A guide to cartridge headstamps.

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RRPG
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A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:09 am

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 not yet as obsessed as me !!!

I will only cover American, British and German small arms headstamps in this thread.......artillery casings are much more complicated and need a whole forum on their own, let alone one little thread. :)

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 ).
allied cartridges.jpg
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.
20mm upright.jpg
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.
20mm headstamps.jpeg
Also, you may have noticed the chunks cut into the rim of the cartridge. This is not modern damage but damage caused by the breech block forcing the cartridge into the breech and then extracting it again as the gun cycles.

more.............
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:10 am

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.
50cal upright.jpeg
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.
50cal headstamps.jpeg
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.
30cal headstamps.jpeg
More...........
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:12 am

British cartridges tended to be a little more verbose. Take for example these cartridges, all found on an old D-Day practice beach.
303 upright.jpeg
303 headstamps.jpeg
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 Mark VII cartridge, and in some instances ‘303’ which obviously denotes the calibre. Different Roman numerals denote different 'marks' of cartridge. You may also see the marks 'Z' or IZ' which denote the type of cordite/powder used.

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.
9mm & 45 headstamp.jpeg
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 !

more..............
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:14 am

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.
german upright.jpeg
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.
german headstamps.jpg
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.

303 headstamps - http://enfieldking.tripod.com/enfieldking/id12.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

General headstamps - http://cartridgecollectors.org/headstampcodes.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

German WW2 headstamps - http://home.scarlet.be/p.colmant/german7_92x57.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Info about headstamps and cartridge sizes - http://members.shaw.ca/cstein0/riflelist3.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Have fun !!

RRPG (Steve T on WRF)
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Phil Bonnett » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:35 am

Well done Steve a hell alot of info there now I know what the 2 finds I had in my garden a few months back. :)

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by nonmotion » Sat Dec 31, 2011 6:12 pm

that well good info.

think ill go get a handfull of 303 casings tomorow and have a look. cheers. :D
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by ghandi1945 » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:59 pm

Cheers for this post i have found it very useful, but i have a question. I have found a few 30 cal casings but they have British headstamps. (W.R.A 42 and W.R.A 43). Could anybody explain why.

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:14 am

ghandi1945 wrote:Cheers for this post i have found it very useful, but i have a question. I have found a few 30 cal casings but they have British headstamps. (W.R.A 42 and W.R.A 43). Could anybody explain why.
Yes. They aren't British headstamps. WRA is Winchester Repeating Arms company, based in Bridgeport USA.

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by grumpyjohn » Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:33 am

A really interesting , useful thread. Many thanks RRPG :)
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by ghandi1945 » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:36 pm

thanks RRPG it makes sense now.

cheers Matt

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Wansdyke44 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:46 am

The two small ones are .22 rimfire cartridges, found similar ones myself. The F is for federal and the C is for Cascade. Both are American makers. Don't know if they ever made them in UK, but imagine they are imported. They are for vermin.
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by stargazer1 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:49 pm

Interesting thread Steve with some info I didn't know and I am an ex squaddie ! :)
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by stargazer1 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:55 pm

Last year I found a fired cartridge on a WW1 site that I can't ID.

It is about 1" diameter and the same in length. I am presuming it's some sort of pyrotechnic. The lads that used it went to Gallipoli and most never returned.It was fired in 1914 for certain.

There is no writing on the bottom, but it does have the firing pin hit mark. And also there are 3 tiny slit marks equidistant around the underneath edges.
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:04 pm

Tincanman ...... Spot on with your id's. Oerlikon carts are quite different to hispano-suiza carts. The arrow does indeed mean it was made at Radway Green BUT be careful. It is actually called the 'War Department' arrow and is found on many carts and lots of military stuff.

Stargazer ..... Thanks for your kind comments. The cart you have sounds like the base portion of a standard British flare cart, but I'd need a picture to be sure.
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by wilder » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:32 pm

can anyone help me figure out what type of bullet this is, its just the bullet, not the cartridge, but the bullet itself has K 20 on it, it looks to be like a tank round to me, its about 4' wide and 10' tall weighs about 40lbs i'd say.

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:25 am

wilder - Most certainly I can't ID your 'bullet' from a description. I would need a photograph. And it sounds like your 'bullet' is actually an artillery round. Measure the diameter in inches and cms and then just match it up to a calibre. The drive bands should also then confirm this as their configuration sometimes differs between calibres.

Lastly, this isn't ground dug is it ? If it is I would strongly recommend you have it checked by an expert urgently. It may well be live.
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by fishy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:28 am

Excellent thread ::g

Just ID'd a .303 case with your links.


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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Dave8472 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:42 am

Just giving thread a bump as it is a very usefull thread ::g

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Christoph1945 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:52 pm

A most informative and helpful thread; perhaps it should be a sticky!

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Dave8472 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:06 pm

Christoph1945 wrote:A most informative and helpful thread; perhaps it should be a sticky!

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Christoph1945 » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:38 pm

Oops, must put brain in gear before commenting on thread! I-)

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by coal digger » Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:06 pm

fantastic comprehensive info rrpg,thanks.
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by pippy96 » Sun May 13, 2012 12:47 pm

TinCanMan wrote:Thanks for this thread and the insight and links.

I've posted a few photos below of cartridges I have,

The first two show a pair of small cartridges - approx 27mm in length - I guess these are "22" but I don't know - on the base each has just a single letter stamp these being "C" and "F" - what does this signify please ?


The longer cartridge is approx 55mm in length and is marked FC 220 SWIFT on the base - looking on the WWW this appears to be a Winchester .220 cartridge developed in 1935 - used for vermin and small deer ( Roe ) - are these still being made today and what does the FC signify please - I've found half a dozen of these on pheasant hunting land.

The final image shows the base of two large cartridges - I was given these by my father the bases are stamped

1941 arrowhead Oe Z
1942 RG Oe Z

I *think* these are from a 20mm Oerlikon cannon - RG and the arrowhead both relate to the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radwell Green - I note that the 1942 base has an extra "ring" in comparision to the 1941 example.

Wikipedia has an interesting page on the Swiss made Oerlikon cannon which includes this......"" Just a few weeks before the Fall of France, the Oerlikon factory approved manufacture of their gun in the United Kingdom, under license. The Royal Navy managed to smuggle out the necessary drawings and documents from Zürich. The production of the first British-made Oerlikon guns started in Ruislip, London, at the end of 1940; and the first guns were delivered to the Royal Navy in March or April, 1941.""

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oerlikon_20_mm_cannon" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Regards


Steve
the two rimfire are 17 hmr which is a small round for vermin, the one with c on is from cci and the one with the f is federal
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by william holmes » Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:24 pm

hello all thought id add a head stamp here iv only ever found on of these and its an early one .British Manufacturing & Research Co is the manufacturer I'm not sure what IZ stands for but I do believe that the B in the diamond shape stands for incendiary
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Dave8472 » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:13 pm

That 20mm is in great condition William ::g

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Anubis » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:15 pm

Dave8472 wrote:That 20mm is in great condition William ::g

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by william holmes » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:33 pm

Dave8472 wrote:That 20mm is in great condition William ::g

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have 32 of these now and the others are in allot better condition believe it or not
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by RRPG » Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:32 pm

Nice 20mm William :) the IZ normally denotes a variance to the standard propellant charge. The Z usually denotes a nitrocellulose fill which was more reliable than cordite when fired at altitude. I will check my reference sources and confirm in the morning. :)
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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by Grimhunt » Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:53 pm

Great info thanks for sharing

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Re: A guide to cartridge headstamps.

Post by william holmes » Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:07 am

RRPG wrote:Nice 20mm William :) the IZ normally denotes a variance to the standard propellant charge. The Z usually denotes a nitrocellulose fill which was more reliable than cordite when fired at altitude. I will check my reference sources and confirm in the morning. :)
i think you right there RRPG Z on 303 cases stands for nitrocellulose fill so it must mean the same for these as well its just weird as this is the only 20 mm case iv seen stamped with a Z
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