Lake City 7.62x39mm Production: Background Information


#1

I recently stumbled across a site hosting the annual command histories for the Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC) from 1960 through the mid-'80s. I found an interesting tidbit in the 1970 history regarding US production of 7.62x39mm ammunition for the Cambodian Army.

[quote=“Commander in Chief Pacific Command History 1970 - Volume II, pp 259-260”]Assistance for the Cambodian Army

[u]AK-47 Rifles/Ammunition[/u]

(TS)  The U.S. and RVN began supplying FANK with captured AK-47 rifles and ammunition in April; however, an additional source was needed to meet FANK requirements. [b](Redacted text)[/b]  The remaining 1,420 AK-47 rifles were scheduled for delivery on 17 January 1971.[i]2[/i]

(TS)  On 31 December, Cambodia MAP was supporting a density of 68,973 weapons that fire AK-47 ammunition.  After delivery of the remaining Indonesian AK-47s, the density will be 70,393 weapons.  The 30-day ammunition consumption rate will be 8.73 million rounds.  To provide a guaranteed continuing source of supply to meet the Cambodian MAP requirement for AK-47 ammunition, production is underway in the Continental United States (CONUS) under a contract paid out of Cambodia MAP funds.  CONUS production was 20 million rounds for the period October through December.  On 8 January 1971, the SECDEF approved CINCPAC's request to increase CONUS production to 9.5 million rounds per month.  The first two million rounds of CONUS production AK-47 ammunition was airlifted to the RVN on 20 November.  The first surface delivery arrived on 1 December with 5.96 million rounds delivered by 31 December.  An additional 9.180 million rounds was scheduled to arrive by 13 February 1971.[i]1[/i]

(Redacted text) He stated that costs being equal, insertion of M-16s into Cambodia as the standard infantry weapon was much preferred to building a weapon system (AK-47) which was not U.S. supportable without parts engineering or tenuous third country support. However, additional AK-47 could be utilized provided they were procured at no cost to MAP and with no strings attached.2

2. J4312 Point Paper, HQ CINCPAC, 28 Oct 70 and 8 Jan 1971, Subj: AK-47 Rifles/Ammo for Cambodian MAP.

1. Ibid.
2. Ibid.[/quote]


#2

That kind of “back door” info is pure gold.
I once found in an old CIA publication an exciting reference to US production of the 7.62x25 Tokarev cartridge. It was a known round, but that was the first documentary evidence I ever saw.
It’s all written down somewhere, we just have to be lucky sometines and find it.


#3

Hi,

Thank you for posting that piece of information!

I have two rounds of 7.62x39mm (one ball and one blank round) reportedly manufactured by Lake City which were obtained at last years SLICS. I have never seen anything in print about this ammunition.

The rounds are not headstamped and have red primer sealant. I was wondering about the details of who and when these cartridges were made. Now I know.

Great information.

Heavyiron


#4

The late Dave Hughes, known for his book on .223/5.56 ammunition was at Frankford Arsenal during the time the US production of 7.62x39mm was just beginning. The US made 7.62x39mm was based on samples of Finnish made ball ammunition in this caliber. The manufacturing drawings used by “FA” and “LC” were made by draftsmen using actual Finn rounds for measurements. Dave gave me one of the rounds used for these drawings, headstamped “VPT 70”. He said the cartridge was sitting on a draftsman’s desk and the guy just gave it to him. Apparently “FA” did the development work and made pilot lots, but the bulk of production was done at Lake City.

D.D.


#5

AKMS, Dave data was correct. In 1970 (I think) I had an opportunity to visit US military contracts representative Lake City for the day and we spent a lot of the time on the 7.62x39mm line. He told me the design was based on Lapua 7.62x39mm cartridges. At that time he said the original production was at FA and was the blanks which were used in a training area set up in Ft Hood I believe where US soldiers played the role of VC/NVA. Production of ball ammunition was set up at Lake City and was fairly new when I visited. In fact LC was still using 7.62 NATO cups so the case trim took off a lot of material. They had 7.62x39 cups were on order but had not arrived. The ammunition had GMCS bullet jackets, but he told an intereting story of an engineer who wanted 500 steel jacketted bullets and game the plans to production and told them when he got back from leave in a week, he wanted the cartridges on the corner of his desk. Apparently the engineer was not a pleasant person and disliked in production so they added one or two zeros to the order and stacked the whole batch on the engineers desk. We then walked past the standard gray metal military desk of the era desk, but this one had the two lets on one end bent out at 90 degrees and there was a slight bend in the middle where the weight of bullets collapsed the desk. the end was proped up on bricks.

I was told that, at the time of my visit LC had not yet made blanks and all previous blanks were from FA. I saw no evidence of blanks on the production lines. I was given three boxes of ball ammo, one of the steel case bullets and a plated case dummy that was a left over from a visit of senior people and they made a dozen chromed dummies and gave them out to the visitors. He had a few left in his desk.

Not my field but interesting.


#6

Good info gents. I had no idea just how many millions of rounds were manufactured…

AKMS


#7

If you go to Fuller’s Book on the SKS, in the ammo section on all the known producers of 7,62x39 ammo (Color plates of all the cartridges…excellent reference), there are two “blueprint” specification drawings for the 7,62x39 cartridge, in the normal US Ordnance style, one for Ball and one for Blank.

On another note, early supplies of 7,62x39 Blank & Ball were made up by a couple of local “converters” using Czech Vz50 7,62x45 Ball cases, pulled down for the primed cases, and these used to form both Ball ammo (using the bullets and powder) and Blanks of the “full profile” type, even if a little short ( a proper full profile blank is 55mm OAL, but a crimped and sized 45mm case will work OK in both SKS and AK mechanisms.

Of course, the whole operation of conversion and supply of this ammo was done with the help of Interarms, who had ample supplies of 7,62x45 ammo ( from Eastern Europe), and who had the necessary connections with the USG to “supply” Military Groups with training ammo.

These cartridges will show a HS of “bxn 52 or 53” ( Sellier & Bellot, 1952 etc, grey lacquered steel cases) well before the Czechs were forced to make and adopt 7,62x39 ammo by the Warsaw Pact ( 1957-58).
Some of this ammo also trickled into the Movie Industry (Blanks) and the Milsurp trade(Re-made ball)

When the supply of these cartridges grew to the Cambodian Requirement, FA/LC had to become involved for the sheer volume of ammo to be produced.( before Cambodia, a couple of hundred thousand rounds at a time was ample for the Special Forces and Infantry “Enemy” training requirements.)

Cambodia was also at the time being supplied with extra French machinery (Manhurhin) to the Technology Park (Army) in Pnom Penh ( The original French ordnance depot in Cambodia), which was set up to make 7,5 MAS and 9mm, as well as being tasked to begin 7,62x39 production as well. Examples of 7,5 MAS and 9mm are known to exist (packets and HS available) but no 7,62x39 has reliably surfaced.

The Lake City production was supposed to “carry” the Cambodians until their own plant came on stream with sufficient quantites, which, in the end of it, never happened…the collapse of 1975 saw the destruction by the Khmer Rouge of both the Technicians And the Machinery…

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#8

I suspect that this is one of the ‘reformed’ 7.62 x 45mm rounds that Doc AV is referring to with a headstamp of bxn I 53.
It’s interesting, and a little worrying, to learn how this stuff gets about. This particular round - presumably intended for the S.E.Asian jungle - was picked up on the streets of Northern Ireland in the early 1980’s!


#9

Doc, so all reformed 7.62x45 were basically for the US military and only then blank stocks found their way into the movie business?

I came across a “bxn 54” and would like to know if it is one of those.


#10

A lot of the Czech reformed 7.62 x 39 ammunition was sold on the U.S. commercial market years ago. I suspect some of it was made specifically for that purpose. I could be wrong, but considering the outcome of the S.E. Asia affairs, it would not have come back from there. I don’t think it would have come from the U.S. Government, either. Despite the amount of U.S. Surplus ammunition that used to show up on the market, most of it came from foreign sources. The U.S. Government has not been too ready to sell ammunition back to the taxpayers that paid for it originally.

Even now, they only seem to do it through the DCM or by the companies that make it - for example ATK/Federal who run Lake City, or Winchester who sells “Generic” military headstamped ammo from time to time under the USA Brand.


#11

John and all, are any images available of those “original” reformed cartridges as the US military had them? In particular the blank ones would be of interest since there it will be almost unlikely that the later ones looked exactly like the first ones made for the military. I assume the crimp and possible sealings would look different.


#12

As far as the Lake City made 7,62x39 ammo, I don’t know if any got to the US Market by any means (Interarms or other Milsurp supply).

The Converted bxn (Czech) ammo was a Commercial venture, and ammo was sold to who-ever wanted it. Interarms regularly sold small lots of Arms and Ammo to the US Gov’t (CIA, DoD, etc) for all sorts of uses (Training, Covert Ops, etc.).

At the beginning of the 1960s, there was very little 7,62x39 available, even through Interarms (with all its connections in Skandinavia with Lapua etc and also its relationship with Omnipol, the Czech State Export organisation.)
So the Project of Converting the 7,62x45 ammo was thought up. Interarms had shiploads of this ammo, which the Czechs were unloading throughout Africa along with the now-obsoleted Vz52 Rifles and LMGs.

Other companies took up the IA idea, and converted the 7,62x45 themselves, so, again, a purely commercial venture, this time with IA as simply the source of the original ammo. The other source of “long Blank” for 7,62x39 was its manufacture using brass 6,5 Carcano or 6,5MS cases (new and expensive)…the Finns used to make it using Pull down 7,35 Ammo from their WW II acquistitons of Carcano M38 rifles and ammo in 7,35mm, but I don’t think any of this 7,35 Pull-down blanks ever made it in any usable quantity into the USA.

I doubt any of the Movie Blank made at the time would still be floating around now…most Gun Hire companies rotate their ammo quickly, so as not to get caught with aged ammo which may be unreliable.

I think there is an illustration of a bxn Ball round in Fuller’s Book, and maybe also a Blank bxn of “Conversion type”.

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics


#13

Doc, thanks again. Unfortunately I do not have this book.


#14

I have not seen a “bxn 52” reformed cartridge, but according to the Russ Cornell checklist, “bxn I 53”, “bxn 54” and “bxn 55” are known. My particular blank specimen is a “bxn 54” and has a typical appearing 6-petal rosette crimp with a white paint tip seal. My notes indicate this is a “movie blank”. I too would like to know what the first reformed blanks looked like. I also have a “MIDWAY 7.35 CARCANO” headstamped 7.62x39mm blank also with a white tip seal. I can only guess that this color is relevent to movie use?

I used to see these reformed ball cartridges at gun shows in the 1980’s. Both nickel plated and GMCS jackets, but never any blanks. Even found a Chinese case reloaded with one of the Czech. projectiles mixed in with the reformed rounds…these were all sold loose, packed in .50 cal. ammo cans.

AKMS


#15

The use of White on Movie Blank seals is fairly common across the Industry both on the West Coast and the East Coast.(USA) It usually denotes a “Full Flash, Full Sound” ( and high energy) Blank, suitable for Gas and Recoil operated Semi and Full Auto blanks. ( ISS, Stembridge, Ellis, etc)
Some makers don’t varnish/seal at all, the nature of the rosette crimp being such that a seal is superfluous if well done.

Movie Blanks can also have Red seals (ours do) simply because it is “Danger” in anyones language, and because we have cheap, Red Acrylic varnish which dries quickly and gives a good moisture seal ( and does not contaminate the charge if it leaks in.).

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#16

Doc and AKMS you described exactly the blank I have seen. Has anybody an image of the ball and blank confirmed to be for the US military so we can see the “original”?


#17

BTW: Those of you with the IAA Journal back issue CD can find an article from the Woodin Laboratory in issue 374: “U.S. 7.62X39MM Cartridge Development and Production (1968-1972).” It is a draft from the long awaited “History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol III.”