Fake Geco 9x19mm cartridge

John Moss, EOD and I have had an offline conversation on a Geco 9mmP cartridge that showed up in the US in 1969 which is when I bought two or three boxes at the Ohio Gun Collectors Association show in Columbus Ohio.


The headstamp on the cartridge is strange since the caliber is “9mmP” when none of my other Geco headstamps use this nomenclature. This headstamp uses the standard (for the time) Geco date code for 1969.

The box clearly says it is made in Germany but some elements about the style of the box don’t look Geco, and it is 25 round in a period when the Geco commercial products I know of are all 50 round. In addition the headstamp looks Hungarian, not German! It has also been identified as Czech and I had the round in my database as either Czech or Hungarian.

I do not know if John’s box is identical to this since he got his from Europe. In addition, my rounds have a non-magnetic bullet, but John’s rounds have a magentic bullet! Both are 124gr.

We spent time looking at the box which is of identical construction as Hungarian and S&B boxes of the period. The significant difference came down to the plastic tray in the Fake Geco box which was of a translucent gray/olive green color and the contemporary S&B trays are black (shown in the photo below).

Note that the Fake Geco tray is significantly different. The shape on both the round supports of the reinforcing rip (cylinderical instead of conical on the S&B tray), and the end reinforcement on this rib are different shape (larger and rounded on the S&B tray) is obviously different. In addition, the cornor post is significantly larger on the Fake Geco tray than on the S&B trays. Finally, there are differences in the shape of the top of the posts in the two trays.

I looked at about 20 S&B trays (both 25 round and 50 round) from the 1960s through the mid-2000s and they are all very consistent in these design elements. In addition almost all are black, except for one white and one red.

I also looked at six MFS trays from the mid to late 60s until probably the 1980s or 1990s. All have the same design elements as the Fake Geco tray, and five are the identical translucent gray/olive green plastic. The other is cream color.

However, this is still all a guess. Perhaps these rounds were made by S&B after all and packed in trays bought from Hungary!

Regardless of who made them, the two most probable explainations for their manufacture are:

  1. MFS (or S&B) used fake headstamps and box labels to sell the ammo in the US which in the 1960s barred the import of commercial ammunition made in Communist Bloc countries. Perhaps this was done through one of the US ammo dealers operating back then.
  2. Geco was looking for inexpensive ammo to sell on the US market so contracted MFS (or S&B) to make the ammo with the “made in Germany” labels so they could sell it in the US.

As far as I know, this ammo was only for sale for a short while, but I could be wrong since in the Spring of 1969 I went off for a tour in Thailand and when I returned this ammo was no longer on the market.

It is not very unusual to see ammo with one company’s headstamp but made by someone else. I have a Geco headstamped commercial round made by SFM, and a FN round with a military headstamp made by Geco/DAG.

It would be great if someone out there had some information or insights into these cartridges. Perhaps even knows the company in the US who was acting as the distributor.

Perhaps someone knows where the ammunition was actually made.

Any information would be helpful.


PS: All my S&B commercial loads with nickel plated bullets are magnetic. I don’t have any MFS rounds from the period with nickel plated bullets. My MFS rounds from the period all have GM color bullets, but with identical case-mouth and primer seals identical to the Fake Geco rounds.

Lew - Firstly, my box is the same as yours.

Regarding who made them, the color-tone of the primer and case mouth seals is identical to some other Hungarian rounds, but a darker red than that of most Sellier & Bellot rounds. The color tone of the brass case is very yellow - more so that the more “gold tone” on S&B brass cases. This very yellow color of the brass is identical to several other Hungarian post-war 9 mm I have, and the cartridge in every way except bullet ogive is absolutely identical to a 7.65 mm Browning-caliber round I have the is headstamped “23 84.” The 7.65 mm also has a CNCS bullet. Steel-jacket bullets are more the norm for Czech ammo than for Hungarian product, but the headstamp “23” is absolutely Hungarian, that code assigned to Mátravidéki Fémmüvek (Mátravidéki Metal Works), often known as simply “Mátrafém” or “MFS”. It is located at Sirok, Hungary, and now operates under the name of “MFS 2000” and is part of the Swiss RUAG Group.

In my personal opinion, the cartridge characteristics absolute make this “Geco” headstamped round a product of Hungary. I would have to see indisputable documentation that is S&B to believe that.

By the way, despite the size of our Store in San Francisco, and our common purchase of foreign ammunition of quality to provide the best prices we could commensurate with the profit needed to operate a down-town San Francisco business, I never new until our on-line conversations that any of this ammo was imported in quantity into the United States. I have to assume, since I never saw any advertisement of it, that it was a “one-shot” deal, and probably sold in small quantity. Until the picture you posted of your box on this thread, I have never seen another of these boxes, although I was sure some were in other collections.

Hope this is of some help and interest.


Interesting item with a hint of late cold war business intrigue! Was “.38 Auto. Pistol” commonly used to designate 9mm Parabellum for “English” countries (U.S. included)?


Dave, I would not call the designation “.38 Luger” common by any means, but it is also NOT unique to the spurious Geco box. In truth, Geco, for one, did use this appellation, but I have only seen it on boxes for their 9 mm Platzpatrone (brass case, black plastic “bullet”). I have several boxes like that. I believe Lew Curtis also mentioned in our personal correspondence that he had a Sellier & Bellot box that used it. I have not yet check my own box collection to see if I have any. There may be others. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my mostly empty head.


Thanks for the response. I hadn’t seen that used before and thought that “.38 Auto.Pistol” was strange. On the other hand, if it was “.38 Luger”, while sounding a bit goofy, would get the point across…Is “.38 Luger” another designation found on import boxes?


Dave - yes, it is. I had forgotten that the box on the thread said .38 Auto Pistol. I was thinking they said .38 Luger. I will have to check mine out tomorrow and make sure it is not different from Lew’s. Also, I need to check out my Sellier & Bellot boxes and see if any say .38 Auto pistol or .38 Luger on them. Naturally, I don’t have half the collection of 9 mm Para boxes that Lew has. He has a fabulous collection of them. Of course, I collect ALL auto pistol boxes, but it means that my collection is simply mediocre in every caliber but a few. One of the prices of collecting more than a single caliber. The hobby money only goes so far.

Sorry that my reply was a little misleading.

Dave, the term “38 Auto Pistol” appears on S&B 25 round boxes from the late 1960s-1970s. The common one has a green panel and a white panel on the front with a drawing of a 9x19mm cartridge in the white panel. Mine both have the caliber on the side as:

9mm Luger
38 Auto Pistol

I can’t recall ever seeing the term “38 Luger” used on a 9mm Luger box, but then my recall is nothing to brag about anymore-perhaps never.

The closest I have is a DWM box from the 1930s that is all in English and in the middle of the label it says “Calibre 9mm (.355”)"

In the period just after WWI the German manufactuers tried to disguise their manufacture of 9mm Luger ammuni8tion. I have two different boxes, one with a red Georg Egestorff, Linden label that says

mit Kugeln.

and another has only:

Ctf. Rev. Pater
mit Kugel

both have 9mm P08 loads headstamped L 12 18.

I also have a box of unheadstamped rounds labelled:

Cntr. Revolver-Patronen
Colt 9 mm

It is interesting because I also have a copy of am RWS drawing, probably from the 1920s or 30s of a 9mmP case labeled “Colt 9m/m”

John makes an excellent arguement for the “Fake Geco” being Hungarian.

Any other information out there???


I find it very difficult to believe that a German manufacturer would ever put “.38 Auto” on a 9 mm Parabellum box, because in Germany this clearly means the .38 Colt Automatic cartridge with its 23 mm case.

Also I would like to point out that “Dynamit Nobel” is printed in plain Helvetica. But in 1969 it should be in the logo font Dynamit Nobel used for its name.

Lew - I am sure you have the German 50-round boxes marked (.38 Luger). They are buff or white labels with a verticle blue stripe. They are from Dynamit Nobel Aktiengesellschaft with two of my three boxes having that full name at the bottom of the top label, one above "Werk Genschow-Durlach’ and the other above “Karlsruhe-Durlach.” The third box is later and does not have the company name, but rather a DAG lot number, in the case of my box "LOS DAG-74-5. All three boxes are for the “Plastik Manöverpatronen, Kal. 9 mm Parabellum (.38 Luger).”

Peelen: I have the above boxes in my collection. While they don’t say .38 Auto, the do say “.38 Luger.” I also have six minor variations of the Sellier & Bellot 25-round boxes Lew mentioned, all of which do have the caliber appellation of “.38 Auto” on one side, although the top label uses the correct “9 mm Parabellum” in all cases.

I have ot found any other boxes that use an inch designation for the 9 mm Para cartridge, but I am not, at this point, willing to say there aren’t any.

Your observation on the style of printing for Dynamit Nobel on the box for the Hungarian-made
"Geco" ammunition was quite good. I had not noticed that at all, and it is one more piece of evidence that Geco did not make this ammunition in Germany, as the box claims. The word I got from my European source for the box and the cartridge, the only ones reported so far with a magnetic bullet - the ones Lew bought in this country were non-magnetic but the cartridges visually identical - was that Geco was unaware of this cartridge and was quite upset about it. That is purely from anecdotal evidence. I have no documentation attesting to that belief.

Lew and John,

Very interesting. Thank you for that additional information.


John, You are right of course! Most of my boxes do not have “.38 Luger”, but two of my labels do, and the dated one is from 1974.

Good Catch!


Lew, I can’t add anything else on the subject but this interesting cartridge and box was discussed in a short article published in DWJ 3-1998. It doesn’t reveal much either but I can send a copy to anyone interested.

As a side note:

Even Mauser had difficulty with the determination of the caliber designation on their relaunch of the Mauser Parabellum in the 1970s. The early design drawings show the caliber designation on the side of the pistol as ‘9mm Para od. .38 Luger’.

Fortunately, Sam Cummings of Interarms reviewed these drawings and pointed some mistakes. The caliber designation was changed to ‘9mm Para od. 9mm Luger’, which lasted for a short while. The caliber designation on the frame was completely dropped relatively quickly, only leaving the ‘9mm Luger’ at the bottom of the barrel.

Also, Mauser had several brands of 9x19 and 7.65 Para tested by the proof house in Ulm, because they found it difficult to select a reliable testing brand. They had used Remington ammunition, which was loaded using some sort of lottery formula. The pressures were all over the place, not a good basis for the Parabellum toggle mechanism.

One sheet shows the testing of a lot of GeCo 9mm, lot number 5E19, delivered on the 24th of november, 1970.
Another sheet shows a test of Geco 9mm, lot number 25 L 18, delivered on the 4th of September, 1972.

The archive also contains a drawing of the GeCo 9x19 round. Drawing was first made on the 21st of January, 1960 and revised on the 18th of January, 1963. That should give us some base dates on the re-introduction of the GeCo 9mm production at the plant in Durlach.

Vlim - It might interest you that in April 1972, I visited the Mauser factory at Oberndorf a/N. I was with my wife, son, and a friend from Sweden. Since my friend spoke excellent German, the man assigned to Herr Rolf Gminder to show us around, after a meeting in his office, did not speak much English. The primary things in production were the Mauser Model 66 Rifle, and odd looking thing which failed completed on the U.S. Market, and the Parabellum Pistol, then of the Swiss Model 1929 Style and in caliber 7.65 Parabellum.

The production line for the pistol was quite efficient, with fully assembled and “ready to go” product being taken off the production line only a few meters from the door to the proof room and “in-house” range. They were not proofing any guns at the moment, but the floor was littered fired 7.65 Para case, headstamped “SAKO 7.65Pb.30 LUGER,” all of which had a “splash” of red lacquer on the base. I picked one up and ask the guide if I could get a live round for my cartridge collection. He either didn’t understand me or chose to ignore it. I then made a gesture of putting the fired case in my pocket and he nodded yes. On the way out, I stopped for a minute to look at something on a bench - I forget what - and a workman, without a word, slipped a live proof load into my hand with a smile. I guess he understood English, but he said nothing. I felt a little guilty, but not for long!:-) It was a really fun time in our first trip to Europe.

I still have the fired case and load proof rounds in my .30 Luger collection.

At that time there was no evidence in the proof room of any 9 mm loads, or for that matter, any 9 mm Parabellum Pistols. They may have been making them - I just don’t know - but not at that moment.

I was recently shooting at an indoor range with some left over 9mm ammo that I purchsed in the mid/late 80’s in CT. at a local range. The CT range owner saw that I was shooting 3 to 4 times a week and thought I might be interested in a bulk ammo purchase. I purchased 2000 rounds of this 9mm Geco steel core ammo that is pictured at the top of this thread. The pictures are identical and the plastic cartidge holder is if the light grey color. The ammo is steel core. The NJ range owner asked me to stop shooting the steel core ammo at his range. He suggested that the ammo might actualy have been a knock off Czech or Hungarian ammo made in the 80’s. Is it the concensus opinion in this thread that this ammo is “fake” GECO ammo?
I must say I am not as acurate with this ammo as I am with standard winchester 9mm ammo. I just chalked it up to old ammo.
Can anyone suggest what I should do with this ammo. I have fired most of it through the years, but still have a couple hundred rounds.

Should I just hold onto this ammo and use it during the next Zombie Apocalypse?

Welcome here Scott!
Are you boxes absolutely identical to the one shown on top?

Scott - if it is a Geco headstamp and if it looks like the ammo at the top of the thread, then it is not “Steel core”, it’s just cupro-nickel clad steel jacket with lead core. Unless it is Geco brass that has had Czech bullets with steel cores loaded into or something?? Pull a bullet and melt a core out with a torch to be sure, or cut open a pulled bullet if you are able to. As to what you should do with it, it’s basically shooter ammo if it is just clad steel jacket stuff.

If they are fake GECOs they should be scarce no?

EOD - The fake Gecos from Hungary have been scarce, unless up until now. About everyone I know of in the US who has one got it from Europe or from someone else who got it from Europe (European participation in American shows counts as “from Europe”). I was not aware of any quantity importation of it into the USA - of course that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any such importation.

Are they really “Fake” Geco’s or possibly contracted out by Geco?