Need help from the Winchester guys

Can this box be dated? It was sold as “pre war” but I have don’t know how to date this. I know Winchester used this headstamp on this cartridge until the early 50’s.


This style box is typical for 1946-1954. Maybe pre-Korean War, but not pre-WWII. There is a similar box variation that was made from 1954-58 for some calibers (I don’t think that style was used for the 7.62X54R Russian), but your box is of the earlier period. There may be members here who could date it more precisely from the lot number stamp, but I cannot. It actually is a hollow point bullet with a copper tip, not a FMJ. Somewhat like the Remington bronze point and various more modern bullets having plastic ballistic tips. The headstamp is correct for the box.

m91dragoon–The critical scan we need to help date this box is the back side with the address line. By the way, this cartridge was the last to use “W.R.A.Co.” in the headstamp. It was used until 1954.

The “Olin Industries, Inc.” corporate styling dates from late 1944, and in 1954 it became “Olin-Mathieson Chemical Corporation” (and still later, just the “Olin Corporation”). The styling on your box therefore verifies the 1946-1954 dating. Post-1954 Winchester ammunition boxes of this general design used the Olin Mathieson corporate styling. Exact changeover dates would depend upon the number of existing empty boxes remaining in inventory for each caliber, and no doubt some Olin Industries-marked boxes left the factory after, and perhaps long after, 1954. More precise dating would require interpretation of the 321(or I)3Z stamping. Olin allegedly did not use the letter Z (and several other letters) as an indicator of year or month of manufacture. But surely someone out there can address that topic better than I.

One of my pet peeves is why ammunition manufacturers don’t just print the date plainly, such as “0498” for April 1998, in conjunction with a lot or product ID number (e.g., xxxx-0498), instead of coming up with spy novel codes. Why should it be a secret? I have some Pre-WWII French civilian .380 ammunition cartons (from Manurhin) that are plainly stamped with a manufacturing date.

I cannot speak to every reason for lot numbers to be actually coded rather than just done so that anyone can read them, but one is the perception of many gun owners as to what constitutes “old” ammo (meaning ammo old enough to create, in their minds anyway, problems). That is also a reason why commercial headstamps are seldom dated (the era of Generic ammunition changed that somewhat, but that is another matter). I had customers who thought that ammunition more than a couple of years old was probably over the hill, and they did not want to buy any “that old.” Most of us know that good quality ammunition, properly stored or shelved, is good for decades, not just years, but many average gun shop customers don’t know that, and some don’t believe it even when told so.

I do note that on the ammunition from some companies in Europe at least, the lot numbers do contain actual dates, rather than codes. Problems creep in with that system too, such as a lot number like 03 09. Is that the 3rd lot of 2009 or the 9th lot of 2003, or the 3rd or 9th month? So, there probably is no perfect system to suit everyone, and from the manufacturer’s standpoint, and the primary reason lot numbers are assigned (quality control), they don’t really care if some customer can decipher it or not. In some cases, they do not WANT a customer to be able to decipher it, for whatever reason. I have asked factory people “in the know” to explain their lot numbers to me and in several cases was refused outright as that information being a factory secret.

All that said, while I cannot find it, I believe that Winchester lot numbers and those from some other companies have been discussed in pretty good detail on this Forum in the past. I am not good at all with the search engine for this Forum, but I know some of the members are.

I have some information on the date of this box in my notebook. But I can not remember where it was obtained, I think of a topic of this forum.

W.R.A.Co--------1878-1931 but used non a few loads to about 1937. Last known use was 1954 on 7.62x54R Russian.
W.R.A--------------1930-circa 1960
W - W--------------ca.1960 to about 1990, but mostly ca.1960-mid-1970’s
W-W SUPER---------ca.1975 to ca.1985
WINCHESTER--------ca. 1985 to now. Mostly on larger rifle cartridges
WIN----------------ca. 1985 to now. Mostly on pistol and revolver.
SUPER SPEED-------1933 to ca.1960

Hope that helps somewhat.