How the British Army’s mortar primer needs sparked an Ammo Plant in Minnesota
Federal ammo is celebrating its Centennial this year, as I’ve discussed before, and they are increasingly doing an archival dump, which I find very interesting. During WWII, the company was charged with standing up the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant by the Army, one that continued in operation through Korea and Vietnam. However, what really got Federal that deal was an earlier one for mortar shell igniters for the British Army.
As detailed by Federal:
In 1940, as World War II ramped up, the British Purchasing Commission placed an order for 1.4 million mortar ignition cartridges.
If you’re not familiar with the term, an ignition cartridge is essentially a blank 12-gauge shotshell that is inserted in the base of the mortar bomb just before firing. The bomb is positioned in the upward-pointing muzzle of the mortar tube. It is released to slide down the tube, and the primer of the ignition cartridge impacts on a fixed firing pin at the bottom
This ignites the powder charge in the ignition cartridge, which in turn ignites the propelling charge of the mortar round. In some mortars, this can be adjusted by adding or subtracting propellant rings on the round.
The British continued to order ignition cartridges, and soon the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps was buying them as well. Federal’s fast and reliable fulfillment of these contracts gave it the credibility to bid for the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant contract.
Federal also provided trap and skeet ammunition during the war for aerial gunnery training and recreational use. These were in Monark and Hi-Power configuration, while Hi-Power ammo was offered in 00 Buck.
Some buckshot loads were made with brass collars at the front of the hull for more reliable feeding from the variety of pump and autoloader shotguns being issued.
Federal remains in the mortar igniter biz today, as the firm continues to make No. 150D primers for 60-120mm mortars and the No. 215D primer for the Mk 19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. These are almost identical to the Federal primers civilian handloaders use, except they have slightly shorter anvils, thus the D for “desensitized.” This lets them stand up to rough handling in combat.