Can a cartridge/bullet be traced by serial number?

I want to ask forensic experts if a cartridge/case/bullet can be traced by the serial number on the cartridges’ package/lot, especially European manufacturers like, per example, Ruag/Geco, Sellier & Bellot, PPU, etc.?

If it’s fired from a gun but without the package aside, does cartridges have particular marks to link them to the shop and the original owner, where it was bought and registred legally?

If a cartridge had the type of serial numbering you mention, criminals would remove it as they do with the serial numbers of small arms.
The serial numbering of items consumed by the millions is a technological problem (available space on the item). At the same time it requires having a system in place that is able to routinely keep track of the sales (up to and including handing over a couple of rounds on the range to a fellow shooter) of every single cartridge of the millions of serial numbers in existence from factory to consumption.
Any shooter would have to scan each cartridge in the presence of a witness before firing to prove he has used them up, to prevent that cartridges with forged serial numbers can be used as evidence against him.
The above refers to commercial ammunition. Military ammunition poses a the problem of much larger numbers and the inability to identify the actual person shooting the ammunition. Stolen military ammunition already today is very prominent in crimes and this would of course increase with a serial number system in place.

The (in theory) perfect bookkeeping of each and every round that is practised by European military as a matter of fact is counterproductive. After training it more often than not happens that unfired rounds are returned late, after the bookkeeping is completed. It would require superhuman qualities to spend another two hours correcting the bookkeeping for, say, 36 cartridges while all others go on holiday. As a result of what I saw during my service, it is my opinion that there are “black” ammunition stocks in every unit.

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Serial number of the base of the bullet was supposed to become law in the State of California. I don’t know what happened to that law. It was, of course, stupid to the extreme, since bullets are often deformed after striking a target, and of course most, if not all, ammunition factories would simply decline to sell their product in California which, of course, would delight the party in control of our State. That was likely the whole purpose of the exercise. Again, I don’t know the status of that law. All I can say is that there is no mistake that it was proposed.

John Moss

Thank you for your reply.

I understand that the serial number inscribed on the individual packaging of cartridges’ or lot number could eventually be linked to a particular cartridge fired if there is a scanning technology for microscopic differences between the lots during their manufacturing.

Having seen many manufacturers packagings serial numbers, they are often the same for the lot or mass production of a given date. It would be rather difficult, I think to link it to a particular/original buyer alone.

But, does any manufacturer keep tracks of it, like per ex., Ruag/Geco, Magtech, Speer, Federal, etc.?

RUAG stated in her last meeting last IWA that they are able, to serieallize cases AND bullets, if needed. They have developed such a system to be able to implement it immediatelly, when a govenmental “need” arises. I think, they have at least tested it, to which extend, I do not know…and they are also very tightlipped about it…
They do of course already, still mark each case with production dates hidden at the inside of the case…
Up to a few years ago, the system was open for police research, but now it is mandatory to send the case(s) to them and they give back the data…similar to Glock pistols with removed serials…if they are sent back to Wagram for inspection, they also give back the real serialnumber hidden on several places at/in the pistol (not openly marked and recognizable as such)…


The “lot number” on a package or box is primarily for quality control purposes, in case there is need to recall a lot for safety issues. A “Lot” will typically include thousands, or hundreds of thousands of rounds.
Tracking by the individual box is totally impractical (not that it would deter anti-gun people from demanding it) and tracking at the individual round level is totally absurd to any rational person.

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Some time in the distant past, I recall reading somewhere that ‘markers’ within the powder charge were being worked on that would allow the point of sale and the purchaser of the ammunition used in crimes to be identified. Does anyone else recall this and know if it was ever implemented in the US or elsewhere?

Yes, I remember this very well. Contrary to marking explosives that way, it did not work for propellants without serious side effects and as far as I now it was never implemented. At the time, the American Rifleman reported about it.

Just to add a picture in the discussion, this is a 9mm Luger from CBC

Actually, Ruag does introduce a marking/revealing substance that is visible on X-rays in the propellants of their ammo who are destined and sold only to law enforcement, they call it the SINTOX®-FORENSIS.

It’s supposed to help calculate the trajectory of the bullets, and to differentiate ammo shot by law enforcements from other perpetrators (i.e., during a shootout).

Other than that, method of identifying a cartridge, case or bullet, by engraving codes, has been around from a long time, the oldest patent dates back…to 1924.

Browsing the web, I have found that a company is specialized in bullets IDs called actually Bullet ID:

A fully integrated solution for ammunition inventory management.

Allows manufacturers full monitoring and tracking of the production line and supply chain.

Provides the ultimate inventory tool for law enforcement, allowing the traceability of a round from the point of manufacturing to the point of delivery.

The Bullet ID System gives authorized users, primarily police and military, the ability to use their smartphone to scan a bullet or shell-case imprinted with a unique laser-etched code. This allows for unprecedented inventory management at the level of the individual bullet.

They use state of the art laser and chip technology. The original owner could potentially be traced by a smartphone just by scanning a bullet or a case. To where it’s going to lead, knowing how simple it is to lose or steal ammunition?

Thanks for your reply.

If what Ruag/Geco stated is true, every case or bullet would narrow the search to the original owner, or at least the last shop it was supplied - if it’s linked to the serial number inscribed on the packaging/lot and registered during the purchase.
It would be interesting to know where these codes inside the case and in the bullet are located, and how they can be read: microscope, UV-light, black-light, etc.?

Do you happen to have a web-link to this last IWA’s from Ruag conference/statement?

I also do have another question, maybe someone knows: does the Ruag Holding use this technology for their new bullets like the Geco Hexagon, Action Extreme, Ruag Action series, Swiss Army ordnance ammunition, and others Geco cartridges and bullets types?

Here are a couple videos from the Bullet ID Corp of Canada. Their existence basically depends on governments creating legislation to require such a thing, since doing this on one’s own simply raises the cost for no good reason. They don’t seem to have done much of anything over the past year, and are promoting a qual-code style of serializing lately:

Lasers are etching? News to me!

Like always, it will be hyped by the gun control fascists, adopted at tremendous cost to just find out later that it is worthless.
But as long as a miraculous smart phone app can scan and ID lot numbers about 99% of our digitally demented people will vote for it…

People tend to overlook that marking is only, say 2 percent of the problem. The remaining 98 percent go into bookkeeping where each and every round went.
I dare to say that every person responsible for issuing and returning ammunition in military or police today has black stocks of cartridges. This is not due to sluggishness. But the bureaucratic process has reached a level that sooner or later overwhelms even the most motivated person. Corners start being cut. Considering real life situations of range shooting, it simply would require superhuman qualities to do the bookkeeping by the letter at all times. And this describes only our current limited counting of rounds, not keeping track of who was issued which serial-numberes of rounds.
Like today, criminals wil not obtain their ammunition from legal sources.
So, real world tracing of bullets will typically look like this: a bullet used in a murder in Chicago will turn out, according to the perfect tracing records, as having being fired 10 years earlier on a deer hunt in Louisiana. Or was exported to, say, Kirgistan. The effect on real world crime investigation will be nil.

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Maybe if they all had a radioactive code on them gov ments cud just fly a plane over an area & know who had which ones & how many and all that good important neat stuff. Of course it would oniy work for legally owned ammunition. But what does that matter?

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Yes, I’ve tried to keep account of my shooting ammunition ( I shoot many calibers ), but every time I check my balance, it’s always wrong. And that is just me using my own ammunition. I also know that I can talk to the ammunition officer to get extra ammunition returned by others who didn’t use all, and they don’t put the effort to register it back in stock, but supply those who ask for extra.

I know it’s a politicians wet dream to get total control on this, but it will never work. Criminals can just cast their own bullets, if they want. This project is a total waste of time and resources.

and then, there’s always an old and honorable art of reloading and homemade bullet production (lead casting is the very simple art in its basics)

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One variation of this is the current practice of some manufacturers, such as S&W, of providing a little brown envelope with every pistol sold to the retail buyer by a dealer. The envelope has a fired case that was fired in the pistol, with the serial number of the gun and other information about that gun. I have a small collection of these unopened envelopes, each with a fired case inside. The idea is that the gun I bought makes a specific imprint on the case head and primer when fired, and that this can be used to track down a specific gun. But, for this to remotely work, I have to turn in the envelope with its fired case inside, to my local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) so that if he or she recovers my gun that was used in a crime, they could test the gun by firing to match the marks left on the cartridge head and primer. But what if I decide to not turn in my fired case? Then the CLEO has nothing to compare and the whole effort is fruitless an a waste of time. Plus, I suspect that my CLEO does not have the technology to conduct the test,

Maybe new to some of you then.
Russia has a so called “bullet & case library”.
Every gun running through a proof house is being test-fired and case AND bullet are filed together with the serial number of a gun. Like in 7.62x54R they even have developed a special FMJ “bi-caliber” proj.
And as we know these can be (are) scanned and digitalized so an automated program can compare the whole database.

And as if not enough the Russians have plenty of weapons with additional “forensic markings” which are mainly applied to weapons in 7.62x39 and 7.62x54R. There small changes are made in the chamber (small radial grooves in the area where the neck is joining the shoulders). So every case fired in such a chamber is individually marked. Also there is systems with small “dents” in the sholder area and also a system where the bolt face around the port hole for the firing pin has small indentations (applied by hand, so always unique in pattern), the fired primer there is then forming into these by the gas pressure and gets tiny dimples. (this primer-dimple system was observed on pistol calibers)

With govt.-organized and leftish-driven fascism growing rapidly in western countries we soon will have similar systems too.

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