FA manufactured 7.62x39

These 2 were marked by Dan Dietz as “FA manufactured”. How did he determine this?

He had the box?

I have seen 20-round boxes of non-headstamped 7.62X39 made at Lake City, but none from Frankford. I’ve understood LC made it in the later Vietnam period for various clandestine purposes, but I know no more than that. Maybe Frankford made some also.

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I did not see the box or ask, I’ll try in Williamsport.

Danny usually makes the Allentown and Williamsport shows.

does anyone know of a source for boxes of this unheadstamped either Bell Labs, FA or LC produced boxer primed ‘clandestine contract’ 7.62x39? Also Was it ever sold in shootable quantitys to the public in USA?

Besides the LC -made for SVN covert use,( and for US Army training use with captured SA,) it was also supplied to the Lon Nol forces in Cambodia, whilst they got their own old French plant in PnomPenh running properly (it was making 9mm and some French Calibres); but all came to an end when the Khmer Rouge over-ran PP and ended all US involvement in Cambodia.

Proper US Specification diagrams exist of the LC-made 7,62x39, both Ball and Blank. NO signs of a headstamp design on either.

it is interesting to note that prior to LC making 7,62x39, a private company, using 7,62x45 Vz50 ammo acquired thru Interams, was sizing and trimming this ammo down to 7,62x39 specs, and supplied some to the US Army. The Headstamps were bxn 52-57 ( Sellier & Bellot, Vlasim, Czech Military supplier.)
The origin of the cases is confirmed by the .199 Berdan primer used ( typical of 7,62x45 ammo)…Later Czech ( and all Soviet block) 7,62x39 used the “standard” .217 diameter Berdan primer.

Doc AV

Frankford did the development work and early production. I’ve seen a few boxes with FA lot numbers over the years. BELL made 7.62x39mm did make it on to the shooters market in quantity some years ago…


In 1970 or 1971 I visited and toured Lake City for the day. They were actively engaged in making the unheadstamped 7.62x39mm rounds in both ball and blank. The chief government engineer was kind enough to spend the day walking me around to meet people and see things. The story he told me is that Lake City got in the business by making extended case blanks for use in simulated Viet Cong village used for training in Ft Hood (as I remember). Here US instructors dressed up like VC or NVA and used communist weapons firing blanks to give soldiers a taste of the war in Vietnam. These blanks were made useing cups intended for 7.62mm NATO cases. When the requirement came in to make loaded 7.62x39mm for Cambodia, he said the LC engineers reversed engineered the design from the commercial Lapua cartridges and began producing it with no headstamp in simply marked boxes with no ID of the manufacturer. He introduced me to some of the engineers who did the design.

He also showed me a desk where one of the engineers involved sat. It was bent in the middle the center drawer would not open and the two legs on one end had collapsed and those corners were held up with bricks. He took great delight in telling me the story that the engineer in question was pretty short and abrupt with the technicans from manufacturing. This engineer had designed a GM coated steel jacket bullet for the 7.62x39mm in place of the solid GM jacket that was in production. This engineer was taking a few days off, but was pretty forceful in telling the engineers that he wanted 500 of the bullets sitting on the middle of his desk when he returned from work. Since he was generally disliked by the technicans, they produced 5000 or perhaps 50,000 of the bullets, I can’t remember, but in any case, enough that when stacked on his desk cause two of the legs to collapse and for the center to bend in severly. There was testing with the steel jacket bullet but it had been dropped when I visited.

They were still using the 7.62 NATO cups to make the cases when I was there but that caused a lot of waste in the case trim and they were expecting to begin receiving cups specific to the 7.62x39 any day.

I left with a box of the ammunition, and some assorted bits including blanks, a couple of the steel jacket bullets and a nickel plated dummy. The government had 50 of the dummies made up to give to visitors and my host still had 10 or 12 in the bag in his desk when he handed me one.

As I recall the dummy and one of the steel jacket bullets went to Bill Woodin.

When I was there, I recall a vague reference to FA but my impression that the LC effort owed nothing to any FA activity. The ball loads I saw being made had the red-orange pa illustrated above while the blanks had a purple pa.

There was no mention of this ammo going to the ARVN forces in the south, only for Cambodia, but it probably was also sent to the ARVN, then or later.

Somewhere I probably still have some notes I made on the visit but have no chance of finding them after all these years-probably in one of the boxes in the storeroom that haven’t been opened in decades of moves.

Hope this is useful.



The info I have on Frankford Arsenal doing the design work on the 7.62x39mm (ball at least) came from Dave Hughes, who was working there as some kind of Air Force Liason while they were working on subsonic 5.56 loads for the Air Force’s Combat Controllers, etc… He gave me a specimin of Finnish 7.62x39mm ball (VPT 69) that he was given by a draftsman at FA. The Finn ammunition was used/measured to make production drawings for the cartridge. As I recall, the first lots of unheadstamped 7.62x39mm were manufactured at FA, then Lake City took over mass production of the ammunition.


There are similar rounds with a blue primer annulus. How do they fit into this story?

AKMS, I have no doubt that what Dave told you is true. He had a couple of jobs in the SOF that would have given him that access, and the VPT headstamped round is Lapua so that fits with what I was told. My experience working with Labs is that most of the people working a geographically seperated project consider themselves the inventors. If I had to guess, any design drawing by FA sent to LC would be redone by LC engineers to correct all the “errors”. We have laughed for years in the AF maintenance business. Everytime you transfer an aircraft to another unit you go over it with a fine tooth comb to make it as near perfect as possible, but when the receiving unit gets it, they inspect it and it is a piece of Junk!!! Recognizing this, I told the story of my LC visit the way I did by simply relaying what I was told, not asserting it was the final “truth”.

I heard the LC side of the design of the 7.62x39mm story and Dave heard the FA side. The truth is probably some where in the middle. I have the impression that I was shown a LAPUA headstamped 7.62x39mm cartridge (would have been a commercial load I guess) when I was at LC, but I can’t swear to that anymore - too long ago.

Thanks for mentioning Dave. A great guy and a great collector. He would have loved the Forum. It is a shame he has been gone so long.

I have no idea on the blue pa loads!



Weren’t the blue PA ones from Bell?

Yes, blue PA were BELL. There are a handfull of variations of these, but all have the same color PA as far as I know.

Thanks for the AF story Lew, I’ll pass it on to my son who is leaving for the AF this summer. He will be working on the large cargo aircraft after tech school…

Dave was a great guy and I am glad I was lucky enough to be stationed close enough to where he lived so that I could visit on occasion. Plus, there was a great Mexican food joint nearby to where he lived…


Was the Bell production strictly commercial, or on govt. contract for “official” uses?

Where ther ever US made AP or tracers? And what are the US ones with electric primers?

I was told by a collector in California who had several variations of the BELL 7.62x39mm cartridges and boxes that he acquired possibly from BELL itself, that all of the BELL ammunition was on U.S. Govt. contract for “aid” to our friends in Central America. This may have been during the era of the “Iran-Contra” and Oliver North scandals, I don’t recall the dates exactly. I think the BELL ammuntion dates from the late 1980’s to 1990 or so. Several lots were produced but the whole thing was cancelled and what was not already delivered to Uncle Sugar went to the civilian market.