Portuguese 9mm Para-Explosive?


While we have the Portuguese experts on the Forum, I thought I’d ask about a cartridge I picked up in Europe quite a few years ago. The tip is a brass insert painted red on the end. At first glance it looks like an explosive load, but that is only an assumption on my part. The date matches the heavy Portuguese involvement in Africa.

Any comments or opinions on this cartridge would be appreciated.


The bullet looks extremely crude, could it be someone’s homemade experiment. Or possibly a commercial explosive load, what you would call a “gun show load” in the USA, on a Portugese military case? Would you think that is a boxer primed case, making reloading more likely? It almost looks like it has a cartridge primer in the nose, but it is a bit too deep and rounded. Just a suggestion.


I agree with Falcon that the bullet appears to be quite crude. However, I have to say, even though it doesn’t look the quality of anything made by FNM that I have ever seen (the bullet, that is), that the round is very “tired looking.” That is, the case is patinated and the primer quite dirty around the edges. The bullet, if very soft lead, may have been kicked around enough to get the appearance it has now. If found in Africa, and I understand fully that Lew didn’t say it was, it could also be in the category of improvised munitions, which I suppose is a fancy way of saying reload when applied to small arms ammunition, but at least a reload for a specific military or insurgency purpose. One of the big problems is that there are so many 9mms found with “fancy bullets” in an otherwise ordinary case that some of them are certainly “home improvements.” However, some are not. The original, early Magsafe rounds were made from loaded rounds with original factory components, the bullet simply being “improved” to the Magsafe design. That is just one example. They were made for a specific purpose involving commercial sale by a Company (even though it was basically, at that time, a one-man company), so are they “reloads” in the sense collectors use the term?

It will be interesting to hear comments from our Portuguese friends, who seem very well versed in the ammunition made in their country.


I don


John, the case does not look like a reload to me. No evidence of extraction, case expansion or sizing. It also doesn’t have marks on the top of the rim which can sometimes occur when a bullet is pulled.

The round came from a person with Police connections, but no story at all to go with it, just a funny bullet.

I suspect it is an original load that has been rolled around for about 20 or so before I got it.

The bullet is beat up, but of course it is lead. Nothing else about the bullet looks crude to me, infact it looks pretty well put together!


Lew - I mentioned that the bullet could have just been kicked around, and I agree that the case doesn’t appear fired and then reloaded. The primer cup looks right, and I can see no obvious case head expansion (most dies never take the entire base back down to the original diameter, but rather just bring it into chamber specs) and no ejector mark. However, and this is NOT a judgment of your round - I don’t know what it is - but a reload doesn’t have to be made with a fired case. Some real experimental cartridges made in tiny lots (and plenty of fakes) have been made by taking a box of ammo off the shelf, pulling the primer and dumping the powder, and starting again with different powders and bullets, or whatever the nature of the experiment was to be. They are very hard to identify as reloads when done well, and if in cases that have had little or no crimp - friction fit bullet seating - they are near impossible to tell. I have taken apart some rounds from my collection for various reasons, and reassembled them and would defy anyone to tell it. I never do this with stab-crimped or heavily roll-crimped rounds, as the pulling of the bullet ruins the crimp. Of course, when possible, I use duplicates to find out what I need to know, and just scrap them after unless they are really good ones. But, I apply the same rules to good ones. If they have a crimp that will be ruined by bullet-pulling, I don’t do it.

Regarding your round, I can’t even tell what load it is supposed to be, or how the bullet is constructed, from the picture, so I sure as heck am not proclaiming it a fake. I have seen stuff more suspect than that which have turned out to be good. That is true of a couple of 9mms I have that were made up at Aberdeen PG. I had them set aside for destruction but luckily visited the Lab in Tucson before I got around to them, and found the identical pair there, and Bill evidently got them right at APG. I do try to be sure before I destroy fakes, but I have ripped apart my share of them. I still have some highly suspect in my own collection!


Is it just the scan or does the nose of the bullet look slanted in the photo of the round from the side. This, along with its beat up appearance, made me think it could be home made.


Now I can be sure that the cartridge in the picture was not made by FNM.
I questioned a friend of mine that used to work there (also a cartridge collector, but unfortunately not very enthusiastic about internet) he confirmed that the only ammunition made based on the 9x19 cartridges were the regular 9 Para FMJ, the LRN version of the same caliber, and the Rega


Can you get a measurement of the diameter of the “insert” at the nose? If it’s other than .175" or .210" (the diameter of a small or large primer), then I’d say it’s a factory item, since how many manufacturers of “gun show” loads have access to anything else? It’s hard to tell if it’s just an optical illusion or a bunch of paint, but it LOOKS like the centre of that insert is domed slightly.