Hornady .45 Auto headstamps - lots of them


For some reason I began accumulating Hornady .45 auto headstamps early this year, and I now have 17 of them, and I am aware of at least 4 others from photos I have found online. I am sure there are more in terms of nickeled / brass variations, and a few headstamp dot codes I haven’t seen. Below is what I have, with a description key below it. Also a photo of 4 that I don’t have. Does anyone have any other variations?

Several of these below probably exist on various load types, from XTP, to Critical Defense, Critical Duty, Zombie, or others:

  1. This is Hornady’s original headstamp from the Frontier division - goes back to 1980 at least
  2. This is for their “steel match” line which had a truncated FMJ load, and a “HAP” JHP load, from around 2008/2009
  3. A special Anniversary run done with FMJ bullets in 2011 for the 100th year of the Colt model 1911
  4. “Critical Defense” load
  5. “Critical Defense” load
  6. “Zombie Max” load, early variation - same as #5, but not nickeled
  7. “Zombie Max” load, early variation … That is a diamond between the “45” and “AUTO”
  8. “Zombie Max” load, late variation, 2014+
  9. “Critical Defense” load, also exists on a limited Zombie Max run
  10. XTP 200gr - later variation … Also on newer “American Handgunner” XTP loads … The non-nickel version of #9
  11. “Zombie Max” … Looks close to #10, but the letter thickness is very different (in person especially)
  12. XTP 200gr
  13. XTP 230gr … The +P version of #6
  14. “Critical Duty” - earlier variation
  15. TAP CQD - this is the dark nickel, some were regular nickeled … Similar to #14, but different vintage and letter size
  16. “Critical Duty” - later variation 2014+ … A similar style & vintage to #8, but the “45 auto” letters are smaller
  17. XTP 200gr - early variation

Here are some I don’t have. The one on the left (Hornady index 9097) looks very similar to #8 above, but the dots on the one below are much closer to the H and Y, and the spacing in the 45 Auto looks different. Also, the headstamp at center looks very close to #10 or #11 above, but the spacing between “45” and “AUTO” is different. The one on the far right upper is the non-nickel version of 16:

308 WIN Cartridge Case, Winchester Headstamp With Dots

Very nice Matt.

Somehow I thought Federal was the maker of the Frontier brand ammunition?

Be great if someone would know the dot, dots, colon & Etc. code for the maker of the brass. I know CCI / Speer did this with Federal, Winchester & Remington made brass with their (CCI/Speer) headstamp on it.

edited to add on your #8 & the one below the O is more oval also. I like to look for letter shapes, C’s & O’s are often the easiest for me to see any differences.


As to who exactly manufactured the Frontier cases, and when things might have changed with regard to that, the history page here at Hornady’s site doesn’t say:
http://www.hornady.com/about-us/history but it does say that in 1964 Joyce Hornady started Frontier ammo and was doing remanufactured loads until the hight of Vietnam when surplus brass was in short supply, and they began to use new brass in 1971, though it doesn’t specify headstamp or exact manufacturer. It goes on to say that in 1983 Hornady, Frontier, and Pacific Tool (all owned by Hornady) merged, and Frontier ammo became “Hornady Custom”.


I, also, thought that the later Frontier ammo was made by Federal, though the only reason I had for that supposition was that the headstamp bunter was similar in type to the Federal and that the casings weighed spot on for Federal within decimals of grain. You know how ana…(ahem) meticulous we reloaders can be. I do own a couple of boxes of the earlier Frontier .30-06 that use Military brass and always wondered who made it before they started using fresh brass. Now that question is answered. Thanks for the clarification, Matt.


I look at Hornady cases across their different calibers and have noted these patterns.

  1. 1 was made by Federal. (Without even looking at anything else, the color of the brass primer compared with the case color indicates both are made by Federal.) 5, 6, and 13 were made by Starline. 4 and 12 were probably made by Starline. If that’s a diamond between 45 and AUTO, I think 7 is Armscorp Precision. If a circle/dot, 7 would be Winchester/OLIN. At first I thought 15 was also Starline, but I now wonder if this isn’t actual Hornady production made with Starline-supplied equipment.
  2. As for Frontier-headstamped pistol cases generally: early were made by Federal, later by Winchester, and very late “FRONTIER” cases by Starline.


With dots before and after HORNADY, 8 and 16 are S&B.


Thanks d’artagnan! I can presume then that the FMJ load in the lower left photo is also S&B with those dots?


Yes, bottom left and top right photos are S&B.


Your post pushed me into a long-overdue, and much feared, re-evaluation of my limited Hornady collection. First, Frontier.
I. FRONTIER Headstamp
Regarding Frontier headstamped cases, my statement that Federal made the early cases and Winchester/OLIN made the later ones is correct. My saying that very late ones were made by Starline is incorrect. I don’t know who made them. My incorrect identification was based on Otto Witt’s published deduction that flat top 3’s on Frontier 38 Special cases suggested they were made by Starline. Turns out I have examples of both FRONTIER 38 SPL and 357 MAGNUM cases with flat top 3’s and neither have deburred flash holes – the definitive indicator of Starline production. And there’s a fourth type.

Ia. Type 1/Federal
Ia1. 380 Auto

Federal-made (left), Winchester-made (right).

Ia2. 9mm Luger

I count these as two variations, earlier one on the left.

Federal-made (left), Type 4 (right)

Ia3. 38 Special/357 Magnum

Ia4. 45 Auto

Federal-made (left) compared to contemporary Federal (right).

Ib. Type 2/Winchester
Ib1. 32 Auto

Winchester-made (left), S&B-made HORNADY-headstampped (right).

Ib2. 380 Auto

Federal-made (left), Winchester-made (right).

Ib3. 9mm Luger

Ib4. 38 Special

Ic. Type 3/Unknown/Flat Top 3s
Ic1. 38 Special/357 Magnum

Id. Type 4/Unknown
Id1. 9mm Luger

Type 4 (left), Winchester (right).

Next I’ll tackle HORNADY-headstamped. Spoiler Alert - I can tell those cases made by Hornady.


A couple more Frontiers.
First, a Winchester-made 303 British:

Second, a 22-250 that I simply don’t know the manufacturer:


Who is the manufacturer of the HMC steel cases?


Amazing what you find when you’re not even looking for it.

A Federal-made Frontier 44 Magnum. Although the photo doesn’t show it well, the lighter color of the primer compared to the color of the brass is the definition of Federal manufacture of both.


The presumption (based mostly on style & metallurgy) has been Ulyanovsk, but I haven’t heard of any definitive proof on that.


Short story is 3, 9, 10, 11, 14, and 17 were made by Hornady in-house.
4, 12, and 15 were made by Starline.
II. Hornady
IIa. Hornady In-House/Racetrack "O"
So how did I conclude that? Initially I noticed inconsistencies in cases with some Federal characteristics like orange-color brass, small flash hole, and Federal "4"s, but without definitive Federal characteristics like the circle around the flash hole in 40 S&W and 10mm Auto. It occurred to me that these mixed characteristics could indicate in-house manufacture. Second, Hornady does not resell HORNADY-headstamped cases supplied by other companies as components. So, presumably, Hornady focuses its limited in-house capacity on limited supply/high-demand products, selling it as loaded ammo and components, at a premium price.
The common characteristic with these two categories is a long, narrow racetrack “O”. Racetrack defined as two parallel straightaways connected by two semicircles.

Top row are in-house production; blackened 308 Winchester (left), 308 match (middle) and a second type 308 match (right).
Bottom row: nickel-plated S&B-made WINCHESTER 308 (left) and nickel-plated S&B-made HORNADY 308 (right)

Hornady in-house 270 WIN (left), 30-06 (middle), and S&B-made Hornady 30-06 (right)

IIb. Winchester

Weigh the same as Winchester 9mm Luger cases.

Has the distinct Winchester ampersand.

Note the narrow oval “O” on all.

IIc. Starline
The definitive characteristic of Starline cases is a deburred flash hole. Some calibers have a colon (:) in the caliber or a single dot after HORNADY which also denote Starline production.

The deliberately blackened 45 Auto +P cases (left) without colon in caliber or dot after HORNADY were also made by Starline.

IId. S&B (Sellier & Bellot)

The definitive indicator of S&B production for Hornady is a dot before HORNADY and another dot after.

S&B Hornady 44 Magnum (left), In-House Hornady 45 Colt (right).

S&B-made Hornady-headstamped (right), S&B-made Winchester-headstamped (middle), and standard S&B production.
Note crooked 4 on all three.

S&B-made nickel-plated Winchester 308 WIN (left), Hornady 308 WIN (right).

IIe. Unknown; Diamond in Caliber (brass only)

Because I hadn’t run into any of these cases that were nickel-plated, I suspect they were made by Armscorp Precision. Finding a 38 Special with the diamond in the caliber AND a wide relief cut just above the rim would prove it.

IIf. Unknown; Diamond at End of Caliber

IIg. Unknown; Dot Before HORNADY, Dot After Caliber

IIh. Unknown; Dot Before Caliber, Dot After HORNADY

IIi. Unknown; No Dots, No Diamonds


Very nice - thanks!


Just when I thought I was done:

Not really a surprise, an in-house 9mm Makarov (left), a no dots, no diamonds 9mm Steyr (right).

SUPRISE! It’s a Remington-made Hornady 35 Remington. Need to add to my previous reply:

IIj. Remington
Definative indicator of Remington production for Hornady is a dash before HORNADY and another dash after.


I just found another headstamp variation for the list of Hornady .45 autos. It was very close to #11 in the list, but it is a tiny bit different in terms of spacing between the letters. Placed next to each other you can easily see the space difference between letters such as “D” and “Y”, or the “A” and “U” in the word AUTO. The red-base also has a different font for the number 4 with a flat edge on the left of the 4, where the brass base is just a point. The 5 also has tiny differences.

I believe this red base is either one of the Vector tracers, or maybe a proof?


How about the one with dashes by the caliber…is that Remington do you think?

Speer made ones with the dashes by the maker were made by SNC, Lavalin Canada. Many of the Speer and Hornady contracted ones seem to have a lot of similarities in markings.


I just recently got one. My knee-jerk reaction is that they were made by Winchester. Let’s say possibly Winchester. The blackening is like that on the recent Winchester-made Browning (Buckmark-headstamped) cases. The primer wasn’t seated perfectly leaving a fingernail-shaped impression around the primer that initially looks like an abbreviated primer crimp – typical Winchester. The primer also looks like a Winchester but Hornady uses both Winchester and S&B primers interchangeably, even within an ammunition lot, so that’s not a good identification characteristic. When I figure out how to use my new camera, I’ll post photos. Regarding dashes, also will post photos of Winchester-made Winchester-headstamped, Winchester-made (dash) FC (dash)-headstamped, and FC-made FC-headstamped 300 Winchester Short Magnum cases.


Hornady 9mm Luger FMJ 135gr FMJ Training #90238 with marginal quality headstamps, note the gaps or “broken” aspect of some of the letters (evident in the letters O, A & D) and a single dot before the " H " in Hornady. Any ideas on the who made the cases?