Best ammunition reference books


I have learned a tremendous amount by being a long-time lurker, thank you all for sharing your time and knowledge. I’d like to invest in 3-5 reference books on ammunition markings from WWI to current…with as broad a country or theme as possible. The “Soviet Cannon” book will be on the list. And I have the two DTIC reference volumes from the 1980s. What additional sources or reference books would you folks recommend?

Thank you for your time.


I assume you want to focus on military ammunition, not all the commercial and sporting stuff. That will help narrow the recommendations.

And, it sounds like you are more interested in the markings, than in technical details of construction.

Since you mentioned the Soviet Cannon book,it sounds like you are not just interested in “small arms” but also into at least medium caliber stuff as well.

The Ammunition Bibliography on the main IAA site may be helpful.

In addition to books, you may want to include digital references, many of which are free and can be downloaded, and others which you can link to.
In this category, I highly recommend the excellent website by Tony Williams Tony is also author of numerous excellent books on history of modern military weapons and ammunition- some of the very few that treat them as an integrated package, not guns in one book, ammo in another, and applications where both were used as yet another separate topic.

Several people provide digital copies of reference publications on CD/DVD usually with multiple books and at a price less than even one hard copy manual would be, and they have the advantage of being searchable.

One can never have too many references.

Two books I highly recommend for your library would be:

a. “.30-06” by Chris Punnett, the IAA Journal editor, which is loaded with info on that caliber ammunition by every maker and country he could find, and includes a lot of great history on the companies which is useful for other calibers as well.

b. History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition by Hackley, Woodin & Scranton with two volumes out covering 1880-1940, and 1941-45 respectively, and a third volume covering post 1945 eagerly awaited but with an uncertain publication date. Unbelievably well researched, written and illustrated with details on not just the common production stuff, but also the really oddball experimental items and obscure calibers for special purpose use.


For a case type collector, the two I think are the most valuable are: “Cartridge Cases” by Per Arne Andersen, Vidar Andresen and Trond Stromstad and “British Sporting Rifle Cartridges” by Bill Fleming. Bill


I cannot sit back without giving a plug to .303 inch by Labett and Mead. If I were to be stranded on a desert island with one book for the rest of my life that would be the book I choose. And it would probably keep me absorbed for the rest of my life reading it.


For headstamps the 2 volumes by Jorian, S. and Regenstrief, P., Culots de Munitions Atlas. Toulouse: Cepadues-Editions, 1994.

The IAA CD also has numerous issues featuring headstamps mainly in the Witt’s End column found on the last pages, plus most of the various articles written over the years often show or note headstamps.


You will find quickly that only five or six references on ammunition barely scratches the surface. All of the titles mentioned are fine, but would not constitute a comprehensive library on ammunition. A minimum of 15 to 20 books would probably be needed, and certaining membership in at least the IAA, and probably other groups that publish Journals would be needed.

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I am just trying to tell the truth base on my own experience. My first fifteen years of collecting, specializing in only one cartridge type, I never learned much of anything about ammos of other types, and not what I would have liked about my own specialty, because I only had seven or eight books on ammunition. Simply a fact.

Some books that cover commercial and military ammo ARE needed - Punnett’s great .30-06 book is an example - as there is much crossover in headstamps, and on some headstamps, it is hard to figure out if the cartridge is military or sporting. Simply the presence of a FMJ bullet doesn’t answer all questions, by any means. Not even colored bullet tips, etc.

The average ammunition book costs about the same as dinner for two at a moderately good restaurant, and unlike dinner, a good book lasts forever. IAA dues for the electronic Journal are only 25.00 - a movie for two if you skip the coke and popcorn!


[quote="JohnMoss"The average ammunition book costs about the same as dinner for two at a moderately good restaurant[/quote]

John, maybe where you live but here in London those prices are way out. I can buy four or five good books for the price of a meal in a very mediocre restaurant. Which is why my kids were brought up on Pizza and Chinese takeaways. And we are cheap compared to mainland Europe. We are going to NYC in August and one of the advantages of going is being able to eat out without needing oxygen and a defribulator when you get the tab. Prices are relative.


Vince - Prices are relative, of course, but you simply reinforce the point I am making. To be frank and blunt, if one can’t afford the price of most cartridge books on the market, they probably cannot afford the hobby. Compared to other things we spend money on without thinking about it much (and I am not talking affluent people here - my own retirement would shock many people who know the expensive living in the San Francisco area, and not because it is so much) a good selection of cartridge books, possibly 20 or so out of the several hundred publications that are attainable (some for free printed out from the internet) is really a modest expense for anyone with a real interest in ammunition. I have perhaps ten times that many in books alone, not to mention pamphlets, manuals, monographs, etc., accumulated over the years on a very modest budget. That’s why I get a little frustrated when I hear collectors who just speng 20 to 50 bucks on a cartridge say they can’t afford to join an organization like IAA, or ECRA, or any of the other national Ammo collector groups. It seems in Europe that anyone of these informational options costs way less than a decent restaurant meal, and I am not talking five-star gourmet restaurants, which are often a huge disappointment for the price anyway.

Well, sorry to be so blunt in my assesment, but I believe it to be accurate, if not diplomatic.
On the second part, diplomacy, please just dismiss me as a cranky old man.


Great recommendations so far! I’d like to add the 5.56x45mm and .50 BMG reference books by Ron and Ron J. Fuchs as a must-have for just about any cartridge collector’s library. They are excellent references, they are updated regularly, and they are free to download. Here’s a link to a recent thread where they posted the links to the latest updates:



To all the kind folks that posted or sent emails with guidance, I thank you. And I apologize for the basic newbie mistake of being way too generic in any RFI. Much obliged for the assistance, lots of stuff to sift thru and make some decisions. Any thoughts beyond the Soviet Cannon book on larger caliber military ordnance beyond a “Jane’s?”


I have not found Jane’s books on ammunition to be worthy of the price! There first book on guns was the pits also - not anywhere near up to their book on Ships.


PanzerIV, try to download some military technical manuals from the internet. there are plenty of them and all is 1st hand info.


The best value in cartridge collecting is Charles Yust’s book on CARTRIDGES FOR COLLECTORS. He was the military ammo expert at White and Munhall and curator of the late great Ordnance museum at Aberdeen Proving grounds. LONG Out of print but still available from me cheap. It is also FREE to kids with an interest and anyone who needs to know about this subject for their PUBLIC SERVICE employment.

He wrote the best articles on the subjects of SMALL ARMS EXPLOSIVE CARTRIDGES , SMALL ARMS AP, TRACER,BLANK ETC. for the American Rifleman and Gun Digest.

I recovered the copyrights from those magazines and along with Steve Fuller, MARS Publishing, got them all into print in one easy to use book.

Get one while they last !

Paper copies also include a bonus digital copy .

I also offer over 1000 ordnance references , some from the only known copy , on CD and DVD.


I have A LOT of CSA’s reference material on CD and they are a GREAT resource. :-)



I am a beginner but I have found the Headstamp guide from Curtis Steinhauer to be very good to help me with cartridge markings. It covers a wide range of markings including manufacturers, metal suppliers and inspectors. For other markings such as tip colours a good start might be Ian Hoggs Ammunition Guide.