.30 carbine steel case?

I just acquired several .30 carbine rounds, headstamped FA 54. The bullet is copper in color, and not magnetic, the case is silver and is magnetic. the primer is copper colored and staked in. This could be a very common round, but I’ve never seen a military small arms round with a case like this.

Detcord - please define the parameters of what you mean by “a case like this” a little more specifically. Do you mean a steel case? Or, are your referring to just caliber .30 Carbine? Or are you talking about the case finish?

Military ammunition in rifle and pistol calibers loaded in steel cases are very common, including in caliber .30 Carbine. We need to know the exact feature of the case that has you puzzled, in order to hopefully be able to help you.

Sorry I was vague. I have seen and handled quite a bit of US military small arms ammo, but this is the first time I’ve seen anything US in a steel case. I have several examples of .30 Carbine both civilian and military loadings, but I was surprised by this. Since the majority of these I find in a typical brass casing, what was the reason for the steel cases? thanks for putting up with a new collectors ignorance. Kevin

Kevin - Don’t worry about your question. Learning how to phrase a question is the same learning curve as learning how to answer one. I don’t ask a lot of questions on this Forum, but I ask thousands in private communications and conversations, and about half the time I do a poor job of it myself.

Its great to have you with us, and we want very much to help you if we can.

Steel case ammunition comes about in a effort to save the elements, often referred to as Strategic Materials, that are used in brass. Brass is used in many wartime implements other than ammunition, and evidently the elements and procedures used to make brass make it scarcer and more expensive than steel. I am no expert in these metallurgical questions and that is probably an incredible over-simplification of the subject, but I think it may communicate the general reason for steel cases.

The problem has always been making substitute materials work for cases, when brass is probably the best possible material to use for them. The Germans, for example, had a very high rate of rejection of finished steel cartridge cases during WWII, but conversely, and this sounds like a contradiction, also had a avery high success rate with it. That is, they made billions of rounds of perfectly good ammunition with steel cases as well.

American technology, developed in the main in a short period of time, was more successful, and once the key to steel-cased ammunition of fairly high quality was found, successful production, even by companies that had never made ammunition casings or loaded ammunition, was in the billions of rounds. Steel-cased ammunition was made in all of the standard U.S. Small Arms cartridges - .45 Auto Pistol, (successful experiments with 9mm although never in mass serial production probably because it wasn’t needed). .30 Carbine, .30-06, and .50 caliber MG. It was used for ball rounds as well as blanks and some other loadings.

When I was in the Army in the mid-1950s, while I didn’t see a lot of steel-cased ammunition in .30-06 or .30 Carbine, even though plenty was probably still in service, I never saw any .45 ammunition other than WWII Evansville Chrysler-produced .45. They had made so much that their production line for that caliber was shut down completely in late 1944, even though the war was predicted to go on perhaps as late as 1947 or so. they simply had produced so much of it that there was no further projected need for it.

Lots of case finishes were tried, and even aside from experiments, serial production of various calibers was done with several different caxse finishes, depending on the factory and when it was made, all seemingly successful.

For a great read, if you can ever find in a library a copy of a Chrysler Corporation publication called “Bullets by the Billion,” published during WWII, I suggest reading it cover to cover. It is a quick and interesting read and tells the story of Evansville Chrysler’s production of steel case ammo, which probably mirrors all U.S. production of the same before and after, in a way that we could not begin to explain it here.

Hope this is of some help to you.

As my Dad says" There’s no use being ignorant if you don’t show it." I’m used to seeing arty casings steel, but this is the first small arms ammo I’ve seen. Good info to know, and something else to keep my eyes open for. Thanks for the info. Kevin

Is it not true that the vast majority of steel cased US small arms ammunition manufactured during WWII was relegated to training use stateside? I seem to recall anectdotal reports of (US) steel cased ammuniton not being suitable for actual field use…


AKMS - I have never heard of that in my life. I was, of course, not in WWII, so cannot speak from personal experience. But I can tell you from personal experience, both as an ex-soldier and civilian shooter, that I have shot thousands of rounds of WWII steel-case .45 in both pistols and in the Thompson SMG, the latter courtesy of an LE Agency with which I used to get to shoot four times a year, and it always worked to perfection. At the time of my “tommy gun shooting” the ammo was already 40 years old. One time, the ammo we shot, literally a burlap bag with a thousand rounds or so of filthy dirty ammunition, went through a TSMG and an M3A1 with zero malfunction. It was so crappy looking, I declined to shoot any of it in the Colt Commander I was carrying.

In the Army, we were issued this ammunition on the range, as well as for our emergency supply (peacetime Army - kept in our supply area of course), although that was not a great amount. I was an assistant machinegunner then, before I went to Alaska and became a clerk, and carried a pistol. We had very few pistols in our unit and I don’t recall any SMGs, so we didn’t have a lot of .45 ammo in storage.

Now, for a fact. You can, of course, take this as anecdotal, because it is at this stage. However, we had a French fellow work for our store for awhile. A very nice young man and a real firearms enthuriast. His step-father was a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General. His dad was showing him around some of the battlefields from the D-Day times (Ralph, our employee, was born after the war) and they were looking for artifacts. Ralph found a TSMG magazine sticking about an inch out of the ground and dug it up. It was still partially full with ammunition. At a birthday party at his house years later he gave me a round from that magazine - steel-case, rusted all to hell, headstamp E C 43. I like it more than the most mint ball round in my .45 collection! I just got it out of the drawer. It still has the white tag I put on it “E.C. 43 - found in vicinity of St. Mere Eglise c. 1969 in a TSMG magazine. Found by Ralph Pineda. Magazine was half buried, with top end sticking up out of ground.” Ralph just passed on too early, and I had the pleasure, mixed with sorrow, of attending a memorial get together at their home and meeting General Tripp and Ralph’s mom again for the first time in years. They both still looked great. Well, that’s personal stuff. Forgive an old man for rambling.

So, some or the steel case ammunition DID go to war. I suspect most of it!
I think the training thing is a myth. Just my humble opinion.