Poison bullets - Small Arms Review has an article this past month

In it, the Germans capture a spy with 6 rounds of poison ammo. Interesting article and bullet construction.


Sorry, it’s not online that I can find.

SAR vol 24 no 4. I’m asking them if we can get a link or pdf of the article.

Snapped a picture of the projectile drawing itself. That shouldn’t be copyright but if it is let me know and I’ll pull it.


Who is the author of this?
The story as I understood it & may well be wrong was they were found in a police station desk drawer by Paul Van Hee and about 9 are known. None with any actual poison in them.
Hopefully Lew C. will get us right with this.

Not sure who author of the article is…but the image is in quite a few places. I believe it is the aconite bullet from WW2…It gets a mention in the documentation available from the Harvard website that contains the Nuremberg Trial documentation (for example https://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/documents/1241-report-to-dr-widmann?q=poison+bullet#p.1 ).

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The SAR article is written by Michael Heidler.

Yes it’s the aconitine bullet.

Sounds like I have the story wrong.

yes i see this bullet in the book “munitions russes” de p regenstreif
it the 7.65 browning poison rounds found on russian spies (not the 9x19)

Who said it is 9x19?

i think PetedeCoux mention “Lew C”

Ok, there are some in 9x19 but the one being talked about here is the 7.65x17SR.

Interestingly the Russians are saying the Germans made them and the Germans are saying the Russians did.

First casualty of war is the truth…

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The following is an extract from a more detail post in 2011.
AP bullets with exposed core at tip/German Poison Bullet “The German (and the Russian) poison bullet story began for most collectors when they read the report on Capt Phil Sharp’s debrief of Major Hartmann in 1945 where he provided a drawing of a poison bullet and said both the Soviets and the Germans developed poison bullets during WWII. The best source is an article David McKay wrote an excellent article in the IAA Journal in 2006 where he provided a German drawing and photo of the Soviet poison cartridge in 7.65mm Browning and bullet which is shown with an iron tip. The article also discusses an SS doctor who stood trial at Nuremburg for testing poison bullets on five Soviet POWs. All this activity seems to be 1943 and later. The bullets developed by the Germans were also in 7.65mm. David also discusses the reputed 9mm poison bullet I pictured, and which have been rumored to be part of a Hitler assassination plot. David quotes convincing evidence that there is no basis for the existence of an assassination plot using either a rifle or a pistol. There is no record available that even alludes to a poison bullet in 9mm, except for Hartmann and he was just passing on rumors he had heard. He had no first hand knowledge of the poison bullet project. David further notes the superficial resemblance between the iron/steel tip Russian bullet with slits in the jacket and 9mm bullet as the probable reason the 9mm bullet was assumed to be a poison load.”

The bullet illustrated above is the “Soviet” 7.65mm bullet illustrated by Hartmann. I have never seen any evidence that it exists except from Hartmann. He information was assessed by the CIOS team as being unreliable on a number of occasions.

If there is new information, I would be delighted to see it.


Lew - did you look at the attachment with the comments from 1989rjb, above, which is a report, or part thereof (not sure if it is complete or not), from an office of the SS, regarding the “Giftgeschoss, einer russischen Pistolenpatrone Kal 7.65” which is evidently at the Harvard Law School Library and part of their “Nuremburg Trials Project.?” The report is from September 12, 1944.

Wouldn’t you consider this evidence of the existence, at least at that time, of the Russian 7.65 mm Poison-bullet loading (Giftgeschoss)? I am ignoring the question about who actually made them, the Germans or the Russians, as at this stage, unless original documentation that identifies the cartridge beyond dispute as to its nationality (the GECO headstamp on the cases proves nothing either way) surfaces somewhere.

“The bullet illustrated above is the “Soviet” 7.65mm bullet illustrated by Hartmann. I have never seen any evidence that it exists except from Hartmann. He (sic) information was assessed by the CIOS team as being unreliable on a number of occasions.”

Was the discussion of the poison bullet one of the occasions the CIOS considered unreliable?

If you don’t consider it evidence, can you share the reasons why? Even though we will never see one of these rounds, being an auto pistol ctg. enthusiast, this is important information to me. The documents look genuine, as to content and format, and they seem to be accepted as genuine by an institution that some people hold very highly, the Harvard Law School.

John Moss

I was under the impression that these 7.65 mm bullets were of German design. I would not rule out that the Russian origin was a German cover story

The Nuremberg Trial Report refrerenced by 1989rjb is a German report from late 1944 by the “Chief Surgeon of SS and Police” of shooting victims (it is not clear whether prisoners of war or not) with these bullets in the tigh and the resulting effects. These effects, appearing after a delay of about 2 hours, were very severe. It is not mentioned whether the victims died.

The other report, shown by jestertoo, containing the bullet drawing, was done by the chemistry branch of the Forensic Laboratory of Sicherheitspolizei and is an analysis of the design, like it would analyze evidence from any criminal case. The Forensic Laboratory definitely was under the impression of dealing with evidence of Russian origin (see heading of drawing). Because this was an establishment doing ordinary police work, I find it quite plausible that any German activity in developing poison bullets could have been withheld from them.

Correction: It is indeed reported that the victims died.
The second document referenced by 1989rjb below is an English translation of the first document.

In late 1944, death sentences in Germany were being passed on a wholesale basis. The victims being persons sentenced to death does not mean they had actually committed a crime against life.

Further documentation linked to the previous images (https://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/documents/1243-report-to-dr-widmann?q=poison+bullet#p.1 )

John, You re correct.! My post above is a result of me rushing and not checking the sources I quote. I confused the Hartmann description with the images from the German documentation. Dave McKay has it right in IAAJ 451. His article is well worth reading. Shown below. is the Hartmann drawing.
The CIOS mention of Hartmann’s crediability was, I believe, in a seperate report from the one on his interview with Sharpe and did not cite a specific example that I recall.

Sorry for the confusion.

1989rjb. Thanks for the Harvard information.


Lew - thanks for the clarification. I agree that considering the times and the two governments (I don’t like to use the words countries in these cases), the German reports could actually be on their own ammunition, not Russian, and meant to deceive. Of course, there is still a chance that the reports were accurate with no subterfuge, and the Russians did make one. The Geco headstamp reported would not be impossible for Russian use, especially if they wanted a deception of their own leading observers to believe they were German cartridges.

I have no particular opinion on which is correct, that is, who made the so-called “Russian” rounds because I don’t have the documentation, either way, to formulate one.


for the cases headstamped “GECO” ,i heard there are stocks seized in country “limitrophes” (used by their police) to russia

By the date of the letters from one office of the SS to another, concerning the “Russian” 7.65 mm Browning caliber “Giftgeschosspatronen,” the Russians would have captured plenty of pistols, including those or 7.65 mm, in combat, aside from any other sources.

The Geco cases don’t contribute much to the identity of nationality in either instance, German or Russian, and in fact, in my opinion, would point more to Russian. With this type of ammunition, if made in Germany, since it is basically “assassination” ammo, you would think the Germans would have used an anonymous headstamp, like the “X” marking found on both 7.65 x 17 mm and 9 x 19 mm cartridges, or no headstamp at all. The Russians, if they were the actual maker, may well have used German cases for this loading to try to blame them on the Germans, if the need for that ever came up.

However, as I said, there is insufficient documentation for me to develop and hard- held opinion on who made them.

John Moss

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