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Military History/mortar shell identification


mortar round side
mortar round side  
mortar round base
mortar round base  

I have a mortar round approx 4 1/4 " long x 2 1/2 inches diameter. It appears to be solid iron, with a tracer indentation  of about 1/2:".  It has an indented area with three  narrow linear extruding horzontal bands broken up by lines. The nose is pointed.
This was part of an estate lot that  included some very cool antique military items (16th century European cannon, 17-18th c  Chinese  stirrups and bits, etc) and some fairly contemporary late 19th to mid 20thc items.  The more modern items tended to be of Soviet origin, but not consistently so

I would very much appreciate any guidance on the oossible origin or age of this item.


ANSWER: Carol:

First, it isn't a mortar shell, it is an artillery projectile.  Mortar bombs usually carry fins to stabalize thier trajectory on descent.  They are fired up, and free fall down in a parabolic curve.  The fins keep them from tumbling so the strike tip first where the contact fuse is mounted so the explode.

That this is an artillery projectile is show by the recess near the base.  This is where the copper or brass rotating band would be.  The "teeth" prevent the band from spinning.  The band would be driven into the rifling of the cannon barrel, just like the bullet in a rifle and impart spin to the projectile.

So the projectile has to date from no earlier than the 1860s to WWI.  

The fact that it does not measure any regular increment of millimeters makes me think it is probably British.  During this period they were still using the old "pounder" designation for their field gun, labeling the guns by the weight of the projectile they fired, a hold over from the old days of solid cannon ball projectiles.

This one could be from a Blakely rifled cannon used by the Confederate forces, but made in Britain.  They made one of those in 2.5 inch bore or 6 pounder.

I am assuming that the shot is solid.  If there is no fuse (threaded tip or threaded holes or plugs in the side it is a solid shot or bolt used for piercing early armor plating and hardened fortificatons.

If you could provide a weight it might help me narrow its origin down.  Where was the estate sale?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

bullet mold interior
bullet mold interior  

bullet mold exterior
bullet mold exterior  

Thank you so much for all the information! This just isnt an area I know very much about (including the even the  proper vocabulary to describe it- sorry!).

You're right that it's solid. I've weighed it as suggested and it is 1 pound 11.2 ounces on a postal scale. The estate was from San Francisco, CA area, but almost all of the objects are from other areas.

The older military items are mostly European and Asian, but this lot had been picked over by several dealers before I got to it, so hard to know what's missing.

There are (off the top of my head)18th c silver knee and shoe buckles (maybe from a uniform) from either the US or England (checking hallmarks)  as well as the seven hexagonal iron 16th c European naval cannon, a soapstone bullet mold (pix enclosed) , a silver decorated leather over wood curved sword scabbard, a large knife scabard, a horse bit that appears to be Samurai, lots of silver inlaid or gilded  16-18 th c Chinese stirrups, one conquistador stirrup, one 17th c Ottoman stirrup etc, part of a handmade rifle stock from perhaps the 1700s. (Doesnt look European) and a rusted iron item that it occured to me today might be old ball shot.  Theres something that combines chains and cast iron that I cant identify at all - at first it looked like some sort of torture or slavery item, but now Im leaning towards protective armor. The soapstone mold puzzles me since the examples Ive seen have been for round shot rather than bullet shaped. Do you have any thoughts?

The military items combined with many  ceramics, carvings and oddities from 2000 years old to vintage, and from valuable to mundane. I'm afraid location may not be much of a clue. Origin could be anywhere. He bought from dealers and auction houses as well as collecting on his travels.

I really appreciate your expertice in this area and the time you've spent researching this. Thanks again!!


Well the weight is a bit light.  Is the measurement you listed, 2.5 inches the diameter (across) or circumference (around)?  At two pounds it is too light.

If your other object the chain and plate?  It could be part of the skirt of a samurai armor set.  They had loose skirting that would hang down over the waist and hips for protection but would not hinder movement.

The bullet mold is interesting.  The fit of the mold would make me think that it would make very primative bullets, that is they would have a flash seam around them due to the poor seal of the two halves which would require a lot of cleaning to make the bullet bit the bore of the gun and even then it would be irregular and give poor aerodymanic performance.

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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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