9x19mm "SE" questions

A few questions about the German 9x19mm “SinterEisen” cartridge.

  1. Was this a replacement for the “m.E”, or a parralel development?

  2. Was this widely manufactured or just by a few factories for just a few years?

  3. Another recent thread mentioned the accelereated barrel associated with the use of this cartridge. Do we know how much more wear compared to other loads?



The SE was a development to reduce the use of lead in cartridges.
It was made, simple said from pressed iron powder.

The factory who made these bullets send them to different factory

VDM near Karlsruhr (cgv) invented a process for making sintered bullets around 1940 or so (would have to check the dates). Back in the 1970s, I was fortunate enough to find and copy an extensive file of correspondence from VDM which included lots of detail on the early development. The original VDM bullet was jacketted with a soft sintered iron core. In 1940 or 41 there was an order for a million bullets placed by the army, but VDM lacked the priority to get the facilities and equipment to set up production. Only one of these SE core cartridges is known. I have it now and it was originally in the collection of a Canadian sargent who was with the CIOS teams at the end of the war. It looks like a common steel case load with a GM bullet and a 1941 date, but it is too light to be a lead core bullet and turns out to be the SE core bullet. There are probably others out there in junk boxes because you would never spot one unless you weighed the cartridges.

While VDM was trying to get into production, someone (apparently VDM) discovered that the French had a sintering machine that worked at higher tempeture and pressure than the VDM process and could make SE bullets that did not require a jacket. The VDM effort focused on these. DWM Berlin had a hand in the effort, and tried at one point to introduce their own bullet to the military people in Berlin overseeing the VDM effort. Test firing was done at DWM Lubeck. The original SE bullets were quite long with a compressed powder charge in an effort to increase bullet weight. There was concern with MP40s running away if pointed down and similar problems. There were a number of bullet designs. It is not clear whether the problems were solved or the press of the war led to the army deciding to stop the engineers from continuing to play and just produce an SE bullet. Some of the SE long loads came out of the lake at Lubeck and are in collections. The earliest of the standard SE loads began to show up in the end of 1943.

There is no indication that the SE bullets were intended to replace the mE bullet, but appear to me to have been a supplelment to provide more bullets and ones that used less strategic materials.

Most of the German factories loaded SE bullets in 1944 and/or 1945, particularly DWM and RWS. The occupied factories generally did not load SE bullets.

I have not seen anything on barrel wear being a problem with SE ammunition. It is not solid iron like the mE cores, but rather powdered iron in a matrix that apparently includes a wax like substance and other things. I don’t know how hard or how tough on the bore it is.

That is the general outline!!! Hope it helps.

Does anyone else have information to add or correct any of this???

Cheers Lew

Lew: I do have a question. I was told by a collector (not a 9mm specialist, but generally pretty observant) that 1945 date 08SE loads are uncommon or even rare (forget his qualification on this point). I note that the VDM plant mentioned on the label was in Frankfurt, which would not have been a source for bullets from late 1944 or very early 1945 due to the effects of war and eventual Allied occupation. Is there evidence the loss of this plant caused a cessation of manufacture of the 08SE while production of the conventional 08mE continued for a time? JG

Good question!!! I went back and did some digging in my box collection and my date variations.

Most SE boxes I have show the bullet manufacturer as cvg (VDM) but some show the bullet manufactuer as asb or rfo (DWM B). The latest VDM bullet lot I found was lot 156 of 1944 which was used on a lot 2 or 1945 case by DWMB. There were rfo bullets made into 1945.

I don’t see any indication that there were more mE loads in 1945 than SE loads. Below are the lots (44 & 45 only) that have SE loads by case manufacturer code in Germany:

ad 1-3 of 45
asb/rfo 22-48 of 44 and 1-4 of 45
faa 1-14 of 44 and 1 of 45 (this is DWM Karlsruhr which is near the VDM plant and they produced cases into 1945)
emp 4-19 44
fb no SE loads
dnh 1-10 44
hla 3 44 - 2 45
oxo no SE loads
dnf 9-16 44
va 4-9 44
wa no SE loads

It looks to me like there were at least as much SE being loaded in 45 as there was mE. The fact is that 45 dated ammo is relatively hard to find and that may be where your friends statement comes from.

Cheers, Lew

Lew: Thanks so much for your response! I can move that from my “unsolved mysteries” stack to my (much smaller) “answers, at last” file. JG

Lew et al. I think it is an interesting side-note to the saga of the SE bullet that it was this projectile that was picked for testing steel helmets during the search for a new design in WWII (the search began in 1939 with final testing and a report submitted to the F

I have not seen anything on barrel wear being a problem with SE ammunition. It is not solid iron like the mE cores, but rather powdered iron in a matrix that apparently includes a wax like substance and other things. I don’t know how hard or how tough on the bore it is.

Hi Lew,
the life of the barrel depends of two parameters:

  1. the jacket or no jacket of the bullet (because it touchs the barrel)
  2. the softness of the core of the bullet (because the core is squeezed when the bullet is in the riflings)

Softer is the jacket material longer is the life
Softer is the core, longer is the life.

The longuest life in decreasing order is
a) lead core and no jacket.
b) lead core and copper jacket
c) lead core and steel jacket
d) iron core , a small lead thickness and steel jacketed which is the ME
e) totally iron material (core and jacket) which is the SE

Anyway the life of a pistol of a sub machine gun was not a problem during the war because there were big probabilities the guy using it was dead before the gun was totally no more accurate.

I used to know, but I don’t remember, the hope of life of a soldier in a battle and it is not very long.
What I remember is : for a tank in 1990 (before the fall of the wall) it was two hours.
You must have more info on that than me.
Imagine it is 10 hours for example, it means 10 hours of fighting (in one or more battles) and in a battle he is not shooting 100% of the time.
So no big deal on the life of a weapon


Regarding barrel wear from SE bullets. The VDM material I have shows a lot of concern with cycling issues on the MP40, but apparently showed no concern for barrel wear, so it must not be significantly greater than the mE bullet so that it concerned anyone. Remember, this work started in 41 or 42 on the all SE bullet so there was lots of time for testing.

Barrel wear, as I understand the process is a function of five things.

  • the relative velocity of the two surfaces
  • the coefficient of friction between the two surfaces
  • the force vector normal to the surface forcing the two surfaces together
  • material properties of the barrel (ie yield strength, thermal properties, etc probably best captured as yield strength as a function of temperature)
  • geometry of the contact-the internal construction of the barrel

With a given barrel and a given load, some of these variables drop out.

The SE load has a lighter bullet and a somewhat higher velocity than the mE bullet and will therefore cause some increased wear.

The force normal to the surface is a function of the malleability of the bullet contact surface. The mE bullet has a GM coated steel jacket with about 1/16th inch of lead betweent the jacket and the core. I suspect that this is probably almost as malleable as a lead core bullet since the deeper part of the core will add relatively little to the surface malleability. Jean-Pierre is right, it is the “softness” of the bullet.

The SE bullet is not solid iron, but being made by a sintering process it will have tiny voids between iron particles, and apparently used some sort of binder, but it is not clear if any of this was retained in the bullet after the sintering process. The bottom line is that a SE bullet is more malleable than a solid iron bullet but I have no idea how much more malleable the mE bullet was in the bore than the SE. The SE bullet also had a surface finish to prevent corrosion and likely to reduce barrel friction.

I would expect the SE bullet would cause more barrel wear, but the fact that it apparently was not an issue in the test process, I also suspect that the increased barrel wear was not significant, at least it wasn’t to the German army at the time!

Relative barrel wear from a SE bullet would increase in 7.92x33 and 7.92x57mm weapons because of the higher velocity. This may be why we see less use of SE bullets in 1944 and 1945 in the rifle caliber cartridges.

If someone has indications that the German Army was concerned about barrel wear with SE bullets, particularly in 9mm P ammunition, I would appreciate hearing about it.

Cheers, Lew

Was the powdered iron used in the manufacture of the SE projectiles a byproduct of some other ironworking process or was it “manufactured” for the purpose of making the projectiles?


Has there been any actual chemical tests to determine exactly what materials were used to make the different types of “compressed” iron bullets? Have heard various “authoritive” answers. Special glue or several plastic materials were mixed with sintered iron and also just heavy pressure were used.


Wish I knew the answers to the questions gamgjm and AKMS asked! My memory is that wax was mentioned by VDM, but I don’t know in what context. What I have are letters from VDM to DWM and the Army so they are very thin on technical information, and nothing on the process because VDM was clearly worried about others (read DWM) stealing it.

The letters are of course all/mostly signed “Heil Hitler”, but in one a senior VDM gentleman wrote a senior DWM gentleman about DWMs apparent attempts to inject themselves in the SE bullet business and accused the DWM manager of “…behaving like a Jewish person.” That gives you a hint about the tone of the letter.

Cheers, Lew

[quote=“gamgjm”]Has there been any actual chemical tests to determine exactly what materials were used to make the different types of “compressed” iron bullets? Have heard various “authoritive” answers. Special glue or several plastic materials were mixed with sintered iron and also just heavy pressure were used.



In engineering processes sintering is still used occasionally. I believe that the iron (or other metal) powder is mixed with a wax and pressed into the final shape where the wax holds it all together. The compressed metal/wax is then heated whilst still under pressure so that the metal particles fuse together. The metal is not melted but the wax burns off leaving a porous metal object. A similar process is used to make bronze bearings for machines. The pores are used to contain bearing lubricant. One version is called “Oilite” bearings.


Gravelbelly, thanks for the explaination. Am familiar with “Oilite” bearings but just did not connect the two processes. A little off subject but on your side of the pond have you ever heard of Oildag? It is a heavy oil mixed with graphite and was used for many years to lube bearings in heavy machinery like stamp mills and cartridge/bullet presses. We used it many years ago to lubricate the cam and guides of a 'tipper" unit to add colored foil to credit cards so the name and account numbers were more visable. The machine used heat and pressure to transfer the foil to the top of the embossed letters. Ordinary oil or grease would burn off from the heat. Was a tricky job to apply to keep it off the heat control thermocouple, if the graphite got into the electronics they would short out


Just to keep this thread bobbing in the surf a bit longer I should point out that during the second war .45 auto ammunition (reloads) were produced with bullets of oilite for, apparently, war plant security personnel and state guard units here in the U.S. The specimen I have is in a military case; the oilite bullet looks very much like the standard 230 gr. ball except for a slight flat on the tip. JG

I will start a new thread with information about the Oilite bullet reloads referred to by J. Gill. It ill be a while, because I will incude a scan. I think it should be handled on its own thread, not here. There was a thread on this on the old Forum, but I don’t know if that can beaccessed, so I will repeat the information I posted there. I will start the thread, and post the scan of the box later.