9mm "G B"

In a recent thread about Spanish Civil War 9mm (which I cannot find with the Search tool) John Moss mentoned the “G B” headstamped ammo. John said that this was originally thought to be British (i.e. made by Greenwood & Batley) but was now known to be German.

These rounds are found in the normal anonymous green 50 round box with the Spanish label, as are the Hirtenberger, Dordrecht “* P * 1934” headstamped rounds.

Ironically, there is actually a British connection with both of these cartridges. In 1941 Britain had adopted the Lanchester SMG but had only started initial production of 9mmP ammunition. We purchased large quantities from the US, but also bought 20 million rounds from Bolivia and according to wartime British documents both the GB and the Hirtenberger ammunition were issued to the service, presumably from this Bolivian purchase, ex Spanish Civil War. The GB is mistakenly shown as being for the Italian Beretta SMG.

Recently, a group of Norwegian battlefield archeologists excavated the site of one of the crashed British Horsa gliders from the abortive raid on the heavy water plant in Norway, and one of the items they found was a round of the Hirtenberger 9mm.


Tony, thanks for the fill-in. I knew most of it. Lew Curtis had dug out that information, probably from you or one of your British colleagues. Of course, it was made by DWM (the boxes are typical of that factory, among other things) and for the Spanish Civil War. After the fight in Spain was over, probably remaining stocks of ammunition considered superfluous would have been sold. It is amazing how quick it went from Germany to Spain, to Bolivia (and elsewhere) and then back to England. Only a matter of a few years. Didn’t stay long in any one place! One round with a really interesting history.

The British use of it is probably what caused it to be known as British for years.

It might have been Lew that discovered its German ancestry - I am not sure, but I think I first got from him that it was a German cartridge. Of course, that is natural. Much of what I know about the 9mm I first got from him!

Hi John

I guessed you probably knew most of this but I thought it might be of interest to the others on the Forum.

As for that guy Curtis, he gets everywhere!


Tony - I’m glad you posted it. It is interesting stuff. Shows how ammo can get around!!!

And now I’m going to change my mind. I think I was probably the first (that I know of) to reckon the GB was German by DWM. When I was in England in 1974-76, Ted Molyneaux gave me a box with a few cartridges which had been issued to his Father in the Home Guard in 1940 or so. Since I had a few rounds, I pulled one and found the DWM base marking on the bullet (278G by memory). No question it was DWM. With the Spanish label box, I assumed it was Spanish Civil war and that it was bought from Spain in 1939 or so. Since Spain was aligned somewhat with Germany, that didn’t make a lot of sense but was the best I could come up with at the time.

There is no question that the * P * 1933 & 34 stuff from HP was for the Chaco War (1932

Historically, it makes much more sense that either Bolivia or Paraguay would be divesting itself of surplus ammunition in the late 1930s than Spain. In 1939, the military dictatorship in Spain was probably still on a war-footing, not to mention trying to maintain some form of neutrality while surrounded by warring powers and sitting on one of the most strategic locales in all of Europe.

Now that Lew has bushwacked me by changing his mind from what he told me (Just kidding Lew : ) ), another question is brought up. What does the GB stand for? To my knowledge, all of the rounds identified from the Chaco War have had normal headstamps. Unlike the Spanish Civil War, where most of the foreign supplied headstamps were spurious in nature, with meaning only to the factory that made them, there would have been little or no need on such a contract to have a spurious headstamp.

I agree that in the historical context, that since we seem to know that some of the ammo came from South America to England,than it is more likely it went there originally. Regarding Spain’s need to keep all the left overs from their war, perhaps, although with Franco in full control of the Spanish arsenal system, and the war in Spain over, regardless of any military footing he was on, their ammunition needs, expecially for materiel of uncertain origin, would have been reduced, especially since Franco had certainly made up his mind to remain neutral in the European War. I can’t speak for all calibers, but the Spanish Arsenals pumped out a goodly amount of ammunition in the years following the end of the Civil War. They were not so concerned about keeping a huge supply of weaponry that they couldn’t produce pistols for the Germans at Star and Astra, and probably other weapons as well.

Anyone have a good enough knowledge of Bolivian and Paraguayan military organizations to come up with a possible meaning for “G B” in Spanish? I can’t think of any. I wonder if Bolivia called their military “La Guardia” rather than "El Ej

Like the * P * 1933 & 34 headstamped rounds, a considerable quantity of the “G B” show up in Argentina from time to time. Sadly, no package was found.

With no factual information at all, I believe the possible meaning for “G B” is “GOBIERNO BOLIVIANO” or “GOBIERNO DE BOLIVIA”.

…OK, there is another opinion!!! I’m glad to be proved wrong if we can establish a solid Spanish connection during the Spanish Civil War, but it is still curious that the Spanish Government would sell ammo to the Brits in that time-frame.


I don’t think there was any thought that it was Spain that had sold this ammo to the UK, as I have the contract details for the purchase from Bolivia.

Back in the sixties there was a reasonable amount of the GB and Hirtenberger available in the UK in boxes and I put quite a few boxes through my P.08. It was cheap and surefire and nobody thought it rare. It must have been surplused by the British government to the trade some time after the war.


Fede - that is a good thought. I was thinking something like “Guardia de Bolivia” or “Guardia Boliviana.” The box label gives no hint - it is totally generic except for the fact that its design, color and construction scream “DWM.” Considering that Bolivia was likely the original intended source, the “B” seems more than coincidental, especially since if made in the early 1930s, it is not likely to have come from the Berlin-Borsigwalde factory of DWM, but rather from Karlsruhe, I would think.

If not for Spain at all, and I accept that is likely the case considering Lew’s and Tony’s content, either one of which would know far more about this round than do I, I just felt that the headstamp would have meaning. If for Spain, which again, I do not now believe it was, the headstamp would be meaningless except to the factory that made it. I have many,many examples of the spurious headstamps made for the Spanish Civil War in 7.9 x 57m/m, most of them identified to the factory that actually made them.

I guess at this stage, it will never be anything but conjecture, sadly, on the meaning of the “G B” headstamp. I doubt if anyone even in Bolivia would know.

Lew and Tony - thanks guys, you have both done a great detective job in putting the record straight on this round.

Tony, My opinion that it was for Spain was based on a strange headstamp and a Spanish language box. Your confirmation that it came from Bolivia is GREAT!!! I had suspected that but had no direct proof. Would it be possible to get a copy of the document for my files??? Slow time if it really is no trouble.

Thanks for all your research. You are a great asset to those of us who simply wander through theories.


Can you translate this into English for those of us who are Linguistically impared?

John, Thanks for the great followup question.



I will see what i can find in my fles Lew.


Hi Lew,

     Gobierno Boliviano = Bolivian Government

     Gobierno de Bolivia = Government of Bolivia


Gee Lew, even I can translate that. It simply means Government of Bolivia, or Bolivian Government.

There would be precedent for the headstamp to include some recognition of the country, by the way. In 1933, F