9x19mm R&D


I think this was on the old Forum but I’m not able to find it. Sorry if it’s a repeat. Could someone please cover the basics on the odd projectile profile and the R&D part in the headstamp?



This cartridge was part of the Eglin Air Force Base pistol trials, held by the USAF, of some years ago. They not only looked at various pistols for the armed forces, but also explored why the 9mm cartridge had major deficiencies in basic accuracy and wound ballistics over the years, and ended up redesigning the bullet, and discovering that the twist in 9mm pistol barrels had been wrong for years for the normal weights of ammunition used and their bullet shapes. Interestingly, the bullet they finally came up with, and was refused outright (and stupidly) by the other armed services, including the Army, closely resembled a 9mm version of the Model 1892 Lebel 8mm Revolver cartridge’s projectile.

Sound weird? Remember, the French were way ahead of the game in bullet design and other ammunition considerations. The French Balle D was the first spitzer generally used, and the French came up with the first true MILITARY GRADE smokeless powder. Superior to previous commercial grades which could not meet most military specifrications.

Regarding the headstamp, I know the basic story, but I hope that Lew Curtis will chime in here and tell it to you. He is better equipped to tell the whole story of it. A clue - the R & D does NOT stand for “Research and Development” despite what anyone thinks now or thought at the time.

John Moss


John is correct. The ammo for the AF pistol trials was the Agency contract stuff from the 1950s (headstamp 9 MM 45) made by Dominion. In the early 1980s, when you ordered 9mm M1 Ball from the DOD single manager for munitions (an army organization) that is what you got.

The Ammunition/Small Arms group in the AF Armament Lab at Eglin AFB was conducting the competition, and was disappointed with the accuracy. They used their computer programs they had developed to optimize the design of 20mm and up ammo on the 9mm and came up with two designs, a truncated and a blunt roundnose. Both were ordered from Federal and loaded by a company (G&S Munitions Inc, Hereford AZ) in the 9 MM 45 cases for the initial test firing. Federal used this work to introduce the truncated bullet as a target load in the early 1980s.

The AF decided to go with the blunt ogive RN bullet and wrote a contract with Olin for the ammo which is the cartridge illustrated.

I was assigned to Eglin at the time working the AIM-120 missile developement, and I knew the ammo guys pretty well (surprise-surprise). The senior guy, well known in the aircraft ammo community was Dale Davis, a civilian who had worked in the lab on guns and ammo for many years. The project manager was another civilian named Jack Robbins. I knew both pretty well, but most of my dealings were with Jack. During this period I provided them with lots of samples of 9mmP from all sorts of sources. Jack had them sectioned and mounted in clear plastic blocks. I’ve wondered what happened to these, probably is a box stored in the AF Armament Museum at Eglin or buried in a landfill somewhere on base.

Anyway, I told Jack that the fee for all my free consulting was to call the cartridge the “9mm Light Experimental Cartridge” and have the headstamp of the first cases marked “9mm LEC” since my initials happen to be “LEC”.

When Jack got the Olin contract signed he came over to my office to give me a copy and was quick to turn to the last page which illustrated the headstamp to be applied. Of course it was the headstamp illustrated! He told me that he and Dale liked my idea of putting my initials on the headstamp, but had decided to improve it by putting their own initials “R&D” which stands for “Robbins & Davis”! As far as I know they never recorded the reason for the R&D, and if asked officially would have said “Research & Development”, but I never heard of them being asked the question.

Both Jack and Dale have been dead for years. There was a Part 2 to the story, and when someone asks about that headstamp, I will tell it.

Cheers, Lew


John and Lew,

Thank you very much for the very detailed information. That’s a great “hands on” account and quite interesting to say the least! Of course Lew had to leave us with a teaser with the reference to a “Part 2” of the story. I’ll look forward to seeing that some day…

Thanks again, guys,


Lew - Tell it!



Yes Lew go ahead, I want to hear it and I’m sure the others do as well. Its a shame the design never caught on. I have often been surprised by the extremely pointed shape of the modern, predominantly commercial, 9mm bullet and like you say its deficiencies aren’t hard to predict. The British military version was a little blunter than most but not a lot. A wasted opportunity but a great story and thanks for that.

Just out of interest what rate of twist did they decide on? And what weight was the bullet?

When you recover a fired 9mm bullet its often very noticable how little of the length of the bullet has been engaged by the rifling. Presumably part of the R&D development was to increase that ratio? By eye, I would say they virtually doubled it.

Back in the days when we had such things the perceived wisdom among 9mm shooters over here was to favour 147grn hard cast bullets for best accuracy and my take on that was because a lot more of the length was supported in the rifling. Maybe from what you say they also liked the twist better.


Vince, Sorry but I don’t know any of the story on the rate of twist issues. I may have heard it but did not take note, or at least no longer remember it.

OK, the rest of the story.

In the mid-1980s I had met informally with a guy at Aberdeen that was working on a very exotic and ultimately very successful 9x19mm ammunition. A fine old gentleman who has now passed away. I would pass by and visit him and occasionally have a meal when I was in the area. Since it is a relatively small world in ammunition development in the military, he knew both Dale Davis and Jack Robbins very well. One nite I told him the real story behind the 9mm R&D headstamp and he loved it. I complained that Jack and Dale had welched on my “consulting fee”. Since I had helped him out a bit with his project, I kidded him about making his cartridge the “9mm Light Experimental Cartridge”. About 6 months later when I visited this guy he gave me a box of primed cases that Aberdeen had procured from Olin for his project.
The headstamp was:

CSTA was his organization at Aberdeen. Of course the meaning of MDA was clearly stated on the cover of the box

I’m sure it was just chance that his initials were also “MDP”!!!
He told me as a consolation prize I got a box of the unloaded cases and then he bought me a beer.

The actual cartridges were loaded by Aberdeen I think, but it could have been Edgewood or a support contractor. I never saw any of these cases loaded. I was told the rounds were highly successful, but have no idea how many were loaded or what ever happened to them. I do not believe they are laying around in a bunker at Aberdeen.

There, you have “the rest of the story”!!!

Cheers, Lew


Thanks to all who helped encourage Lew to share that story.


That’s cartridge lore for our hobby’s posterity. Thanks much for that. Paul Harvey would be proud…



I just wrote a very long answer on the rate of twist question. It was lost trying to post it. I will not rewrite it. I will say that I was probably wrong about Eglin working on the change of rate of twist in standard 9mm barrels. Bar-Sto Barrel makers did a lot of work on that. It was probably a civilian “discovery,” not military.

For much of what I said, refer to the article “The Development of an Accurate 9-mm Ball Round,” by Dale M. Davis, “National Defense” magazine, issue of April 1981, pages 23 - 26, 68.

John Moss


Here is a link to Davis and Robbins’ US patent for the original truncated cone design. This inspired the Hornady FMJ-TC design in 9mm and .45 ACP of which Jeff Cooper spoke so highly.

US Patent #4,517,898 - Highly accurate projectile for use with small arms

Other interesting things about Davis was that he was responsible for the Arm Pistol design that became the Colt IMP and inspired the Gwinn Bushmaster. From 1952 to 1956, he was an Air Force representative at Aberdeen, assigned to the D&PS Small Arms and Aircraft Weapons Branch. He clearly would have worked with Gerald Gustafson and Bill Davis when they were experimenting with SCHV cartridges. Gustafson transferred to the Air Force Armament Center at Eglin AFB not long after Dale Davis returned there.


it is a small world among the guys were in the US military ammo development business back in the 60’ & 70s. A long time ago, I was visiting Charlie Yust and he introduced me to Gerald Gustafson who retired in the Aberdeen area. Quoted below is the story he told me about the origin of the 5.56x45 cartridge which I posted on the old forum at the following URL.


[quote]Ray, Sorry to hear that. Back in the 1980s I spoke to him for about 2 hours on the phone and he told me his story of the origin of the 5.56x45mm. Charlie Yust made the introductions. Gustafson was Col Stoners {now know that he was not a Col but a civilian} deputy (a GS15 I think {must have been a Gs14}) at Aberdeen and along with Stoner, was an advocate of a small caliber infantry cartridge. Both were very much out of favor with the Army, and after Stoner retired Gustafson’s life was not fun. He said that during his last days at Aberdeen he did a report on what he called the Ideal (or perhaps Optimum) Infantry Cartridge (or something similar) He took the performance of the .22 version of the 7.62NATO and the .22 Carbine that had been worked on by M D Perrin and exrapolated what he thought was the ideal bullet weight and velocity for a small caliber rifle round. He was so out of favor with the Army that he took a downgrade (to GS 13 I believe) and went to work for Dale Davis who ran the USAF Guns and Ammo area at the AF Armament Development & Test Center at Eglin AFB in Florida. When Stoner rolled out his AR-10 in 7.62mm at Picitanny, Gustafson was the AF representive at the gathering. He enjoyed catching up with his old boss, but was really impressed with the AR-15 that Stoner had brought along and shot for the demo. Stoner told Gustafson that he had used the “Ideal Infantry Cartridge” report as the basis for the 223 cartridge for the AR-15.

When Gustafson returned to Eglin he wrote a glowing report on the AR-15 which used “his” cartridge, and both Dale Davis and the Lab Commander were very interested. Curtis LeMay was the AF Chief of Staff at the time, and also a great shooter with a deep interest in guns. The AF rifle at the time was the M1 Carbine which LeMay detested and which was pretty well worn. LeMay had been pushing on Eglin to find a new rifle for the AF. The AR-15 looked like a good candidate, an in a few weeks LeMay would be at Eglin to host an AF Firepower Demo that was put on annually at Eglin in those days. They were going to carve out some time from LeMay’s schedule and get him to shoot the AR-15. Gustafson got with Stoner and they organized for him to come down to Eglin with some AR-15 rifles (only 2 or 3 existed, or were brought down as I remember the story), but there was no ammo because Stoner had shot it all at the Army demo. Frantic calls resulted in some cases and bullets and powder being sent to Eglin and the ammo for the LeMay demo was hand loaded at Eglin. LeMay fired the AR-15, loved it and told the Eglin guys to buy it!!! The rest is history.

I knew Dale Davis, in fact he tried to hire me when I was a LtCol looking to get out of the aircraft maintenance business and get some experience that would help me retire. Ultimately I got a better job offer, but got to know Dale fairly well. After my talk to Gustafson, I called Dale and he told me essentiallhy the same story from the Eglin prespective. The acquisition process was easier then and we didn’t have the Competition in Contracting Act which was later passed by Congress which make life crazy for many of us, and is still creating stupid situations, so Eglin went out and bought some rifles and the AR-15 (which I carried in Bien Hoa Vietnam in 1966) was on it’s way to becoming the M-16.

Eglin apparently bought a lot more cases for the LeMay demo then they needed (maybe an issue of a minimum quantity order), and I still have some sealed boxes of cases a guy who use to work at the Lab, but after this timeframe, gave me and told me they were part of the batch which were bought for the LeMay demo. Who knows, whether that is true or perhaps bought soon after for the subsequent testing. Anyway, I still have 4 or 5 boxes of cases stuck away, all with commercial headstamps.

Dale has been dead for about 5 years-maybe more, and the Engineer who gave me the boxes of cases has been dead for 20+ years. M D Perrin has been dead for 10-12 years. I wrote up this story and sent it to the Woodin Lab shortly after it happened and haven’t thought about it for years. Sounds like one of the last key players is now gone. I guess I wrote this so it is out there before I join the rest of the crew.

You have to wonder what would have happened if Gustafson hadn’t gone to the demo and seen the AR-15 The weapon may have been a footnote in history and who knows what the kids in the Middle East would be carrying today.

Truth is a lot more complex than what usually gets written in the books.[/quote]


While he was with the USAF, Gustafson supervised the cold weather testing that led to the decision to change the M16’s rifling twist from 1-14" to 1-12" in 1963. Conspiracy theorists often mistakenly blame the change on the Army, and point to it as a form of sabotage. They also claim that worrying about cold weather performance was stupid in terms of the rifle’s use in the jungles of Vietnam. This all conveniently glosses over the fact that major combat units from the US Army had yet to be deployed to Vietnam, and the primary military user of the rifle at the time was the USAF. The USAF needed the rifle to work in all climates, and some of their bases can get awfully darned cold. In addition, most critics don’t realize how many military SCHV advocates ended up being assigned to the development of the rifle and its ammunition.


Changing the M16’s twist to 1 in 12" doesn’t sound much like sabotage to me although 1 in 14" would have been OK as well its getting close to the limit for a 55grn bullet. Its great for the lighter 40grn varmint bullets. 1 in 12" is more towards the centre of the comfort zone for a bullet of that weight. It was probably the right move, even for Vietnam.

12" twist is still the standard twist on most civilian hunting rifles in .223 (etc) today but the target shooters are going down and down. 1 in 10" came and went as did 1 in 9" and 1 in 8"

Now the big boys are using custom barrels with 1 in 7" twists in order to stabilise the heavier bullets at long range. They are using them to good effect out to 1000 yds! Quite incredible really for such a small bullet although I suspect Ray can add a lot more detail than I can. I can certainly tell you it requires skilled preparation of the ammunition to get top results.

The popular wisdom these days is that rifles in the .22CF family (.223, .22-250, .222 etc) like a faster twist but slightly at the expense of barrel life. So maybe Gustafson was just a man ahead of his time.


The claim of “sabotage” comes from folks who believe the change in rifling twist led to a dramatic reduction in lethality.

The USAF report suggested that the 1-14" twist would be acceptable if they had switched to a flat-base projectile, but they didn’t want to give up any range. This also factored into the later decision to maintain the velocity specifications at all costs, instead of backing off to stay within chamber pressure specifications. Upon finding that Remington had substituted a less aerodynamic projectile for the original Stoner/Sierra projectile, Bill Davis suggested that a change back to the more aerodynamic projectile would allow the velocity specifications to be reduced without sacrificing downrange performance. However, the BRL found that the Stoner/Sierra design required a 1-10" twist to maintain cold weather stability. After having finished swapping out all of 1-14" twist barrels in inventory, I doubt that they wanted to repeat the process if other options were available. The positive test results on alternative propellants gave them a way out.

There is also evidence that Remington and Colt were making changes in their respective cartridge and chamber specifications without informing each other. Frankford Arsenal quickly picked up on it in 1963. Adding to the anecdotal evidence, I found an old “Gun Digest” article written in late 1963-early 1964 where the author was invited by ArmaLite to test their new AR-18 against a Colt-made AR-15. The AR-15 was showing excessive pressure signs that was traced back to its barrel having a chamber tighter than the recently approved SAAMI specifications for the .223 Remington. The pressure signs disappeared after ArmaLite recut the AR-15’s chamber with one of their SAAMI spec chamber reamers. However, the modified AR-15 then clocked over a 100 fps slower than before. ArmaLite’s vice president LTC Burton T. Miller, Sr. (USAF, Ret.) claimed that it had been found the change in chamber dimensions reduced pressure by 8,000 psi. The USAF’s incidence of dropped primers had then reportedly declined from 8/1,000 to 1/1,000.

Just a few years earlier, Miller had supervised the USAF Marksmanship School’s original evaluation of the AR-15 at Lackland AFB. I’ve also seen claims that he had previously helped put together the specifications that led to the ArmaLite AR-5 (MA1) survival rifle.


I just came across this pic of a 30rd box full of 9mm R&D hedstamped rds. Is this the typical box for that load?


DK - I think it is associated with one of them, but I don’t know which one off hand. I got my box like it empty. My box is identical to yours except it is lot number WCC EO 4100-001.

There are at least three types of bullet associated with this headstamp and perhaps more. I have them with a rounded ogive but ending in a medium size meplat (not huge)(This is the one appearing in the photo that opened this thread, and I think the most common form); a semi-truncated shape with about the same size meplat; and what appears to be a standard silver-tip HP bullet. The two first ones have a very deep, knurled cannelure about 04.92 mm (0.1935 inch) below the case mouth. The Silvertip has no case cannelure at all. They all have the “9mm R&D WCC 82” headstamp, and all have a nickel primer with red seal - typical Winchester-Western.

Edited to remove reference to a fired case. The differences I ascribed to it from the loaded rounds, in my more considered opinion formed after a much closer look at it, is that any differences from the others are simply a result of case flow and expansion as a result of firing. It is not a variation.


Below is a photo of the three box types delivered to the USAF with R&D headstamps. Lots 1 and 2 were delivered with identical cartridges. Subsequently there was a third lot (X1-1) with a more pointed ogive to improve feeding. These were made in a very small quantity and are difficult to find anymore. I wish I had a full box of them laying around.

The three cartridge John discusses are also illustrated. From the right to the left are:

  1. The USAF R&D ball load from Lots 1 & 2

  2. The USAF R&D ball load from Lot X1-1

  3. This is a strange one and not made for the USAF. I obtained it from a primary source so I am convinced it is legit and the story with it is legit. It was reportedly an experimental Silvertip +P+ load titled “Illinois State Police Expl Series 2” according to my note. I’m sure “Expl” means experimental so the box probably had an EO number though I have no idea which one it was. The round has a red primer annulus while the USAF loads have no annulus color. This is not a load for the USAF. It appears that Olin simply used left over cases from the USAF contract for this project. The origin of my round was the FBI testing facility which apparently were sent some of the rounds for testing.

Has anyone beside John obtained an example of this ISP experimental? I would love to find a copy of the box that this round came in. I wonder what the “Series 1” round looked like??? Every answer leads to even more questions!



Edited to remove entire message, dealing with a non-existent (except in my imagination as close examination proved), fired-case variant.