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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.


  • BB (1986–Present) - Bertram Bullet Co. Pty. Ltd. Seymour, Melbourne, Victoria. Bruce Bertram bought Super Cartridge Co.'s machinery and moved it to Seymour, where he began manufacturing brass cases for handloaders. 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 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.
  • RBA or RIVERBRAND (1945? - early 1980s) - Riverbrand Ammunition Company, 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, after Churches' death in the late 1970s, RIVERBRAND's bullet-making machinery was sold and moved to Gympie, Wide Bay–Burnett, Queensland, where it was set up as TAIPAN Bullets.[2] Owner Malcolm Bone now manufactures bullets in small lots for handloaders, since the company's major toolmaker and die-setter died a few years ago.[1]
  • SUPER (? - 1985) - Super Cartridge Co. 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.




  • 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(?).


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.


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.)


  • 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.
  • 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.


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 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, some is found in brass cases, and is readily identifiable after firing, as these cases are still Berdan primed. (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). 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, the boxes' seams are stapled and are crudely stamped 7.62mmLC in blue ink on the top rather than having glued seams and an arsenal label printed-on or glued-on the box.[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]

  • PSB, Ŏ, or 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.


RWS headstamp on a 8×68mm S rifle cartridge
  • GECO Gustav Genschow & Co. - (1887 - ?). Produces a wide range of pistol and rifle cartridges, shotshells, and air gun pellets. Formerly part of Dynamit-Nobel, now part of the RUAG Ammotec group, it makes the GECO Aktion Safety (GAS) brand, a type of hollow-core brass alloy safety bullet; it 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.


  • 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.


  • Aguila Aguila Ammunition, a division of INDUSTRIAS TECNOS S.A. de C.V. ("Technical Industries") - Cuernavaca, Mexico (1961–Present). Centurion Ordnance of Helotes, Texas, USA is the North American distributor.
  • 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 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.


  • 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]


  • NORMA ÅB Norma Projektilfabrik.


  • 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]

NT on a headstamp stands for "Non-Toxic". It indicates that the primer compound is Diazodinitrophenol (DDNP) rather than Lead styphnate.

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.