[Knob Creek 2016] .5 Vickers High Velocity from 1935

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One of the interesting finds pointed out to me by an ammunition collector at Knob Creek is this interesting tidbit of history. The .5 Vickers is a semi rimmed round that was invented in the last year of World War One by necking down a .600 Nitro Express round. It was intended for the water cooled Vickers heavy machine gun and was initially needed for anti-aircraft gunners to take down German bombers over London that could sustain multiple hits from the .303 cartridge being fired by Vickers anti-aircraft crews at the time. Although the round is the same caliber as the 50 BMG, the two are not interchangeable.

In the 1920s and 30s, there was an attempt by the British military to create a high velocity variant of the round going at over 3,000 feet per second. Bear in mind that the .5 Vickers round was traveling at around 2,650 feet per second while the 50 BMG of the same bullet weight clocked in at around 2,798 feet per second. There were only 40,000 such rounds manufactured in the 1930s, with another 600 or so in the early part of World War Two (probably only for testing and evaluation). These lots were made in increments of 10,000 with tracer and ball versions of the 690 grain weight, and tracer and ball versions of the 664 grain.

The vendor that showed me this find found it for sale at Knob Creek and allowed me to take a number of pictures of the original cardboard case it came in, along with 10 live rounds from the 10,000 that were made. Posted on the right side of the individual round is a modern day 50 BMG round for comparison.

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Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Anonymoose

    How much is that box worth nowadays?

    • PK

      A whole lot. There was only a small run of class D .5 made, and it hasn’t been made or used since before the end of WWII. It’s rare enough that there’s no easy way of saying the exact dollar amount on the open market, it’s worth whatever the deal struck ended up being.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Sounds like the answer may well be “priceless”.

  • CS

    Energy wise, how does .5 vickers compare to 50bmg? Both then and now.

    • PK

      The class D .5 Vickers was substantially more powerful, being that it fired about the same projectile as M2AP only around 225 FPS faster.

      Call it a 15% increase in muzzle energy.

      • Kyle

        Might want to reread that. FTA: “Bear in mind that the .5 Vickers round was traveling at around 2,650 feet per second while the 50 BMG of the same bullet weight clocked in at around 2,798 feet per second”

        • PK

          The Class D, pictured, is not the .5 Vickers, described in that line. The .5 Vickers is shorter than the .50 BMG, the Class D is longer and faster than either.

          “there was an attempt by the British military to create a high velocity variant of the round going at over 3,000 feet per second.” is referring to the Class D rounds pictured.

          Think of the .5 Vickers as .38 special, the .50 BMG as .357 magnum, and the Class D .5 Vickers as the .357 maximum.

          • Kurt Akemann

            Thank you for correction.

          • PK

            You’re welcome! Cartridge collection finally pays off, I knew I didn’t really waste so much of my free time for years and years now…

            Seriously, this might be one of only a handful of times knowing this sort of trivia has been of any use except for my own enjoyment.

  • PK

    My inner cartridge collector is salivating now… that’s a box full of relatively rare cartridges, these days! Thanks for taking a few photos, as that’s as close as I’m likely to ever get to them.

  • Tony Williams

    You’ll find lots more info and photos of the various types of .5 Vickers guns and ammo here: http://quarryhs.co.uk/Vickers.html

    • PK

      I somehow knew you’d weigh in on this… by the way, I love your website and refer to it regularly. A fine resource that many cartridge collectors utilize, I’m certain!