German WWII hst variations in 9mmP & 7.92x57mm


Discussions with a German friend led to this post. We were discussing the apparently random changes in headstamp styles on German 9mmP during WWII. Specifically we were discussing the emp coded headstamps. Note the variations in the shape, style and size of the letter
"e" in the headstamps below.

And, the difference is spaceing between these headstamps and those below.

When we got around to discussing the use of serifs on the letters I thought I saw a pattern.

On the emp headstamps in the first three brass case lots (4, 5 & 6) of 1940 there were no serifs, just like the P120 lots in 1940 that proceeded them (P120, from 1935 through 1940 generally didn’t use serifs except for lots 3 & 4 in 1936 and their CWS case headstamps) then lot 7 of 1940 introduced serifs. Then emp stayed with serifs until 1944 when lot 12 shows up both with and without serifs. Lot 13 of 44 and later all were without serifs.

The same change from serif letters to no-serifs occured on the red plastic Ex cartridges in 1943. Both “ay” and “lpk” rounds occur in 42 and 43 with serifs and in 43 without while “nts” occurs both with and without in 43 dates and without in 44 and 45.

Makes me suspect that some kind of direction came out on letter style on headstamps. Has anyone else seen this pattern?




Odd that they would change from non-serifs to letters with serif and vice versa on the 9mm’s. They must have used a different system (if there was a system) on the 7.9mm’s. All the P120 rounds I have are with serifs and all the emp rounds are without (different sizes, shapes and arrangements). Of course there are many lots I don’t have so they may have done the same there.


I don’t think there is a system. It is dependent of the guy who makes the bunter. Each one heads his own style. Sometimes you see 2 different kinds of head stamps from the same lot.


Dutch, The only time I have seen two styles in the same lot is when there is a shift in style from one style to the other.



I don’t collect lot numbers in 9mm so it is hard for me to add to this. I might point out that Phil’s 1933 P120 has a dot between the “P” and the “120” (P.120). My lot number 1 of 35is the same, although different size letters.

There is an anomoly in the brass-cased emp headstamp. At least lot number 3 of 41 has serif letters, seemingly a reverse of the order of the steel cased rounds. It seems odd that the earlier lots of emp have plain letters and a fairly late lot, for brass, has serifs.

There is also CWS cased round P120 Xf1 2 40, which I throw in here for its different material code, although the style is like the one shown by Phil.

This is a good thread. I was not familiar, after 50 years of collecting 9 mm Para, with those pre-1935 P120 headstamps. Thanks, Phil, for sharing the photos with us. I had also never seen one with a red seal or green seals - always black.


Look at it this way:

If you run a small company you don’t have all facilities that big ones have. So you buy from outside what you need and can’t get from in-house. Under the circumstances Germany was in during the war, lack of strategic materials, lack of qualified personnel, your favourite supplier is the one who can supply. If there are no directions you are happy with what you get. Since we see there was a serifs back and forth over years, we can assume there was no directive.



John – I’m sorry for not making my post clearer. All the headstamps in my post are of 7.9mm not 9mm. I showed them just as a comparison of the headstamps of the two calibers.

I am completely in the dark when it comes to handgun ammunition!


Phil - I’m thinkiing side a barrel again. I should have realized from the S* symbol that those were not 9 mm headstamps. Thanks for the clarification (that is, thanks for making me take my head out of the dark places). At least I will sleep easier tonight knowing that I am not missing all those great headstamps.


We just know so few about that. I wish I could talk to an guy who is reponsible for headstamping in an todays production.
They surely always has sets of bunters. You cant stop production if something break off until a new bunter is ordered and deliered.
I wonder if the bunters where carved like coin stocks or milled after a pattern.
Is the bunter a solid one piece device or is there a chance to change single letters/numbers.
German wartime production was striktly controlled. A bunter was surely made of high grade steel, a “Sparstoff” ( material that had to be safed) and used bunters surely would be recycled. I bet there where one or two makers only responsible to make and recycle bunters.
emp made the ammo, but not the loading machines and bunters. So emp is may be the wrong place to look for an answer.


Below are the headstamps on red plastic dummies in my collection. I have documented an nts Ex 43 without serifs but don’t have an example in my collection. The three producers of these rounds who were producing in 1943 converted from serif letters to non-serf letters during that year. All production before 1943 used serif letters and all production afterwards was non-serif letters. The probability of all three just deciding to use serif letters, and all three deciding during 1943 to convert to non-serifs seems remote to me.

My small sample of 7.92 red and black plastics is composed of only 40, 41 and 42 dates except for one ay from 43. Serifs are used on all the aux, ay and lpk rounds, but dnb and byw did not use serifs on their headsamps. No help here to find a pattern in 1943.

The situation on the loaded 9mmP ammunition is not nearly as clear.

Never used serifs on 9mmP headstamps:
ad, ak, am, asb including P131 and rfo (except for asb * 1 40 an the numbers only and in the case code for P131 IXb1 15 40), cdp, dnf including P151(except for the “P” in P151), dou including P14A, eej, faa including P28 and suk, hla including P25, hlc, hrn, kam, oxo and wa. This makes it pretty clear that there was never direction on loaded ammunition to use serif letters. The incidental use of serifs by DWM Berlin (asb) and RWS (dnf) were incidental.

Used only serif letters
aux including P (stopped production in 1942), fb including P334 (used serifs through 45), va (used serifs through the end of production in 1944)

That leaves emp as the only maker of live ammunition that switched styles, and did it in an seemingly,to me, organized manner. It is interesting that on 7.92 ammunition Serifs appear standard with the P120 code through 1940 and then in 1941 and later 7.92 ammunition dropped the serifs. Until mid 1944, this is exactly the opposite from 9mmP with a few exceptions. It seems likely that the shop for the 7.92 headstamps (or the machinist) was separate from the shop or machinist for the 9mmP headstamp, and shop practice differed.

It is reasonable that the work with CWS cases could have been done in one factory area and this was the 7.92 shop so the 9mmPs with CWS cases and P120 codes wound up with serifs since that is what the 7.92 production area was using at the time. It is also possible that the 7.92 shop made the bunters for the 9mmps for two P120 lots in 1936 and three emp lots in 1940. In mid 1944 the 9mmP headstamp work could have been sent over to the 7.92 shop which would explain the final transition.

Just speculation but interesting. Does anyone else have headstamps which may add to this story?

Phil, thanks for the great info on the 7.92s!


PS: John, I have 9mmP with “P.120” in both 1 35 and 1 36. These are the two earliest P120 dates I have.


genkideskan, I agree with you, it would be great to go ask the people who actually were doing this. You may also be correct that the headstamp bunters were made else where.

I have no firsthand knowledge on bunters, but a few years ago I did call around a bit on the subject. Today, bunters are easy to make. There is a computer controlled electrocutting machine that makes the hob from very hard metal and then this hob is used to make bunter face which is hardened after being formed. One hob is used to make many bunters which wear.

I understand the process was similar in earlier days but the hob was made by hand and was then used to make numerous bunters.

I also understand that most manufacturers made their own hobs and bunters, but now this is sometimes contracted out. A few years ago the style of the R-P headstamps changed and I’m told by someone who has connections with the factory that this was because Remington changed the supplier of either their hobs or their bunters.

Someone out there must know a lot more than I do on this subject. Please chime in.

Has anyone got or seen a German WWII headstamp bunter?

I greatly doubt that the German bunters (or hobs) had replacable numbers since this process would leave marks on the headstamps. I have no idea of the size of production lots in Germany during this time, but they must have been large and would require a large number of bunters. My guess is that the bunters were made in the inidividual companies, but perhaps there were different suppliers. If someone has a German WWII bunter, perhaps it will have it’s own 3 digit code for its manufacturer!



Lew – nice selection of the plastic Ex cartridges. Did they also make an unheadstamped version in 9mm? If they did, do you have any idea who made them?


A bunter was made of four 90° parts.
Think this was a kind of test run to adjust the machine.
The four rounds on the left came from the same source (ch)


Dutch, WOW! Now I really want to see a German bunter.

Phil, I have two unheadstamped red plastics. I’m sure one is aux and I’m pretty sure the other probably ay. The reason is that the plastic is different and the aux rounds have an even, opaque plastic and the other three makers have a transparent plastic. My lpk rounds have a swirl pattern internal. The ay rounds have a fractured look internally and the nts have a bit of the same fracture look, but to a lesser extent. My second unheadstamped has a body like the ay rounds. Further, the aux and lpk have a very shallow primer cavity. The nts has a somewhat deeper cavity and the ay have a significantly deeper cavity. The unheadstamped round has a cavity the same approximate depth as my three ay rounds.




Yes - would be nice to see a bunter now. We Germans wouldnt have been Germans, if we had done it the simple way :-).
Lew the free space is 32,5mm (white line) a cartridge with an overall length of 32,5 could be loaded - ok lets say 32,4mm.


genkideskan, What kind of information do you have that the bunters were not made in the plants.

Each maker had his own style of characters. We often see by changing of the style a replacement of the maker. There are also more than one person working in a plant with each an own style.

There are some exceptions. Some plants changed head stamps for error identification.
They change the head stamp a little. For example; plant one and two, production hall one and two.
By P151/dnf the difference was lot one and the second plant started with lot 51.
Other showed it in the head stamp. A clear example is P334/fb Notice the connection by the VII and the dot behind the “b”



Since it came up in this thread, I have always wondered about the dot behind some “fb” codes on headstamps.
The code cannot be read backwards, and the dot, by directive, was only supposed to be used in that in instance,
such as “dou.” which can be read “nop” if view upside down. Does anybody know of a reason why some “fb” have the dot?


With the risk of sounding pedantic, I might point out that letters and numbers with serifs are called “Antikva” in german and the ones without “Grotesk”. What makes me wonder though is the seemingly random use of the two styles of the numbers three and four: either two semicircles or a circle with an angle on top for the three and closed and open numbers four (angled and vertical lines either meet or don’t) the three with an angle on top is graphically an older style, as is the open number four.
Notice that they also switched between a star and an asterisk on brass cases (the P490 fx)
The font used is often the one used on blueprints, btw. The font being traced with a ruler with cutouts for the pen, style dictated by the DIN norm. The P490 lot15 case on the right in Dutch’s post is an example.


Lew – thanks for the info on the plastic dummies.

Here is a variation (3 & 4) I find interesting. It is the only time I have seen an upper case letter (L) used to represent the plating firm in a materiel code. Lots 13 and 15 use a lower case letter as do all the others I have seen from any case maker.

  1. Ex (Dummy)
  2. Platzpatrone 33 (Blank)
  3. Ex (Dummy)
  4. S.m.K. L’spur (AP-T)
  5. S.m.K. L’spur (AP-T)
  6. Ex (Dummy)


A German friend sent these photos of his P120 9mmP headstamps. His serifed headstamps are the same as in my collection.

It is interesting to me that the missing lot numbers in his collection are basically the same as the missing lot numbers in my collection. I have 1-37 and 2-38 that are not shown on the photo, but the other missing lots (2-36, 3-38 and 2-39) are missing from both our collections. In addition his last lot of each year is the same as mine.

I also have a CWS case load headstamped P120 IVf1 1 39 with serifs.

Does anyone else have examples of the three missing lots?