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WW2 Ammunition Types and Useful Links

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WW2 Ammunition Types and Useful Links

Post by MilitaryMetalMagnut »

Hi All,

I see on the forum lately there has been questions on the different types of ammunition that has been found. So, I thought I would do a guide on the typical Allied WW2 bullet types to help with ID’ing.
First of all, however, we’ll look at the cartridges.
As most of us will know, the base of the cartridges have written information known as headstamps (manufactures code and year of manufacture), but they often have a letter code for the type of round. This is very much the case with .303 and British rounds which are always shown at the 6 o'clock position, as we see on this .303 headstamp example;


The other .303 headstamp letter type codes are here;

AA - Pomeroy explosive Incendiary Mk 2 Bullet (circa 1917)
B - Incendiary Bullet
C - Cordite Propellant charge (pre 1907)
D - Drill Round
E - Smoke Bomb Projector
F - Semi Armour Piercing
FG - Semi Armour Piercing Tracer
G - Tracer bullet
H - Grenade Discharger
J - Illuminating
K - Brock explosive incendiary bullet (circa 1918)
L - Blank
O - Observation Bullet
P - Practice Round
PG - Practice Tracer
Q - Proof Round
R - Explosive Bullet
SPG - Tracer made before 1927
U - Dummy Round
W - Armour piercing bullet
WG - Armour Piercing Tracer
Z - Nitrocellulose Propellant Charge

Most of these codes will also apply to other WW2 British calibres, such as .5 Vickers, .55 Boys, 20mm Hispano, 20mm Oerlikon.

This next illustration shows a sectional comparisons between .303 calibre Ball, Armour Piercing and Tracer rounds. I was unable to find an Incendiary cross section, but on the exterior appearance, the projectile has a small screw in the base of the bullet. This 'caps off' the bullet, to contain the Incendiary material inside.


Another useful illustration.


As well as lettered codes, .303/British rounds have corresponding lacquer colour codes.
For example, the headstamp of the .303 shown at the top has a letter ‘B’ - the code for an Incendiary; the colour code for an Incendiary is Blue.
The colour codes are applied as lacquer around the primer (known as an Annulus), and/or applied on the tip of the bullet.

There wasn't any .303 ammunition colour codes illustration, so I made my own! (Came out pretty well, I think!) ::g


This is a box of rounds from my own collection (all deactivated, I must add!), showing the Annulus colour around the primers. In this case Purple = Ball.


Not all colour codes are universal between different countries.
American ammunition is regularly found in the UK. Unlike British rounds, American ones don’t have a letter type code on the cartridge, just the maker and year. Instead, primarily relying on colour codes.

This is a chart of WW2 American .50 calibre colour codes;


From top to bottom;

Ball, M2 – No colour. Standard ammunition round.
Armour Piercing, M2 – Black.
Armour Piercing Incendiary, M8– Silver.
Armour Piercing Incendiary-Tracer, M20 – Silver and Red tip.
Incendiary, M1 – Blue. (typically used against aircraft/ or lightly armoured targets)
Incendiary, M23 – Light blue and dark Blue tip. (Used for unarmoured flammable targets)
Tracer, M1/M21 – Red. Designed to be more visible, is 3 times more brilliant than the M1 tracer.
Tracer, M10 – Orange. For use in aircraft.
Tracer, M17 – Brown. Was designed to replace the M1 tracer cartridge, and have similar penetrating power as the Armour Piercing Incendiary-Tracer.

Most of these colour codes 'carry over' to U.S. issue .30 calibre, as well as .50.

Some .303 rounds that are typically found have the general appearance of being live, but can in fact not be.
Drill rounds look like live rounds, but are harmless and legal to own dummys.

These are two different Drill rounds, with a 'mint' example from my own collection. There were lots of different Drill rounds from WW1 and WW2. These examples are both WW2 - (Middle) a nickel plated Mk7, with three flutes and no primer in the base. (Left) a cheaply produced Mk8, with a wooden dummy 'bullet' (which amazingly is still present) and a total of four holes drilled into the side of the cartridge, also with no primer in the base.



These links show the various variants of .303 Drill rounds. ... inch-drill ... -vii-to-10

First issued in 1954, a new type of blank round was introduced - the 'L10Z' Bulleted blank. The bulleted blank had a wooden 'projectile', and was only used for training purposes in machine guns such as the Bren machine gun. The purpose of the wooden projectile was to produce enough back pressure in the barrel, to work the machine guns firing mechanism, loading the next round. The wood projectile would fragment the moment it leaves the barrel. Using standard blanks would mean that the machine gunner would have to manually cock the gun on every shot.

These are two that I found, a standard 1956 dated 'L9Z' blank (left - which is exactly the same design as a wartime MkV blank), and a first year of manufacture - 1954 'L10Z' bulleted blank (right). After the L10Z blanks have been fired, the cartridges look just like a standard 'Ball' round, as it doesn't have the crimps of an ordinary blank.
Just goes to show, that one must always check the headstamps!



This useful link shows in detail all the U.S. issue .50 calibre types. ... art.49583/

This is a site I swear by. It shows all the different .303 calibre variations, as well as many other British calibre rounds used from Victorian times to the end of WW2.

More .303 info.

This link shows a good deal of the WW2 German 7.92mm Mauser ammunition types.

This link to the British Ordnance Collectors Network shows the various colour codes, types and internal drawings of 20mm Hispano (aircraft) and 20mm Oerlikon (Anti-Aircraft), which might be useful. ::g ... m-Oerlikon

I hope all this helps for future identification ::g

Best Regards,

Last edited by MilitaryMetalMagnut on Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:57 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Military Firearms and Ammunition Historian, and published author to that effect! 13 years experience of collecting, researching military ordnance and weaponry!

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