Primer Inscription

I have always wanted to know, does the below inscription on the primer have any particular meaning other than who manufactured the primer? I know the CCI benchrest primer has a “BW” inscribed on the primer. Is it possible to date a cartridge based on this inscription? If these inscriptions do mean anything, are they consistent among the different manufacturers?

Thanks for any information.


I believe those markings on American cartridges were intended to indicate smokeless loads.

Hello, Heavy…Guy is correct…monogrammed primers were originally intended to indicate smokeless loads, generally in those black powder calibers that transitioned into the smokeless era. They were also used in cartridges which were only loaded smokeless, such as your .32 SLR. They were also used to indicate that the cartridge was an original factory load. The practice began in the late 1890’s and continued up to about 1920. All of the “major” ammunition manufacturers in place at the time used monogrammed primers, with the exception of Western, which did not begin maufacture of center fire stuff until 1908 or so. Soooo…
Winchester Repeating Arms Co. : W, in many styles of font
Union Metallic Cartridge Co., and after 1911, Remington-UMC: U
United States Cartridge Co: US and intertwined US (nicknamed “dollar sign”)
Peters Cartridge Co.: P

I think for the record, we should mention that while Randy and Guy are absolutely correct about the primer markings on early U.S.A. - manufactured smokeless-powder cartridges, that later primer markings have been used to signify other things.

Often, the primer markings indicate a non-corrosive primer, such as the “O” impressed on German RWS and Geco (Dynamit A.-G.) primers indicating they are “Sinoxid” (non-corrosive). Sometimes they identify the primer itself. Recently, letters such as “CF” and “LF” have been used on primer cups to indicate a lead free primer.

One reloading company in England, ACE in Leeds, had primer cups embossed with the outline of a Spade (the playing cards suit, not a shovel) to indicate their brand, since they used primarily Winchester cases for their loads. (IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFORMATION ON ACE, OF LEEDS, ENGLAND, ESPECIALLY A CATALOG OR PRICE SHEET, I WOULD LOVE TO GET A SCAN OF THE MATERIAL).

Remington, it would seem briefly, used an “O” impressed on primer cups sold to reloaders, to indicate that any Remington-headstamped cartridge with that primer was not one of their own factory loads. I have examples of that on pistol cartridges in my own collection.

The point is, primer markings, throughout the history of fixed ammunition, have not exclusively identified a cartridge as being loaded with smokeless powder, although that was the reason for the American ones in the era discussed.

Ace, I believe, (not 100% sure on this) were owned by “Tim Hannam” which is a large shooting / reloading equipment supplier in North England.

A few years before the events of Dunblane in 1996, which saw handguns banned in the UK the following year, there was a growing industry in the UK of commercial reloading. Companies would take fired cartridge cases, usually training ammunition from Police forces, and reload them to sell on the UK market. CIP rules require the manufacturer of commercial ammo to mark the round, i.e. with a headstamp. As these were already headstamped (usually Winchester 38 Special or 9 mm) the companies had to stamp the primer instead.

Ace, as John said, used a spade symbol.
Zero, used a 0 impression, and
Howitzer, used a cross +

Howitzer were, by far, the most successful of these companies, and is the only one still in existence, although I think they only produce bullets for the muzzle loading market now.


Hoplite - do you ever run across the howitzer rounds with a “+” on them? I would love to get a .45 or 9mm, even a fired case, if the primer indentation doesn’t totally obliterate the cross. I have never seen this particular primer marking. The “O” is a common symbol, and although I have none from the English firm, I have lots of Remington and RWS rounds with it. I also have the Spade from Ace on a 9mm. I have the Howitzer headstamps as well, made, I think, by Starline for them.

Regardless, thanks for listing those. Again, I had never even heard of the “+” marking.

I believe that ‘Ace’ was the name used by Tim Hannam for their own brand ammunition and re-loading components. Before I knew better I used to buy bags of their 0,357 bullet heads. These were copper plated lead and would occasionally make ‘spider’ holes in the target due to the plating stripping in the bore if driven hard.



I used to see them quite regularly when I was a forensic scientist, a few thousand were stolen from a gun club and found their way to London’s criminal fraternity. I changed jobs a while back, and I don’t know if they are as common now.

From memory, the cross was quite broad and crude, often off centre. It generally can be seen after firing. I don’t know if they ever loaded .45, all I ever saw was 9mm and .38 Special.


9mm would work for me. I have over 4,000 in my collection, and don’t collect dates or lot numbers. Just on the chance you ever find one.

Anyone wanna enlighten me as to the meaning of NP on a norma 6.5 Carcano round? Norma Primer?

NP = Norma Precision. Company name is/was:

Norma Precision AB
Amotfors, Sweden

CCI Benchrest primers are stamped “BR”, BTW


Ray–Are you sure that NP = Norma Precision. I always thought it stood for Norma Projektilfabrik.


Could be.

All of the US literature that I have says the company name is Norma Precision AB. I think the original name was Norma Projectilefabrik but it has been Norma Precision since at least 1965 or so when they went worldwide.

Take your pick, I suppose.