View Full Version : Headstamp Identification

Daniel S.
August 8, 2005, 12:31 AM
I was recently working in a third world country where a situation of conflict exists, and am writing up a report of my findings. I am trying to identify some 7.62 Winchester bullet casings that were fired by a local police force, and would like get an idea of when (and perhaps how) this ammo was supplied to them. Dates and factories are a good start. There are some numbers that may or may not be dates. This kind of identification is not part of what I usually do, so I would be grateful for any help at all, or for any direction you can point me in. What would you suggest for further research?

Here are some of the headstamps...
WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside)762 04 CBC
WRA 30 06 SPRG
TZ 84
R.P. 308 WIN
WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside)

Thanks, -Daniel

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2005, 12:42 AM
"WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside)762 04 CBC"

I have to assume that you have 2 headstamps on one line in the above example, but I'm not exactly sure where to parse it.

WRA 61 is Winchester Repeating Arms, 1961. The circle/cross is the NATO acceptance stamp, meaning that it's loaded to NATO spec for that caliber.

CBC is the mark for Companhia Brasiliera de Cartuchos (Brazilian Cartridge Company)

"WRA 30 06 SPRG"

Winchester Repeating Arms, .30-06 is the caliber (US military round from 1906 to circa 1954), SPRG means Springfield, after the old government arsenal where the .30-06 and the first rifles that fired it were developed.

"TZ 84"

TZ is, I believe, a marking used by Isralie Military Industries, the 84 would be 1984. I've only ever seen it on pistol cases.

"R.P. 308 WIN"

Remington Peters, an American manufacturer. .308 Win. is the .308 Winchester, the civilian designation of the 7.62x51 military round adopted by the United States and used from about 1954 through the mid 1960s in rifles, and until fairly recently in machine guns.

"WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside)"

See above.

Not at all sure how you could determine exactly where the specific cartridges came from. All are common markings, and quantities are probably in the hundreds of millions of rounds loaded using the same general headstamping practices. Distribution is literally worldwide.

Daniel S.
August 8, 2005, 01:55 AM
Thank you very much. You were right about the two headstamps being mistakenly on the same line.
You have given me the information I needed to know. I was trying to determine if I could establish whether this ammo has been recently supplied to a group that is guilty of human rights violations. The fact that the dates are so varied indicates that either they weren't recently supplied in bulk, or that if they were, it was done in such a way that it should be impossible to trace.
Thanks again for your detailed reply.
PS: I'm guessing the answer is "no", but let me know if you are aware of any other markings or characteristics on used bullet casings that could provide more information.

August 8, 2005, 09:43 AM
To add to Mike's excellent information: The cases with year stamps are military; the cases with cartridge designations such as ".30-'06 Sprg" and ".308 Win." are commercial.

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2005, 12:01 PM
Jacob's statement is a good rule of thumb (if it has a year on it, it's military), but there are some exceptions.

Winchester frequently has sold "white box" ammo to the general public that is stamped in military style.

This is, generally, left over from military production runs (as I understand it).

Also, in years past, some manufacturers (normally European) have stamped a year on their ammo even though it's sold to the general public. In years past, though, I've only seen this from a few German and Czech manufacturers in the years prior to WW II.

"PS: I'm guessing the answer is "no", but let me know if you are aware of any other markings or characteristics on used bullet casings that could provide more information."

Sorry, but the answer is pretty much no.

The shipping crates and individual packs (for military ammo) and the boxes (commercial ammo) often have more extensive information, including the lot number from the manufacturer. If you had the lot number, you could at least get some idea as to where the ammo went after it left the factory. But only if the factory opened it records to you.

August 8, 2005, 08:57 PM
Here's another twist: All of those cases are boxer primed and reloadable. the brass may have been used before.

The military ones whould have originally been sealed (red laquer around the primer).


James K
August 8, 2005, 09:11 PM
Ammunition is ubiquitous and usually untraceable. That ammunition could have come from any of a thousand sources and arrived by any of hundreds of routes. In the modern chaotic world, tracing arms and ammunition is likely a futile effort. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. supplied arms and ammunition, directly or through surrogates, to hundreds of "freedom fighters" around the world. Arms smugglers distributed more.

Even in WWII, it was not always possible to say that the ammunition used by an army was made for that army or in that nation's factories. As an example, I have seen a report that British .303 ammunition captured at Singapore turned up in Japanese hands on a Pacific island. Since the Japanese Naval landing parties used the Japanese Navy Lewis gun copies in that caliber, they could well have fired British ammunition at American troops.


Daniel S.
August 8, 2005, 10:08 PM
Thanks all. I really appreciate the help.
I picked up the shells shortly after civilians were shot and left for dead by police forces. The shells were still hot to the touch, and were certainly used by what are resembling death squads. It was of much interest to me to find out, if possible, who supplied the ammo. Much seems to be supplied by Uncle Sam, but it would have been helpful to see for sure. The ammo could have been lying around for years, too. I guess the difficulty of such identification is to the generous supplier's advantage.
One question, though. If the dates are in fact indicative of military stock, does this mean that it would have been restricted to being shipped to a military force, or just up to specs for them? Do they end up in civilian hands often?
Take care, -Daniel

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2005, 11:29 PM
In the United States a lot of former military ammo is released into the civilian market after it reaches a certain age.

Some ammo is released for shooting events in the United States, but this is miniscule amount compared to what even a small, poor nation might require in a year.

Some of this ammo may be made available to smaller nations around the world after being removed from US inventories, or it may never have entered US inventory, having been supplied directly to another government.

Ultimately, though, the answer is... maybe.

The Fed
September 1, 2005, 08:49 PM
I used to manufacture 7.62MM and 5.56MM cartridges for Uncle in the 60's and 70's. Regarding the crosshair headstamp, it was our understanding at the time that it signified match grade cases since we had 7.62 cases with and without the stamp. I worked at the long defunct Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia.

Mike Irwin
September 3, 2005, 10:54 PM

Cross in the circle designates ammo maufactured to NATO specifications, and has since sometime in the 1950s.

Cases with the stamp were made to NATO spec, those without weren't manufactured to NATO spec.

I've got ammo from a variety of NATO nations, including Britain, Spain, and Germany, from the 1960s through the 1990s, and all have the cross in circle mark signifying production to NATO spec.

Munhall & White's "Cartridge Headstamp Guide" (1963) shows several examples.

Illustration 822 shows the headstamp on a 7.62x51 round (FA, cross in circle, 56) and has the following: "Frankford Arsenal ammunition made especially for the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and identified by cross in circle. NATO 7.62mm rounds produced in 1956."

1227 shows a Lake City cartridge with a 1955 manufacture stamp.

Illustration 1375 shows a Dutch round with the NATO mark,

Match ammunition loaded in the United States almost universally is headstamped with the word "Match" or NM for National Match, as shown in illustrations 1228 and 834-836 and 863.

James K
September 16, 2005, 07:32 PM
I, too, have always called that symbol a "cross in a circle", but actually it is a four pointed star, the NATO symbol. You can see it in the upper left hand corner on the official NATO web site:



T. O'Heir
September 17, 2005, 02:45 AM
"...still hot to the touch..." Cases in the sun? Brass, like any metal, gets heated and stays hot when in sunlight.
"...indicative..." Something stinks here. Gentlemen. Poor spelling screams. Don't ask me what though.
"...a third world country..." Which one and for who?

March 21, 2009, 10:01 PM
I have come upon a case of .308 dia with the headstamp of WRA 61. I have read all of the posts regarding this round. Would anyone venture a guess if they are ok to shoot? They are in great condition, not rust, or spotting around the primer. They have been sealed in metal ammo cans for who knows how long. I acquired them from my grandfather when he passed away. I did take one to a local gun smith, he told me to get "the bullet, get the hell out of my store." I am not sure why.

Thanks for your help.


44 AMP
April 14, 2009, 01:19 AM
USGI ammo is, and has been floating all over the world for generations. There is no way humanly possible to track it beyond its entry into the military supply system, or possibly not. I have a few hundred rounds of LC 65 & 68 ammo, which I save for special occassions.

WRA 61, if properly stored should be fine. I have no idea why he told you to get out of his store, Cole. There is nothing wrong or illegal about having that ammo, unless it can be tied to some lot that was stolen ( and no individual round could be. Ammo cans with lot#s might be able to be, but there have been literally millions of cans and many more individual rounds sold as surplus, quite legally.

I have a small quantity of WRA 64 brass in my reloading stuff, and have used them for years with good results.

As to the cases found at the shooting site, all I can guess is that one of the rifles was a .30-06, and the shooter had commercial Remington ammo for it. And yes, this ammo can be found all over, even outside the US.

The other cases are military, and in the case of the WRA stuff, over 48 years old. This ammo in case lots (or lots as small as a single ammo can) could have been in a dozen countries before winding up in the hands of those who left it where it was found. It means nothing, except to identify the guns used as being made outside of the Soviet Bloc nations.

May 20, 2009, 10:06 AM
Maybe this should be a different thread, but I just found a couple rounds of ammo from my father who served in WW1. The headstamp has W.R.A. 30. It is a rimmed cartridge with identical dimensions, diameters and length, to my 30-40 Krag shells when I miked it. It has a short lead bullet that sticks out of the case about 5/16". The shoulder looks a little shorter and steeper than the Krag. It will chamber in my 30-40 Krag up until the shoulder stops it about 1/4" away from going all the way in. Anybody have a clue as to what this round is? Did my dad force this into his 30-40 Krag hunting rifle? I remember going deer hunting with him and he always hunted with his 30-40 Krag.

Mike Irwin
May 20, 2009, 02:05 PM
WRA is Winchester Repeating Arms.

30 may be the year of production, or it may be the caliber.

What's odd is that I THINK in 1930 only the United States Government was manufacturing military ammunition, all contracts with civilian manufacturers having been cancelled in the wake of the end of WW I.

What you're describing sounds like a gallery round, a short-range, low powered round used for training,

Any chances of posting some clear pictures of the round in question?

Jim Watson
May 20, 2009, 04:23 PM
Sounds like a .30-40 Krag Improved loaded with a cast bullet for practice.

May 20, 2009, 04:29 PM
Thanks Jim and Mike for responding. Is "improved" an actual round that is different than an original 30-40 krag? I am comparing it to a modern 30-40 krag round but trying to chamber it in an original 1896 Krag. The bullet on my modern round sticks out of the shell about 3/4". How do you post pictures? I can take some tonight and email them to you???


May 20, 2009, 04:30 PM
I guess I should have said is "improved" an actual change in the chamber of the 30-40 krag?

Mike Irwin
May 22, 2009, 10:32 AM
Gunsmith P.O. Ackley came out with a large series of "improved" cartridges.

Mainly this involved moving the shoulder forward, shortening the neck, and reducing body taper.

The case would hold more powder, and you'd get higher velocity.

Given that when Ackley was active the .30-40 was still very popular and rifles were very available and cheap, it's possible that it is an improved round.

November 8, 2010, 04:10 PM
WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside) - WINCHESTER NATO
WRA 61 (Circle with cross inside) - WINCHESTER NATO
WRA 30 06 SPRG - WINCHESTER unfamilar additional marking
30-06 Springfield is not 308WIN / 7.62Nato

762 04 CBC - BRAZIL (not fam. with 7.62 from this source. the 762 would be 7.62, 04 would likely be lot #.

R.P. 308 WIN I don't know. RPR would be Romanian, RPA Phillipine. If it is either, Phillipine would be better bet.

TZ 84 Could be 1984 Israeli. this is how I found this forum. I have 762NATO on 5 round clips with TZ 91 on them. The "T" and "Z" are at 10 and 2 Oclock. Not familiar with any Israeli 7.62 weapon that uses 5 round. The Galil and Israeli FN & G3 would have used a magazine.

- Joe "Chuckwagon"

Mike Irwin
November 8, 2010, 05:00 PM

You do realize that you're answering a question that was asked over 5 years ago? And the original poster hasn't been here since the day after he asked the question?

"TZ 84 Could be 1984 Israeli. this is how I found this forum. I have 762NATO on 5 round clips with TZ 91 on them. The "T" and "Z" are at 10 and 2 Oclock. Not familiar with any Israeli 7.62 weapon that uses 5 round. The Galil and Israeli FN & G3 would have used a magazine."

Two likely scenarios.

The first is that it is on clips for use in bolt action rifles chambered in 7.62 and which were/are held in reserve. Starting in the 1950s or 1960s the Isralies rechambered thousands of K98 Mausers to 7.62/.308.

The second is that it is clipped ammo to be used, along with a loading key, to load Galil or FN magazines. The US M14 rifle used this method of loading. Currently US M16/M4 rifles are loaded in the same manner using 10-round stripper clips.

As noted above, R.P. .308 Win is a US commercial headstamp for Remington Peters.

December 1, 2010, 03:29 AM
Not familiar with any Israeli 7.62 weapon that uses 5 round.

Many WWII surplus 98k Mauser rifles from Czechoslovakia were converted to 7.62 NATO by Israel. In addition, there were rifles made by FN for Israel in the 1950's, but I'm not completely sure if they were made originally in 7.62 NATO, or came in 8mm and then converted like the Czech guns. Obviously, these would be the recipients of the 5 shot chargers.

The one thing I am puzzled about, however, is that I was told the "TZ" headstamp ammo was from Yugoslavia.

While not completely relevant to the OP, there was, within the last 20 years or so, a large amount of "7.62 NATO" ammo complete with NATO cross and 80's British headstamp that was made in China, allegedly to support a Communist uprising in the Philippines. (The idea being that the uneducated would assume that the Communist rebels were being supported by the UK.)

Fortunately, the cases were steel, hence immediately obvious to anyone who had a modicum of knowledge about ammunition that they were NOT from Britain. It was always my understanding that the original intent of Chinese production of M14 rifles was also to support that insurrection. (Thus, also blaming the U.S. for supporting the rebels.)

Mike Irwin
December 1, 2010, 09:49 AM
TZ has been used by IMI as a headstamp identifier since at least the late 1970s.

It's possible, however, that a Yugoslavian company is using TZ, as well. Headstamps aren't particularly exclusive to any company or nation, and there's no international agreements of which I know that mandate headstamp identification specifications internationally.

I'm going to go ahead and close this thread. It's 5 years old now and there's no real reason for it to keep growing.