9mm Brit


If this photo looks screwed up to you, that’s how it is, really. What happened here? Did the bunter just miss? I think the year is 1943


Yes, I think the bunter did mess up, it is common for the headstamp to be slightly off centre with British 9mm rounds. I have one very similar to this, also with a date that is difficult to read. This round was made in 1943 at the Royal Ordnance factory, Hirwaun, Wales.


Looks like the head-turning machine went slightly berserk & skimmed too much off!!


I thought this may also have happened when I examined my round, was it poor bunter design that made the headstamps for alot of HN 9mm rounds off centre Perhaps these were all from one batch, and they later rectified the mistake with the head turning machine, as I have another case with “H/|\N” at 12 o’clock, a bit too close to the edge, “43” off centre towards the primer at 4 o’clock, and “9MM” at 8 o’clock, also too close to the edge.


Hi Falcon - you have to bear in mind that between 1942-1945 ROF Hirwaun manufactured components for and filled 1,247,688,000 rounds of 9m/m Ball - apart from other types and other calibres. Quantity was the order of the day - aesthetic blemishes like off-centre headstamping and tool marks were acceptable.


1 1/4 Billion rounds…incredible! Were they almost all used up by the end of the war or did alot go in the North Sea? How come I have only ever seen HN 43 rounds and not 44 and 45?


Falcon - Hirwan was not only prolific in the amount of 9mm ammunition they manufactured, but also in the number of headstamps they used. I am sure some represent headstamp regulation changes, but I have to assume that all of the subtle differences had some meaning - perhaps the loading line they were made on - as these things usually are not accidental. Following are the headstamps I have (and I don’t even collect dates - they have to be somehow different other than the date). They are not in any special order, as the catalog of my collection was designed by me in about 1960, when I thought that someday I might have at least 200 or so auto pistol cartridges, not 11 or 12 Thousand, and it is not very versatile, so headstamps are not in any real order anymore except by country (in my typing, the character “^” represents a British Broad Arrow property mark, which I can’t reproduce here):

H^N 43 9M/M
H^N 43 9M.M. (small and large letters both)
H^N 43 9MM (with factory code and date separated - 43; with factory code and date close together - 44).
H^N 44 9MM IIZ
H^N 44. 9MMIIZ
H^N 44 9MM llZ (no serifs on the “ll”)
H^N 44 9MMIIZ (Large and Small letters both)
H^N 44 9M/M IIZ (Large and small letters both)
H^N 45 9MM 2Z (Large and Small Letters Both)
H^N 45 9MM MK2Z (Large and medium size letters both)
H^N 44 9MMQ1 (Proof Load)
H^N 43 9MM.
H^H 45 9MM.MK2Z (Large letters and dot after 9MM)
H^N 44 9M.M. IIZ

There may be more. Frankly, I stopped looking at them for variations years ago, as I figured (and still do) that I have neough variations to show the “profusion and confusion” already.

Lots of these headstamps are found loaded with both magnetic and non-magentic bullets, and there are some different loadings aside from the headstamped-proof load. I had a metal-penetrating round in my collection until I gave up my California License for these types. I currently have several test rounds with the extractor groove either colored purple or red.
Oddly, I have never seen a factory dummy, although they could exist.

Hope this is of some help and interest.


Thanks. I forgot. I do have a HN 45 case. Actually, you can re-create the broad arrow here. Just press the key eith the / and ? on it to give you a /, then hold shift and press the key with a | and \ on it to give you a |, then press this key again without shift, to get a \ and you have an almost perfect broad arrow. See below. This is one of the most valuable tricks I have found in relation to typing out headstamps.

H/|\N 43 9 M/M

Perhaps an opening in the market? an extra keypad especially for cartridge collectors with all the common symbols?


ROF Hirwaun filled orders for 50,000 X QMk1 Proof & 50,000 x Drill ctgs. H^N also supposed to have made U Mk 1 too - but never seen one - has anyone?
It seems to me that initial 9mm Drill production were un-loaded case without primer - I have these with B^E, C-P & H^N hsts - and seen lots more - (collection not to hand - but if memory serves me right they are 42 dated) - but the only Drill matching approved specs were C-P with 4 holes & red wood spacer w/ 43 date.
The H^N 45 ctgs with purple, red and green extractor grooves were not loaded @ Hirwaun - but loaded post-WW2 with H^N components (probably @ ROf Swynnerton, 1946/47) with reduced charges for testing silencers attached to Patchett SMG.
Purple = 1.8 grs N/C
Red = 3.3 grs N/C
Green = 3.7 grs N/C
I’ve dismantled some of these & they are unusual in having cardboard wads to keep small charges in place.


John - great information. thanks. I had no idea that the ones with the colored groove were silencer loads, and not loaded until after the war, and not loaded by Hirwan. Back to the drawing board in my catalog! If you ever see one of the green ones, I could use one even with the bullet pulled, powder dumped (but wad save separately) and the primer inerted.

I had a Metal penetrating one, but the only way you can tell it is a slightly longer cartridge overall length.

Oddly, I have never seen any drill round with H^N headstamp. Another one I could use.

Thanks J.P-C. for this posting. I will print it out and file it in my British 9mm file. Again, great information I never saw before anywhere on those ones with the colored extractor groove. I was beginning to wonder if they were fakes.

John Moss

  • I have a few 9X19 British made rounds headstamped “H/|\N 45” over “9MM 2Z”. The cartridge case is made of brass, actually I don’t remember any 9X19 rimless round of British manufacture from WW2 having a steel cartridge case. — WARNING: NEVER fire a WW2 British made 9X19 cartridge using a regular 9mm pistol [including the German Walther P-38 pistol], the load is too powerful, the pistol may get damaged and the shooter hurt. Liviu 04/09/07


I have never heard anything about British 9mm hurting pistols. The British Airbourne used FN HP Pistols to a little extent in WWII, I think, as well as U.S. .45 Autos. Regardless if I am right or wrong about that, the standard pistol for years in much of the UK has been the FN HP. I have shot many boxes of British 9mm in my own 9mm pistols, usually Browning HPs (I don’t like double-action autos - an interesting solution to a non-existing problem, I think Cooper called them) with no particular problems.

Can any of you British guys verify anything about this? There are a lot of urban myths floating around America and always have been about the 9mm
cartridge, which was essentially, before twenty-five or so years ago, a European caliber. I think the myth of “German hot submachine gun ammo” caused by ignorance of what the black bullet meant and a total misunderstanding of what the label “Nur im Maschinenpistolen verschiessen” was for on German 9mm boxes of steel-cased ammunition, primarily, has pretty well been put to rest. the only ammunition I know of, from reports from friends who have served in the Swedish Army, that is too hot for pistols is the Swedish M39B cartridge, identified by red primer and case-mouth seals. It is truly a hot round, and has cracked upper receivers on Lahti P-40 pistols, and even a slide on a friend’s SIG P-210 (he was an officer in the Army Reserve in Sweden - Engineering Corps).

I hope with the help of some our Brit friends we can either confirm or put to rest what Liviu said on this. It would help to know that if it was ever true, if that is the case of British ammo after WWII, or of the ammo of other UK countries. It can’t be of Canadian ammunition of any era, as I have fired thousands of rounds of that thru pistols, and sold many thousands of rounds more to customers, with never a single problem.


Just for fun, I just made a quick look thru my files. This is from the April 1970 Issue of “The American Rifleman,” Questions and Answers, page 58, answered by M. D. Waite, a respected member of the NRA’s Technical Staff:

"The 9mm Mk. IZ cartridge was introduced during World War II for use in Sten submachine guns, and it was later found this round was insufficiently powerful to work the self-cocking action of this gun with complete reliability. Sometimes the bolt did not recoil far enough for the bent and sear to re-engage, thereby allowing it to move forward and fire another round. In some instances, a gun would “run away” and fire full-automatically until the magazine was empty. Because of this problem, the mean velocity of the 9 mm cartridge was raised from 1250 f.p.s. to 1300 f.p.s., and the higher velocity round was given the the designation 9mm Mk. 2Z. this change was approved on March 15, 1944 and at the same time the 9mm Mk. IZ cartridge was made obsolescent. since it was no longer considered suitable for Sten submachine guns, remaining stocks of 9mm Mk. IZ ammunition were marked “Pistol Use Only.” The 9mm Mk. IZ cartridge was made officially obsolete on June 6, 1957.

“The 9mm Mk. 2Z cartridges is entirely safe for use in pistols intended for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. British Government specifications for this cartridge call for proofs to be carried out in the Browning Hi-Power pistol.-M.D.W.”

This is only one source, but it would take credible proof for me to believe that the British made 9mm ammunition that was dangerous to fire in pistols when they were making occasional use of 9mm pistols in their service. Why Sweden does is beyond me, since the responsible authorities were told many times by my friend and others about the cracking of the Lahti P-40 uper receivers, when the pistols were fired with M39B ammo, as opposed to the older M39 loading (identified by a green/blue primer seal and case mouth seal).

It would seem, from this, that the opposite is true. Some British 9mm Pistol is too WEAK for submachine guns, not too powerful for pistols. As far as runaway guns go, I have had this experience firing a smith and Wesson Model 76 on a Police range. At the time, I was not sufficiently interested in either SMGs or their performance with various ammo to note the ammunition we were using, but I had cases, as did the other people participating in the firing tests, of the gun firing two and three rounds after the trigger was released and the bolt should have been caught by the sear. An interesting experience. None of us had a complete runaway gun. I guess that happens as one thing we were taught in the Army, with the 1919A4 (and A6) .30 MGs was to twist the belt in case of a runaway gun to jam it and stop the firing. However, I never once heard of or saw this happen with the fine little Browning .30 MG.

  • John, years ago I loaded a full magazine of the Walther P-38 pistol with British 9X19 rounds made in 1944. After firing 4 rounds I could feel that something is wrong. After the 6th round the slide was thrown away and hit my right shoulder. I’ve never fired the 2 cartridges left in the 8-round magazine. The gun was not damaged in any way. BEFORE and AFTER that incident I fired with that particular P-38 pistol at least 2,500 rounds made by various makers [including WW2 German made 9X19 with steel cases] and I had NO problem. I’m only speaking from my own experience. Liviu 04/09/07 P.S. I’ve kept the spent 6 brass shell cases I fired in that day and I still have them. I just checked their impressed headstamps which is: “B/|\E 44” over “9MM IIZ”


Liviu - your unfortunate incident could have been the result of one bad round (excessive pressure) that caused all the damage to your pictol. It shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of all British ammunition, including the factories other than Hirwan, which was the subject of the discussion. I stuck a bullet in the bore of my Makarov with Sellier & Bellot ammunition, because one round had no powder in it. S & B is a highly touted brand and probably cannot be condemned over this one incident. These things happen in both guns and ammunition - defects - and all other manufactured items.

I am surprised that the slide seems to have exited to the rear of your P-38 Pistol. I haven’t really studied the design of that pistol even though I have had three or four of them over the years because, frankly, I have a low opinion of it and most German handguns - none are as reliable, or as interchangeable in parts, as is the good old M1911 and M1911A1. The best pistols used by the Germans were all the captured foreign ones, not the Luger and P-38 (again, in MHO), such as the Browning HP, The Radom, etc.
Well designed auto pistols make it almost impossible for the slide to exit to the rear in case of catastrophic failure. That was a problem with the Beretta M9 used by our forces until they changed the design of one of the pins (I seem to recall it was the hammer pin - it is another pistol that I don’t care for and therefore have not studied in minute detail) on which they enlarged the head to intersect the bottom of the slide, in a milled slot, to keep the rear half of the slide from coming off if the slide broke in half. A Mickey Mouse solution, but it works.

Well, I don’t want to start a discussion of pistol design here, and I know that many revere the P-08 and the P-38. I was simply expressing my own opinion and not slamming German weapons in particular - after all, they designed what I reckon is the best Bolt Action rifle ever made to this day, the 98 Mauser.

  • @ John: Well, I have a very good opinion about the German weapons. Maybe it was my STUPID mistake to test that type of 1944 made British 9X19 rounds using a Walther P-38 manufactured in 1943. I’ll never do it again! After so many years I only remember that the slide hit my right shoulder. I did check the slide, it had no hairline cracks or other damage. That particular P-38 pistol fires very well and I had NO problems with it before or after that “incident”. I’m sure it’s a good lesson to learn from this: “It’s always good to know what type of ammo we load into a weapon before firing it”. Liviu 04/10/07

  • One more thing: I know that some Czech 7.62X25 Tokarev rounds made in early 1950s have a “hot” load [probably made for a SMG] and that particular ammo could damage a regular TT-33 pistol. If I remember exactly some 7.62X25 Tokarev rounds made in Bulgaria may damage a regular handgun which fires the 7.62X25 ammo. I’m I wrong??? Liviu 04/10/07


As far as I know, you are absolutely correct about the 7.62 Tokarev rounds being a bit hot for the tokarev. It suprises me that the roller locking system of the CZ vz. 52 pistol seem to take the pressure of these rounds better than a Tokarev, but like you, I would not fire that Czech 7.62 x 25mm ammo in a tokarev based on all I have heard about it. I have never seen a lab test on the pressure figures, but it sure has a “reputation!”


You said that there was a total misunderstanding of what the label “Nur im Maschinenpistolen verschiessen” was for on German 9mm boxes of steel-cased ammunition. I think it means “Never shoot in submachinegun” (pardon my almost non-existent German). Was that because of curved barrel device?


Well, excusing your German it means the opposite: “Only for use with SMG”.

Curved barrels were just experimenbtal at that time.