7.62x39 Questions

Hey All,

I was set up at a small local show this weekend, and scored some good ammo stuff for the collection. One vendor had 1 full and 1 partial WCC .30 Carbine 1943 headstamp boxes, 2 full Evansville 1943 steel case .45 re-pack boxes, and two damaged but complete and full boxes of rimmed .45 blanks for the 1917 revolver…never saw those before, Frankfort Arsenal, 1938 (weird they were still packing blanks for an obsolete revolver in 1938!). Grabbed 'em all for $30.

Another guy had a box of misc loose stuff, grabbed about 16 rounds of 7.62x39, almost all 1960’s vinatge. I liked them since they are Vietnam era…had some questions on them.

The largest quantity were headstamped “31” and the dates varied from 1964-1966.

There were several rounds headstamped “61” and dated 62…

Two rounds headstamped “17” dated 62…

And for me, the coolest round, “31” headstamp, and dated 56…which is the earliest 7.62x39 I have seen personally.

Questions…What are the factory corresponding to the headstamps? How common is it to find Vietnam era AK rounds? And how good is the 56 dated round?

TIA for any help…


Firstly, it isn’t strange that Franford Army was making blanks of caliber .45 Auto Rim for the 1917 Revolvers in the late 1930s. There were still plenty of these guns in service, not just with the military, but also with the U.S. Post Office. When I was a kid, in the mid to late 1940s, all of the Post Office Drivers that picked up the mail from the mail boxes in the neighborhoods carried revolvers of the 1917 persuasion. There was even a holster for these that instead of “US” in the oval stamp on the lid, it said something like “U.S. Post Office,” or “U.S. Postal Service.” I forget the exact wording. It has been some years since I have seen one of these holsters, but at one time I had one.

I believe that the Army used the revolvers for dog training. Blanks don’t cycle a standard issue M1911 or M1911A1 (Colt-type) .45 auto, but that is not a problem with a revolver, making the revolver much more useful as a training device for some purposes.

All of the factory numbers on the 7.62 x 39 rounds you mentioned are Chinese. I cannot tell you the names of the factories - doubt anyone could tell you all of them. The year “56” is probably the earliest Chinese headstamp - that one has been discussed in depth recently on the forum, including a picture of the very scarce box. However, headstamps from Russia dated prior to 1956 are not rare.

Thanks for the reply John…

No kidding, Post Office employees ARMED with revolvers? Wow, something you’ll never see again! I have seen pics of Postal employees with trench guns to guard certain shipments, but never heard that regular drivers packed heat…neat!

I knew that the Army still had the 1917 in the inventory during WWII, mainly in stateside/training type uses, but figured by 1938 the need for blanks wouldn’t have been to much needed…I thought they were neat since I didn’t have a box of military blanks like that in my collection, and it was the first time I ever saw a box like that. They are boxes of 24 rounds too, an odd number compared to the other boxes of pistol ammo I have, but considering that 1 box would neatly fill a cylinder 4 times, it makes sense I guess…

I immediately sold the worse of the two boxes to a friend who wanted one. I have been repairing the better one for myself, carefully reshaping and gluing and clamping it. Three corners were totally blown out, and it was a bit mis-shapen, but the label was intact, so it will be a good restoration until I might find an undamaged box…

I did just see the thread on the Chinese ammo further down the forum…good stuff! I was told the 31 and 61 were probably Chinese, but wasn’t sure of the 17 headstamp…I should try to post some pics…the ammo isn’t pristine…I wonder if it wasn’t “brought back” in a captured mag. Of course it just may have been stored poorly, but they aren’t pristine and right out of a box, thats for sure. Plus its a fairly good mix of dates from 62-65, except for the 56 dated one, and apparently all Chinese…

The 17 62 is actually a Soviet round.

Jon is correct on “17” of course. I read that number backwards, as “71” going thru your list quickly. sorry about that.

The .45 ACP ball rounds for the revolver, which in the WWI loadings can usually be distinguished by having neck stab-type bullet crimps on the case, whereas the same headstamps for autos don’t, were also packaged 24 to a box - I have some examples of that. Often they were packed already on the half-moon clips. After the .45 Auto Rim cartridge was developed, Frankford Arsenal started making blanks in that caliber so clips wouldn’t be needed. In peace time, there was no concern over the lack of interchangeability, one way, with the two different cartridge, .45 ACP and .45 Auto Rim, in the M1911 pistol I am not sure if Frankford ever made any ball rounds in .45 auto Rim. I don’t recall ever having any go thru my hands, and I can find no mention of a ball loading in Hackley, Scranton and Woodin, Volumes I or II.

The information on dog training came from a former Army dog handler that was a customer of mine years ago. It was anecdotal information only, always dangerous, as I see inHackley, Scranto & Woodin that they do not mention this use of the .45 AR blanks, but rather only for cavalry horse training and for saluatory purposes. I weould still hold out the belief they were probably used in dog training also to some degree, but have no documentation for that. It is now clear to me that it was not the original reason the blanks were procured.

John Moss

Interesting on the “17” labeled round, glad to know its Russian…

John, I do have one of those 24 round boxes in half moon clips…but most boxes seem to be either the smaller (16 or 20 round, I don’t recall exactly, would have to look) or the big 50 rounders…

The other interesting (to me anyway, probably old news to you hard core collectors) is that I when I pulled a few rounds from the Evansville .45 box, all were steel case, all EC, all 43 dated, but I noticed at least three differing headstamps (font/size/spacing…)

Evansvilel Chrysler (EC) and Evansville Chrysler Sunbeam Plant (ECS) headstamps will drive you crazy. There must have been 20 or more bunteres in use, and while often all the rounds in one box will be from one (or two perhaps)headstamp bunters, I have seen repack boxes where there were ten or more different bunter letter and number sizes and shapes. I have a slew of them in my .45 collection, in both case finisheds that are encountered, and I don’t even seek them out anymore. I have more than enough to tell me that they had a huge amount of different bunters. The next question is, and I have no answer, did they have a “in-house” meaning??? My gut feeling tells me yes, but I have never found anyone who knows, or has seen any scholarly information that would so indicate.

Ammunition for the Colt-type M1911 auto pistol and the Thompson Model 1928 SMG was packed in boxes of 20 or 50, depending on the era and the maker. The 24 round boxes were only for the revolver, to my knowledge. That is, of course, why you see less of them. I have always thought that the .45 ammo for WWI, prior to the TSMG, should have been packed 21 to a box. I have only one box like that - an FN 7.65mm Browning (.32 Auto) box that probably represented one loading for a pistol and two spare magazines, the box holding 21 rounds and so marked on the label. The basic load for the Pistol, M1911, was always 21 rounds - three 7-shot magazines) in the U.S. In Norway, the issued the pistol with a total of four Magazines. When Tommy Guns came along, of course there were magazines for 100 rounds (not used too much in the military), 50 rounds, 30 rounds and 20 rounds.

The Chinese 7.62x39mm is pretty common since millions of rounds were imported to the US as shooter ammo about 15 years ago or so. The 1956 dated round is a good find. Pretty common, but worth a buck or two. The condition of your rounds, plus the inclusion of the Soviet rounds, could indicate that they are “bring-backs”. I obtained a small assortment of 7.62x39mm that found it’s way back from Afghanistan a few years ago. Some was new andsome was obviously magazine-worn. I also got an early dated “17” round. If I recall correctly, your “17 62” was the first year this factory (now know as Barnaul) made the lacquered steel case. That one would be the most interesting one of all in my opinion. The factory code “17” is one of the less comonly encountered Soviet ones in my experience.

Some Postal Service employees still “pack heat”. The Postal Service Inspection Service still has armed inspectors. It is not uncommon for them to accompany letter carriers in some of the big city, bad neighborhoods on “check day” as we call it. The rest of us Postal Service employees cannot even carry a small pocket knife on our persons… The only thing I have between me and an irate customer on the street is a can of pepper spray and a cell-phone!