So I have a cartridge that is almost dimensionally identical to a 9x19mm, but the head stamp says 38 Special. It is slightly smaller at the neck and base, but the head is identical, and definitely not a 38 special. I can’t figure out what this could have been made from or if its a mistake or what?
Below you can read a previous discussion about this subject (your cartridge looks very similar to Lew’s L436, except for the primer):
After WWI, and again after WW2, American soldiers brought back hundreds of souvenir pistols. many in 9 mm Parabellum. While we think of the 9 x 19 today as almost a standard US caliber, it was not always the case. While there were lots of Souvenir 9 mms in the US, no pistol was made here in that caliber until the Colt Commander and Model 39 Smith & Wesson pistols came along some years after WW2.
Between low sales, and therefore moderate production of the 9 mm cartridge, and the shortages immediately before, during and after WW2, many small companies and indivdual “hand-loaders” turned to remaking .38 Special cases into 9 mm and loading them. They did the same thing with 8 mm Nambu cartridges, for the same reasons - no actual ammo available to them.
Your 9 mm round, I am sure, is one of those. The headstamp is an older one, and for the last 60 years or more, there has been no reason to improvise 9 x 19 mm cartridge cases as supplies have been more than just sufficient of ammunition and loading components in this country.
While I don’t consider them a major collector’s item, as handloads, I have kept a small selection of them in my own 9 mm collection, as I believe that the reasons they were made, not simply to reload for the purpose of saving money, makes it interesting to have at least one or so as representative of how all those souvenir Lugers, P-38s, etc. were kept “fed” for the range. Oddly, of my five specimens, all have nickel-brass .38 Spl cases, and four of the five have lead truncated bullets.
Awesome. Mystery solved. I’ll be on the look out for more of them. I think it’s interesting. Thanks all!