Headstamp Markings on Ammunition Introduction

A cartridge headstamp is a mark, or series of marks impressed, or sometimes embossed, on the head of the cartridge case during its manufacture. The mark can consist of numbers, letters, trademarks, figures or any combination of these.

Systems of headstamp markings are used worldwide. They can be in any language, numbering system or can relate to any calendar.

From these impressions, one can, depending on the type of ammunition and its origin, determine the manufacturer, calibre, type, date of manufacture, batch number, case material, and so on.

This information only relates, however, to the cartridge case and does not necessarily indicate that the other components, that is, primer, bullet and propel-lant, were of the same origin as the case. Many cartridge case manufacturers sell their cases to small companies who load them to their own specifications, and it is not unusual to find that the bullet, cartridge case, propellant and primer all have different sources.

Occasionally, the base of the bullet may be marked to indicate its origin, and in some cases, the primer itself can be marked to show its origin as well. This will aid the identification of the separate components, but it is not nowadays a common practice.

The headstamp is also sometimes used as a medium for advertising, and a gun manufacturer, such as Holland and Holland, can have ammunition supplied with its own brand name impressed on the base. In such cases, it can be extremely difficult to find the original manufacturer of the cartridge case.

In general, however, the headstamp found on commercial ammunition will only show the manufacturer and calibre. Occasionally, other information such as bullet type, case material and priming compound, that is, ' Staynless' is also impressed on the base. It is rare for commercial ammunition to include the date of manufacture and/or batch number.

In many cases, it is possible to assign an approximate date of manufacture to commercial ammunition and sometimes its exact factory of manufacture by the design of the headstamp.

Three examples of this are:

1. Remington 0.22" long rifle ammunition, the company logo, a " U', gives an indication of the date and country of manufacture as follows (Figure 2.17).

2. Browning ammunition was made by Amron up until January 1973, and had the word " Browning' stamped at the 12 o " clock position. From November 1972, when the ammunition company Winchester Western started to manufacture the ammunition, 'Browning' was stamped at the 6 o'clock position.

3. From 1867 until 1911, the American company Union Metallic Cartridge Company used " UMC' on its ammunition. After 1911, it was changed to 'Rem UMC'.

Military ammunition, on the other hand, will, with very few exceptions, always include the year of manufacture as well as the month or batch number. Other information can include case material, propellant type, bullet type, that is, tracer, armour-piercing, and so on (Figure 2.18).

Union Metallic Headstamp
Figure 2.17 Codes used by Remington.

(a) Royal Laboratory Arsenal, until 1958

(b) Hirwan Arsenal

(c) Dum Dum Arsenal India

(d) Radway Green Arsenal, post 1944

Figure 2.18 Examples of British military headstamps.

Headstamps on military ammunition are usually applied in a strict pattern, rarely deviating from the official pattern. Thus, from the position of the various numbers and characters around the rim, it is often possible to source the ammunition without actually deciphering the headstamp itself.

One anomaly with respect to military headstamps is Japan. Up until 1945, all Japanese Army ammunition was bereft of markings. Only the Japanese Navy used headstamps on its ammunition. These headstamps consisted of a mixture of a Japanese ideogram and Western numerals. When deciphering these head-stamps, it should be remembered that the Japanese calendar was used for the year markings; thus, the Japanese year 2600 relates to the Western year 1940. Taiwan also has its own calendar system based on 1912, the year which sig nalled the end of dynastic China and the formation of the Republic of China. Mexico also uses 1912 as the starting date for its headstamps, this being the year of its revolution.

One problematical area in the sourcing of ammunition arises with ammunition produced for clandestine purposes. In cases of insurgency or irregular warfare, friendly nations will often attempt to hide their part in the supply of arms and ammunition. Obviously, cartridge cases picked up after an incident are a potentially valuable source of information as to the other side's supporters (Figure 2.19).

Bmg Headstamps

Figure 2.19 Examples of headstamp markings on clandestine ammunition.

Yugoslavian Singapore Portuguese Israeli

Figure 2.19 Examples of headstamp markings on clandestine ammunition.

Broadly, three methods have been used in attempts to disguise the origins of the ammunition. The most obvious is by the complete omission of the headstamp. This can, however, lead to problems in identifying the date of manufacture should a problem arise with the ammunition. It can also prove problematical for the end user in sequentially using the ammunition.

The next method is to omit all but the date, or a code identifying the date. Finally, the use of a completely false manufacturer's code can be used. It is possible, however, to penetrate the disguise by identification of the components, primer and neck lacquer or even by the style of the letters used.

Early examples include ammunition smuggled into Ireland in 1914, ammunition supplied to General Franco in the Spanish Civil War and British manufactured ammunition supplied to the Norwegian underground during World War II. More recently, the United States has supplied clandestine ammunition for use in the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba and to the underground in Cambodia.

Probably the most prolific supply of clandestine ammunition has been the Warsaw Pact countries. Where once this was openly distributed with standard

Figure 2.20 Examples of headstamps: (a) Egypt; (b) Israel; (c) Germany; (d) USSR; (e) China.

markings, more recently, it has been turning up with either the manufacturer's mark omitted or with no markings at all.

Some general examples of headstamps from different countries follow (Figure 2.20).

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