Battlefield relics

Over the past 25 years or so of cartridge collecting, I have acquired some interesting specimens which have some direct ties to a historic place or event. I know that many of the cartridges in our collections have interesting histories, but often this is lost in the passing from hand to hand to hand. These are my favorites and have genuine provenance:

7.62x54r from the second Russo-Finnish war. Headstamp “17 37”. This fired case was picked up on a “battlefield tour” by a cartridge collector a few years ago.

12.7x108mm from Somalia, ca. 1992. Headstamp “188 * 51 *”.This cartridge case and projectile was brought home by a Marine buddy of mine. He said the Somalis would break down these cartridges to get the powder out to light fires with.

5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm fired cases. The 5.45x39mm is headstamped “60 82” and came from a lot of ammunition smuggled out of Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation there. I beleive this cartridge was fired in testing here in the US. Since I got this case along with some live cartridges over 20 years ago, I do not doubt it’s provenance. The two lacquered steel cased 7.62x39mm came from a Vietnam War veteran. He brought a bunch of fired cases home with him because his Vietnamese wife made lighters out of them to sell as souvenirs. The left case is headstamped “21 71” and is Polish. The right case is Soviet and is headstamped “539 71”. To my knowledge, this Soviet headstamp is commonly found on copper washed steel cases, but unknown in lacquered steel. As of the last Russ Cornell checklist, this example is the only one known to exist in a collection. The last two 7.62x39mm also came out of Somalia from my Marine buddy. The one on the left is Chinese and headstamped “351 71”. The right hand case is Soviet and is headstamped “539 73”.


I also have a small assortment of 7.62x39mm that came out of Iraq/Kuwait during Desert Storm in 1991 and some 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm that recently came out of Afghanistan. Some interesting headstamps came out of the Afghan lot. Several 5.45 with the rare “7” factory code and a 7.62x39mm LS ball from the Soviet Union headstmped “711 91”, which I believe is the last year of production for the USSR before it fell.

What kind of interesting cartridges do you folks have with some sort of first hand provenance?


I have the most common cartridge in the world - a steel-cased .45 A.C.P. made by Evansville Chrysler in 1943. It is badly rusted. In 1969, before coming to the United States, a young man from France was looking around the scene of a battle at St. Mere Eglise and found a Thompson SMG magazine sticking top-up out of the ground. It still had some cartridges in it. This is one of those cartridges. How the magazine was lost out of a gun, who knows? But, it was there! I have not seen this fellow, Ralph Pineda, in years. He was the son, through the remarriage of his mother, of Brigadier General Tripp, U.S. Army. He worked at our store briefly, and we became quite friendly. When he found out I collected cartridges he brought me this round, and at the store, I took one of our little white tags and wrote on it what he told me about it. The tag is still attached around the extractor groove and it is still in my collection.

Better, I have 14 rounds of 7mm Nambu taken from the holster loops of a Baby Nambu pistol. I own the pistol, holster with shoulder straps, the 14 cartridges, the extra matching-numbered magazine and the cleaning rod, all of which were carried in the holster. My friend Bob Abell captured it in a one on one pistol fight in the Philippines, in a “secured” area. I also have the binoculars (broken) that the Japanese Captain he killed was carrying, as well as one of the shoulder boards off of the Japanese officer’s uniform. This pistol was written up in the newer edition of “Japanese Military Cartridge Handguns 1893-1945,” by Harry Derby and James Brown, page 84. Bob gave me the pistol as a gift. I also, for a short time, had the .45 auto that Bob used in the encounter, but he later asked for that back. In return, he gave me a Japanese Type 2 paratrooper rifle. This rifle fired a couple of shots at Bob while he was “busy” in a rice paddy, before his men killed the soldier firing at him. I have the two 7.7 ball cartridges that were left in the rifle, as well. I had always hoped to reunite the two pistols, but I have lost contact with Bob, and he may not be with us any longer. Fortunately, for the record, I still have the serial number of it.

I do not have the cartridges original to the two magazines for the Baby Nambu, even though the Japanese Officer merely waved it and a sword around, but never actually fired a shot at Bob with it. Bob later fired those trying the gun out, while still in the Philippines. The sword was given to one of his anti-tank gun crew chiefs right after the encounter.

I applaude the opening of this thread. We all like to get mint cartridges and mint guns for our collection, often forgetting they are mint because they would have no story to tell if they could talk. My Baby Nambu is quite nice, but the rifle is perfectly wretched in condition, but still fully serviceable. That old rusted E C 43 .45 round means as much or more to me than any .45 in my collection.

I have 6 fired .50-70 Government Bar-Primed cases dug up from a practice firing range just outside the old west Fort Dodge, Kansas Territory. Nothing special about the cases except for the connection to a famous western fort.

I have two .30 Army cartridges that fit this thread, although I cannot prove they came from a specific place or were part of a historic event, they are never the less interesting. One is headstamped F 11 95 and has scratched into the case body: April 17/98 21 REG A 21 4/19/98. The other is headstamped F 4 98 and scratched on the case body: FOUND NEAR SANTIAGO DE CUBA.

When the world was a lot younger, and I was too, I metal detected many of the Indian War battle sites in the western states. I have relics from most of them but my most treasured are three very unique artifacts from the Battle of the Little Bighorn. I described them in issue # 439 of the JOURNAL.

Here is a small collection of associated relics from the site of Fort Custer, Montana. At the top are two clods of dirt with the case and bullet still in them to show exactly how they look when first dug up.


Back in the early '80s, I was on a guided walking tour of Fort Totten in the Bronx, N.Y.City. Now the N.Y. state maritime academy it was an active Army base since before the Civil War. We approached the historic base hospital where Dr. Walter Reed was stationed before the Panama Canal project and my rock-collecting / relic hunting side took over. I walked over to a drain spout where the rain water from the rain gutters flushed away dirt and debris and in front of a group of about 10 tour members reached down and picked up a fired internally-primed 45-70 case headstamped (clockwise) R 78 F 7. As green as the Statue of Liberty, this had lain there since it was fired. What story could lie behind it? A guard shooting at an escaping prisoner confined to the hospital?
In the basement of an old N.Y. City armory was the old indoor rifle/pistol range. This Armory, built in 1883 was holding emergency supplies that I had to inventory. Snooping around in odd places I found some old .45ACP cases including one headstamped FA 9 11. Considering the fisrt .45ACP headstamp was FA 8 11 I found a real early one! The others were 4 pcs of FA 6 12, two FA 12 14, 2 FA 2 15 a U.S.C.CO 3-13 and a 17. One FA 32 rounded the lot out. I could just imagine the N.Y. National guardsmen banging away in that dungeon-like subteranneum range - probably without ear protection!

7.62x39 Laquered steel case, headtsamp (04 75), red annulus, FMJ steel core, tool marks on bullet, no powder.

It was given to me by a Marine who picked it up near the barracks in Beirut in 1983. Vince P. ETS’ed from the Marine Corp and joined my VaARNG unit. Vince I shared many conversations about guns and shooting, and before I transferred to another unit he gave me the cartridge. In its current state it really has no value other than the connection to that horrific event.

I spent a lot of time farming, hiking, and marching around Israel, finding all kinds of stuff everywhere. Besides many pieces of Roman/Greek/Hebrew/Ottoman/Arab pottery and coinage, I found lots of spent bullets and cases strewn around battle-sites from WWI-1967. Up on the Golan I would sometimes come upon a pile of MG brass (7.62-14.5mm) where a vehicle stopped for a while to fire or clean out the insides. I kept some of the items, but usually keep them apart from my ammo collection.

Great stuff guys, keep it coming!


Maxrobot - you have at least one really great find. The U.S.C.Co 3-13 headstamp is very scarce. I have collected .45 Auto very seriously for a lot of years, and have never had the opportunity to acquire one. Great find!

This thread is becoming really interesting. This stuff is much more interesting than rounds taken out of surplus ammo sales that came out of a warehouse somewhere, or stuff acquired before it had any history at all.
There is real history here!

AKMS said it well - keep it coming guys.

My contribution is 2 50-70 copper fired cases from the Modoc War also known as Lava Beds War in northern CA. One case is a 1871 Martin fold the other is an 1871 iron cup Benet primed. This battle was from July 6 1872 to June 4 1873. 53 Modoc warriors held off between 400 and 600 soldiers through two battles and several peace talks. 13 Indians were killed. 57 soldiers killed and 46 wounded. The Army hired a photographer by the name of Eadweard Muybridge to photograph the battlefield so the field commanders could show Washington why it took so much time and money ($4M) to subdue such a small force.


This is my piece of History.It was from the Island of Kiska Alaska and was laying there since the invasion of Kiska by the japanese. Headstamp 20-mm MK.II (anchor) FJN W.B. 48 1942. 35 mm Anti Tank round. Vic

A .303 bullet found on Mount Nicholson, Hong Kong, the site of heavy fighting during the invasion of the colony in December 1941. Most likely fired from either the summit by defending troops, either Indian/Canadian, or from “Little Hong Kong”, a fortification at the south of Mount Nicholson which saw C Company of the Middlesex fire “over 20,000 rounds of .303” at the advancing Japanese.

It’s what got me into cartridge collecting!

This is especially interesting to me, as I live in the Middlesex County of London, so the soldier that fired this could just possibly have lived on my block, although unlikely.

These two .30-06 cases were from a former Pinetree Site/SAC base at Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit) in the Canadian arctic.

There was a shooting area near the Pinetree site (what we called Upper Base) and pile of fired brass, old cloth belts, M1 clips, etc. At some point the pile of brass became the target.

The case with the core sticking through it is headstamped 45 TW and the other is LC 52.

[quote=“Paul Smith”]These two .30-06 cases were from a former Pinetree Site/SAC base at Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit) in the Canadian arctic.

There was a shooting area near the Pinetree site (what we called Upper Base) and pile of fired brass, old cloth belts, M1 clips, etc. At some point the pile of brass became the target.

The case with the core sticking through it is headstamped 45 TW and the other is LC 52.[/quote]


Interesting cases. Similar cases can result from firing the Bren Gun on a hard surface. The cases are ejected down and forwards, on a hard surface they bounce upwards and scatter in front of the gun. I have picked up a few which were hit, on the bounce, by a later bullet in a long burst.


  • I have 7 spent steel cartridge cases caliber 12.7mm [12.7X108] which were fired at the Royal Palace from Victory Avenue, Bucharest [capital of Romania] during the night of December 22nd/23rd 1989 [the Romanian “revolution”]. On that particular night there were 11 tanks on one side of the Royal Palace, the tanks fired the 12.7X108 rounds all the night long and during the next 2-3 days. Heavy machine-guns using the potent 12.7X108 rimless round were mounted on each tank. Some other tanks were firing at the Royal Palace directly from the front on Victory Avenue. My 7 steel cases 12.7X108 were manufactured by the Romanian plant # 21 and # 15 in 1978, 1980 and 1981 but one has only the two digit date “81” with no maker’s mark. There were so many empty fired cases [7.62X39, 7.62X54R, 7.62X25, 9mm Makarov and 12.7X108] that a shovel could be used to clean the streets. Liviu 10/03/07

About 25 years ago (time flies) I visitid France, i.q. the Alsace area near the French east border. One point was the Ballon 'd Alsace, the one after highest hill (mountain) there.
During WWI this hill was a part of intensive warzone between Germany and France.
At the top of this hill is a monument an a parking, because there are always many tourists watching the vieuw around, at good weatherconditions it’s even possible to see the Alpes.
As the years passed by, there must have been maybe millions of cars on that parking.
At the time I was here, the survace of this parking was made of small stones, no asphalt or concrete.
When I walked from my car, I saw something between the stones beside my car. And there it was… a 1904 made Lebel cartridge.
Primer is missing, there are ‘some’ blunts, but it is still a live round.
My special cartridge…

I found a lot of WWI-WWII relics here.
Metal-detecting you can easily find 6,5 x 52 ,6,5 x 54,7,92 x 57,30-06 and 303 british ammo and a lot of other stuff (magazines,bayonets,clips etc…and rifles or pistols too!)

Last year I was working in my aunt’s yard and found a 7,92 x 57 mauser SmK l’spur cartridge in nice conditions

Jaco - I think your cartridge was a fluted-case dummy round, and was not a “live” cartridge in the sense of tactical ammunition. Nice find though!