Headstamp

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A headstamp is the markings on the bottom of a cartridge case designed for a firearm, it usually tells who manufactured the case. If it is a civilian case it often also tells the caliber: if it is military, the year of manufacture is often added.

The left cartridge's headstamp says "FC 223 REM" which means that it was made by Federal Cartridge Co. and it is in the caliber ".223 Remington". The cartridge on the right has a headstamp that says "LC 99" with a symbol that consists of a cross in a circle, this cartridge was made in 1999 by the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, in Independence, MO, USA. The symbol on this headstamp means it meets NATO specifications.

The headstamp is punched into the base of the cartridge during manufacture. A resource for identifying where the ammunition originated can be found at Cartridge Collectors.

Australia[edit]

  • BB Bertram Bullet Co. Pty. Ltd. (1986–Present) - Seymour, Melbourne, Victoria. Bruce Bertram bought Super Cartridge Co.'s machinery and moved it to Seymour, where he began manufacturing brass cases for handloaders. The "BB" is at 12 o'clock and small kangaroos are positioned counter-clockwise at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock. Brass is sold in lots of 20-case cartons and can be made to customer's specifications with personalized headstamps.
  • ICI-ANZ Imperial Chemical Industries - Australia / New Zealand (1940s - 1980s) - Deer Park, Melbourne, Victoria. Manufactured cartridges and shotshells from the 1940s until the late 1970s, they also made brass cases for filling and loading by their parent company in the United Kingdom and produced Australian-gauge shotshells for the local market. The factory now makes commercial explosives under the ORICA brand.
  • RBA or RIVERBRAND Riverbrand Ammunition Company, (1945? - early 1980s) - Hendon, South Australia, Australia.[1] Syd Churches, owner of the Taipan Bullet Company, bought out the defunct Small Arms Ammunition Factories No. 3 & 4 at Hendon after the war. Initial production just remanufactured old military-surplus brass cases with new RWS-made non-corrosive Berdan primers and mated them with Taipan-manufactured bullets to make cheap .303 Imperial and 7.62mm NATO ammo. Early new production (marked "RBA") used Berdan primed brass cases. Full production (marked "RIVERBRAND") used newly manufactured Boxer-primed cases in a variety of service pistol and "wildcat" sporting rifle cartridges, as well as new brass for handloaders, they also made ammo for Sportco in Adelaide under the SPORTCO headstamp. Riverbrand was always a small-scale endeavor, as there was too much competition from Super Cartridge Company (their only domestic manufacturing rival) and foreign ammunition manufacturers.
  • SUPER Super Cartridge Co. (? - 1985) - Marybyrnong, Melbourne, Victoria. Manufacturer of cartridges, shotshells, and bullets and brass cases for handloading, they originally sold sporting cartridges made from reloaded Australian-made .303 Imperial brass and sold "wildcat" cartridges made from the base .303 cartridge. (These usually had the original Small Arms Ammunition Factory headstamp on them). They also made proprietary "wildcat" ammunition for the MYRA Sports Store in Broken Hill, they were sued for copyright infringement in the early 1980s by Olin-Winchester for their similar one-piece polymer shotshell design. They were barred from making the shells, gave up manufacturing shotshells altogether, and later went out of business in the mid-1980s.
  • TAIPAN Bullets (late 1980s-2017) - Gympie, Wide Bay–Burnett, Queensland. After Churches' death in the late 1970s, RIVERBRAND's bullet-making machinery was sold and moved to facilities in Queensland, where it was set up as TAIPAN Bullets.[2] Owner Malcolm Bone manufactured bullets in small lots for handloaders, the company's major toolmaker and die-setter died a few years ago[1]. Bone announced in 2017 he was ceasing new production and selling off the remaining stock.

Brazil[edit]

Canada[edit]

Arsenals[edit]

  • C-I-L or CIL Canadian Industries Ltd. (1955–1976). A corporation formed in 1910 from a merger of five Canadian explosives companies and their assets, it ran the Defence Industries Ltd. munitions plants from 1940 to 1946. It owned the Dominion, Imperial and Canuck commercial ammunition brands, it used the CIL headstamp on its cartridges from 1955(?) until 1976, when IVI bought out its commercial ammunition production.

Civilian contractors[edit]

Commercial manufacturers[edit]

  • DCCO, Dominion Dominion Cartridge Co. Ltd. (1886–1955) - Brownsburg, Quebec, Canada. A division of Dominion Arsenal that produced ammunition for the civilian market, it was made part of the Canadian Explosives Company (CXC) in 1911, which became Canadian Industries Ltd. (CIL) in 1928. During World War II it made military ammunition for CIL under the DCCO headstamp, it changed its headstamp to Dominion in 1947 and to CIL in 1955, but was still sold under the Dominion brand. It was sold to IVI in 1966.
  • Eatons Eaton's Department Store (1924-1950s?) - A line of commercial cartridges made by Dominion Cartridge Co. for the Eaton's Department Store chain.[3]
  • F.W.L & Co F.W Lamplough & Co (1903–1917) - Montreal, Quebec. A wholesale hardware and cutlery company (1902-@1936), they assembled their own cartridges from components made by ammo manufacturers but under their own headstamp.
  • Gévelot Canada Gévelot of Canada (1961–1973)[4] - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The short-lived Canadian branch of the French sporting ammunition firm Gévelot (1823-1997?).
  • HSA Hingston Smith Arms Co. Ltd. (1879 - 1920's?) - Winnipeg, Manitoba. A general store that sold firearms, ammunition, hunting and camping gear, taxidermy supplies, and police equipment.
  • Imperial A commercial brand of ammunition manufactured by Canadian Industries Ltd. (CIL); it later used the headstamp CIL-Imperial from 1954 to 1976. It was bought out by IVI Inc. in 1976, restarted production in 1977, and ceased production in 1991(?).

China[edit]

NORINCO (North Industries Corporation) - Beijing, People's Republic of China. Operates several state arsenals that produce weapons and munitions for both the military and civilian markets. Makes the Big Star rimfire and China Sports centerfire ammunition brands. Currently they make 9×18mm Makarov, 9×19mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, .223 Remington [5.56×45mm], 7.62×39mm Soviet, and .308 Winchester [7.62×51mm] ammo.

NORINCO 7.62×39mm Soviet ammunition was banned from importation in February, 1994. This was due to the fact that the military surplus ammunition couldn't pass the "magnet test". Non-compliant semi-armor-piercing and armor-piercing rounds have steel penetrators or steel cores that will be attracted by a magnet, the NORINCO copper-plated steel-jacketed Full Metal Jacket bullets would be attracted by a magnet - making it hard to distinguish between compliant lead-core and non-compliant steel-cored ammunition.

Arsenals[edit]

Ammunition headstamp has the arsenal number and the last 2 digits of the year of manufacture, the following are arsenals known to produce civilian lead-core ammunition.

  • 31 or 031 State Factory 31 - (Commercial ammo is packed in two-tone red-black box with white lettering and the NORINCO and China Sports names in gold lettering.)
  • 71 State Factory 71 - (Commercial ammo is packed in plain light green box with black lettering and the NORINCO name and symbol in red lettering on white backing)
  • 311 State Factory 311 - (Commercial ammo is packed in plain yellow box with black lettering and the NORINCO name and symbol in red lettering.)
  • 351 State Factory 351 - (Commercial ammo is packed in plain gray box with black lettering and the NORINCO name and symbol in red lettering.)

Manufacturers[edit]

  • CBCC Commercial ammo is packed in a plain cardboard box stamped with purple ink. Headstamp has the "CBCC" at 6 o'clock, two-digit year at 3 o'clock and the metric designation (e.g., 7.62x39) starting at 9 o'clock.
  • C J Jing-An Light Industries Corporation (NORINCO-Jinan) - Jinan, Shandong province, People's Republic of China. Makes rimfire and centerfire sporting ammunition and shotshells. (Commercial ammo is packed in plain dark green box with black lettering and the NORINCO name and symbol in red lettering on white backing). Headstamp has the C at 10 o'clock and the J at 2 o'clock.
  • CN China NORINCO.
  • J E NORINCO
  • L Y NORINCO Headstamp has the L at 9 o'clock and the Y at 3 o'clock.
  • NIC North Industries Corporation.
  • NRC NORINCO - Republic of China.
  • N S NORINCO Sport Ammunition.

Counterfeits[edit]

The use of counterfeit ammunition is perplexing, since NORINCO already makes ammunition and sells quite a lot of it. Theories abound: it was made for use by Chinese-backed insurgents, it was designed to get in on the surplus ammo market, or it was designed to make users leery of Western-made surplus ammunition and get them to buy new foreign-made ammo.

  • LC 52 Chinese copies of American .30 Carbine ammo with forged Lake City (headstamp "LC") markings. The ammunition was copper-washed steel-jacketed bullets with copper-washed steel cases. (This makes it magnetic - so it may fail the BATF magnet test used to detect illegal semi-armor-piercing and armor-piercing steel-core penetrators). Some are found in brass cases, and are readily identifiable after firing, as these cases are still Berdan primed. Unlike the USGI ammo, which has non-corrosive Boxer primers, it has corrosive Berdan primers, the cases have longitudinal scratches along the sides, like they have been reloaded. The bullet has a black sealant at its base and the primer has a clear pinkish-red sealant rather than an opaque red sealant, they come packed in 50-round cartons. Unlike US military ammunition, which have glued seams and an arsenal label printed-on or glued-on the box, the boxes' seams are stapled and are crudely stamped 7.62mmLC in blue ink on the top.[5] It is reported to have high pressures that are unsafe to use in an M1 carbine, especially a vintage one.
  • RG 60 Chinese copies of British 7.62mm NATO L2A2 ball ammo with forged Radway Green markings. The lettering on the counterfeit cartridge headstamps are shallow and crude compared to that of Radway Green, the ammunition was copper-washed steel-jacketed bullets with copper-washed steel cases and corrosive primers. It came packed loose in a green-painted 300-round zinc "spam can" with a cloth handle attached to "D-rings" on the sides,[6] it also came packed with knockoff 5-round British Mk.3 chargers marked with forged MTY 60 markings (indicating Mettoy, a former British government contractor); these came packed 5 to a can.[7] The knockoff chargers can be identified by the fact that the tool stamp is in a smaller typeface than the genuine models.[8]

Czech Republic[edit]

  • S&B, SBP, or Ŏ S&B Ŏ Sellier & Bellot - Vlašim, Prague, Czechoslovakia. (1825–Present) Made percussion caps from 1825 and cartridges from 1870. Acquired by Companhia Brasileira de Cartuchos (CBC) in 2009.

Egypt[edit]

What appears like "TO" is actually the Arabic letters for Haa (ح) and ?, the first letters of the words for "Military Factory". It is an Egyptian Military property mark, much like the broadshead arrowhead used by the British Government, the larger versions of the symbol has the numbers ٧٢ ("27") inset in the circle split by the vertical line. The "TO" is found on the base of shotgun shells, which Military Factory 27 makes for the civilian hunting market.

  • TO Military Factory 27 (Shubra Company for Engineering Industries) (1953-Present) - Shubra, Cairo, Egypt.

Germany[edit]

RWS headstamp on a 8×68mm S rifle cartridge
  • GECO Gustav Genschow & Co. (1887-1945; 1951-Present) - Berlin, Germany. Produces a wide range of pistol and rifle cartridges, shotshells, and air gun pellets. Formerly part of Dynamit-Nobel since 1946, now part of the RUAG Ammotec group, it makes the GECO Aktion Safety (GAS) brand, a type of hollow-core brass alloy safety bullet. GAS was imported to America in the 1980s by entrepreneur Phil Engeldrum as the "Blitz Action Trauma" (BAT) brand.[9]
  • RWS Rheinisch-Westfälischen Sprengstofffabriken ("Rhenish-Westphalian Explosives Factory") - . Makes rimfire cartridges, centerfire hunting rifle cartridges, and air gun pellets. Owns the Rottweil shotshell brand.

Italy[edit]

  • Fiocchi Fiocchi Munizioni - Lecco, Italy.
  • HB Enrico Barthe & Cie (1883-1889) - Milan, Italy. A company created as a front for the Società Franco Italiana per la fabbricazione delle Munizioni di caccia, da tiro, da guerra, ed affini (SFIM, "Franco-Italian Corporation for the manufacture of hunting, target-shooting, warfare, and related munitions"). SFIM was the Italian sales division of Société Française des Munitions (SFM, "French Association for Muntions"), the munitions division of the French firm Gevelot. It was an Italian-registered firm created for tax purposes, the president of the firm, Henri Barthe, was an SFM employee that used to be owner of Tarbes Freres before merging with SFM in 1883. French by birth and nationality, they recorded his name as Enrico Barthe in the incorporation papers - although being an Italian citizen or of Italian birth were not prerequisites for the tax law loophole.
  • LBC Leon Beaux & Cie. (1889-1932) - Milan, Italy. A company created as a front for SFIM, the Italian sales division of SFM, the munitions division of the French firm Gevelot, it was an Italian-registered firm created for tax purposes. Leon Beaux, an SFIM salesman, took over from Henri Barthe as president of SFIM in 1889 and the front company was renamed after him.
  • PERFECTA Manufactured by Fiocchi Munizioni.

Mexico[edit]

  • AGUILA Aguila Ammunition, a division of Industrias Tecnos S.A. de C.V. ("Technical Industries") - Cuernavaca, Mexico (1961–Present). Originally set up with the technical assistance of its original partner Remington, Aguila eventually became independent. Centurion Ordnance of Helotes, Texas, USA is the North American distributor.
  • CI Cascade Cartridges International S.A. de C.V. - San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., Mexico. Formerly the Mexican branch of American manufacturer CCI (Cascade Cartridge Incorporated). Now a partner with Industrias Tecnos.
  • VF Industrias Tecnos S.A. de C.V. ("Technical Industries") - Cuernavaca, Mexico. Made for Navy Arms Co. of Ridgefield, New Jersey from 1983 to the 1990s. The VF stands for Val Forgett, Jr. - the owner of Navy Arms Co.
  • Z Sovereign Ammunition, a division of Industrias Tecnos S.A. de C.V. ("Technical Industries") - Cuernavaca, Mexico (1961–Present). Owns the Tigercat rimfire ammo brand, the "Z" is sometimes inset in a "D" shape (for Deportivo - Spanish > "Sporting"). Southern Gun Distributors of Opa-Locka, Florida is the North American distributor.

Slovakia[edit]

  • ZVS ZVS IMPEX A.S. - Dubnica nad Váhom, Trenčín, Trenciansky kraj, Slovakia. ZVS IMPEX is a division of the ZVS Group that was created in 1998, it manufactures 9×19mm Parabellum ammunition and shotgun shells. Century International Arms of Delray Beach, Florida is the North American distributor, since 2013 it also makes the ZVS P20 9mm handgun and ZVS P21 9mm target handgun.

South Africa[edit]

  • AMT AmmoTech (Ammutechse) - Wierda Park, Centurion, Gauteng, Republic of South Africa.
  • M Musgrave Ammunition (1933 - 1996) - Bloemfontein, Mangaung Municipality, Free State, Republic of South Africa. Musgrave Rifles was a gunsmithing firm started by Ben Musgrave that made safari rifles, it was bought out by Armscor in 1971. It went out of business in 1996; Denel/PMP bought its machinery and plans and sent them to Vektor Arms, a division of Lyttelton Engineering Works, which began manufacturing Musgrave guns. It made its own match-grade ammunition, particularly a line of "wildcat" safari cartridges designed by Musgrave and based on the .303 British cartridge. The ammunition plant was used to make .303 British military ammunition during World War 2 from 1940 to 1945. Pretoria Metal Pressing made cases for them without a headstamp that were sold in foreign markets during the embargo.
  • Mus Musgrave Ammunition (1976?-1978?) - Ammunition made for Musgrave by Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik. Headstamp had "Mus" at 12 o'clock and the caliber at 6 o'clock. A letter (ranging from F to Z) is at 9 o'clock and a single digit number (ranging from 6 to 8) at 3 o'clock; these might be load types or a Lot / year of production code.
  • NGA New Generation Ammunition -Hennopsmeer, Gauteng, Republic of South Africa.
  • SWARTKLIP (a division of Denel Corporation) (?-2007) - Swartklip, Limpopo, Republic of South Africa. Manufactured .22 caliber rimfire and shotgun sporting ammunition. Imported into the United States by Armscorp USA Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland.

Sweden[edit]

  • NORMA ÅB Norma Projektilfabrik.

Turkey[edit]

  • GA Guardian Ammunition - Afton, Virginia. A brand of ZQI (Zenith Quest International), the North American distributors for MKE's civilian-market ammunition, they sell 9×19mm Parabellum, 5.56×45mm NATO and 7.62×51mm NATO ball ammo.

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

  • NR on a headstamp stands for "Non-Reloadable". It indicates that the cartridge cases are made of aluminum and are unsafe to reload.
  • NT on a headstamp stands for "Non-Toxic". It indicates that the primer compound is Diazodinitrophenol (DDNP) rather than Lead styphnate.

Manufacturers[edit]

  • Western Cartridge Company - East Alton, Illinois. Used on the base of rimfire cartridges.
  • A-MERC American Ammunition (1983-2014) - Miami, Florida. Manufactured brass casings for handloaders and small-batch cartridges. Went out of business in 2014 due to internet backlash concerning a drop in product quality.
  • ARMSCOR USA (1985-2009), A USA (2009-Present), A P Armscor USA (a division of Rock Island Armory) - Pahrump, Nevada. Headstamp was changed from ARMSCOR USA to A USA in 2009. A P stands for Armscor Precision, one of their ammo brands.
  • CCI Cascade Cartridges Inc., a division of Omark Industries (1951-Present) - Lewiston, Idaho. Founded by Richard Speer and Arvid Nelson to manufacture cartridge cases while his brother Vernon (founder of Speer Bullets) provided the bullets; in 1967, the founders were bought out by Omark Industries.
  • F, FC, FCC[10] Federal Cartridge Corporation - Anoka, Minnesota
  • H Winchester Repeating Arms Company - New Haven, Connecticut:
  • P, PCCo or PETERS Peters Cartridge Company - Kings Mills, Ohio:
  • R-P Remington-Peters - Lonoke, Arkansas (1970–Present). Lonoke facility only produced centerfire ammo from 1970; took over rimfire production from Bridgeport in 1989.[11]
  • R--P Remington Peters - Bridgeport, Connecticut (1960–1989). Bridgeport facility only produced rimfire ammo from 1970, then finally closed down in 1989.[11]
  • RA Remington Arms - Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • REM-UMC Remington-Union Metallic Cartridge - Bridgeport, Connecticut (1911–1960). Renamed Remington-Peters in 1960.[11]
  • *^* (two stars at 10-0'clock and 2-o'clock connected by a semi-circular arc) Starline Brass - Sedalia, Missouri. Manufactures brass casings for discontinued and "wildcat" pistol cartridges in 500 and 1,000 case lots for handloaders and small-batch ammo manufacturers.
  • SSA Silver State Armory - Pahrump, Nevada. A match-grade ammunition manufacturer, they make their own cases, primers, and propellants but contracted the bullets out to Barnes, Nosler, and Sierra.
  • SUPER-VEL (1963-1974) - Shelbyville, Indiana. A company started by Lee Jurras to manufacture high-pressure and wildcat cartridges, it became popular with police departments and began getting government contracts. However, their businesses' weakness was that they relied on other manufacturers for their cartridge cases. When their suppliers cut them off, they had trouble finding new sources and contracts had to be delayed or canceled, the facility closed in 1974 and its equipment and property sold for back taxes in 1975.
  • U Remington Arms - Bridgeport, Connecticut:
  • US United States Cartridge Company (1867–1926) - Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • W, WIN, or WINCHESTER Winchester Repeating Arms Co. - Bridgeport Connecticut.
  • WCC or WESTERN Western Cartridge Company - East Alton, Illinois
  • W-W Winchester-Western Company (1965–Present) - East Alton, Illinois
  • WRA Co. or WRA Winchester Repeating Arms Company - New Haven, Connecticut
  • WIN, or WINCHESTER Winchester (a division of Olin Corp.) - East Alton, Illinois
  • WISE J. B. Wise Inc - Watertown, New York.
  • ZERO Zero Ammunition Company - Cullman, Alabama.

Resellers[edit]

There are companies that do not manufacture or assemble cartridges of their own but import or contract them from another manufacturer.

  • Colt Manufacturing Co. - Hartford, Connecticut. Colt got into the ammunition business in 2013, they import .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield. Headstamp has "COLT" at 12 o'clock and the caliber from 9 o'clock to 6 o'clock. Initial imports were nickel-plated steel-cased ammunition by Barnaul; they had their monogram mark on the headstamp at 3 o'clock. This was replaced by American vendors. Black Hills Ammunition makes rifle ammunition for them using Sierra Bullet Company bullets. GBW Cartridge of Venice, Florida makes brass-cased pistol ammunition.
  • Hanson's Cartridge Company (a division of Hansen & Hansen Arms and Antiques) (1970s-1995?) - Southport, Connecticut. An auction house that developed a sideline in importing cartridges from Yugoslavia (Prvi Partizan Uzice (PPU) and Igman Konjic), with the beginning of the Yugoslavian Civil War (1991-1999) they had to find new suppliers. They briefly imported ammunition from Israel before closing down in the late 1990s.
  • Herter's - Sidney, Nebraska. Cabela's reseller brand.
  • Liberty Ammunition - Bradenton Florida. An ammunition reseller who owns the Civil Defense and Civil Trainer pistol ammunition and Animal Instinct rifle ammunition brands. They make lead-free bullets with non-toxic primers. Headstamps indicate they contract with German firms like DAG and RWS.
  • RED ARMY Red Army Standard - Delray Beach, Florida. Century International Arms' ammunition reseller brand, they contract with Russian (Lugansk Cartridge Works) and Eastern European (Igman Konjic) manufacturers.
  • TulAmmo USA - Round Rock, Texas. Resells Russian ammunition from the Tula and Ulyanovsk plants.

See also[edit]

Military Headstamps[edit]

Military cartridge headstamps do not usually have the caliber and cartridge name on it, the headstamp may have a 2- or 3-symbol letter, number, or alphanumeric code indicating the place of manufacture.[12] This is usually followed by two digits indicating the last two digits of the year of manufacture; they may have additional digits or a letter indicating the month or yearly quarter of manufacture. The packaging usually has the manufacturer code, 2-digit year, and a lot number on it so bad or suspect batches can be removed.

References[edit]