Which color is a stannic bullet ?

JP-Stannic stained bullets are black or dark brown.

JP & Ron

It’s actually a silvery color.

On the left is an M1 “Short Range” 150 grain bullet stannic stained to differentiate it from the regular GM 174 grain M1 bullet.


30-06 bullets wre balck or dark brown ???

Ray-Your right. The black bullets are the result of being dipped in a solution of sodium sulphide and ammonium sulphide or a solution of sodium hyposulphide, lead acetate and boiling water.

What can I say about my mistake–it was early in the morning, my mind was addled, a senior moment, all of the above, etc.

Wasn’t the silver ‘stannic’ stain used only on the early M2 ball?


It may have been used then but it was first used to identify the M1 cartridges loaded with a 150 grain bullet, the so-called “short range” cartridges. That was ca late 1930s.

It would make sense that, when the M2 ammunition was first issued, there would be confusion with the older M1 cartridges once they were removed from the box. Staining the M2 would solve that problem until the supply of M1 was exhausted and it was no longer needed.

M2 would be headstamped 40 or later, right?

Only an '06 exspurt would know the answer and we no longer have such a person on the staff. :) :)


I beg to differ, Ray. Chris Punnett is still the Vice President and Editor of IAA, and I know few people in the world that know as much about the .30-06 cartridge as does he.

John Moss

Ok thanks.
But it has the same color as you call tinned !
both, tinned and stained, are silver color, aren’t they ?


The colors are different. But remember, the coatings were applied between 50 and 100 years ago and they can change as they age. It also depends on how they were applied.

  1. CN

  2. Stannic

  3. Tin

  4. GM


Thanks to everybody



There is definitely a difference in color between what are called tinned and stannic stained. The old 45-70 and 45-55 tinned cartridges, as well as the 30 US tinned ones all have a color like the tinned one in my photo. On the other hand the early 45ACP cartridges that most collectors called “tinned” are more like the stannic stained '06, as are a lot of the early commercial cartridges such as the Winchesters. It must have more to do with the actual coating compound and how it’s applied. But that’s just my guess. We need a chemist. :) :)


Stannic stained or tinned cartridges in 30-06 include the 1921 National Match headstamped “FA 21-R” and called the “Tin can” bullet. The early M2 ball rounds were stannic stained to differentiate them from the M1 Ball which was still in use. These stannic stained M2 rounds can be found with FA headstamps from 1937-1940. By the way: the M1 continued in use through 1941 - mostly by the Navy.

There was no “M1 Gallery” short range cartridge but there was a “Special Gallery Practice” cartridge with tinned bullet loaded into FA 21-R case which is quite rare and can be recognized from the 1921 Match round by the lighter powder charge. However it is easily faked and most I’ve seen were just regular M2 bullets stuffed into FA 21-R cases (usually with cracked necks).


The “short range” cartridges I referred to are not gallery or practice rounds but are those described by Gen Hatcher in his book. And also referenced in Phil Sharpe’s book.

The M1 was adopted in 1925 and was intended to increase the range of the '06 cartridge primarily for machine gun use. With 2 billion rounds of the WWI '06 still on hand the new stuff was kept on hand as “war reserve” only. But when the new ammunition finally reached the troops in about 1936, an astonishing thing was discovered. It had more recoil and a greater range than the '06 and was unsafe on most rifle ranges. Well DUH! So, a new “short range” cartridge was developed that effectively reproduced the original '06. To differentiate the cartridges, the GM bullets were stannic stained which gave them the unique appearance, one that resembled the original '06. The short range ammo was so well received - less recoil, less weight, etc, that it was decided to go back to the 150 grain bullet and thus the M2 was adopted as the standard for both rifle and machine gun use in 1940. The bullet weight was increased to 152 grains to eliminate the use of tin and antimony in the cores, both of which were scarce.

So, according to Hatcher, the stannic stained rounds headstamped 37 - 40 were the M1 “short range”. Since he was the officer in charge of the Frankford Arsenal Small Arms Ammunition Department, wouldn’t he be the preferred source?

The tin plated specemin in my photo is one of the “Tin Can” rounds, BTW.


Hi Chris !
for you stannic or tinned are the same ?

Over the years the terms “Stannic-stained”, “Tinned” and “Tin plated” seem to have been used almost interchangeably by the collecting fraternity. However, I was told that stannic staining was a chemical process and the tin plating was produced by electrolysis (please note that I am NOT a chemist).

As the eloquent Mr. Meketa says, there are significant differences in the appearance of various “tin finishes”. The tin plating of the 1921 match rounds have a distinctly frosted finish, while those on some commercial tinned bullets have a shine to them. This could be caused by differences in the way the tin is applied but it could just as easily be the way the bullet was polished and cleaned after the tin was applied. Then comes the aging factor. I have seen some tinned bullets that have turned black due to age and/or storage conditions.

All this is a long way of saying “I don’t know for sure” !! Now for those of you who accuse me of being a “Expurt”… nah, nah, nah-nah, nah !!

Thank you Chris !

For those of you who are still there, a quick post to close the loop on those stannic stained bullets.

Chris P was correct, as he usually is. So rather than try to improve on what he told me I’ll paste it here.

[i]In about 1936 they loaded a 150 grain bullet as the first step in moving to a lighter bullet. They initially called this the M1906 (same name as the predecessor to the M1 ball). First official lots were produced in 1937. The official designation of M1906 was changed to M2 in September 1938. I believe the confusion comes from the statement that it was adopted for “Rifle & machine gun” when it was in fact already adopted for rifles prior to 1940. They kept the M1 around for a couple of years but it was basically phased out of MG use by 1940.

I had stannic stained “M1906” box from 1937 and a box of stannic stained “M2” headstamped FA 37 in my collection.

So, it appears that any stannic stained bullets in cases dated FA 37 could be either M1906 or M2 and any dated FA 38 or later are most likely M2.