Dots & Asterisks on Head Stamps


#1

I wonder if anybody knows the “real” reason for the Dots & Asterisks found on cartridges (as in Shot Shells) head stamps. I am referring to British cartridges in this question although it may apply to others too.

Over the few years I have been collecting I have come across of few cartridges that have additional “Dots” or “Asterisks” added to the Head Stamp. I will add some photos by way of explanation/examples.

When I have asked the question I get various answers but the main one I hear is; that it was used for black powder loads but I don’t agree with that (but I could be wrong). I am trying to find something that substantiates why they were used and for what!

The time span for use seems to run from early 1900’s to maybe as late as the 1950’s so I reckon for about a 60 year span. The main examples I have are from Eley or Eley-Kynoch cases (I have but one example of a Nobel case) and none for Kynoch but this does not mean there aren’t any.

On purpose I have not named the cases I have shown as examples as this may tend to lead the answers. I have tried to put them in rough date order (some will over lap of course).


Type B Four Dots

Type E Four Dots

Type D Four Dots

Type H Two Dots

Type F Four Asterisks

Type I The normal with no dots or asterisks

Type C Four Dots

Type G Two Dots

Type A Two Dots

Type N Four Dots

Type O Two Dots (Nobel)

Type P No Dots (Nobel)

Type M Two Dots

Type L Two Dots

Type J Two Dots

Type K Two Asterisks

Sorry they are not in alphabetical order but when I named them I was not thinking of date order.

Regards,
Mike.


#2

1.Cosmetic (Asterisks, Stars, etc) 2. Indicators of Lot or Machine Line of production; 3. Secret Alien Coded message.

Doc AV


#3

It is a good question worth finding out the answer to. I always thought the “dots” were from the headstamp stamping process. But the stars may be cosmetic.

Have you tried to contact Eley with this question?
http://www.eley.co.uk/contact-us/

-Dave


#4

My 2¢ is that the dots were just a separator to fill the empty space and also add a bit of design. Later the asterisks and dots (on the ICI) may have been an in-house marker of some sort, but for what I have no idea.

That said, I could be totally wrong.

edited to reply to Dave,
Headstamp bunters are made with raised letters on a steel die. Made to read backwards so when impressed into the cartridge head, they read correctly. So these dot were put on / into the hob, another die (the original which reads correctly) from which the bunter was / is made and as such was part of the process because they were on the on the original tooling (Hob). Not an effect / result of the tooling used to headstamp the cartridge.


#5

[quote=“Eightbore”]I wonder if anybody knows the “real” reason for the Dots & Asterisks found on cartridges (as in Shot Shells) head stamps.
The time span for use seems to run from early 1900’s to maybe as late as the 1950’s s
Mike.[/quote]

Hello Mike,

about the stars : I think they are for cosmetics

about the dots: it started long time before 1900, as early as 1892.
You not only have 2 or 4 dots but also 1 and 3 dots

I think it is related to a period of manufacturing

JP


#6

[quote=“PetedeCoux”]My 2¢ is that the dots were just a separator to fill the empty space and also add a bit of design.

edited to reply to Dave,
Headstamp bunters are made with raised letters on a steel die. Made to read backwards so when impressed into the cartridge head, they read correctly. So these dot were put on / into the hob, another die (the original which reads correctly) from which the bunter was / is made and as such was part of the process because they were on the on the original tooling (Hob). Not an effect / result of the tooling used to headstamp the cartridge.[/quote]

Thank you Pete. This does make more sense than my initial speculation of “tooling marks”… Because the “dots” are always used as a “separator”…

JP could be on the right track too!

-Dave


#7

I think that, like most things, the answer is complex, and the answer changes with each manufacturer. The comments above are part of the answer, for decoration, to show that the letters represent words like U.S.C.Co. for “United States Cartridge Company”. There are also a lots of dots and dashes and stars and such that have no apparent use. Many probably do tell us something if we just understood what the code is.

Speer/CCI has used a large variety of dots and dashes in different positions to identify the CCI plant, or the contractor (like IMI) who supplied the cases. Most of these codes are known and have been documented in the IAA Journal. Recently Federal has used both “FC” and “.FC.” on headstamps. I seem to remember this was mentioned in the Journal but I do not recall the meaning.

Some of these variations may be just natural variation in headstamp design over time, but can help us date commercial cartridges that lack dates. Even letter styles can do this also.

A good example is RWS (Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff) in Germany during the pre-WWII years. They used a series of headstamps on 9mm Para cartridges including: “.RWS. 9mm”, “R.W.S. 9m/m”, “RWS. 9m/m”, “.RWS. .9m/m.”, “RWS 9m/m”, “RWS 1932”, “R.W.S. 1933”, “R.W.S. 1 . 39” and “RWS . 1 40”. During this same period Geco used even more variations on their headstamps including variations with “*” and “/” and “D”. Many of the Geco and RWS headstamps have similar formats which isn’t surprising since during most of the pre-WWII period, Geco produced the RWS pistol ammunition including 9mm Para.

As Olin moved 9x19mm production out of the Illinois plant to the Mississippi plant their caliber designation on commercial ammunition changed from “9mm” to “9MM”.

A close look at these headstamp variations raises all kind of questions. I have two apparently identical headstamps by IMI, but in one there is a small dash in the caliber marking and in the other there is a small diamond mark. Under a glass the difference is obvious but I’d have missed it had not a friend pointed it out to me.

Other “minor” differences also have meaning. I am told by a noted 7.9x57mm collector that one facility produced cases for a single caliber in two different facilities in their plant during the same time frame. One facility used letters with serifs and the other used letters without serifs!

It is easy to ascribe these type differences to chance or randomness in creating the headstamp bunters, but often there is an underlying reason.

British WWII 9mmP by ROF Hirwaun during WWII produced two basic headstamps on ball ammunition. The Mk 1 ball rounds were headstamped with the H^N code along with the date and the caliber. The Mk 2 ball rounds had the mark number added to the headstamp. In spite of only having one basic headstamp change during the war years, I have documented 13 distinctly different headstamps. Some have “Mk 2” or “MkII” or “Mk//” or significant variation in letter spacing or style like “9MM” or “9 MM” or “9M/M” or “9M.M.”. There are more variations if you count all the variations of spacing between the characters. I had written these off as random variations in bunter manufacture over time and a lack of quality control over bunter (or actually hob) manufacturer. I recently picked up a 48 round sealed box of Hirwaun rounds from 1944. I found eight distinctly different headstamp styles in the same box, and that is before I looked at different styles on the character 4 or minor differences in letter size, etc. If all these different headstamps were being produced at the same time it seems likely that there were quite a few case manufacturing lines operating at the same time and each had a distinctly different headstamp style. Since a single hob is used to produce a number of bunters (or so I have been told by guys in the business), this amount of variation is hard to explain by random variation or lack of quality control. I suspect somebody at Hirwaun once had a notebook which described these variations an identified them to particular production lines and or shifts or something similar. There is also variation in the ROF Blackpole production but not to the same extent as there is at Hirwaun, which seems to have produced a lot more 9mm than BE.

This is a tough hobby! The harder you look the more you find.

Cheers,
Lew


#8

[quote=“jeanpierre”]
Hello Mike,
about the stars : I think they are for cosmetics
about the dots: it started long time before 1900, as early as 1892.
You not only have 2 or 4 dots but also 1 and 3 dots
I think it is related to a period of manufacturing

JP[/quote]

This is about Eley shotshells
JP


#9

The dots do relate to a period of manufacturing, because that is how they did it then, and then it evolved into numerous variations. The English put / use dots as separators on centerfire metallic cartridges, for both rifle and hand guns, and have done for a very long time.

What Mike is asking, I think, is why they put the dots on in the first place.

My 2¢ on the asterisks is some kind of an in-house ‘marker’ as those are not at all common, in my experience.

Lew you sure are right about the 9mm’s from ROF Hirwaun. I once had a big bag of them to go through & must have pulled out 35 different. Now I can’t look at one because it will take so long to see if it’s different, i just don’t bother, I’m crazy enough as it is.


#10

Thanks for the answers all,

It seems we are all in the dark with them, below are some “facts” and observations that I know of that may add something to the question. Let me be clear and state that these facts are true as at the time of posting and I am sure somebody will find something that changes them!

I have spent quite some time going through other collectors collections and many have searched for me, I think between us we have looked at over 60,000 cartridges! so what I can add is;

Type A :- With the two dots either side of the Eley name and the Bore size seems to be consistent throughout all of the cases I have seen of this style, so I would go along with them being separators.

Type G :- These are the same as Type A above. So the same comment.

and that is where it ends, I have been unable to find any other constant so far.

I could see the use of the dots as separators but if you take the Eley London head stamp for example there has to have been hundreds of millions of cartridges manufactured without any dots or asterisks so why have just a special few got some? there has to be a reason!! and a special reason at that. I can’t quite sit with the date theory as the cases that have these marking spread across to wide a date range with the same markings. One of the things that has been noted is a almost all of them belong to customers who loaded there own cartridges, this may have some bearing?
What I have noticed is that a lot of the examples I have of Asterisks and that I have been shown or told about are on cartridges from the New Explosives Co.
As Pete gave a very good description of the work needed to produce the die for the head stamp (and hence the cost involved) I just don’t see any of them being put on just for decoration, certainly the asterisks, I don’t think Eley was known for spending money it didn’t need too.

As to the stampings on Eley-Kynoch head stamps, no commonality has yet shown up. However there are much fewer examples turning up per unit volume. To date the asterisks are far scarcer and could indicate a black powder load.

JP, if you have any examples of the 1 or 3 dots please post them as I have not picked up on any from all the cases I have been through.

Many thanks,
Mike.


#11

Hello mike,
I checked all my Eley ctges (I dont have many, less than one hundred) and my documents.

  1. The ctges with the hstp N° E.B. 12 London have all 4 dots on the hstp.
    I don’t have any without these dots.
    it seems to be the regular hstp.

  2. The ones with the hstp N° Eley 12 London are either without dots, either with 2 dots either with 4 dots.
    Their range of manufacturing being from about 1892 to 1915 I thougth it was depending of the period of manufacturing.

But I found trace of a sample box sent by a rep to SFM in 1902 to show the ctges made by Eley at that time.
There were different gauges of different kind.( Rifleite, walsrode, cannonite, Schultze and so on).
The hstps were either Eley London Gastight or N° Eley 12 London or Eley Waterproof Pegamoid aso

What is funny is the fact some had the hstp Eley London without dots, some with 4 dots !!
no dot on a brown 32 Eley Gastight ctge case
4 dots on a brown 16 gauge Eley Gastight ctge case

These ctges were manufactured at the same time period.
Either they didn’t put the dots on the 32 gauge because the head was too small ?
Or because it was a different machine ??

Sorry not to be of a big help.
I think now it depends of the machine and not of the period.

Why don’t you make a correlation between the hstps and the time period of manufacturing ?
With the logo on the tube giving you a time period and the hstp you will perhaps find something interesting

  1. About a single dot I have noticed the hstp N° Eley.London 12 Gastight Dot

JP


#12

Hi Mike.

Don’t forget that some of the rounds that you are showing were from the period when they were using both black powder and smokeless powder in all sorts of permutations. Some of the dots or paterns may be to indicate the type of case for the type of powder either to use (in NPE’s) or the type of powder that was loaded into the shell so that once fired, the same could be used again. So your comment about New Explosives (Various smokeless powders) probably has some merrit.

Just a note that some of the shells for smokeless powder had different internal constructions of the internal bases from black powder shells.

Cheers,
Will.


#13

To answer in order;
JP, you make some interesting suggestions, most of which I have to admit to have thought of and done. That was the reason I did not put any names/descriptions to the head stamps I put in the original post. I am really glad with the way this is going, thanks for the input.

Hi Will,
Yes you are going the same way and as I said above to JP applies, also thanks for the thoughts. Small problem I do have is that nearly all of the cases I have are loaded so can’t often see the inside.

I would like to let this run a few more days to see if we get any more replies please. Speaking of which am I the only one who is not getting notification of replies to a posting? (Yes I have ticked the box).

I will add some cartridge makes and names to the style of head stamp lets say at the end of the week.

Cheers,
Mike.