9mm HP L7A1 "high pressure load" & testing

I am trying to ID the manufacturer of this headstamp and country of origin, The ammo can has ob the side: Weapons 4AVY19 / S / 90 / GB / 0355 and L7A1. All comments & help much appreciated. Many thanks.

To what I see this one was made in 1991 by Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik of Austria (later bought by RUAG and ceased cartridge production).
And this one here was made for the UK as the designation L7A1 implies.

Thanks. Anyway to tell if this is sub-machine gun ammo or regular 9m/m? The inside of the box lid has: SV 3890 and in the left bottom left corner: HP and 90 in the bottom right corner.

yes the L7A1 was a high pressure load for open bolt SMGs for use in extreme cold weather…I wouldn’t try and use them in a handgun!
The SV number is a manufacturers code for the box


This ammunition is banned by the ATF from import to the US because if it’s pressure.


Unfortunately, a goodly amount of this ammo was imported into the US, and some people are now cutting their losses and selling it as pistol ammo to unsuspecting shooters. With the current dearth of ammo, people are buying anything that fits, no matter the age or condition, for insane prices. I watched a guy pay a dollar/round for some old 1930s-40s .32 ACP ammo!

I don’t think there should be any reply to the question by foxfirerodandgun. No offense intended, but opinions of the safety of ammunition to be fired in any specific type of gun carry with them liability problems for IAA and, perhaps, even an individual member posting a recommendation, especially since the IAA Forum is presented as a “Professional” venue. .

The safety warnings from various ammunition sellers, importers and the BATFE offer sufficient information.

The early warnings actually came from Hirtenberger themselves, as after England returned most of this ammunition to them, it was sold in a quantity of about 12,000,000 rounds on the world surplus market.

BATF issued an advisory warning of the dangerous pressures of this ammunition in 1996 thru Associated Press 8 November 1996.

John Moss

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I totally agree with John. This isn’t the place to discuss firearms safety. The safest way to handle this L7A1 ammo is to pull the bullets and reload it. Anything else has risks that nobody on this Forum can assess remotely.


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I have a fired one, looks like it smashed the bolt back when it was ejected.


No problem John. I understand the possible liability issues involved. I did not mean to put anyone on the spot or cross any lines. What would be helpful is knowing the SAMI pressure rating for this ammo if it is available. Thanks.

I doubt that SAAMI pressure measurement is available for this round, although it is remotely possible they tested it simply because of the warnings. There should be CIP (European equivalent of SAAMI) measurement though, although my experience and that of other Europeans I have spoken to (so its not just because I’m American) is that they don’t answer mail from us “common folks.”

I appreciate your attitude foxfire. I am sure your question was honestly and innocently asked. It is a shame that people have to be afraid to voice opinions for fear of lawsuits, but that’s just the world we live in. Thank you for your comments.

John Moss

Would the pressures of this round be classified as “Over pressured” or +P, or even more extreme, +P+?


Without an accurate pressure reading, who could tell?

John Moss

Okay. Sounds good for me.

This ammo was made to a British Military requirement and I seriously doubt they bothered with the CIP process. It was obviously made to a particular requirement and not to a NATO spec unless someone really screwed up.


Lew - You are probably correct on that. I forget that the military can dream up any kind of loads they want, as they do not fall under the same parameters demanded for ammunition sold on the commercial market. I mentioned CIP, I guess, because I know you can’t get any kind of answer out of them anyway, unless you are “important people.”

The specifications for the L7A1 loadings, made especially for use in cold weather climates where evidently pressures are reduced for the same loads due to the lower climatic temperatures, were idiotic, especially for a country that has employed troops in many countries and climates, and field a 9 mm Pistol as well as a SMG. If it was British Specifications under which the Hirtenberg ammo was made, I am surprised that Hirtenberg took the bulk of the ammunition back when the British decided it wasn’t such a great idea and returned remaining stocks to the manufacturer. If Hirtenberg set the specifications for the load, then it is probably a good thing that they went out of the small arms ammunition manufacturing business!

Whoever was responsible, it is never a good idea to load any ammunition above well-established specifications, especially calibers that can be used in both pistol and SMGs in a military that fields both type of weapons in the same caliber. To do it for use only in a particular climate is even more irresponsible, because “Murphy’s Law” will always come up at some time and place, or another.

You can’t make a 9 mm Pistol into a 105mm Howitzer. It has been an acceptable military round for pistols and SMGs for decades pretty much as designed originally.


John Moss

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Before the post by Tony, I didn’t know this was a cold weather load. Thanks Tony!

Decades ago (of course this ammo is decades old) one of the major British commitments to NATO was the ACE Mobile Force which was to deploy to far northern Norway and assist the Norwegians prevent the Soviet Union from sweeping around the north end of Sweden and down Norway. Given the area they trained in and were committed to fight in, I can see why they wanted ammo for the extreme cold! The obvious objection to this theory is that these cartridges were obviously produced as the Soviet Union was disappearing…

First, this cartridge also exists with a 1990 date. Then we have to recognize that the military acquisition process seldom moves rapidly. Once the service validates a requirement, a process that can take a year or sometimes much more, then it has to program the to acquire whatever is required. The defense budget generally is put together at least two years before the money is required, but often it is three or more years depending on what level has to review and specifically approve funding the requirement. In the following years budget which in the US means specific Congressional approval. Once the money is approved the service contracting agency has write a contract, negotiate it with the contractor, and once the contractor has a signed contract he will begin work, which may include engineering design, then ordering material and finally production. It would surprise me if this process took less than five years and could have taken 10 depending on the priority the service put on this requirement. it is not unusual for a requirement to enter the service competition for money for a number of years before the service places a high enough priority for it to even be included in the service budget request. I would bet that this requirement for cold weather 9mm was established in 1985 or earlier when there was still a very serious requirement for it.

Since this was a special purpose round, intended for large scale combat, the order would have been for a large quantity to satisfy the War Reserve requirement. At the end of the Cold War the USAF had so much aircraft 20mm ammo in War Reserve, that all development of a family of improved 20mm projectiles was dropped.

Now to a bit of speculation. Since the requirement for this ammo was disappearing about the same time this ammo was being made, what would the UK do—probably minimize their losses. They could do this by paying HP for their costs incurred and perhaps letting them keep the ammo, or at least the undelivered ammo. Lots of possibilities here. It would be nice if someone knew the real story. I know the Royal Marines were part of the UK commitment to the ACE Mobile Force. Some where there is and old Royal Marine who was part of this story and still goes down to his favorite Pub, and would love to tell you the full story—all you have to do is find him!


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Another factor is the weapon - the manufacture of the Sterling SMG ceased in 1988. It remained standard issue until 1994 when it and was phased out in favour of the SA80, which used totally different ammunition ( 5.56x45mm). One would presume the decision had been made some years earlier.

Regarding the “serious requirement” for a cold weather 9 mm cartridge, loaded to pressures generally too high for the 9 mm cartridge, I would have some questions to ask, as I am trying to understand this ammunition debacle to the best of my limited abilities.

  1. Please note that, to my knowledge, no other country including the country in which this ammunition was presumed to be for use (Northern Norway), has issued ammunition of any small arms caliber that was of increased loading and pressure on the basis that in cold weather, the pressure is reduced. I am not qualified to judge the veracity of cold-weather reduction of ammunition pressures, but presume it is true. Regardless, it seems no other country, many of which operated in arctic temperatures, issue such ammo. While ancient history, from early 1958 to late 1959, I was assigned to Yukon Command, United States Army Alaska, stationed at what was then Ladd AFB (now Fort Wainright) at Fairbanks. In my tour there, we were only issued live ammunition twice to my memory. One was during some incident, I forget which (first incursion into Lebanon?) as we were on alert. Being just a Sp4 at the time, I don’t know the level of alert. The second time was a selective issue. Some damage was incurred to main Alaska Communication System cable, which as I recall, in our area was adjacent to the Yukon River. It was not known if the damage was sabotage or not, so it was decided to patrol the cable on the main highway going south from Ladd AFB. I was on one of those three-man patrols, and we were issued ammunition for our M2 carbines. It was perfectly normal ball ammunition, and the temperatures were far, far below zero at the time.

  2. One can speculate about the “Why” of either a large return of this ammunition from the British back to the Hirtenberg, but we do know that up to 12 Million rounds of this ammunition was sold on the World surplus market. I am unclear as to whether it was sold by England, or first returned to Hirtenberg and then sold by them. An Associated Press news report from 8 November 1996 reported that “An Austrian ammunition manufacturer” had advised the BATF that certain of its ammunition was no safe for use in handguns. That news release seems to be the first to use a figure of 12 Million rounds. Oddly, in that release, the BATF said they had no knowledge of this ammunition entering the United States “and that it will take action to keep it out.” Very large quantities DID find its way into the United States. I have “9 x 19 mm Warnings” from the National Rifle Association, January 1997, The AP news report from 1996, a report and liability waiver from Cascade Ammunition of Roseburg, Oregon, who regardless of the advice that the ammunition was not safe in handguns, continued to sell it to anyone who submitted their “Release of Liability” statement signed by the would-be purchaser, and a Hazardous Ammunition Alert from the Indiana Hunter Education News of Spring 1997. All report the figure of 12 million rounds and the general advice that the ammunition should not be fired and definitely was dangerous in handguns. It really seems like it was the British that sold this ammunition off, since by 1996, they had replaced 9 mm SMGs in the Service with the 5.56mm SA80. Also, since probably at least 70% or so of commercial sales, especially in the USA, for 9 mm ammunition finds its way into handguns. Hirtenberg recognized the dangers here by issuing a warning thru the BATFE. Whoever sold it off, the sale of this ammunition was ill-advised.

  3. Packaging was 50 rounds to a box and 1200 rods to a case. The boxes had no warnings regarding the use of this ammunition. However, the cases did have, stenciled on the box lid, “A2 SMG USE ONLY.” Pictures of the case labels appeared in the issue 2688/204/18 of the RSACCA bulletin, although speculation of what had been in it regarding headstamp and manufacturer of the ammunition was erroneous in the accompanying text. A picture of the box was on the IAA Forum, I believe in June of 2017, but it will hurt nothing to show it again here:

In passing, in my collection, I have a round loaded on a " + HP L7A1 91 " case, but containing a nickel-cup “LF”-marked primer, and from ogive and material, GMCS, obviously loaded with an original bullet. The case was never fired previously. I suspect it is from a U.S. firm that realized the dangers of selling this ammunition, and reduced it to components to be loaded with a more sensible powder charge. Why the primer was changed, I don’t know. Still, it is an interesting sample of all the original ammunition is good for, in my opinion, and that is to break it down for components.

  1. I guess my main question is why the British thought such ammunition was necessary, when it seems that no other country operating in extreme cold seems to ever have used over-loaded ammunition under the same circumstances?

John Moss

While my original post, (which has since been deleted), regarding the specialized use of this ammunition was inappropriate for a forum such as this, it seems to have generated a lot of useful information, thoughts, and opinions from those who are much more informed on this subject than myself. I live to learn. Many thanks.