Sellier & Bellot 9mm Luger - Steel core?



Does anybody know the 9mm Luger bullet made by Sellier & Bellot that you can see in the picture? I am interested mainly in that if it is steel core or not.

Thank you in advance



Use a magnet :)


A magnet is no help with the CNCS jackets of these rounds. At one time, I would have said they were probably all lead core. However, on this Forum, we learned that there are some Sellier & Bellot commercially-headstamped 7.65 mm Browning cartridges, from, I believe, the same general era as the 9 mm shown, that have steel cores. Perhaps Lew knows. One of these days, I will search my dupes and if I have a duplicate of this, I will cut into it.

I wish I was good at sectioning. There are probably one to two hundred auto pistol cartridges I would like to section to find out bullet construction and have them presentable as a permanent record. When I get thru cutting into these, I throw them away, because no one would want to admit to be as poor at doing it as the finished product of my labor would reveal.

John Moss


That one shown probably is not steel core based on that headstamp, at least I haven’t seen that headstamp on a cartridge with a steel core bullet. It’s usually the older “ZV 56” or other “ZV” stamp[s with mid 1950’s dates, or the 50 2 * type stamp from earlier variations. The ZV types usually have a copper clad bullet though, while the CNCS types with steel core were usually the early type (type 23): [img][/img]

If you have multiple examples of the cartridge just pull a bullet and melt the core with a torch to find out.


A good magnet and some experience should be sufficient to determine the difference between a steel core and a steel jacket.

Since the steel core weighs less than a lead core, there should also be a noticable decrease in the overall weight of the round.

But I have to agree with John Moss: Nothing beats a good disection.


Vlim - I agree that a good magnet - actually a set of magnets of different strengths - can tell the difference between a steel core and a steel jacket, but only if the jacket itself is not steel. In that case, holding a very weak magnet at the very tip of the bullet will usually reveal whether the jacket is magnetic or not. If it does not pull to the weak magnet at the tip, but it does to a magnet placed on the side of the bullet, you can bet the core is steel and the jacket is CN or GM (non-magnetic). If the jacket is steel, I have never been able to discern the core material with a magnet.

Weighing is a good suggestion, but even then, if the factory wished to retain a specific bullet weight, usually 7.5 or 8 gram in commercial 9 mm Para (until the ultra light, and then the 147 grain bullets became popular, which took much longer in Europe than in the US), then of course, weighing is no help. Wish I had a good X-Ray machine, and a place to put it. Out of my financial league though. Even then, if the steel core is sheathed in a lead envelope, like they usually are, no definitive answer is obtained by X-Ray.

John Moss


My recommendation would be to weigh the loaded round. A general rule of thumb is that a 124gr load, brass case weighs about 190gr or a bit more. Case weight between manufacturers can vary a good deal.

This means a 115gr bullet will weigh about 180gr or a bit more.

An iron core bullet along the German mE design loaded in a brass is going to weigh about 170gr. As shown in DKs posting there are two different core styles. The loaded iron core rounds I just checked vary from about 165gr to 173gr and group around those two numbers. I suspect that some are the small core (and heavier weight) and some are the large mE style core.

The color of the bullet jacket doesn’t seem to mean anything. The first round I grabbed was a Ni jacket and weighted 192gr. Most of the GM jacket loads weigh down in the iron core range.

I see your round has been drilled and the powder dumped so the weights will be a bit less in all cases.

Vlim is more talented than I am. I have never been able to find a combination of magnets and technique that lets me reliabily identify a steel/iron core from a steel jacket on German and similar ammo. There just isn’t enough lead in the front of the bullet (in most cases none) to allow that. There are steel/iron core loads with the core back a bit and GM jackets where I can tell the difference, but if it is a steel jacket (which the Czech rounds are) then I’m lost.

Weighing has worked well for me with Lots of stuff, but of course there are iron/steel core loads where the bullet design also adds volume so the overall bullet is still 124gr or 115gr so weighing will not work.

I guess we should all buy X-Ray machines!



X-Ray machines aren’t the answer either in this case. Most steel-core bullets have at least some lead between the core and the inner surface of the bullet jacket. That makes the core pretty invisible to most X-Ray machines that any individual would own, and perhaps to any X-Ray machine. I don’t know anything about them, but do know that past attemps to X-Ray bullets to get a photo of the core have not been fruitful for me. Of course, I didn’t do them myself. I would not know how to even turn on an X-Ray machine.

John Moss


The S&B 9mm we used to buy were steel jacket but not steel core. Steel cores wouldn’t have been legal in Britain anyway. Usually packed in boxes of 25 years ago.
They went to copper jacket, but still silver in colour about the same time as they went to boxer primer and packaging changed to 50. About 15 years ago now.

IMO they were the most accurate 9mm ammo commercially available, and the cheapest. Good feeding and totally reliable. We bought tons of them.


I have a couple of 1950s Czech 9mm rounds. Out of curiosity, about 20 years ago I clamped them in a vise and attacked with a hacksaw. It cut so easily through the bullets that at the time I figured they must be lead core. The sectioned bullets looked like lead core, too, so I put them in storage and forgot about them.

Perhaps 10 years later I had occasion to look at them again, and by then the lead sheathing had turned noticeably darker, making it apparent they did have steel cores after all.


The fact is these are not steel cores! These are mild IRON cores that were used to save lead, not to make an AP bullet. Even as mild iron, they are pretty good at punching holes. There are steel core 9mm bullets but the German WWII and post war Czech are not steel-unless someone knows something I have not heard of. There is a record of the Germans making a 9x19mm load in WWI with a steel core, but nobody has ever seen one to the best of my knowledge.




Lew - thanks for clarifying that. Most of us know it, but some don’t, and we should not be so sloppy in our usage. I call them steel cores all the time, and they are NOT, just as you said. It confuses the issue for those that don’t know, and shouldn’t be done. Sorry about that.

John Moss


Thank you very much to all of you. I took it to pieces. It is not steel core.

Best regards,