.32 S&W Long with no maker's mark

I have a .32 S&W Long round headstamped simply “32 S.&W.L.” in the bootm half of the case head. It has a semi balloon head case with a Berdan primer with a small domed copper cap. The bullet is a lead round nose. The Berdan primer makes me think it is European. I can post a picture of the headstamp if needed.

I was told that they were made by USCCO for discount department stores.

This could be the answer, but seems odd, with the European style case head and primer. It means that would have to run a completely different production line, to produce a “discount” cartridge.

It would be interesting to see a U.S.C.Co. headstamped .32 S&W, and compare the lettering styles.

I believe that before about 1930, and particularly in the 1920s, there was sporadic importation of ammunition into the U.S. from Europe for sale by hardware stores and similar outlets. I think this stuff was, for whatever reason, often sold in generic boxes. This to me seems a likelier source than a major American manufacturer. Perhaps someone can correct or fill in this sketchy outline. JG

That sounds like a good explanation, the round looks European and from that era.

I can post a scan of the headstamp.

Falcon: I went through some old cartridges for collectors catalogs and found a .38 long Colt described as having been made in Germany (from the original box, I’d think) and with the headstamp S&W 38. That headstamp isn’t correct for the .38 long Colt, of course, but it was listed so in at least two successive catalogs by the dealer, so is likely properly described. A catalog by another dealer listed an American caliber handgun cartridge (I forget exact caliber) with caliber only as headstamp and with the dealer’s notation “Sears,” so I assume it was sold by Sears and Roebuck. It would be interesting to see the headstamp of your round. JG

In deciphering who made cartridges headstamped only with the caliber, you must take into account every single feature of the cartridge - primer cup material, primer shape, presence or lack of primer and/or neck seals, bullet type, ogive, jacket material, case material, lack or presence of case cannelures, etc. etc.

Also helpful, of course, are box labels, sometimes by style alone if they do not include a specific maker’s name.

Otto Witt’s great work on the .38 Special cartridge shows over 25 different .38 Special headstamps that consist of only the caliber designation, and some more that are only the caliber and a date or date code, on the .38 Special cartridge alone. There are a myriad of examples in other claibers as well, rifle and pistol.

You simply cannot speak in generalities about these headstamps any more than you can about unheadstamped rounds.

John: Your discussion of the Witt book is interesting and brings to mind the number one item on my own personal wish list, which is a similar treatment of American–nearly all unheadstamped–commercial center fire small arms ammunition produced in the quarter century following the end of the Civil War. JG

I’ll try and do a headstamp scan soon when I get time.

I have one option !
SFM in 1922 and 1924 has sold low quality Ctgs bearing only the caliber in the hstp in the various american calibers , loading with black powder and smokless , lead and copper pointed lead bullet.
Now , I need a picture of the hstp to confirm if it is an SFM.

Here is the headstamp:

I forgot about posting this, phil12 emailed me some photos of similar headstamps in this calibre which were made by SFM.

So I can confirm what people have said that it was cheap ammo sold in the USA in the 1920s and 30s.

Thanks for everyone’s input.

In the .30-40 Krag caliber and other CF rifle cartridges as well, (30-30 and other common sellers come to mind), much of the ammunition was made for Sears by Western Cartridge Company. The cartridges were headstamped with a Western bunter with the “WESTERN” ground off, leaving, for example, on the Krag cartridge, just “.30 U.S.A.” at 6 o’clock. (Or bunters made from scratch with WESTERN left off). All other attributes of the Krag cartridge are distinctly Western, i.e., bullet, primer, etc. The handgun stuff, I have no idea.

Your round is probably of German origin and COULD have been imported by Galief, The Eagle Metallic Cartridge Co., Kleenfire, or perhaps even Warner Arms Corp. plus others here in the US, but very likely German maunfactured for my 2cents. ALTHOUGH as John Moss correctly notes it is very hard to say 100% without a box. But I think Germany would be a good place to start.

Sorry to not be of more help.

I’ve seen the Sears style headstamps and although similar, this is not Sears. Sears were made by the Western Cartridge Co.

It looks alot like the SFM rounds that phil12 sent me photos of, and has a very French look to it, so I am inclined to think French.