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A guide to headstamps

Article about: I thought I would do a quick guide to cartridge headstamps. I know many of us are well aware of what all the stamps mean, but some people don’t and I think it would be useful to those people

  1. #11
    ?

    Default 50 cal cartridges.

    hi guys just wondered if any one out there could tell me the current value of wartime dated empty 50 cal cartridges as i have hundreds of these, as well as 2 ammo cans of belted rounds complete with heads?

    I will only cover American, British and German small arms headstamps. Please add a reply if you are good at larger calibre or other country’s headstamps (e.g. Russia, Japan).

    To start with, here are the main allied small arms cartridges lined up so you can see the difference in overall shape and size. Take particular note of the difference between a standard 30calibre American cartridge and the British 303. Also note the difference between the standard 30calibre and the M1 Carbine cartridge (this is not live by the way ! I remade it from two bits ).



    Ok, on to identifying Allied small arms headstamps.

    We’ll start with 20mm cannon cartridges. A view of 3 cartridges found on various WW2 airbases.



    Ok. Let’s look at the headstamps. You can see they all follow the same pattern. A letter ‘code’ which represents the manufacturer, a date stamp and a calibre. The right hand case therefore is made by RG (Royal Ordnance Factory, Radway Green, UK), in 1942. The middle case was made by I.C.I. , otherwise known as Kynoch in Standish, UK which is represented by the K2, in 1944.



    With American cartridges, the headstamps are usually very short, sharp and sweet ! Take for example these 50 calibre cartridges, again found on various airbases around the UK.



    The headstamps on these are not as detailed as some. Usually you get the manufacturer ‘code’ and the last two digits of the year, EXCEPT in the case of 1944 which is always represented by a single ‘4’. So on these cartridges you have RA 43, TW 43, LC 43, SL 4 and DM 4. RA is Remington Arms Company, Tw is Twin Cities ordnance plant, LC is Lake City Ammunition Plant, SL is St Louis Ordnance Plant and DM is Des Moines Ordnance Plant.



    These headstamps are repeated in standard 30 calibre and Carbine rounds. Take for example these 30 calibre cartridges, found on Slapton Sands.



    The headstamps all follow the same principals as the 50 cal cartridges.



    British cartridges tended to be a little more verbose. Take for example these cartridges, all found on an old D-Day practice beach.



    The headstamps, as you can see, contain a little more information. We still have the manufacturer ‘code’ and the year of manufacture (as either 2 or 4 digit), but we also regularly see ‘VII’ which denotes it is a standard ball round, and in some instances ‘303’ which obviously denotes the calibre. It is interesting to note that the last three cartridges all have the same ‘odd’ shaped firing pin mark. This elongated mark is made by the firing pin of a Bren gun. A Lee-Enfield makes the ‘dot’ mark in the left hand two cartridges. So not only does the headstamp tell us something, even the firing pin mark can !



    Now let’s look at 9mm and .45 calibre cartridges, again found on a D-Day practice beach.



    Now you can see a pattern emerging ! Hopefully you can now determine what the headstamps mean when you look at them. You have the manufacturer code, the year stamp and the calibre………….It’s easy once you know what you’re looking at !



    The Germans used a little more complicated system than the Americans and British. Take for example these 7.92 calibre cartridges, all are ‘safe’ and were bought off a guy in an antiques place for 20p each ! He didn’t know what they were but I did because of a basic knowledge of headstamps.



    Ok…..all German 7.92 calibre cartridges carry four stamps. As you look at the picture, at 12 o’clock is the manufacturers code. At 3 o’clock is a code with a combination of a roman numeral (I to XXII) for the steel mill supplying the basic case-metal, a lower-case letter for the plating agency and an arabic numeral (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15 or 17) for the steel-analysis, which all identifies a copper-plated steel case. In some cases you may see (as below) a code such as St or
    St+ or S*. St or St+ indicates a steel case, either plated or lacquered. * or S* indicates a brass case. At 6 o’clock is a batch number and at 9 o’clock is the year of manufacture represented by the last 2 digits of the year. Of interest is the fact that the Germans changed their manufacturer code system. Between 1937 and 1941 they used the P codes (Patronenfabrik Nummer). Between 1940 and 1945 (there was some overlap between the change of coding) they switched to a letter code and ditched the ‘P’ number. This means all ‘P’ coded cartridges are made prior to 1941, and all letter code cartridges are made from 1940. This could be handy in identifying fakes !!!!



    So, for example, the far left cartridge was made by cg (Finower Industrie GmbH, Finow/Mark, Brandenburg), the case was made of St+ (steel case, plated), a batch number of ‘6’ (yes….i got it wrong on the picture !!! It’s a 6 not a 9 ), and a year of 1942.

    The far right hand case is made by P490 ( Hugo Schneider A.G., Werk Altenburg), the steel mill code IX (August-Thyssen-Hutte A.G., Duisburg-Hamborn), the plating firm code w, (Hugo Schneider A.G. Messingwerke, Taucha-Leipzig), and the steel composition 1. The batch number is 7 and it was made in 1939.


    I hope this of use to some of you. I know many will already know it but it’s good to pass on this sort of information !

    Here are some useful links.

    German 7,92 headstamp markings 1937-1945 German headst

  2. #12

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Hi 2ndarm

    You have sort of answered the question yourself. The price or value of any relic is governed by the number still in existence. With you having 'hundreds', you can probably guess they are pretty common so they are not worth much on their own. 50cals usually sell for between £1 and £1.50 each. Complete belts, inert but with heads and all WW2 dated are worth a little more, so a 50 belt link is probably around £70-£90. With an undamaged and original tin with all markings in place, £100-£120. However, these prices assume there are buyers out there wanting them which, at the minute, isn't really the case.

    Hope this helps.

    Steve T

    PS Please try to not 'quote' previous threads like this as it takes up valuable server space !

  3. #13

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Quote by Steve T View Post
    This means all ‘P’ coded cartridges are made prior to 1941, and all letter code cartridges are made from 1940. This could be handy in identifying fakes !!!!
    Steve thanks for this valuable pinned thread. I was really looking for something like this to understand the markings of my German 7.92 bullets.

    I quoted something you said in post #1. Have you ever seen fake cartridges? Do you have any pictures of such ammo to post in order to help inexperienced members like me to avoid them?
    Regards, Chris.
    Looking for the photo albums of Leutnant Emil Freitag, 3. / G.R. 377

  4. #14

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    I personally have never seen any fakes tbh. When I first posted this I was relatively new to relic collecting and thought they were possible. Now though I think fake cartridges are highly unlikely, given that they sell for such a small amount (individually). I wouldn't worry about fake cartridges tbh After all, there were thousands of millions of them produced during the war and they aren't exactly hard to find !

    Steve T

  5. #15

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Quote by Steve T View Post
    I personally have never seen any fakes tbh. When I first posted this I was relatively new to relic collecting and thought they were possible. Now though I think fake cartridges are highly unlikely, given that they sell for such a small amount (individually). I wouldn't worry about fake cartridges tbh After all, there were thousands of millions of them produced during the war and they aren't exactly hard to find !

    Steve T
    Good to hear. I already purchased 80 in 2 weeks
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    Looking for the photo albums of Leutnant Emil Freitag, 3. / G.R. 377

  6. #16

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Here's a single round I've had for about 15 to 20 years.
    Could anyone tell me what country made/used it,
    what weapon it is for, and when it was made ?

    Am I correct in thinking 1945 ?
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    Regards,


    Steve.

  7. #17

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    I believe it is a 'Kurz' round for the MP44 made in German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945.

  8. #18

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Quote by ObKrieger View Post
    I believe it is a 'Kurz' round for the MP44 made in German-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1945.
    ObK is correct.

  9. #19

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Thanks Mo. Had a feeling that's what it was. Just wanted to be sure.........
    Regards,


    Steve.

  10. #20

    Default Re: A guide to headstamps

    Hello! Here are 3 cartridges used by romanians in ww2.
    First one : CMC stands for "Copsa Mica-Cugir" , the rest are obvious except the "D" wich to my knowledge stands for "Deseu"(Waste).These were made from recycled material.
    Second: PA stands for "Pirotehnia Armatei"...rest is obvious.
    Third:This one was made in the Czech Republic , Z stands for "Zbrojovka Brno" , ll stands for the month (february).
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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