Romanian Headstamps History

Hi guys,

This topic is based on @Lew’s own research on the topic Strange headstamps from 1949-1950. The only thing I did was just to complete it with @historian’s and @Liviu’s writings and some of my findings. I hope they’ll be useful from now on. You may find some errors or inconveniences. Feel free to comment anything misleading or wrong.

Note that I do NOT own the cartridges from the pictures, so do not PM me for an actual trade :). They were sent from a friend of mine working in a Romanian military warehouse. The cartridges have been kept for a lot of time in that old depot and in the following period they were going to be destroyed.

  • Before, during, and after WWI, “PA” (“Pirotehnia Armatei” or “Army Pyrotechny”) was the main Romanian ammunition maker until 1950 (https://www.rumaniamilitary.ro/inca-o-istorie-aproape-nestiuta-2) when its production changed to machinery and spare parts for the industry of construction materials. It was established in 1880 in Bucharest, Ilfov county, Cotroceni district. Many variations can be found regarding the “PA” headstamp such as “PAB”, “PAF”, “PAH”, “PAM”, “PAR”. I’m not going to enter into details regarding those. Also, there was another plant manufacturing ammunition, the “Dumitru Voina” one from Brașov county. Not much is know regarding this one.

  • During WWII, “Pirotehnia Armatei” Sadu was established in 1939 by a royal decree and from 1945 it was renamed to “Uzina mecanică Sadu” (U.M. Sadu). Not just that, but also “CMC” (Uzinele Metalurgice Copșa Mică și Cugir, the actual Cugir plant) started its infantry cartridges production. The “CMC” headstamps were used for a short period of time up until 1944 when Romania changed sides, joining the Allies in the war. They were manufacturing mostly 9x19 mm Parabellum cartridges for the MP40 (Schmeisser) and Orița sub-machine guns used when Romania was fighting the war alongside Nazi Germany.

  • Starting with 1944, the Red Army occupied Romania and since that moment, Romania started using soviet-based armament and ammunition. The headstamps we may find dating that period may include different letters or numbers such as G, H, US, 111, 121, 128, 611, 621, 625. This period was the shortest and the most difficult to identify cartridges. In the picture below, four 7.62x54 mmR cartridges are shown. The left one - 269 48 - isn’t a Romanian cartridge, I think… The other three are all the same.

  • Becoming a member of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, USSR’s Red Army withdraw from Romania and autonomous headstamps started to appear, 21 RPR for Cugir plant and 22 RPR for Sadu plant. Below, I have a photo containing 3 variants of these two headstamps. Yet again for 7.62x54 mmR cartridges: 21 RPR 52 (twice), 22 RPR 52 and 22 RPR 53.

  • RPR, Republica Populară Română or People’s Republic of Romania in English, changed its name into RSR in 1965, Republica Socialistă România or Socialist Republic of Romania, but the headstamps were NOT changed into something containing “RSR”. In fact, since the “RPR” became obsolete, the new headstamps simply did not contain it anymore. Therefore, 21 was denoting Cugir plant and 22 Sadu and the first year they started doing this was 1966. My proof is a picture with six 7.62x39 inert cartridges with headstamps varying from 1963 to 1968. 1965 was the last year when “RPR” was used and 1966 the first year when it wasn’t used any more. Also, a 14.5x114 mm is shown in one of the pictures.

To compare the two variations of cartridges from Cugir and Sadu, I got two pictures, with the 7.62x54 mmR cartridges mentioned above. In the first one, the two cartridges stab crimped are headsteamped 21 RPR 52 and the other two cartridges are those headstamped 22 RPR 52 and 53 which are crimped by compressing the case’s mouth. In the second picture, the four cartridges using the post-war system are shown. All of these four are crimped the same, by compressing the case’s mouth.

  • Nowadays, from what we know, Cugir can be identified with headstamps varying from 310 to 319, while Sadu with headstamps from 321 up to 325. The common rule with the last year’s digit: in Cugir’s case, headstamp’s last digit corresponds to the year’s last digit; in Sadu’s case, 321 corresponds to years ending with either 1 or 6, 322 for 2 or 7, 323 for 3 or 8, 324 for 4 or 9 and 325 for 5 or 0. The major problem here is when this system started to be first applied. It was after the revolution in 1989 or after Romania joined NATO in 2004?

The issue with Romanian factories and headstamps is very complex, especially the 45-52 transitional era.
I am at work but will follow up in the evening with a thorough reply and corrections. Stay tuned.

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On further reflection, the topic is very complex in its entirety to be contained in a forum post, so i will probably write an exhaustive article one day, but for the moment it`s too much to cover everything so i will stick to the basics.

The important aspect is to not mix everything up, as headstamps and factories differ greatly throughout history, which is the reason why, IMO, it`s best to split everything in several distinct timeframes:

1.) The early beginnings and WW1 (1880 - 1918)
2.) The interwar era and WW2 (1919-1945)
3.) The transitional headstamps (1946-1951)
4.) The communist era (1951-1989)
5.) The “modern” era (1989 - present)

Three important notes :

  • The most documented timeframe is the early one, by work mainly done by Romanian collectors including myself. The most obscure and undocumented one is the transitional one.
    -The communist era has two headstamp systems for the same two factories : 21/22 and 3xx.
    -The modern is the only one that includes “dual” civilian and military production, and i am still not sure if they use different headstamps for the two destinations. As one might assume, acquiring data about in-use ammo is quite hard and suspiciously looked upon.

Romanian headstamps and SAA production begins around 1880, with the establishment of the new “Pirotehnia Armatei” / [Pyrotechnia Armatei in old 19th century spelling] (Army’s Pyrotechny) . Apparently the earliest production was for 11.4x60R for the Romanian M79 Henry-Martini as well as various artillery shell casings. The most produced caliber of the first period is the 6,5x53R Romanian Mannlicher. Most available information on those is available here.
Other production would be 8x27R and possibly other small arms ammo for revolvers in use by the Romanian Army of the epoch. Note: I don’t think 9x23R was ever produced, as the introduction of the Steyr caught Romania in massive reorganization of the army and there is no evidence of tooling bought for this caliber.
After the disastruous campaign of 1916, half of Romania was invaded by Triple Alliance forces, including Bucharest where the PA factory was. Reportedly, some equipment and machinery was saved from PA and AA (Army`s Arsenal) and low-scale production occured as well during 1917 in Barlad and Iasi, but i have never seen a 1917-dated PA headstamp of ANY caliber. Actually i have not seen any PA headstamp until 1925. During the remainder of ww1 and the following Romanian-Hungarian war, the Romanian army relied exclusively on imported ammo, mostly 8x50R Lebel, 8x50R Mannlicher and 6,5 Romanian (in low numbers 7.62x54R as well).

I would like to sum up here this post , but not before making some corrections and clarifications :

  • Most sources online label PA as “Pumitra Voina Anonima”. This originates from a confusion with the factory of Dumitru Voina, in Brasov, which actually did not produce small arms ammunition but rather fuzes, artillery casings and other large caliber stuff.

  • Romania bought tooling for “Russian-standard” ammunition in 1950. The earliest known headstamp of “21 RPR” is 1951, so just one year after the introduction. The last year with the RPR suffix was 1965. After that, headstamps remained the same 21/22 but dropped the RPR suffix, as Romania was reformed into a socialist republic rather than a people`s republic. There should also be 12.7 and 14.5mm RPR headstamps but these are extra rare.

  • The 3xx codes were introduced somewhere in the 80`s. I have a 7.62x39 marked 88 and 323.

Hey I just bought these Romanian 7.62x54R silvertips in the headstamp says 21/78 what does this mean

dh, welcome here!
It means that you most likely got Hungarian made LPS ones.

Are any of the top row of cartridges in 7.62x25?

Oh okay because the the rapper that they were in says they are Romanian that’s why I was wondering why I can’t find the head stamp that fits it.

No they are all 7.62x54r I checked it wouldn’t be surprising if they were incorrectly labeled.

However, the top row all look to be rimless cases.

They are all 7.62x39mm.