south civil war broke out again following the government's intent to institute Islamic law nationwide. The fighting raged on until 2005 when a peace accord was agreed upon.

In February 2003 a revolt broke out in Darfur province when the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms, accusing the government of oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. One side was composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia recruited mostly from local nomad tribes The other side was made up the non-Arab Muslim Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit ethnic groups. Both sides have been accused of atrocities and the fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands, with many finding refuge in neighboring Chad.


This has led to the Sudanese government supporting Chadian rebels which has resulted a state of (low key) war between the two countries.

By Paul Scarlata * Photos by: Nathan Reynolds & James Walters
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:6SUDA
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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