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Military History/Question about a very large bullet


Bullet 1
Bullet 1  

Bullet top
Bullet top  
I was hoping you could answer a question for me. Someone I know found this bullet head and wasn't sure of any info about this item, including if it can potentaly still be live. I attached three images so I hope that helps. It weighs over 10 pounds and is 11 inches tall and about 3 inches wide.

Thank You
Best Regards


First, it isn't a bullet.  It is a projectile.  Bullets are fired from firearms, rifles, pistols etc.  What  you have is an artillery projectile.

It looks to be a 75mm projectile (approx 2.9") in diameter.  I might be German, French or British.  They all used this caliber projectile in WWI and WWII.  I lean toward WWI but not knowing more about where it might have been found limits what I can deduce.

The band down near the base is the driving band that would engage the rifling of the barrel of the field gun it was fired from.  British 75mm had two, French had one.

From the looks of it, it was a "shell".  That means it was once hollow and contained a bursting charge, probably a shrapnel round that was packed with steel balls and powder and designed to explode or burst a predetermined distance from the field gun tube and shower troops with smaller projectiles.  Shrapnel rounds were invented by a Major Schrapnel of the British Army.  They replaced grape shot and cannister rounds that had a shorter range.

A shell is different from a solid shot which is just what it sounds like, it was solid iron.
What your shell is missing is the fuse.  The fuse would screw into the tip and could be set via calibration rings to burst at the appropriate distance without hitting anything.  It worked by a mechanical powder train, similar to what you see in the movies where the pour gun powder on the ground, but a mechanical version of that.  By twisting the calibration rings the fuse setter would lengthen or shorten the distance the bursting igniting charge had to burn and hence the time it took to explode the shell.  An inertia cap would ignite the igniting charge via a "hammer" a weight that compressed a spring when the shell suddenly accelerated down the barrel on firing.  The inertia of the accelerating shell caused the hammer to overcame the strength of the spring striking the igniting cap.

It looks to me like someone removed the bursting charge and filled the interior of the shell with lead.

Scrape the silvery metal in the shell and if it is relatively soft it is lead.  If there had been any charge left in the shell, the pouring to hot lead into the interior would have ignited it.  This may have been done by a previous owner.  I presume your friend did not dig up the projectile but rather "found" it somewhere else.

I believe it is inert.  Go to this link to and scroll down to the part on ammuniton for WWI and WWII.  If you provide more information on where you might have found it I might be able to give you more definitive info on whether it was British, French or German.

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Keith H. Patton


I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.


I was a history major, and had done extensive research in the subject area. I have designed and tested numerous computer games for various
historical periods.

B.A History M.S. Science
I have had the opportunity to live abroad and walk numerous battlefields both in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific.

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