7.62x39 DDR Reloads


Back in the 1990’s, after the U.S. stopped imports of steel core ammo, the DDR Factory 04 broke down millions of steel cored ball 7.62x39 and reloaded it with lead cored bullets. I have these with headstamps ranging from 1962 to 1987. Does anyone know when the reloading was completed and original loads with lead cored bullets began? Also, since the jackets were GMCS, they are difficult to tell the lead cored rounds from the steel cored once out of the box. Is there any way to tell which are which, such as casemouth and/or PA colors, etc.


Ron - I am not a AK round collector, but I do have a good collection of DDR cartridges, including the 7.62 x 39 mm. I have no information that they ever initially loaded any 7.62 x 39, for Warsaw Pact Purposes or export to “People’s Liberation Fronts,” and lead-cored 7.62 x 39. Maybe someone else will know.

Hungarian ammunition was also converted and came in boxes marked “made in Germany” which leads me to believe it was done after the DDR ceased to exist as a separate state.

I have found no reliable way to tell which are lead-core and which are steel-core, other than pulling a round apart and cutting into the bullet. For my purposes, too much trouble, especially since I don’t have dupes to replace any original loadings I cut into.

Again, maybe someone expert in this caliber can tell. Xray might do it - I don’t have access to that possible solution.

John Moss


Did the lead core come in a commercial style box, or were they packaged the same as the steel core?

I have a couple of the German style ‘blister packs’ with ‘M43’ printed on the back. Should those contain the M43, or could they possibly be lead core?



You can expect the iron cored bullets to have that little tit while the lead core reloads don’t. With this assumption you will be fairly safe.

Allen, your in blister pack have that tit, don’t they?


I have taken some with DDR headstamps out of boxes for the lead-core ammunition and they DID have the little “tit” on the bullet point. Not sure that is a reliable indicator. I don’t recall if any with the Hungarian headstamps had it or not, as I didn’t save any of them, even though remanufactured in Germany, as my feeling was they were done after Reunification, and therefore not an “East German” cartridge. I could be wrong about that - I have no documentation of when they were actually remanufactured.

John Moss


admittedly there are only a few “demilitarized” lead core reloads in my shelves, but they are all pointy tipped - so different from 04/05 design and likely someone else’s make. In case you have ever pulled a titted one you would make me happy posting a photo.


Hans - I have sent off a picture as you requested. I probably took it at too high a resolution, as it has a lot of stuff in it - probably my scanner plate is a little dirty. I will clean it today. But, you can see the bullet tips plainly. If you can’t see them on the screen (I don’t know how large the picture will be printed here), enlarge it when you print it out and the little meplats will be visible. The caption of the picture will fill in the details.

John Moss


Hans - here is the picture you requested. Both bullets have the little “tit” on the end, although the one on the left is a bit more pronounced and the one on the right has a more flattened point, not as round as the one on the right. the normal bullet is from a case “04 66” and the shorter, lead-core, flat-base bullet is from a case 04 79.

I have seen more pronounced “tits” on the tips of some lead core bullets and some iron core bullets, but these were in my dupes. I don’t like to pull the bullets on my collection rounds because it disturbs the crimps, a visual feature of the cartridge. Generally, being primarily a headstamp collector anyway, what I can’t see in a cartridge (within reason - meaning minor bullet shape differences, the powder used, etc., not major loading differences) doesn’t concern me a whole lot. Visual features do.

I have also a couple of lead-core bulleted rounds that don’t have the tit, but I also have some original loadings that do not.

This picture isn’t the best. I chose to use very high resolution to show this tiny detail, but it also shows lots of other things, most from a scanner plate that could use, I see now, a good cleaning. I think you can clearly see the point, though, if the picture is printed big enough on the Forum. I can on my screen from photo shop without problem.

John Moss



the scan is good because it clearly shows what to show.

On my lead core bullets you can only see the little tit if you really want to see it, but yours confirms your words. Leaving the tip aside both, yours and mine, look very much alike. Does yours also have a cone in the base? Is it also GMCS?



I guess you could call the base of the bullet conical. I would use the word “concave” though, since if you used the base cavity for a mould, the resulting pellet I think would be round and not really pointed. It is not at all like the conical base found on, say, DWM 7.65 Para bullets.
The bullet is GMCS - it jumps to the magnet!

I’m glad that the scan worked out for you. I was afraid it would be too small, but Joe posted it in a good size.

John Moss


The very first of these re-worked cartridges that I saw had me convinced that they were original M-43 loads. The “tit” on the lead cored projectile was perfectly identical to the original DDR steel core specimens I compared with. I beleive these re-works arrived in several batches. The first used exclusively DDR headstamped cases, the majority of which were “04” coded. The second large group used “22 80” headstamped Romanian cases. This seems to be the most commonly encountered headstamp at gun shows and gun shops in these parts.
Finally, the odd Hungarian, Bulgarian and Soviet headstamps started turning up. What this leads to is my theory that the first re-works used German made lead cored projectiles, using the standard “tit” feature. Later, other suppliers were used. I have heard that Hirtenberg made several million and I have also heard that a U.S. company made some of these projectiles as well. There is a distinct difference between the “early” and “late” projectiles, likely due to their origin. Can anyone confirm this theory?



AKMS - I can’t, except to say that you are correct that the first “white box” “Made in Germany” 7.62 x 39 was on mostly 04 cases, although I am of the impression there were some “05” cases too. Most of what I saw later was Hungarian cases, but still “Made in Germany” on the boxes.

I can’t confirm the overall theory because I never had much of this. It came after our store had closed, and I only looked at it at all because I collect DDR metallic cartridges, and have 125 or so 7.62 x 39x from the DDR. I wasn’t so interested in the bullet core as I was filling in dates, since I am primarily a headstamp collector.

When the DDR folded, there was one “Milliarde” (One Billi9on Rounds!!!) of 7.62 x 39mm available. A German dealer I know actually offered it to our store, or at least told me about it to know if I knew anyone interested. I contact a guy who was importing large quantities of ammunition then and he laughed. He realized just how much a billion rounds was, and also that the ammunition was probably (at that time) all steel-cored stuff. He figured out how many ship loads that was, and while I forget the number, it was several. He said the shipping costs alone, even if it was importable, would exceed the value of the ammunition when combined with other costs involved getting it to the market.

I am sure that nothing even approaching that quantity ended up coming to the USA after it was remanufactured into lead core ammunition.

Wish now that I had paid more attention to that ammo for my collection. I didn’t even save any of the lead core ones that were in dates I already had in original loadings, because I didn’t consider it to be “DDR” ammunition anymore, but rather a product (the remanufacture) of the reconstituted “Germany.”

John Moss


There was a basket of measures to get rid of that billion rounds (not more?) mentioned further up between selling off and burning up. For example Turkey in the early 90s received AK47s (100.000 I recall) and 300.000.000 rounds as military aid.
We must not confuse the headstamps and who actually demilitarized (ridiculous do gooders term in the light of all current military 7,62x51 ball being leadcore) the ctgs. Only the late DDR seems to have had an own T-45 production. So they imported from different makers. I saw tracers from Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, Hungary and Romania. So, if the lead cored have such headstamps, they may well have been T-45 from DDR stock.

thank you for helping out with terms! My bullet has an inside shaped conical cavity. Does that describe it well?

you point at my collection deficits: would you please post an image of a pulled or even sectioned bullet you describe?


Hans - I would simply describe mine as a concave base. It is not really conical. To me, conical, coming from “cone,” infear that the bottom of the cavity comes to a point. The bottom of the cavity in the base of the bullet I pictured is rounded, like a soup bowl.

Just my take on it. As everyone knows, I am no scientist!

By the way, I don’t know how much 7.62 x 39 mm was left in the old DDR when the wall went down. The figure were were approached with was a billion rounds, which is staggering of itself. There could have been more - I simply don’t know.

John Moss


A Billion used to be almost unimaginably large. Now it’s just a number thrown around like any other, especially after the banks went up the Swanee.

As I was waiting for dinner to ready itself I dug out my calculator. If we assume that it was the titchy American billion with only nine zeroes and that the average 7,62x39 bullet weighs 123 grains then a billion of the bullets alone amount to 7,970 metric tonnes.

Which is quite a lot.

Happy collecting. Peter


Isn’t a US Billion 1000 Million while a UK billion is 100 million (8 zeros).

Surely nearly 8000 tons wouldn’t be that much for a container ship, several shiploads seems like it would be more than that.


[quote=“Falcon”]Isn’t a US Billion 1000 Million while a UK billion is 100 million (8 zeros).

Surely nearly 8000 tons wouldn’t be that much for a container ship, several shiploads seems like it would be more than that.[/quote]

There’s a bit of confusion about this one.

In America and Britain a billion seems to be a thousand million, one with 9 zeroes after it.

Elsewhere a billion seems to be a million million, one with 12 zeroes after it

For some reason we don’t seem to be told which one is being used when a large wad of cash is being trousered by some indigent banker. To me, there seems to be a marked difference between the two but then, I’m probably being old fashioned.

This is only the weight of the projectiles, is anyone privy to the weight of powder used and the total weight of an average cartridge? Then there’s the packaging, both small lot and bulk. It would all add up.

Happy collecting, Peter


I don’t know, but there may be rules about how much ammunition can be on a single ship, or in a single hold, or a single cargo container, as well. The fellow who I talked to about the “Billion” rounds was an experienced ammunition importer.

I thought a billion was just a billion. Now I am confused about how much a billion is. Of course, as an American, the Presidential Clown and his party talk about a billion, or a hundred billion dollars, like it is nothing, and since all the Democrats believe him, why shouldn’t I? Based on that, I would guess that you could put a billion Kalashnikov cartridges in the trunch of a Volkswagen bug.

John Moss


As then late Evert Dirksen (U.S. Senator–Died 1969) was often quoted as saying:

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Everett Dirksen


Guess it gets more and more off topic, but still interesting.
When the wall came down there have been 300 000 tons of ammunition ( all sorts and calibers ) in storage. So if you think about the 7.62x39 alone to be 15 000 tons the military strategy planers can tell us if this is an normal amount in the inventory or not.