.303 British ammunition originated as a black powder cartridge, and was first employed in 1888 by the British military. The Lee-Metford rifle, (later becoming known as the Lee-Enfield rifle) was the first rifle chambered for the .303 British. It advanced from being a black powder cartridge to using cordite, a smokeless powder. The .303 British cartridge, in over seventy of service to the Commonwealth, saw action in the Boer War, in the Turkish War of Independence and both World War I and World War II.
The .303 British has been fired from battle rifles and machine guns. British WWII fighter aircraft machine guns were built to fire the caliber. It has been shot from the Vickers machine gun, Lewis machine gun, as well as many bolt action military rifles not to mention civilian rifles including the Winchester Model 1895 and the Ruger No.1.
Bullets for this cartridge are available that weigh between 150 grains and 180 grains. Muzzle velocity ranges from nearly 2,500 feet per second to more than 2,700 feet per second. Muzzle energy varies between 2,400 foot pounds and 2,600 foot pounds. Different bullets are available for civilian and military applications. Bullets in .303 British for civilians come as soft point, full metal jacket or hollow point. Several manufacturers, including Federal, Remington and Winchester among others, still produce the ammunition for civilians. For the military, .303 British cartridges have been topped with FMJ bullets, armor piercing and incendiary rounds, tracer bullets, and a special marking round that made a puff of smoke at the point of impact.
This rather heavy bullet moving at high speed makes it a great round for hunting nearly all North American game animals, including elk and moose. Military surplus rifles are available chambered in .303 British, and they are used for hunting in Africa and Australia for a diverse array of game animals including most of the spectrum of African game from impala to kudu.
While the .303 British cartridge might not be the most popular, it remains a solid performer with good availability in nearly any corner of the globe.