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The initial expansion process in a drawn vacuum arc and the influence of axial magnetic field (AMF) were investigated experimentally in a demountable vacuum chamber. Arc characteristics were investigated with the aid of a high-speed digital camera with an exposure time of 2 μs . In a drawn vacuum arc, the arc sequence begins with the bridge column arc formed after the rupture of the molten metal bridge. This column evolves into the transition mode, which consisted of a central column with few or no cathode spots (CSs) outside the column, and then into the fully diffuse mode. Experimental results indicated that in transition mode arc, the expansion process could be characterized by the appearance of CSs outside the central column, and could be classified into two patterns, “slow” expansion and “quick” expansion according to the characteristics of the formation and motion of new CSs (conducting channels) outside the central column of arc. The influence of AMF and its distribution on the expansion process was also investigated. Investigation results indicated that AMF had two contrary effects, i.e., inhibiting effect and prompting effect, on the initial expansion stage of drawn vacuum arc. Furthermore, saddle-shaped AMF could encourage the arc transition into diffuse mode more effectively than bell-shaped AMF.