7.62x39 North Korean Date Codes

NOTE: I have edited this to reflect the addition of “nieun” as suggested by Hans in a post further down. Russ Cornell has a “▲ 58” so now all dates from 1958 to 1970 are covered.

It is well known that North Korea used date codes for a number of years on their 7.62x39 cartridges. The following are, I am relatively certain, the proper sequence of these codes. They are actually the first 11 letters of the Korean alphabet. The question is: What years are represented by the codes. It is probably safe to assume the years are sequential from the date they start. I suggest they start with 1959 and go to 1969. The first non-code dated headstamp I have seen is 1970 (▼ 70). Has anyone seen an earlier non-coded date (Yes-“▲ 58”)? Based on the assumed dates, I have in my collection all of them except 1959,1960 and 1961. If you have any of these, please let me know. BTW, the form used on the headstamps is like that of the first character in the second row of each of the letters. Has anyone seen any North Korean code dated headstamps other than these 11?












I don’t know if it is helpful or not, but I have a 7.65 x 17 mm round with a headstamp of a five-pointed star and what appears to be a backward L, 12 O’Clock and 6 O’Clock respectively. If the star is oriented normally, with the single point pointing upward, it would make the star at the 12 O’Clock position. Then, the bottom character is a backward L. However, if the cartridge is rotated to put the “date” at the top, then it is essentially the same character as the one you show for 1960 on the Kalashnikov rounds.

I also have a 7.62 x 25 mm from North Korea with headstamp composed of a triangle at the 12 O’Clock position and a numerical date of “55” at the 6 O’Clock position.

John Moss

John–Thanks for the input. Your “backward L” should be a “Upside down backward L with a curved back” as shown in the first character of the second line for the character “giyeot”.
If it is “giyeot” then that confirms that the letter was used for at least 7.65x17, and most likely on 7.62x39 as well.

Do you have any idea when N. Korea first started using the 7.65x17 or the 7.62x25 or the 7.62x39?

I got an email from Russ Cornell reporting the 7.62x25 with the 55 date as well. He also has a 7.62x39 with a “▼ 58” headstamp. So, these two rounds show that the coded dates started after 1958. If someone could come up with a “▼ 59” headstamp, that would cinch it for the codes to be the 1960-1969 years.

No proof, of course, but both Russ and I feel the “▼” and "▲ are the old codes for the factories now using “93” and “95”.

Good evening Ron,
I had the same idea and believe it is a good assumption. However I have - maybe I’m wrong! - letter nieun between giyeok and digeut. Nieun is found in no headstamp list I know of!:

If I’m not wrong we can start with known
1958 = 58
1959 = giyeok
1960 = nieun
1961 = digeut

1969 = kiuek
1970 = 70
and would have covered all years between the known 58 and 70.

I have a N. Korean Tokarev box that had mixed ^50^ and 50 rounds in it. There is some speculation that it was Soviet made, but the N. Koreans were using it at least that early. I also have a 48 round that might follow the same story as above. John’s v 55 round is the earliest know Korean-made example of a 7.62 Tokarev. Later I will post pics of my N. Korean 7.65s, might help the discussion.

Hans - that letter “nieun” you talk about is almost certainly the character on the 7.65 mm Browning round I have. Looking at it oriented like that would be more logical, since that puts the “Star” factory designator properly oriented and at the normal (for N.Korea) 12 O’Clock position. You can see the “Star - Nieun” headstamped .32 in John’s nice picture.

Jon - I have long been convinced that regardless of any box they have showed up in, that both versions of the “* 50 *” headstamp, and the “Triangle 50 Triangle” headstamp, are Russian manufacture. I suspect they have no factory desginator on the headstamp just for the purpose of concealing the manufacturer’s identity. I am not questioning that these rounds were found primarily during the Korean War, by the way - that is pretty accepted fact.

I once read that UN occupiers of North Korea, and t was all occupied prior to the CCF Intervention of 1950/51, that the only armaments factory found, of any kind, was a factory making the PPSh 41. I can’t confirm that - don’t even recall where I read it now, as it has been years ago (maybe in one of several seminars on the Korean War that I attended in the Army), but that would square with 1955 probably being the earliest date of manufacture of small arms ammunition in North Korea.

A North Korea labeled box, by the way, could, of course, have been made and printed in the USSR as well, although I have no opinion on that other than to juet bring it to mind.

John Moss

Hans–That makes perfect sense. I don’t how I overlooked “nieun” when I was making up the list. I guess I was just thinking of 10 not 11 years and I knew that “kieuk” existed as a headstamp and counted backward and found there was, mistakely I thought, 10 letters back to the 1st letter of the Korean alphabet. That there are actually 11 fits the known headstamps perfectly. And we can see in the picture posted by Johnnyc, at least on calibers other than 7.62x39, that “nieun” was used. I can only assume that the first 3 letters for 1959, 1960 and 1961 on 7.62x39 are out there someplace.

I will edit the list in the original post to add “nieun”.

At least for cataloging purposes, until proven differently, I am satisfied with assigning the codes to the years 1959-1969 in the order I have listed.

To the others involved with this thread: GREAT PIECE OF DETECTIVE WORK! While my own collection encompasses exactly one specimen of NK ammo with a date letter-code, this is fabulous information. By finding the break dates - numerical to letter to numberical - I am confident that you guys have hit on the right explanation for the dates. This is the kind of work that a Forum like this is great for - instant communication with top students of ammunition. Thank you gentlemen. You guys did a great job for those of us, like me, who didn’t have a clue how to determine dates of these NK cartridges.

John Moss

Guys, perfect team, thanks!

OK, I feel confidant that we have the codes and their year figured out

N-KoreaCode01-A --1959
N-KoreaCode01-C --1960
N-KoreaCode02-A --1961
N-KoreaCode03-A --1962
N-KoreaCode04-A --1963
N-KoreaCode05-A --1964
N-KoreaCode06-A --1965
O --1966
N-KoreaCode08-A --1967
N-KoreaCode09-A --1968
N-KoreaCode10-A --1969

Now lets work on a checklist of known 7.62x39’s for North Korea. I have or know of the following: (NOTE: This list will be updated as people send me new listings)

Ball–(1961)–CWS–Large Dot

▲ Ball–(1968)–CWS–Large Triangle

58 Ball–(1958)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–1960–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1962)–CWS–Small Triangle
Ball–(1962)–CWS–Large Triangle

Ball–(1962)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1963)–CWS–Large Triangle
Tracer–(1963)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1964)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1965)–CWS–Large Triangle
Tracer–(1965)–CWS–Large Triangle
O Ball–(1966)–CWS–Large Triangle
O Tracer–(1966)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1967)–CWS–Large Triangle
Tracer–(1967)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1968)–CWS–Large Triangle
Ball–(1969)–CWS–Large Triangle
70 Ball–(1970–CWS–Large Triangle

93 71 Ball–(1971)–CWS
93 74 Ball–(1974)–CWS
93 74 Tracer–(1974)–CWS
93 76 Ball–(1976)–CWS
93 79 Ball–(1979)–CWS
93 80 Ball–(1980)–CWS
93 84 Ball–(1984)–CWS
93 84 Grenade Launcher–(1984)–CWS
93 87 Ball–(1987)–CWS
93 88 Ball–(1988)–CWS

93 86 Tracer–(1986)–Brown Lacquered Steel

95 83 Ball–(1983)–CWS

I need confirmed rounds for the following. If you have or know of any of them, let me know.

Any with a large Dot (●)

Any with the Triangle at 6 o’clock. Designate if point up (▲) or point down (▼)

Any with Triangle Point Up (▲) besides the 3 listed above.


Any missing dates for Factory 93. Be sure to include case type.

Any missing dates for Factory 95. Be sure to include case type.

Are there any load types besides Ball, Tracer and Grenade Launching? These are the only loads I know of.

Ron, yes.

We maybe better remain a bit on the safe side, for our theory we have wonderful clues but no real proof. We cannot be shure if the date codes came and went with the turn of years in our (Western) calendar.

In 7,62x39 I have (seen) besides the ones you list:

▲ ㄱ Ball–(assumed 1960)–CWS

▼ ㅈ Tracer–(assumed 1967)–CWS

93 80 Ball–(assumed 1980)–CWS
93 84 Ball–(assumed 1984)–CWS
93 87 Ball–(assumed 1987)–CWS
93 88 Ball–(assumed 1988)–CWS

This one in your list is more than mouth watering, by the way:
93 86 Tracer–(1986)–Brown Lacquered Steel

Hans–I appreciate your thoughts on saying that the codes MIGHT NOT represent the years 1959-1969. It is possible they do not, but, as I said in an earlier post, at least for me, the circumstantial evidence is strong enough that, until proven wrong, I am willing to accept it.If better evidence comes to light that it is not correct, I can always change my catalog.

Thanks for the additional listings. I will update the above listing.

Peter Labbett in his book “Ammunition of the World, 1945-1980” on page 67 shows a drawing of two 7.62x39 headstamps for North Korea which I have not seen. He shows a Large Dot at 12 o’clock with the date code for 1961 at 6 o’clock. He also shows one with the date code at 12’o’clock and Triangle Point Up at 6 o’clock. Has anyone seen either of these headstamps?