Iraqi 303

Does anyone have the background on this .303 British made in Iraq?

These are also found with what I believe is a 1907 headstamp.

They’re actually 1959 and 1957.

Rats! I should have realized that.

Since Iraq was a Post war creation of the Sykes-Picot agreement on the partition of the Ottoman Empire, and given to one of the Feisal family,as a Kingdom, the British maintained a “sphere of influence” in what up to then was “Mesopotamia” ( Greek for “Between the Rivers”–referring to the Tigris and Euphrates). This began with supplies of lee Enfileds and lewis/Vickers guns, and technical assistance. As Oil production grew, under the British Petroleum control, the Monarchy also made purchases of their own from BSA, for “contract” No.1 Mark III rifles in the mid 1930s. An ammunition facility was also purchased around this time ( Greenwood and Batley) for the production of .303 ammo, in the typical Cordite Mark VII pattern.

Things got a bit tricky in 1937-40, with a revolt within Iraq, that was eventually put down by British Troops from Palestine, crossing the desert eastwards (through Jordan) and finally occupying and tranquilising the entire area. The “invasion” was two-pronged, by Land forces from the West, and by a Naval raid in 1940, to secure the Ports in the head of the Gulf, and capture several German(full) Tankers stranded there, attempting a run for home. One of the “forgotten campaigns” of early WW II.

After WW II, with various assasinations and the rise of the Baathist party to power, the production of “domestic” ammunition increased…

On dismantling a “can” of iraqi ammo (.303 br) I found the following things: The can was made from recycled “BP” gasoline tins ( 4 imperial gallon size), recut and soldered into ammo “spamcans”. The Embossed “BP” logo and other writing was still visble under layers of black tar paint.
The paper used as nesting in the cheap, paste-board cartons ( 48 rounds), was " cut up" British Quartermaster ledgers and other Account books, with intricate Arabic script headings printing , of Lines and columns etc., and some plain (unused) whilst others “filled in” in both Arabic and English.

The pasteboard cartons looked like they were made by pulping reeds from the Shatt-al-Arab swamps ( brown, very fibrous, and very brittle…a lot of the cartons were actually just brown dust held together by staples.
The Long storage and “buffeting” had caused the cartridges to demolish the carton walls.

Then the ammo (1957, 59 years are the most common) notable for still using CuNi jacketed projectiles ( all the rest of the British Commonwealth was using GM by then) was of indifferent quality, most igniting regularly , but some known for “Click-Bang” or " ClickNo-bang". It sold fairly cheaply everywhere in the “free world”, and nowadays would be considered a collectible.( given the History of Iraq.) The factory was finally destroyed ( “taken out”) during the Second Gulf War. By then it was making a lot of Soviet design ammo as well.

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Doc AV, Good rundown. Thanks!

I didn’t know that the factory was destroyed in 2003, but that makes sense.

Does anyone have a good translation for the two characters at the top of this headstamp??? Lists of Arabic script identify the character on the top left as j or g (with an inverted ^ over it) and the name as jim or gim, This symbol occurs on other calibers besides .303, including 9x19.

The triangle at top right is not an Arabic symbol, but appears on many different types of Iraqi headstamps. I was told once that it represents the nation of Iraq. Perhaps it is symbolic of the land between the two rivers???
The triangle is similar to the Farsi number 5, but I can’t imagine the Baathists using a Farsi character.

A good translation of the meaning of the two characters would be a nice addition to my reference material.


Lew, I was told that the triangle, both with and without a symbol inside , roughly translates as “property of the Iraqi army”. I saw this mark on many different Iraqi military items we captured during Desert Storm, including uniform items. One shirt/tunic had this mark on the tag inside the collar and the words (in English) “Department of Ordonance” (actual spelling).

I fired a few boxes of this ammo back in the late 1980’s, ignorantly thinking it was made in 1909, and had no problems with it. I actually thought it was pretty good stuff for being so old!



Reference: “Ammunition with Arabic Markings” by Ken Elks, page 7:

“…the markings including the triangle symbol of Iraq together with the letter (I cannot reproduce the Arabic Symbol here, but it is the one shown on the headstamp) which is the initial letter of “geesh” meaning “army” that denotes all military property…”

Reference: Headstamps with Arabic Markings" by Major (now colonel, I believe, or retired) Ahmed K. Al-Khalifa, Public Security Labe, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), page “66” (this is part of a larger forensics work, I believe):

" (Triangle) - Factory Code for Iraq"
“Arabic Letter - The Arabic acronym for Republic, “Al Jomhoriat””

So, from two good sources, we have a conflict, of sorts, in the technical meaning of the Arabic letter. However, there is a chance that both are correct interpretatations. It is hard to believe that Major Al-Khalifa would be wrong on interpreting this mark. It is probably a common symbol to educated people in any of the Arabic middle-east countries. It is quite possible the the symbols for Iraqi Republic or Republic of Iraq, when stamped on items such as this, denote that the item is military property, ie: the property of the Republic of Iraq.

So Iraq was making Soviet calibres on 1930s era British machinery until early 2003. Are any specimens from that late around? It would be interesting to see if they had a “British” look.

[quote]Reference: Headstamps with Arabic Markings" by Major (now colonel, I believe, or retired) Ahmed K. Al-Khalifa, Public Security Labe, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), page “66” (this is part of a larger forensics work, I believe):

" (Triangle) - Factory Code for Iraq"
“Arabic Letter - The Arabic acronym for Republic, “Al Jomhoriat””

Thanks John. I had seen Ken’s identification and was not comfortable with it. I had not seen the reference by Major Al-Khalifa, but this makes more sense.

Many thanks!!!


By 2000, when Iraq was well into producing its own ammo (Soviet style and not) a Lot of the machinery would have been upgraded since the 1950s, most probably with Eastern European or even “cast off” WW II equipmnet…it is amazing to see how long-lived ammunition machinery is.

As to the “British” Look of finished cartridge cases, that depends not so much on the basic machinery, but on the making of the final “marking” and Finishing tooling ( such as headstamps, primer crimps, primer lacquers, etc, extractor cuts etc. which after the initial running in of new equipment, becomes more an individual thing for each factory, as Local expertise takes over from the “Foreign” technicians.
So I would say that along with any “Soviet” equipment, would have come Soviet Ammunition technicians, and also “soviet manufacturing practices”, although I have not heard of Steel cased ammo being made by the Iraqis…

Like Egypt and Syria, they tended to stick to brass cases, even for Soviet calibres…Syria in fact, got its machinery from the French maker Manhurin, with initial lots of ammo being made in France to “prove” the machinery before delivery.

As to the Arabic letter within the Triangle, from my Arabic Forensic Contacts ( Dubai Police lab), it is confirmed that the letter is variously “voiced” as “jeem” ( or “j”) and is considered an abbreviation for “Jemhariat” (sp?) or “Jamharia” ( Depends on which zone of Arabic pronunciation one holds with), “Republic.”: Compare with the Turkish word for Republic “C(h)umhurieti”…where “C(cedilla)” is pronounced a bit like the the English “J”.

The Triangle is simply a “Property of” Mark ( Just like the British Broad Arrow"…which triangle is easier to stamp and recognise, as the “Arrow” could have a different meaning in the flowing script characters of Arabic ( and all its variations.). There is no comparison to any Farsi rendition of the number “5” ( which is an “upside down heart” design in Farsi script ( Persia and Central Asia)) and quite different from traditional Arabic script “5” which is a "lazy “o” " ( More rounded, without the “v” of the heart shape.

How much info about Iraqi ammo production has been lost by the wanton ( and ultimately useless) destruction of Two Gulf wars…

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

DocAV, Thanks, that confirms John’s identification. Good data for the reference lab.

Apparently the Yugoslavians had some influence in Iraqi ammunition and arms production. I’ve seen reference to the commonly encountered 7.62x39mm of the Gulf War era as having been produced on Yugo supplied or at least technically supported machinery. Iraqi specimens in this caliber from the '60s and '70s have a different “look” to them.


DocAV, John and Lew,
Thanks for the information and discussion. Much more there than I had expected.

AKMS - I don’t know about Iraq, but years ago, when our store got the first big shipment of “desert pickup” 7.62 x 39 ammo to arrive in the US - basically, the first quantity of surplus 7.62 x 39 ammo, that came from Israel, there were mint, unopened boxes of Syrian ammunition. Among the prolific amount of Arabic writing on the label were the initials, in the Roman Alphabet “YU.” I have no idea of the context - we never had it translated because it sold so fast we basically never thought of it. I used to have a box I bought for trade stock, but it is gone for years. Wish I could tell you what the “YU” relates to, but maybe someone has one of these boxes and had it translated, and can tell both of us.

I guess the point is that years ago, Yugoslavia was doing some sort of ammo business with the middle east. I remember thinking when I saw the ammo that it looked like Yugoslavian ammo from Igman (the seals were dark red, not orange like PP used), but of course, that means nothing.

If anyone has a box of that Syrian stuff, I hope they will post a picture of it. Wish I taken one when we had it. There were a lot of good boxes - many just repacked with any old ball rounds - ones with green stripes on them and black and red stripes as well. The Russian dates in that ammo started from the coded dates in the 1950s, and few had seen them at the time we had that ammo. I went through hundreds of rounds of the mixed boxes to get a half dozen or so of every headstamp for my collector friends who did that caliber. I still have a few of those early ones, but guess they are all common now.

Here are a couple more of the Iraqi .303 British headstamp variations, 1935 on the left and 1957 on the right. The 1935 example should have been made around the start of Iraqi production, per DocAV’s information above. Although made 22 years apart, they look very much the alike(bullet jacket material, off-center primer crimp, Berdan primer, case and bullet finish), aside from the stab neck crimps, with the 3 stabs on the later example being much longer than the early one.