'Old' 9mm Luger ammunition


Can anyone indicate how scarce the oldest 9mm ammunition is?
Is it still possible to obtain original packaged rounds or would I be lucky to come across single rounds of this era.

Probably very vague questions arising from inexperience!




Your question is somewhat vague. Are you talking in general terms about the earliest 9 mm Parabellum cartridges from various countries, or do you mean the earliest known single specimen of the 9 x 19 mm cartridge, which is German?

If the latter, it is a scarce round. It has a brass case and primer, and a CNCS truncated FMJ bullet. The headstamp is * D.M. * K. This is presumed to be the earliest serial production cartridge. There may have been earlier ones. The cartridge called for years “9 mm Borchardt” is actually part of the development of the Luger pistol, not the Borchardt, it would seem, and possible predates the 9 mm Luger case type as we know it today.

Regarding a full box, in 45 years of collecting this cartridge, I have never had my own eyes on the box for this ammunition. There was an early DWM box pictured in the fine article on “The Genesis of the 9 mm Parabellum Cartridge,” by Dr. G. L. Sturgess, IAA Journal 444, Jul/Aug 2005, pages 4 - 15. The style of the box was likely similar to that shown in Dr. Sturgiss’ article.

The first serial production probably dates from 1902. It is not absolutely known if the rounds bearing the D.M.K. headstamp are actually the first of the serially produced cartridges, or if they were part of a prototype “trials” lot. They are, regardless, very hard to find even in a single specimen.

Early German rounds are not extremely rare, although as the years pass, they become, of course, less and less encountered. They have the headstamp K DWM K 480C, and the headstamp letters of the early rounds are with serifs (old-style letters). They will have brass primer cups and the earliest will have CNCS FMJ truncated bullets, or the hollow-point version of the same.

If this information doesn’t answer your question, please enlarge the parameters of your request.

John Moss



Thank you for the information.
My question was prompted by the headstamps I had seen on three single 9mm rounds:
(Reading clockwise from the letter group)

DWM K 8 17

S 5 17

C 11 17

I presumed they were made 1917, but not sure if they were particularly rare.



All three are German WW I production and all from 1917 as you suspect. You can go to the IAA Website at cartridgecollectors.org and look up the headstamp listing and all three of these codes are in the list. There is also an introduction to 9mm Luger ammunition on the site. You have figured out that the 17 means 1917. the other digit is the month when the case was manufactured (not when the cartridge was loaded). In the cases below it was August, May and November from top to bottom.

These cartridges, assuming they are brass cases and have a normal magnetic copper color bullet are not unusual at all. Boxes for these cartridges are much more unusual and will sell from $20 to $100 depending on their condition. they show up on internet auctions now and then. If you get $1 each for the cartridges you are doing pretty well!!!





Thank you.
Not the most valuable 9mm it would seem, but certainly very interesting.




There are plenty of very, very interesting cartridges and headstamps that are not particularly valuable on the market for one reason or another. That should never lessen the enjoyment in having them in a collection; actually, for many of us, makes it more fun since we can’t afford the rarest stuff.

Those are nice, representative headstamps you have found, of the WWI era of German pistol ammunition.

I agree completely with Lew’s evaluation by the way. You can still occasionally find even pre-WWI dates in the DWM loads without having to pay a fortune for them. When you think of it, a 1910 or 1911 9mm is only 7 or 8 years “newer” than the first 9mm Para round!

I would have to say that for those interested in pistol ammunition headstamps, the 9mm Para is the most prolific, and most would say the most interesting. I’d have to think about that for awhile, as there are other auto pistol calibers with some great headstamps as well. I guess, though, that the 9 mm Para is the champ in regard to headstamps and loadings, among pistol calibers.

John Moss



I remember when I got my first World War I 9mmP headstamps. It was in 1965 and I got them from Don Amesbury (the original editor of what is now the Journal and one of the founders of the IAA in 1955). Don is still alive and I spoke to him last year and reminded him of that visit. I put the three rounds on my desk and had difficulty believing I had found rounds that old. Now they are over 90 years old!!!

Keep looking you never know what you will find. There are S, C and Ge D headstamped 9mm Cartridges in collections dated 1917 with steel cases (copper/brass washed) and we know that DWM K also produced steel cases in 1917, but none have turned up as far as I now. Some of the ones in collections, perhaps all were found in junk boxes! There is a DWM load (headstamped either DWM K 480C K or DWM K ?? 12 [or perhaps 11]) with a duplex bullet. the only way to tell is by weighing it. If the loaded round is about 200 gr than you may have one.

There are also lots of 9mmP being made today that it rare. Just this week I picked up a headstamp from a couple of years ago that is really hard to find (ICC-NTF 9mm) and am expecting to get a few fired cases of another hard to find headstamp that is only a few years old.

Collecting 9mmP by headstamp and load is very interesting and not very expensive. A good hobby if you are interested.

You may want to check the IAA website at (gigconceptsinc.com).

Good luck and have fun!!!



I started ‘hunting’ for WW1 german 9mmP rounds with a chamber date OTHER than 1917 (17). According to DWM’s company history (1939) DWM had produced so much pistols in 1917 that they were ordered by the military to slow down and concentrate more on the machine guns instead.

My little theory is that after the armistice there was still a large amount of pistols and ammunition in storage, most with a 1917 production date. I think this combined reason (lots of them produced and lots of them survived in storage) that we see so many 1917 dated pistols and ammunition today.

Of course, in the US one can argue that most US war booty would be of a 1917-1918 date, but we see the same thing over here in Europe.


This post has made me look again at the few 9mm rds I have and have found 1 with the following headstamp J 7 12, brass case, steel jacketed truncated nose bullet, brass primer and black primer annulus.

Thats the earliest 9mm rd I have. For some reason I had it listed as by BSA but now I think it’s an early German rd.


The oldest one I have in 9x19 is a DWM Karlsruhe round dating from 1913.


Armorurer, J (old German “I”) is Ingolstadt Arsenal. I know of four headstamps with truncated bullets 4-11, 7-12, 3-13 and 7-13 and one with a RN bullet 8-14. All have CN plated magnetic bullets. The RN load with the 1914 date is very interesting because it is about two years before other German manufacturers moved from the truncated bullet to the RN bullet (about mid-1916). There is also a nickel plated dummy dated 7-12. Interestingly, a number of full boxes of Ingolstadt ammo in new condition showed up about 6 years ago.

Vlim, my oldest DWM K date is 5-09 but I have seen a 4-09 dated headstamp which is the oldest date I know of on 9x19mm. Clearly they were made earlier than this date but apparently with commercial headstamps-for example the early German Navy cartridges.

The earliest Arsenal production I have is by Spandau with a ball round dated 11-09 and a nickel plated dummy dated 10-09. I don’t know if a loaded ball round exists with the Oct 1909 date.

Vlim, The DWM case registery indicated they produced steel cases during WWI (1917) but none have ever been reported as far as I know. I have 1917 cases with both C and S headstamps and the Woodin Lab has both of these and one with a Ge D headstamp-also 1917- but nobody seems to have truned up any made by DWM. Is there perhaps anything about them in the DWM 1939 history?




Thank you all for a very interesting insight into 9mm ammunition.

I came across another 9mm round (headstamp F N *). Is it possible to place this round on the timeline for 9mm ammunition?




Titan - it is very difficult to place the time period of FN commercial ammunition. They used the “F N *” headstamp on commercial pistol rounds for decases. One thing that would help date it is the style of the letters. See if they are old style letters with Serifs, or the new style letters without serifs. The period of manufacture will still be very, very wide, but it will narrow it down a little. Also, tell us if there are any colored seals on the cartridge, and at least the shape and bullet jacket material. All thses will help.

I know I sound like a broken record, but folks, when you ask about a cartridge, give all the information you can. Measurements are not needed when talking about known calibers like 9 mm Parabellum, but everything else about the cartridge helps to identify it.

John Moss



Thanks …you have probably noted by now that I am a novice at identification.

The headstamp letters have serifs. The * has 5 points and seem to be unevenly struck. The primer, which is seated 0.005" looks to be ‘brass’ with an obvious rounded profile and (looks) lightly crimped within the pocket. The case is brass and the bullet jacket appears to be steel. The COL is 1.165". I have compared the ogive of the bullet with many other rounds and while very similar to a typical FMJ the tip is more rounded than others. One round has a short (0.3") hairline crack running back from the mouth of the case. There are no visible colored seals.




From my last post it might be that the bullet is nickel plated and not steel.



Titan - Excellent! Much better descrition. You have described what I reckon is the earliest of the commercial FN 9mm Parabellum cartridges. The problem is, I am not positive when FN began production of the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge. Before WWI, FN was trying very hard to push the Model 1903 FN Pistol in caliber 9 mm Browning Long. I am not sure they would have had much incentive to make the Luger cartridge commercially at that time. In World War I, if they were not already making the cartridge, it is unlikely to me that they would have begun, since their army had no weapons in that claiber, and they probably suspended most if not all commercial production. The earliest dated FN 9 mm round is from 1921, and was a contract for the Dutch. Serif letters are known on FN 9mm cartridges as late as 1927.

With all that in mind, the best I can tell you is that your round would have been made from the time FN first produced the cartridge until around the end of the 1920s. I would be fairly willing to say we can shorten that down to say it was made in the 1920s.

I hope this is of some help. Maybe someone more expert on this caliber, like Lew, can add to the discussion, or correct my theories.

John Moss



Thank you again.

Would you know which countries would have had contracts for FN ammunition of this age?



That should read contracts other than for the Dutch.

PS Is it possible to edit posts?



Titan - FN Sold ammunition all around the world. It would be patently impossible to identify any particular contract for your round without a box label, and maybe not even then.

Regarding editing your post, I note that there is no “edit” option on your two entries after my answer. I don’t know why that is. If you look up in the right corner of my answer to you, you will see a little block marked edit. All you do is click on that block within your own answers, if you see that on your screen with your answers, and it will put it into edit mode. Then you repost your edited answer.

You cannot edit ssomeone else’s post so for example, you would get nothing if you clicked on the “edit” on my post. If on your screen, your answers have the “edit block” and mine does not, that is the answer in itself. It would mean that “edit” only appears on answers that you, yourself, can edit. I have never noticed before whether or not that is how this works. One of our Forum administrators will probably chime in here and give you the straight scope.

John Moss



Have now found the edit function - again just finding my feet here!

With regard to my question on contracts for FN 9mm - it was more to gauge how extensive the global spread might have been at the time.