Ammunition nationality

Gentlemen, I would appreciate your views on the question of attributing nationality to ammunition makers. This is to help me to place the makers under the right national headings in the ammunition reference I work on.

In most cases the nationality is obvious, but there seems to be a growing number of exceptions, some of which are real head-scratchers for me. Some examples:

Sellier & Bellot are owned by CBC, but retain their own ammo line and make it in the Czech Republic, so I still classify them as Czech. On the other hand, Magtech are also owned by CBC but as far as I can make out their ammo is now made by CBC in Brazil with Magtech just being a brand name, so I classify them as Brazilian.

Armscor is based in the Philippines but their .22 TCM ammo seems to have been designed and made in the USA - so what should that be?

SIG is a Swiss company, but the SIG Sauer operation is based in the USA. So I’m inclined to regard their new Performance Elite ammunition as American - right?

Wolf Performance Ammunition is an American company, but as far as I can make out, most of their ammo is made in Russia, with some in Germany. However, as it is only made for Wolf (presumably to their specifications), I’m inclined to regard their products as American. On the other hand, a US company which simply imports ammo from a foreign maker maybe shouldn’t be classified as an ammo maker at all…is the difference simply having their own headstamps and box labels?

There will be quite a few other variations on this theme which you can no doubt provide, the variables being the country of origin, the country of manufacture and the country in which the company is headquartered. What I’m looking for are some guiding principles to cover such issues, but I suspect these will be hard to identify…

Tony, SIG Sauer is German. SIG Neuhausen is the parent company in Switzerland but I do not know the details.

WOLF or now WPA is a trade house which is ordering it’s ammo mainly in Eastern countries. They started out with products of TPZ in Russia but had a law suite on the ownership of the trdemark and won it. With this TPZ was out and WPA looked for other suppliers. This brought in LCW untill 2014 when it was seized by the Russian separatists. Today the main supplier seems to be BPZ and what they can not furnish caliber wise is coming from PPU in Serbia. BPZ and PPU do not make designated WOLF headstamps, they use their own. The last WOLF hs was by LCW and seems to be history now.
WOLF marketed .22 came from Schönebeck, Germany (now Lapua owned) and maybe from elsewhere but that I will have to look up.

Further examples would be manufacturers which even sell ammo under their own name but being made elsewhere like FIOCCHI who is marketing essential amounts of Hungarian MFS/RUAG made ammo.
Same goes for all the RWS/GECO stuff which is made in Hungary by the same factory.

Norinco for example is no question of nationality as such but people always refer to “Norinco made” what is wrong as Norinco is only the Chinese govt. trade platform and no manufacturer.
Saying Norinco made something is like naming the factory as “China”.

For my files I do not mix manufacturers with distributors.

Thanks - even more complicated than I feared.

The “marketing rather than making” issue applies to other countries, of course - Yugoimport for Serbian production and Romtehnica for Romanian makers.

Looking at it from the users’ viewpoint, I suppose they would be most interested in knowing in which country the organisation to place orders with is located.

Tony - it sometimes gets even more confusing, whereas some of the gun manufacturers who have their own “ammo brand”, is actually made by another manufacturer entirely. In the case of Sig, the ammo is actually made at L-Tech Enterprises in Eubank, Kentucky. I was told by a customer of L-Tech’s that L-Tech has Sig Employees there on the line, to ensure the technicality of it being referred to as “made by Sig”, but it essentially isn’t.

Then there is the new Ruger line of ammo with the frangible ARX bullets from Polycase, which is all made by Polycase. So it’s a private-label job, which they don’t really conceal, but Ruger & Polycase both refer to it as “Ruger ammo” and it has a Ruger headstamp.

There are a bunch of other smaller instances of this in the U.S. with things like Nugent Ammo, or TNQ ammo, and lots of what I call mid-level manufacturers like Atomic, Double Tap, Buffalo Bore, PNW Arms, and the like who do private-label runs.

Thanks Matt,

I can see I’ll just have to take my best guess for each case!

Yap, you probably think of Grundig as German but it is owned by Turks. Very complicated question, one way to deal with it is to collect OLD ammo, the time when French was made in France, Belgian in Belgium etc. Even then, Siamese Mauser ammo was made in Japan, and Chinese made ammo for Arisakas after the war. Go figure…
And what happens with captured and re-boxed ammo? Are they refugees? :)

Tony, this is a subject that drives me crazy, and from the Forensic examiner standpoint when they testify, it drives them crazy. Many of the 9mms being made today, including in the US have cases, bullets, powder and primer made by four different countries and loaded by a fifth organization and marketed by a sixth organization. At trials the defense or even the prosecutor may ask, “who made this ammo?”. The Forensic Examiners must be very careful with this answer or it can be used later to discredit his testimony.

The answer is that there is no good answer. One out is simply saying “the headstamp identifies Remington” even though there are Remington cases that were made by Olin/WW when the Remington production was moving to AR. There is a “W-W 9mm LUGER” headstamp that was actually made by PMP in South Africa, case and THV style bullet, for use by special units who wanted to leave no hint of their nationality. Even seemingly identical cases (or loaded rounds with essentially identical headstamps) for may be made by a number of producers over the years for a single distributor. Even back in the 1960s, Geco, FN and SFM had an agreement to make ammo for each other, so I have FN rounds that were clearly made by Geco (letter style, red pa, and magnetic bullet), and Geco rounds made by SFM (letter style, brass color and brass color bullets). In my headstamp guide I try to catalog the round to the code/name on the headstamp, and then show the slight headstamp variations that show the actual producer or the maker of the case. Herters, the Sporting Goods Mail Order company had 9mm ammo made in Sweden, Finland and Canada, all with the Herters headstamp. Olin/Winchester had pistol ammo made by S&B with the Winchester hst. As far back as the 1930s Winchester and Western made ammunition with the other guys name on it. Any Winchester or Western box with an “A” prefix on the date code means that it was made by the other company. Years ago John Moss and I noticed two very distinct headstamp styles on the “WRA 9M/M LUGER” cartridges. This headstamp was first loaded in 1948. We initially thought this indicated early and late style headstamps. Once we understood the date codes on boxes we realized one style was those cartridges loaded by Winchester in New Haven CT, and the other was those loaded by Western in East Alton IL. As a result of studying the box dates, it looks like Western was the first to use this Winchester headstamp on 9mm!

Hope this helps!!! But probably simply makes the issue worse. Sorry.


Thanks Lew,

I think I’ll go and lie down with a damp cloth on my forehead!

Tony, take your well deserved rest.

In my humble opinion I propose the >headstamp< should act as the anchor for assigning a cartridge to a specific manufacturer/nationality. At least, even if manufactured by, say, S&B, it is marketed and sold as, say, WRA. So in my mind this example is primarily a U.S. product.

We know the current Geco 9 mm are produced in Hungary. But they bear the Geco brand and are packed in Geco boxes by a Swiss owned company. Some lots were even manufactured in Thun, Switzerland. But I would catalogue them under Germany, because of the Geco headstamp.

I know this approach has its drawbacks and will not satisfactorily cover all situations, but the headstamp found on the case is something factual. It always is present. I would use information from boxes (Hungarian CIP symbol in case of Geco example) only as supplemetary.

This is how I would try to tackle the problem. Others wil certainly have different views.

Although not exactly the same as nationality, I may add that the country origin of a commercial product is determined in most places based in the country where the last substantial transformation took place. As an example, this means that if a cartridge is loaded by a company in the USA using Czech cases, Israeli powder and Russian primers, it is considered a product of US origin, since the “last substantial transformation” took place in USA.

Brands, trademarks and distributing companies are a completely different subject that should not be confused with nationality or country of origin of a product.

Also, I often find confusing understanding the nationality or country of origin of old military cartridges, since in many cases they were designed by a military commision of a given country, but ordered from a manufacturer located overseas. In several cases is very hard to understand which designed the cartridge: was the commision or the factory?

Fede’s remark about Ammunition Commissions was spot on. I have an original carbon copy (not a xerox) of the requirements of an Argentine commission that made a contract with Winchester in 1927 for .45 A.C.P. ammunition, likely for the “Modelo 1927” copy of the Colt Model 1911A1. I don’t recall all the “instructions” of this prospectus, but I do remember that it contains a hand-drawn picture of the desired headstamp, which Winchester duplicated almost perfectly. It was a rare headstamp here, until a number of dummy rounds made on the fired cases were found in Argentina with many going to american collectors.
I think, perhaps, the live rounds are now scarcer than the previously-unknown dummy rounds, which were certainly made into dummies later, in Argentina.

I see from their websites that Polycase makes the ARX ammo for Ruger - who hold the licence. Which is odd, since Polycase developed it. Polycase are also advertising their own ARX ammo which seems to be the same as the Ruger type, which makes this even more confusing.

Can anyone shed more light on the relationship?

It’s hard to say whether it means that Ruger owns the rights to just “Ruger ARX”, or if they bought full rights to ARX in general and just allow Polycase to continue to produce it under their own original label.

I think I am going to lie down for awhile as well, as this has all given me a splitting headache. Not a complaint at the content at all. The opinions given all hold validity and are interesting, representing many points of view of how to handle this ID problem. The problem has become acute for the cartridge researcher. It took me two hours yesterday to find all of my “SK” and “SKN” heastamped 9 mm cartridges, because I have them under their respecitive countries of manufacture, in the “SK/SKN” example, Russia (TPZ), Slovakia (PS), Czech Republic (S&B) and Poland (MESkO). I could not initially remember all of the countries of manufactue, hence the nightmare trying to find them in my own collection of 5,000 plus 9 mm Para.

If all were sorted just by headstamp, it would be easier to find them. But that would pose problems in identifying manufacturers, “assemblers” (loading plants using mix components from various countries or makers not their own). distributors (companies owning the Brand Names, and sometimes the headstap designations, but not actually making ammunition at all), etc. Then, you have the increasing problem of the use of one maker’s brass and headstamps, by others from the same country or foreign country. I just found a box of DRT ammo, a company who has their own headstamp on brass, full of rounds headstamped “Y.A.S.”, a designator with a significance unknown to me. For some reason, I assumed the case headstamp was Turkish, but I have no proof of that at all. The primers in them are a “point to point” double letter “V” (NOT a “W” but rather "><"with points touching, which I believe are from CBC-Brazil.

The “headstamp of the week” trend is driving all of us that hold a primary interest in headstamps absolutely bonkers! As they say, you can’t tell the players with a program, and even with ne (catalogs, box labels, etc.), any logical classification is becoming near-impossible.

Anyone else care for a couple of Aspirin?

At the shot show this year I met a gentleman named Rain who said he was the inventor of the plastic’s compound used in these ARX bullets. He worked for PolyOne Corporation, they were showing Ruger products and as aside said Ruger shot over 10,000 rounds of it in testing.
So yet another level of whose it is.

My personal outlook on this ‘mess’ is if the product was put-together in the USA /or wherever it’s made here / there regardless of the components parentage. That Remington or China might have made the case with a Winchester headstamp is important, and I try to note it but anymore it seems impossible to know, without it being a full time job, determining a .25¢ rounds exact parentage.

That said this forum does a great job of helping.

A better man than I …

2 Aspirins please, John

PS photo of the compound / display on a thread about this years show on this forum.

Allow me to add another level of confusion regarding Sig’s ammo. It seems that Sig is moving from Eubank, Kentucky to Jacksonville, Arkansas. So it seems that L-Tech Enterprises will no longer be loading ammo for Sig. … z487akdoV2

I understand all your confusion. For many years, I had the same Problems with US Model Train Distributors ( which is what they are), selling Items made in Italy, Germany,\Austria etc as if it was “American Made”, when all they did was have their Label and Box fitted to it in the Country of origin. I found, whilst I was in Europe, that it was easier to buy the “Local” brand, than try to “re-import” it from a US dealer ( added Cost) as the Item was Identical…only the Packaging changed.

This happens in all fields, Ammunition, Machine Tools, Model Rail/Air/Ships/etc…and a lot of other fields. Only in recent years ( since the 1990s or so) Have Ammo companies set up “branch” Factories in the USA (Usually for Military Contract Reasons, and to avoid UN Control on International Arms Trade.) Hence you have “Fiocchi USA” and “FNH-USA” and many others, which actually have their Production facilities “In Country”…others, such as “Mag-Tech”, are merely a US-based Distributor, which don’t do any manufacturing “In Country”; and some Brands simply appoint a Sales Agent in the US, to do their distribution under the Original Name, without purporting to be a “US company”.
IN many countries, one cannot perform these “sleight of hand” deceptions, as their Trade and Corporations Laws prohibit such activity. This is most often seen in the Food Industry, where detailed “Country of Origin” rules take up a large part of the Label.( as well as the Useless “Nutritional” type lists).

Applying such a rule to ammo would see a Panel with “Ammunition assembled in the USA, using Cases from the Czech Republic, Primers from Russia, Powder from Canada, and Projectiles from Brazil… Packaging made in USA”.

The Ammo industry, being as it is, with Cartelisation, and Multinational networks, will get even more confusing as time goes on. With the Fall of the USSR, the Former Soviet Factories are grappleing for Western markets, any which way they can. And with Nations such as France , Portugal etc, ceasing all Military Cartridge Production, and relying on
"The Best price" on the world Market, one will see a need to follow Packet labels as well as Cartridge Headstamps, and even Outer Box Labels to divine where a particular cartridge was originally made.
Thankfully, Outer Cases, Tins of ammo, usually have a “DG/HazMat” Origin Packaging code, with denotes the Country of Origin and the Producer of the Container. ( another UN-inspired rule, this time for International Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air and Sea.).

Life wasn’t meant to be easy, but it certainly is interesting… ( Chinese Philospher’s Curse:“May you live in Interesting Times” ).

Doc AV

I can shed some light on the Polycase/Ruger link as I’ve spent ten minutes with Derek Lannuier, Polycase’s Director of International Business Development, at Eurosatory.

Ruger approached Polycase about linking up with them after extensive testing of the ARX in their pistols. They wanted to make some changes to the design and worked with Polycase until they were satisfied it met their standards. Ruger then licensed Polycase to use the Ruger name for ARX production in the USA. All of the production is by Polycase.

Polycase are now using Inceptor as their preferred brand name for international marketing and sales (although some US retailers have asked to be supplied with this rather than the Ruger-labelled version).

The name Polycase is now being downplayed in favour of Ruger in the USA and Inceptor elsewhere. Of course, Polycase referred to their first products which used metal bullets in a polymer case, but they have evolved to using polymer/metal powder bullets in metal cases!

Incidentally, the ARX is their “combat” load since the fluted nose has interesting hydraulic effects on impact, delivering ballistic gel results rather like a JHP except that the bullet doesn’t change shape. It also becomes unstable when subsonic and falls out of the sky at about 300m, plus it fragments on hitting anything hard, so it’s good for urban combat.

The plain round-nosed RNP loading is a cheaper option, mainly for training.

I’ve found another head-scratcher: PMC Ammunition of Houston, Texas, produces a range of mainly pistol ammo and advertises itself as being “America’s Company - America’s Ammunition”, but according to this site the ammo is all made by Poongsan of South Korea.

Poongsan’s own catalogue lists some, mainly military, small-arms ammo but not the more commercial stuff.

A search found the following information on another forum:

According to PMC, the original parent company was founded in the late 1970s in New York as Patton Morgan Corporation. It began operations by importing military style small arms ammunition and .22 rimfire ammunition manufactured in South Korea. The ammunition was sold then, as it still is, under the registered brand name “PMC Ammunition”, and the original slogan, “Precision Made Cartridges” has never changed.

Several years later, the company moved to Los Angeles, California, and its name was changed to Pan Metal Corporation. In 1988, factory facilities were purchased near Boulder City, Nevada, for the production of ammunition to supplement the Korean imports, and for the purpose of producing two new lines of high performance cartridges. These were the Starfire handgun ammunition and X-Bullet rifle ammunition for big game hunting, which were introduced to the market in late 1991. In 1996, shotgun shells were added to the line.

The factory is operated under the name Eldorado Cartridge Corporation, and initially was a wholly owned subsidiary of Pan Metal Corporation. In 1999 the relationship between Pan Metal Corporation and Eldorado Cartridge Corporation was severed, and Eldorado became an independent corporation, registered in Nevada.

On the same site there is a suggestion that PMC also stands for Poongsan Metals Corporation.

So, PMC Ammunition seems to be a US organisation marketing ammo for Poongsan. Does that make the ammo American or Korean? I suppose it might depend on the nature of the link between Poongsan and PMC - if Poongsan owns PMC or has some formal link with it which ensures that PMC only markets Poongsan ammo, then I would say that the ammo is Korean…

Anyone care to comment, or is a new supply of wet towels needed?

I am not sure what “Made by Polycase” actually means. When they brought out their Firefly tracer, they only made the plastic bullets which were sent to Southern Ballistic Research to fill with tracer compound. SBR has a pretty sophisticated loading operation and Polycase had their tracers cartridges loaded by SBR. I have been told that others, Like Atlantic Marksmen (who briefly had Polycase ammunition loaded in Lapua cases and packed in Atlantic Marksmen boxes) that the ammunition was actually loaded by SBR, both tracer and ball ammunition.

I have generally followed your guidence, since as John M pointed out, some companies that produce no ammo at all, but sell ammo with their headstamp, Like Leader, change producers regularly, almost always with slight headstamp variations. The trouble is that now, some manufacturers, like Polycase, G2RIP and others purchase cases where ever they can find them, so G2RIP loads show up with DRT cases because DRT had some excess. I just received a box of Lehigh Defense ammunition, and it was full of ammunition with UNDERWOOD headstamps, which of course are not made by underwood. In these cases the headstamp has almost nothing to do with the load. Starline makes a lot of custom headstamps for people. In some cases, these cases can’t be delivered and are sold off cheaply. A few years back, Glock pistols in 40S&W were being delivered with two fired cases (the GLOCK test firings) with a very strange headstamp, which I can’t recall. On the chance that the same headstamp, I chased it down. Glock told me their test cartridges were loaded by Atlantic Arms. They told me that they bought them at a cut rate from Starline because the original customer wouldn’t accept them. With some help, I chased down the guy who ordered them from Starline. He custom loaded ammunition for individual IPSC shooters, but had a heart attack and had to close down his business so had cancelled the order for the 40S&W cases with Starline. The good news from my perspective is that he had only loaded 40S&W and had never ordered 9mmP with this headstamp.

Each cartridge has it’s own history, and today, some are very complex. Commercially loads I put under the company that markets it. Military or military contract/test loads I put under the company that loaded them-as best I can. Others like commeratives with headstamps which have nothing to do with the manufacturer, I put under the case manufacturer who may or maynot be the company or even individual who shoved a bullet into the case.

Terrible subject Tony!!! The world is too complex for a real answer.