From Israel, With Love....Bulgarian 7.62x39mm

Some new Bulgarian 7.62x39 has reached the shooting market in the US. It was surplussed out of Israel, but the ammo is definitely Bulgarian, apparently on an export contract. The original stenciling on the top of the tin is in English (oddly not Cyrillic) and the later markings on the side are in Hebrew. The inner 20 round boxes are unmarked. The rounds have GMCS bullets, CWS cases, brass primers, and green seals.
The translated Hebrew says:

LOT: (10P 03-99)
CAT. NO.: 1804-36707 CODE: 99041844

I can’t say for sure, but I would assume that Bulgaria fulfilled a contract for Hamas, Hizballah, or Iran, and Israel “found” them somewhere along the line, in a tunnel or on-board a ship, and then surplussed them. My guess would be that they made their first stop in Iran.

John, isn’t Iran making enough of it’s own 7,62x39?
I have seen such Bulgarian “lead core” cartridges in other conflict regions and prior to Bulgaria’s EU membership they been one of the most active arms suppliers to conflict regions.

Also if Israel captured these why should they put on all Hebrew markings and issue a catalog number (is that the equivalent to the NSN?) and also add the lot number?
It looks a bit like these cartrdiges have been part of official Israeli stocks (possibly after prior capture or even direct purchase from Bulgaria?) and then been surplussed?

Nevertheless an interesting box!

Israel has no issue 7.62x39 weapons, never really did, and I can’t imagine that captured stocks would not have been sufficient to supply the very few AKs that they do have in stock for “special use” and training. It is always possible that Israel did buy them from Bulgaria, but I very much doubt it.
As to Iran, yes, they do produce lots of their own ammo. however, they have had to supply lots of bad guys over the past few years and might not have enough to both distribute and maintain their own stocks. In addition, Iranian ammo is distinctive and they might have wanted to maintain a bit of plausible deniability.

Yes, you might be right. I just wanted to express that there might be more behind these interesting boxes.

By the way, do you happen to know what are all the IMI made 7.62x39 for? Some are pure civilian I assume but some are likely not.

I believe that I have seen both dated TZZ and commercial IMI headstamps on Israeli 7.62x39. I think all of it was meant for commercial sale and export, mainly to the US. The TZZ was made in small quantity and I don’t think it was supposed to have gotten out.

Didn’t the Israelis also sell off a bunch of captured Iranian made 7.62x39mm a few years ago. As I recall, this ammunition was onboard a freighter full of Iranian made munitions, etc…


That was one theory for its source. Another was that it was surplussed out of Bosnia.

Just want to add that this type of ammo was designed and supposed “civillian” here in Bulgaria, since civillians cant’ possess iron cored “military” type of ammo. Well, there is enough SP and HP loads in this caliber, so this particular lead core FMJ was incomprehensible to me… Until now…


Iv40, I agree on the civilian character of this ammunition. What makes it a little suspicious is that the box itself has no manufacturer code/symbol on and even none such for the propellant.
Nothing I would expect to see on “real civilian” ammunition, means it looks strongly like they at least tried not to reveal the obvious manufacturer.

EOD, totally agree with you, actually, I have never seen any marked boxes of this ammo - they were all blank, not a single symbol or digit.
I’m wandering what is the purpose of this ammo, since its obviously not hunting (it may be used as hunting, but it should be with very narrow game range).
About hiding the manufacturer - they should ommit “10” on a headstamp - it is more obvious even than “Arsenal - Kazanlak” stenciled on the box.
These days I’ll pay a visit to my friend in my favorite gun store to ask about this matter, he probably knows little more…


Given the English on the case, I see no reason this ammunition needed to come through Iran. Hezbollah could just as easily have bought the ammo directly from Bulgaria. Given the clout that Hezbollah has within the Lebanese government this would be no problem. Another possible link is the unmarked box. A couple of years ago a 9mm showed up with the headstamp HAM. Turned out that it was made made by MFS in Hungary, and the HAM was the English rendition of the name of MFS. Further, the boxes were reportedly unmarked. The customer was a Sporting Goods Store in Beriut. MFS understood that the ammunition was intended for the Lebanese Police but there was no documentation of this as I understand. My SWAG (as RayMeteka would say) is it was a direct buy for Lebanon that subsequently found it’s way into Israeli, perhaps by capture from Hezbollah.


Hizballah is technically not part of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and I believe that the vast bulk of their supply comes either directly from Syria, or via Syria from Iran. That was especially true in 2006, the timing of the last big confrontation that might have led to the capture of this ammo from Lebanon. I’m going to have to stick to the “Cast Lead” incursion into Gaza in '06, or capture from a supply boat making for Gaza. In either case, the transit point from Bulgaria would have been Iran.

After further discussion with Lew, it is clear that we have more questions than answers with this ammo. The only sure things are that it was made in Bulgaria, ca. 1999, and that it found its way to the US via Israel.
Any further info here would be greatly appreciated.

If this stuff was not meant to end up in Israel then why are the tins themselves marked on the sides with the Hebrew? i can see the stencil on the wooden case, But… The wooden crates are soviet style with the hinges and latch closure, with the wire seals on each latch, which have the crushed lead ball seals on the wire security seals, and these security seals contain the Bulgarian double circle ((10)) logo embossed into them with whatever tool they use to crush the lead ball which secures the wire security seal in place on the latches. the wire must be removed to open the latch. I have a few cases of this stuff that i bought recently, and it came still fully sealed in the wooden crates with untouched Bulgarian ((10)) seals on the wires, with the Hebrew markings on the tins secured inside. To me this means that the hebrew markings were applied before the wooden crates left the arsenal 10 factory in Bulgaria. basically stating arsenal Bulgaria knew they were going to Israel before they even left the factory. i don’t see them marking them at the factory with the Hebrew lot markings and info if it was a contract for anyone else but Israel.

Also, why the lead core projectile which costs more in materials if they are for a market that does not prohibit steel cored m43 projectiles? The Bulgarians have only ever made these projectiles one other time as far as i know and that was per a contract specification for B-West importer that took one 40 foot shipping container of the stuff into the states maybe fifteen or so years ago. M43 is what the Bulgarian lines are set up to produce and it is a savings in material costs of lead not to mention standard for what they have always produced in this caliber. I don’t see them doing the lead core stuff for military contracts, but somone correct me if im wrong. I don’t know if Israel or wherever they were ordered by prohibits m43 projectiles in this caliber with the steel core, and i doubt they were meant for American markets. someone correct me if im wrong about this lead core flat base projo business as it is all coming from simple suspicion not facts like the other stuff

They come sealed up like this, with the security seal, with the Hebrew already on the tins that are inside. No signs of tampering with the wood crates to get at the tins inside at all.

I found Bulgarian cardboard boxes (English markings) for these FMJ lead core in 1997-1998 in Angola. So they must have exported these to more places than Israel.

Hmmmm…I hadn’t seen that lead seal info before. More thought need on this one.

Bulgarian 7.62x39mm in both lacquered steel and copper clad steel cases with the green seals and lead core projectiles have turned up in Iraq and Afghanistan as well…

Over the years I have seen pics of assorted cartridges that returning veterans have posted. All contain the usual mix of com-bloc and arabic headstamps in addition to these lead core Bulgarian rounds.

Can’t say why they are making these for export, but even though the raw material cost may be higher, I think the lead core rounds are easier to manufacutre. Perhaps now manufacturing costs are more important than raw material costs?


If these in fact were made for direct export to Israel, the purpose is still a bit vague to me. Very few IDF units train to any extent with AKs, let alone issue them for operational use. Huge quantities of 7.62x39 ammo have been captured over the years and I have personally seen large stocks in various armories. The armory I ran had a bunch of DDR AKMs, and we had cases of Egyptian ball and tracer ammo.
Perhaps the captured stocks ran low due to use, were considered too old to hold for emergency use, or were sent to supply some of Israel’s Lebanese allies in the mid/late 1990s. Post-Oslo Accords, the IDF has supplied some small-arms and ammo to the Palestinian Authority (PA). I can’t imagine that any Arab recipient of Israeli military aid would want anything Hebrew-marked, so possibly the ammo in question was to replace stocks sent over the border.
Lew, this is closer to some of the things you mentioned.

AIRcarbine, any chance for an image of the wooden crates where we can see the Hebrew markings in full detail?
Maybe they do contain a hint on the background of these.

does anyone know where i can get a couple boxes o this ammo to add to my collection?