38 S&W and 38 Long on copper links


I have some 38 caliber cartriges held together with thin soft copper links. They look like little belts of machinegun ammo.

Each of the cartriges in the 38 S&W strip are headstamped S&W at 12 o’clock and 38 at 6 o’clock. The other strip contains two shots of Peters 38L marked cartriges. The cartriges are all loaded with ordinary lead bullets.

Does anyone have information about these links?

I will try to post some images soon.

Best regards,


The links

The headstamps of the 38long and 38 S&W ammo on links


From the look of the copper Links, they are factory made, using similar dies and tooling etc as used for the manufacture of Browning MG belt links…Now the Purpose of these “links”…obviously NOT for a "submachine gun in .38 calibre??? Maybe just as a means of easy carry of the ammo, say as a wrist band or as a “Hat band”…or maybe even as a “quick loader”…are the copper links malleable enough to simply “peel off” when the cartridges are into the chambers of a revolver?.

From the design and type, I would say they were 1920s-1930s manufacture.

And given the “factory made” aspect, I would say that a lot were made to justify the tooling costs. ( even at a “Toolroom” level.)
If they are American made ( going on the ammunition) then there should be some publications, advertisements, etc from the major ammo makers of these calibres? Just a question of research. There is probably a US Patent on them as well ( or a variation of use on one of the original Prideaux patents for BMG links).

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


Something not cartridge related that someone got clever with?

It looks to me as if all of the link pieces are the same, but none are connected in any way…just assembled to look like a link-belt.

Surely too frail and cumbersome to be a legitimate cartridge holder, belt, band or whatever.



Agreed, AKMS, but the units of the link are all identical, too identical to have been “hand folded or made”…so a machine pressing and folding operation is indicated…like I said, if the copper is flimsy, it may be for a “quick load” purpose ( Links peeled away as one drops the rounds into the cylinder).

Like I said above…look at the literature and the Patents of the 1920s and 30s…maybe even before WW I…

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


Possibly not the original ammo for the links?


In further comment, each copper strip is the same and non of them are connected to the others. The copper strips have each been formed exactly alike and they look like they were made with a machine. They have been assembled two trips to one round and then one strip to the next, then two strips and so on. The copper strips are easily bent.

History (what little I know)

The few rounds I have came from the estate of an old friend. He was in the U.S. military starting in the early-1930’s. He was an avid life long collector of arms and ammo. Over 30 years ago, I remember seeing a sizeable role of copper linked 38 Long ammo in his disorganized basement. At least some the rounds in the linked belt had “18” in the headstamp. I don’t know how long he had it or how he obtained the strange linked belt. And, unfortunately, I don’t remember him telling me all that much about the history or purpose of the strange linked 38 ammo. Some years ago, he passed away. There were only a few rounds of this linked ammo left in his estate. The big belt of copper linked 38L ammo I remembered seeing many years ago was no longer in the collection, except for the few rounds you see in the image.


45 Auto

Links are usually of the “disintegrating” type, that is, the links are not connected to one another. It takes cartridges to make them into a belt. So, that’s not an unusual feature.

I’m going with Vince. The base of the 38 revolver cartridges is almost the same diameter as the various 223 military cartridges and those links are probably intended for something other than what you find in them. It’s not uncommon to find links assembled with all sorts of cartridges they were never intended for. The same with stripper clips. They are common at gun shows. A stripper clip or belt of 300 Savage ammo will sell a lot quicker than loose rounds in a cigar box.




Yes, Ray, they (the links) May have been made for a cartridge other than the .38 Long or S&W as shown in the photo…but which case would match the era of the Links…( before WWII??)…only the 9mm Parabellum would fit, or maybe even the 7,63 (.30) Mauser??? I very much doubt they were made for a modern cartridge such as the .223 (5,56) or even .30 MI carbine???

Which brings us back to the original question/s:
What was the purpose of these links?
Who made them?,
Exactly When and Where were they made?
Why did they not survive (in greater nujmbers)?

One very strange though has come to me…Maxim did make a Miniature Maxim gun in 7,63x25 Mauser calibre, and fed it with a Canvas belt…could some one making a miniature MG using a case such as the .38Long, a Gun based on the Maxim ( extract from belt) Principle, have used the .38 cartridge with copper Links for it??? Maybe a potential Police Gun?

The use of .38Long would put the design at the early 1900s, but who knows…

As I have said before, a research of the US Patent Office records would certainly turn up any of my suppositions…

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


At least I know that non of our forum regulars have seen anything like this before.

The patent search sounds like a good idea, but I don’t think I’ll have the time for that any time soon.

I wonder if it would be possible to re-print my images in the IAA magazine?

New Question: Who made the 38 S&W ammo in the long link? I don’t recall seeing this headstamp before.


I vote for a German or possibly Austrian origin for the 38 S&W cartridges. Jack


38 ACP would also fit this. The early Thompson SMG used a belt.


Orange - I am not sure or not if the TSMG was ever made in .38 ACP. BSA in England did made a version in the very similar 9 x 23 mm Bergmann-Bayard caliber. However, the belt-feed Thompson “Persuader” was only made in .45 caliber, and the belt, designed by Oscar Payne who applied for a Patent on it in December 1919. Patent Number 1,399,440 was granted in December 1921. The Patent drawings clearly show a cloth belt. Problems with the feeding of the Payne Belt in the “Persuader” led to the abandonment of the system very, very quickly. Evidently, the gun was ner even completely finished.

Reference: “Thompson, the American Legend, the First Submachine Gun,” compiled by Tracie L. Hill, published in 1996, pages 19-21.

One could argue whether or not the title of the above reference is accurate, since the Model MP-18 German 9mm “Machine Pistol” was in service, combat use before the development of the Thompson had reached the point of even commercial sales. One could argue that the MP-18 is truly a Machine Carbine, and that the removable buttstock of the Thompson makes it fit the concetp of a Submachine gun more closely that the MP-18. I’ll leave that to someone more expert on these guns, and on a Forum dedicated to firearms rather than ammunition.


I may be wrong here but as I understand it links of that type need a rimless case to function because the round has to be pushed through them. Correct me If I am mistaken on that.
I am doubtful that a .38 would have the spare recoil forces necessary to operate the mechanism of any type of link fed MG reliably. There’s quite a lot of metal to move around. Cams and such like.

Some sort of Caracano round or something similar perhaps? the 6.5 has a very slim case. Its bigger in diameter than a .38 but there may be enough spring in the link to still accomodate a .38. Some of the links do look a bit loose, look at the fourth from the right on the bottom row. Or the top right one.

you say your friend was a Military man, he may have been in Europe during WW2, I don’t know, didn’t the Italians have a MG which used the 6.5? A Fiat I believe. Or the Greeks perhaps?

There is another possibility, the early / experimental versions of the US Browning MG used the 6mm Lee cartridge before it was switched to .30-06.

Still in use in WW1 in 6mm calibre it was called the potato digger because it habitually fired low.


Dear Vince, I don’t know where you got your Misconceptions from, but they are way out…

First, the Colt" Potato digger" was so named because it operated on a swinging link, which used the jet of gas from a barrel vent to force a cup on an arm, downwards, and this was linked to a action bar, which drove the bolt backwards ( a bit like Cocking an air rifle.)

The swing of the gas cup was quite wide, and if the gun was not elevated properly on its tripod, would dig into the ground…hence “Potato Digger”.

Secondly, whilst the Colt M1895 and its WW I version, the M1914, were sold to Allies in various calibres, they did not “Shoot Low”—hence no relationship of bullets “digging Potatoes”

Thirdly, WW I Colts were in Canvas Belt use ( .30/06, .303Br, 7,62 Russian, 6,5 Italian), all cartridges with .448 or greater head diameters…those links shown at the most were .400 (more like .380) diameter…forcing them onto a .450 diameter shell would splay them out so much to be useless.

Lastly, the 6mm Lee Navy, although of a .448 head diameter( equivalent to 6,5 Italian Head size) was effectively obsoleted by 1905, and existing 6mm Guns in USN service were either converted to 30/40 Krag or .30/06, if at all. It is assumed that the USN guns were used during the Philippines Moro Insurrection, where 30/40 Krag was the common calibre of US Forces. More detail is needed on Naval Use of the Lee calibre.

Now, why do these links have to be “push through” Links???..their format makes them ideal “pull back” links, and as for a Miniature MG, you obviously have not seen the miniaturisation of the Maxim 7,63x25 Mauser gun, for many years in the Foyer of Bapty’s Film Guns, in London. Granted, the 7,63 Mauser is high powered, and has a stiff recoil, but a so called “low power” .38 cartridge ( say the .38 Long suitably Loaded with smokeless), could be made to operate a suitably sprung action on the Maxim or even straight blowback principle.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


Lastly, the 6mm Lee Navy, although of a .448 head diameter( equivalent to 6,5 Italian Head size) was effectively obsoleted by 1905, and existing 6mm Guns in USN service were either converted to 30/40 Krag or .30/06, if at all.

According to my reference Brownings in 6mm were still in use “intermittently” with the US National guard as late as 1921.
One in that calibre was apparantly used in the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado in 1914. National guardsmen fired on a tented town of striking miners and their families killing 14 and wounding many more.
I don’t know, I can only rely on external sources.


The 6mm M1895 was used only by the USN and Marines.