British 7.62mm nato

A question for you Brits out there.

What is the proper and official British designation for the 7.62MM NATO? Here in the USA it is 7.62MM NATO as we all know. In Europe it is, I think, 7.62 x 51 NATO. So what is it over there?

I know that if I call it 7.62mm NATO you will know what I’m talking about. But is that correct? Do you simply sigh and say, “Those blokes will never learn.”

Here’s a photo of an ammunition box that I stole from another Forum. What does all the different stamped information mean? I understand the NATO symbols, and the L2A2, and I know much of it is universal language, but some is not.


RG = Radway Green
1.4 S is an explosives category.
Cross with the circle is a NATO marking

14 6 89 is a date stamp

8 crns = 50 rds per carton. Mine was packing in styrofoam cartons of 50 ea.

Actually, 1.4S is a shipping and storage category for hazardous materials. 1.4 S represents small arms ammunition.

        Division 1.4 refers to the specific nature of the ammunition, and the suffix "S" refers to the packing, as follows:

        Articles and substances that present no significant hazard. This division comprises articles and substances, which present only a small hazard in the event of ignition or initiation during transport. The effects are largely confined to the package and no projection of fragments of appreciable size or range is to be expected. An external fire must not cause virtually instantaneous explosion of almost the entire contents of the package. [b][i](i.e., is not prone to mass detonation)[/i][/b]

        Note: Articles and substances in this division are placed in Compatibility Group S when they are so packed or designed that any hazardous effects arising from accidental functioning are confined within the package unless the package has been degraded by fire, in which case all blast or projection effects are limited to the extent that they do not significantly hinder fire-fighting or other emergency response efforts in the immediate vicinity of the package.

There is also a UN designation:

United Nations UN 0012 (below the 1.4S diamond)
UN 0012 defines the category ‘Cartridges for weapons, inert projectile or Cartridges, small arms’, being “Ammunition consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a centre or rimfire primer and containing both a propelling charge and solid projectile(s). They are designed to be fired in weapons of calibre not larger than 19.1 mm. Shotgun cartridges of any calibre are included in this definition.”

United Nations UN 0014
UN 0014 defines the category 'Cartridges for weapons, blank or Cartridges, small arms

All hazardous materials have similar category designations. UN designators are quite specific, covering almost every type of munition and explosive. For example UN 0055 describes empty primed cartridge cases and UN 0033-35 covers explosive bombs.

To add to jestertoo’s post

Circle - Ball ammunition
Clover or Club symbol - Ammo is interchangeable between weapons

To add a little more detail and to answer Ray’s original question.

In British service the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge is simple “7.62mm”. The correct nomenclature for the ball rounds in the can Ray shows is “Round, 7.62mm, Ball, L2A2”. One of the features of British momenclature is that if a bullet is present (including drill rounds) then the item is a “Round”, but if there is no bullet, e.g. blank or grenade discharger, then it is a “Cartridge”. This is why for the 7.62m series there is both a Drill L1A1 and a Grenade Discharger L1A1, the first being a “Round” and the latter a “Cartridge”.

The “L” number of course is roughly equivalent to the U.S. “M” system. One slight difference is that in U.S. nomenclature the first model of the item is “M1” and the first modification the “M1A1”, whilst in British terms the first model is the “L1A1” and the first modification the “L1A2”. Thus in this case the L2A2 is the first modification of the L2 ball round (thickened case wales)

Returning to the can, it contains 400 rounds of “Round, 7.62mm, Ball, L2A2” packed in 8 fifty round plastic containers as indicated by “CNRS”. If it were in 32 round cartons the abbreviation would be “CTN” and if in bandoleers “BDR”. The code “RG 14.6.89” is known as the “Date of Work” and acts as a batch identifier. As already pointed out “RG” identifies the facility at Radway Green Cheshire, originally a government Royal Ordnance Factory (Started production 1940) but now a division of British Aerospace Plc. Other markings are as already described.


The yellow diamond is called a “haz-chem” sticker. Normally a stick on label it is found on outer cartons of all ammo and anything that has a hazardous status not just explosives and not just military. Its not particularly an ammo related thing.
Paint, drain cleaner, kettle descaler etc.

Actually the color is not very well represented because its painted on, the actual color is closer to orange. There are all sorts of regulations regarding the storage and transportation of hazchems which is the primary purpose of them.

If there was a fire at, say, a big DIY superstore the warehouse manager would be expected to provide the fire trucks when they arrived with a breakdown of all the hazchems in the building, approx qty of each and where they are in the the buiding. Ships and planes cargoes have rules about what you can and can’t mix in the same hold.

Thanks to all. I think I have it. :-)

The NATO symbol of battlefield interchangability (the clover leaf) actually is found in two forms - the one shown which indicates cartridges only, and another with the symbol in a square which indicates cartridges in links. It indicates that the ammunition can be used in any of the weapons that have been submitted and tested. I suppose the weakness of this system is that soldiers in the field probably do not know which weapons have been submitted so there would be no 100% guarantee of interchangability.

Thanks again.


I can’t help but make some remarks regarding the UK model designators. We in Germany call a DM41 a DM41, be it manufactured by FN, MEN, DAG, MS, IWK, Hirtenberger, IMI (well, DM41A1), HXP … You name it. The same applies to U.S. M80.

Not so with the Brits, who seem determined to outdo us in our notoriously systematic approach. How unfair. It started all harmless:
L2A1 copy of Belgian SS77 with 9.33 g bullet
L2A2 strengthened case
L2A3 modified cap composition
L2A4 ball powder
But then they began to assign model designations based on the manufacturer:
L11A1 Raufoss
L15A1 Hirtenberger
L16A1 Raufoss again, but later manufacture
L21A1 FNM, Portugal; 9.43 g bullet (my personal view: beware of FNM)
L30A1 allocated to MEN, status of actual production unknown
L37A1 FNM again
(above data published by the late Peter Labbett; I assume its only the top of the iceberg)
With amazement I look at this inflation of model designations for basically the same cartridge.


Thanks for the additional comments.

I have a long list of the British “L” codes which includes those you gave. I’d be lost without it. But things like that are not unique to British cartridges. Each country has it’s own designation and numbering systems that sometimes seem to defy all reason. Without a score card for each, we’d all be lost. But, that’s one of the things that makes cartridge collecting so interesting.

I’m always reminded of my first job as a young lad. The company bookkeepper had a 6-digit numbering system of his own design that he used for everything. I once asked him what was going to happen when he ran out of number and letter combinations? He said, “I’ll be retired by then and someone else can worry about it.” I think many of out military systems are designed that same way.


Just to let you know, we are up to L57A1 for 7.62mm ball, which is a recent contract to MEN.

I can post a list of British L numbers as far as I know them if anyone is interested (and the site has the room!)


Well, I for my part am interested.

I have picked up RG 09 L42A3, RG 10 L42 A3 and RG 10 L44A1 fired cases on ranges recently. Personally I think that the system is daft, and I am British!


On a purely practical point. Anyone who has ever worked in a stores or stock control environment will appreciate the nightmare somebody somewhere has trying to keep all of those varients under control.

Yep, I do find the British system downright baffling (in principle as well as in practice) - they seem to change the L number every time they change supplier. Surely it would be more logical to use the “-Ax” suffix to denote such minor changes which still adhere to the same performance specification?

The USA on the other hand goes to the opposite extreme - why retain the “M855” designation for the 5.56mm M855A1, when the bullet is an entirely different design and the propellant and pressure characteristics are quite different?

Possibly to suggest that the M855A1 round was interchangeable with the original M855 round in all weapon systems and for all applications, but was physically different in some respect. But I don’t know that for sure.

Back when the Picatinny lead-free projectile program began, it was the Army’s plan to keep the older M855 designation the same for the newer round, with no indication that anything had changed. I suppose the intent then was to avoid confusion of the troops. In fact, the Army’s earlier lead-free bullet design concept was based upon changing nothing about the existing SS109 projectile, except for the direct replacement of the lead base slug with another material of equivalent density, but keeping the same internal and external ballistic performance properties. After huge expenditures of time and money, it eventually became apparent that idea did not work so well, which necessitated another major ammunition development project culminating in the M855A1.

Those of us that collect military cartridges from any country can cite example after example of confusing designations and nomenclature. Somebody could write a book! :-)


It isn’t just in military ammo where designations are confusing. Look at commercial American ammunition. The “.30-30” means .30 caliber with 30 grains of black powder; the cartridge was never factory loaded with black powder to my knowledge.

The .38-40 Winchester was .40 caliber. In fact, the 180 grain .40 bullet for the .40 S&W Pistol cartridge is nothing more than a jacketed form of the classic lead bullet for .38-40, in both weight and form.

The .38 Special caliber uses, nominally, a .357 bullet. Why wasn’t it called the “.36 Special.” Conversely, the Colt Navy “.36” caliber revolver used a .375" roundball, I believe.

It goes on and on. The .32 auto pistol cartridge is basically .30 caliber.