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7.62mm NATO Ball & Short Range

The first British examples of the new 7.62mm NATO round were produced by ROF Radway Green in late 1953. These were unheadstamped with a purple primer annulus although it is possible that some were manufactured by ICI Kynoch.

The second lot that were produced in late 1953 bore only the headstamp "RG  53", followed by "RG  54" early the next year..
 
                      Early ROF Radway Green production, unheadstamped, "RG  53", "RG  54".

Ball L2A1

Once the case design was finalised, the new round was approved to design D6/L/1277/E/88 as "Round 7.62mm Ball L2A1" in February 1954. It was shown in Lists of Changes Paragraph C.6324 dated 30 November 1954.

It was found that the web at the case head was too weak causing separated cases when fired in Bren guns and a strengthened case was approved a year later.

The case was Berdan primed with a purple primer annulus. The headstamp changed several times during the short life of the round  and examples are shown below.

The bullet was boattailed with a gilding metal envelope and a 90/10 lead antimony core. Weight was 144 grains (9.33 grams)

The propellant was 44 grains (2.85 grams) of NRN nitrocellulose.

Velocity at 90 feet was 2,770 +_ 40 fps and pressure was between 20.5 and 21.5 tsi. (844 metres per second at 3166/3321 bars pressure)

                    L2A1 headstamps: "RG  54", "RG 54  7.62 A1", "RG 55  7.62 A1", "RG 55  7.62 L2A1".


Some L2A1 rounds were issued in an experimental "Horseshoe" shaped charger that held eight rounds.
             
                                          
Left: Label for 32 round box of L2A1. Right: Label for eight round packet in Horse shoe charger. 

Apart from the question of the strength of the head of the L2A1 case there was also a problem of accuracy when fired in part worn and hot barrels made by FN in Belgium to NATO specification. The problem also occurred in FN made MAG machine guns when Britain adopted the weapon as the General Purpose Machine Gun. Whilst the problem with Bren guns was solved by increasing the case strength, the latter problems were eventually overcome by manufacturing British barrels with a reduced bore diameter of .296 inch (7.52mm) rather than the .300 inch (7.62mm) used by Belgium.

A great deal of experimentation took place in the 1953-54 period to find an improved ball bullet, including mild steel cores, two piece cores and different diameter bullets. Flat based rather than boattailed bullets were also produced.

These are shown on the 7.62mm NATO Experimental page.

Ball L2A2

"Round 7.62mm Ball L2A2" was approved in September 1955 and shown in Lists of Changes Paragraph C.7609 dated October 1956. However, it is known that production at ICI Kynoch started as early as February 1955.

The case was externally of the same dimensions as the L2A1 but with a strengthened web at the head. It had a Berdan primer with a purple annulus and, like the L2A1, the headstamp changed over time. Early Radway Green production included "7.62  L2A2" whilst Kynoch used "7.62 A.2.".  From 1957 RG omitted the calibre and included the NATO symbol of a cross within a circle, with Kynoch following a year later.

From 1976 RG adopted a universal case without any "L" designation that could be used for both ball and tracer but in 1994 under instruction from the MOD they reverted to the old four position headstamp including the "L" type.Examples are shown below.

The bullet was that of the L2A1, weighing 144 grains (9.33 grams)

The propellant was about 44 grains (2.85 grams) of ICI NRN nitrocellulose.

Early production had an observed velocity at 90 feet of 2,660 fps but this was later increased to 2,700 +- 30 fps (823+-9 mps) at 90 feet. 

Maximum chamber pressure was 22.3 tsi (3444 bar)

       

In the mid 1960s some L2A2 ammunition was manufactured with the case and bullet chemically blackened. These were produced to prevent reflections from sunlight in GPMG belts worn across the chest in bandolier fashion by troops operating in the South Arabian peninsular.

In several years (at least 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1992) L2A2 ammunition was manufactured by Hirtenberger in Austria headstamped as British L2A2 complete with "RG" marking. These can easily be identified by the different, heavier font used in the headstamp.

An L2A2 round made to higher tolerances and accuracy was introduced as "Green Spot" ammunition for snipers and match shooting. The NATO symbol for normal ball ammunition is a black spot and this ammunition derived its name from the green spot that was used instead on packaging. Radway Green also sold this ammunition commercially for civilian target shooters. Other match ammunition is described below.

Left: Chemically blackened L2A2.


   
     
    

Left: Military packaging of Green Spot ammunitions.  Right: Commercial packaging.  


"Round 7.62mm Ball L2A3" was as the L2A2 but with an RG modified cap composition. It was approved to design P3/18072/GF/377.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L2A4" was approved to design DD/E/24717/GF/377 in 1970. It used ball powder instead of NRN but was otherwise as the L2A2. First use was in 1964 and occasional loads continued until about 1975.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L2A5" was only issued in very small quantities. It is presumed that this round used either a different powder or primer.

A considerable number of different ball rounds were approved, most basically contract made versions of the L2A2, although some were only allocated "L" numbers and never actually produced for British service.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L11A1" was approved in 1967 and was made by Raufoss in Norway. It included "L11A1" in the headstamp and was made in both 1967 and 1968. it is believed the total quantity ordered was about 10 million rounds..

"Round 7.62mm Ball L15A1" was made by Hirtenberger in Austria but was not specially headstamped.. It included the date, NATO symbol and the manufacturer "HP".

"Round 7.62mm Ball L16A1" was made by Raufoss in Norway but was not specially headstamped. The headstamp included the letters "RA" together with the date and lot number.


The following four "L" numbers were allocated to various European producers but no production is believed to have taken place.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L17A1" allocated to FFV, Sweden

"Round 7.62mm Ball L18A1" allocated to Hirtenberger, Austria

"Round 7.62mm Ball L19A1" allocated to SFM, France

"Round 7.62mm Ball L20A1" allocated to FN, Belgium

"Round 7.62mm Ball L21A1" was made by FNM, Portugal in 1990 and 1991 and had a slightly heavier 145 grain (9.43 gram) bullet. The headstamp included the date and lot number together with the manufacturers "FNM"

"Round 7.62mm Ball L22A1" was allocated to Raufoss, Norway but no production is believed to have taken place.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L30A1" was allocated to MEN, Germany but no production is believed to have taken place.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L37A1" was made by FNM, Portugal and was alleged of sniper/match quality. It was found to be of poor quality and soon withdrawn. It was generally similar to L2A2 but had a GMCS envelope and a 145 grain (9.43 gram) bullet. It included "L37A1" in the headstamp and the manufacturer "FNM".

"Round 7.62mm Ball L38A1" was made by RG only in 1997 and included "L38A1" in the headstamp.. It was sniper/match grade ammunition and had a 144 grain (9.33 gram) bullet. It was similar to the L2A2 "Green Spot" round but made to higher tolerances.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L40A1" is described as "High performance semi-armour piercing. Made by RG, it has been type approved but none is believed to have been ordered by the MOD.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L42A1" is sniper/match ammunition made by RG. It uses a 155 grain (10.04 gram) bullet and used propellant from Muiden in Holland and caps from ROF Chorley.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L42A2" differs from the L42A1 by using Swiss propellant.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L42A3" differs from the L42A2 by using Swiss propellant and caps made by RUAG in Switzerland as ROF Chorley had ceased making caps.

"Round 7.62mm Ball L44A1" is manufactured by RG and is the current issue operational ball round. It included "L44A1" in the headstamp.
L44A1 label

"Round 7.62mm Ball L46A1" is made by CBC, Brazil and is used mainly for training. It included "L46A1" in the headstamp and the manufacturer "CBC"
Outer label for L46A1 linked for GPMG

"Round 7.62mm Ball L52A1" is believed to be sniper grade ammunition but no further details ar known

"Round 7.62mm Ball L57A1". is manufactured by MEN, Germany. It has a green primer annulus and includes "L57A1" in the headstamp.

In addition to the above, at various times the MOD have purchased 7.62mm ammunition "off the shelf" from different European manufacturers without allocating "L" numbers but giving them QV drawing numbers. These numbers were lower and different to ammunition from the same manufacturers that was given "L" numbers.

"Round 7.62mm Ball SS.77"                        from FN, Belgium
"Round 7.62mm Ball NM.60"                       from Raufoss, Norway
"Round 7.62mm Ball"                                    from FN< Belgium
"Round 7.62mm Ball"                                    from Raufoss. Norway
"Round 7.62mm Ball"                                    from DAG,Germany
"Round 7.62mm Ball"                                    from MEN, Germany
"Round 7.62mm Ball M.963"                        from FNM, Portugal
"Round 7.62mm Ball M.80"                          from OFV, India
"Round 7.62mm Ball Sniper 185 grain"    from Lapua. Finland

    
    
                                     Two labels from Indian OFV M80 ball ammunition.

Short Range Ball
There had long been a requirement for a short range training round for use on ranges with a reduced danger space. Trials had been carried out in 1965 with an FN round which utilised a short bullet with a plastic core and four plastic tails which splayed outwards in flight slowing the bullet and reducing the range. These proved to be inaccurate and were rejected.

Later in 1967 further trials were conducted with German short range ammunition made by Dynamit Nobel with bullets made with a brass rear section and a plastic forward ogive. Three types were tried with velocities of 695, 670 and 620 metres per second (2280, 2198 and 2034 fps) but were not considered to give any great advantage over normal ball. 

By the late 1960 Dynamit Nobel had developed a new short range round made of white plastic with an integral bullet and an aluminium case head. These were tested successfully in Britain and adopted for service

"Round 7.62mm Training, Short Range L14A1" was approved for service in 1973 to Dynamit Nobel design 959/682/42/E and given British drawing reference QV51GF.

It should be pointed out that there is also a 7.62mm blank with the L14A1 title but this is not an error. Because the blank does not have a bullet it is "Cartridge 7.62mm Blank L14A1" whilst the short range round does have a bullet and is therefore "Round  7.62mm...L14A1"

The round consists of a polythene moulded case and bullet with an aluminium head pressed into the base of the case. The bullet is solid with a fracture join between the case neck and the bullet which breaks when the round is fired.

The bullet weighs 0.71g (11 grains) and the propellant weighs 0.68g (10.5 grains) to give a velocity of 1100 metres per second (3608 fps).












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