Italian headstamps first digit left off year

Is there any reason why, on alot of Italian headstamps, the year is given without the first digit? Eg. “SMI 939” instead of “SMI 1939” or just “SMI 39”?

The elimination of the first digit of the 4-digits of the year, making it a 3-digit date, is quite common in italy. I do not know of a specific reason for it, but it is not an unusual practice in that country. It also is done, although not so often it would seem, in Spain, including on some Spanish headstamps.

At least part of the reason for the three digit date is the fact that in both Spanish and Italian dates through the end of the twentieth century are expressed as (in English translation) a thousand nine hundred and thirty-three whereas English says nineteen hundred and thirty-three. Thus in these languages the “thousand” part is somewhat separable from the “hundreds” part of the number. Another example of this is the fact the sixteenth century in Italian is called “cinquecento” (five hundred) rather than “mille cinquecento”. Excuse the long explanation. JG

The Three digit year ONLY applies to Commercial (ie, contract) manufacture of ammo for the Italian Government.
All the Pirotecnia production (Gov’t Factories) use a Two digit Year, EXCEPT for the year 1900, where the headstamp is (eg) “B-900”).

The use of a three digit year indication is common throughout Mediterranean Europe and Turkey as well, and not only on headstamps.

Portugal refers to its “Year Models” for both rifles and Ammo as “M904” (rifle and Ammo)or “M937” ( 7,9mm Rifle and ammo) or M923 (.303 ammo made in Portugal…the imported British WW I Milsurp was “M919”)

The Turks referred to all Mauser rifles made or converted to 7,9mm as the “M938” ( Death of Ataturk, Opening of Kirikkale Factory, or some other reason?)

J Gill’s explanation also is right on the button… but specific years are written out in full (including the “Mille-Thousand”

regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

SMI used 2 digits hds instead of 3 digits ones too (SMI 17 on 9 glisenti cartridges for example).

However,I agree with DocAv.I have never seen italian cartridges made by pirotecnico di bologna,torino or capua with the date expressed with a 3 digits hds (except for the year 1900)


But G.F.L used a 4 digit year.

I am sorry, but it is absolutely not correct to say that the three digit date is only commercial, and never used on military ammunition. I agree, within the confines of the calibers that I collect, that the Capua and Bologna Factories used two digit dates. However, they are not the only ones who produced military ammunition in Italy. I have a brass-cased 7.9 x 57 Mauser made by S.M.I. (Societ

Dear JM, I think we are at cross purposes again (two countries separated by a common language)…when I say “Commercial manufacture” in relation to Italian Ammunition, I am referring to a NON-Government Plant, ie, a Commercial entity such as SMI or BPD which manufactured for the Military UNDER Commercial Contract, by Tender or other Commercial operation.

It has Nothing to do with "Civilian "manufacture, i.e. that ammo for the open market. (usually not year dated at all).

When the Commercial makers (SMI, BPD, LBC and possibly GFL) made rifle Ammo for the Italian Government, the German Forces, or even for export to Axis Countries(Romania eg) a Military style headstamp was used ( letters and date.)
The Purely Gov’t Factory-made ammo was marked in a particular manner, to indicate Inspector’s initials (2), the Factory ( B, C or T(very early lots for Turin)) and the two digit year of production.

The "Commercial "(ie, NON Gov’t) Makers, used their “Three letter indicator” ( which fully described their ID as corporations) and a three digit year ( after some early lots with only two digits, as in BPD very early production.)

It is thought (by my research in Case hardening processes in Italian 6,5 and 7,35 cases) that the amount of cold working used to
bring the head of the case to correct resistance, required firstly the use of the releif in groove headstamp, and furthermor, that the amount of headstamp deformation had to be roughly uniform aroun
d the case…so the top deformation had to equal the bottom–so Three letters above, three numbers below (for equality of metal stressing)

The same applies to the Gov’t factory layout, and whilst the Factory indicator and year (two digits) are not numerically matched to the Two letter Inspector’s marks, there are extra periods after the initals, and the Initials are spread over the same circumferential distance as the Factory/date indicators.

Interesting the “SMI 930” 7,9 cartridge…possibly a Greek contract???..the Greeks ghad just adopted the FN M1930 Mauser rifle, and already had M95/24 and M88/90/24 Converted Mannlichers in 7,9mm calibres; They also bought a lot of equipment (Breda Mortars 81 mm, etc )from Italy in the late 1920s and early 1930s…so a general Military supply arrangemtn would see also 7,9mm ammo being supplied by a “preferred” supplier. (especially since a lot of Steyr supplies were funnelled through Italy.)

The SMI 944 7,9 is definitely supply for the German occupation Forces of North Italy ( Reppublica Sociale italiana) One must remember that a lot of RSI units were also widely supply by German Equipment depots during training in germany, and so the ammunition was also for their use as well as the Wehrmacht in Northern italy.

Pistol ammo: GFL, the major Pistol ammo producer ( closely followed by LBC) made ammo both for Italy under normal contract processes, and also for other Axis Partners ( Hungary, Romania); probably the 9x25 cartridges for the Hungarian SMG, were made in a bit of a rush, as they carry a standard GFL headstamp, but the date may be 4 digit. And when the lot for Hungary was finished, they used the same headstamp bunter for making more 9M38 for the Italians and Germans in Northern italy. (the "GFL 9M38 refers to the Italian issue 9x19 for Berretta SMGs (the MAB 38 etc).

Post war usage kept the system…the “Commercial” manufacture of ammunition for the Italian Government continued the three letter, three digit rule, but so did any export “military” contracts…Egypt in the 1950s, used both “BPD 953” and AOC ( Caeser’s Cypher ) 952 etc. on both .303 and 7,9 for the Egyptian Armed Forces.
These calibres were also supplied to the Italian Armed forces as well in the 1950s, as they had British equipment, as well as left over german equipment (mostly MGs) in both training and service roles.

In Italian, the term “fonti commerciali” ( commercial sources) differentiates supplies from “fonti di Stato o fonti governativi” ( sources of state or government origin). It has a basis in the language itself, and as Italy, both during Fascism and especially in the Post-war Period, had numerous “Government” industries (whether truely nationalised or just subsidised,) the “private sector” had this differentiation.

Sadly, after WW II, many ordnance related Industries were gobbled up by the IRI (Istituto di Ricostruzione Industriale), a sort of Government Holding Corporation which effectively owned a lot of formerly private ordnance suppliers. Some did survive and prosper, and were never taken over ( GFL, SMI, to name a few…BPD was “merged” into the SNIA ( chemical combine) itself a IRI- subsidiary.

The USA had this distinction as well…Frankford Arsenal was a GOGO (Government owned, Government Operated, facility) but the majority of US Army Ammunition Plants during WW II were GOCO (Gov’t Owned, Contractor Operated, on “cost plus” basis; the old line “Commercial” Operators (COCO) were the Winchester-Western, Remington and Federal companies, truly “Commercial” Operations, which tendered for Ammuntion supply contracts to Gov’t specs in a commercial fashion. I did not mention the WW I contractors, of which there were more…a lot of these subsequently were taken over by the “Big Three” in the post WW I period of Industrial depression brought on by peace.

Enough Linguistic arguments…
best regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Just to show an example of a large calibre round with 3 digits for the year.

My 47mm Italian tank round.


Doc - o.k., we are now in agreement. I thought you were referring to what I would call “commercial ammunition.” My error.

At least we got in more information on the three-digit dates while we were at it.

Just to show an example of a large calibre round with 4 digits for the year.

Many thanks to Mr. Hoekert.

Mr. Hoekert here (well, it’s Hoekerd but OK). The picture shown above I got from another collector.

I looked at my large caliber Italian shell cases and found the following stamps:

47/32 M.I. 2|939 EB
47/32 M.I. 2|939 EB
65/17 M.I. 1937|11-7238 BE
65/17 M.I. 1|939 BE
65/17 ANS. 2|937 UPVC G 1
75/27 M.B. 1|939 AS
75/27 M.B. 2"941 ?? (steel case)

Just before I read this thread I was wondering about Italian stamps myself. I just don’t understand it. Somewhere else I read about Carcano stamps, and they have an inspector marking. So all these large caliber shell cases have 4 stamps:

1 - 12’o’clock - the year (sometimes 3, sometimes 4 digits)
2 - 6’0’-clock - the gun type
3 - 2’0’-clock - my guess, inspector stamp or manufacturer?
4 - 10’0’-clock - my guess, manufacturer or inspector stamp?

But all these stamps (MI, BE, EB, ANS, AS, UPCV) I can not link to a known manufacturer. Can someone clarify this? If this is to offtopic, I’ll gladly open a new thread.

Ontopic: it shows a 3 and 4 digit stamp for the same year 1937, both by M.I.

M.I. and ANS look like first letters of factories that made the cartridge ( for example Ans. could be “Ansaldo” and MI “metallurgica italiana”.
There is also a " Breda meccanica" factory