Small Arms Ammunition in Libya

G’day all,

As several of you are aware, I was working last year on a report on SAA identified in Libya. It has recently been released, and is available here: … -Libya.pdf

Nice report! The unknown 7.62x39 with 74 headstamp looks like 68 over 74, and would be East German I believe, from 1968.

Matt, any chance you could tell the page?

The summary table on page 38, I believe. The headstamp is too unclear to include a guess in the report.

Despite the bad image it looks like a “60”.

I think it’s probably a ‘60’ also, but I wasn’t about to guess in the report!

Great report,many thanks

Charles.J.Wells (Jack)
Sgm. USA. Ret.

Great information. Please can you confirm the headstamp of the 7.62x51mm cartridge shown in photo 11. It’s a 4 position headstamp (+) 7.62 81 ?? but I can’t be sure from the photo what the missing characters are.


looks like if you can get 9x18 ammo over there you could make a boat load of money

cool info!!!

Very interesting report.

Did the Libyan police / military never have many pistols if the ammunition was so hard to find?

Was there no 7.62x25 Tokarev found there?


I’ve certainly seen more images of handguns than I have of handgun calibre ammunition. Most of what we saw were FN Herstal Browning Hi-Power pistols. I also saw a few PM pistols, but only one TT-33.

Whilst certainly rare (as you can see from the pricing info), I believe handgun ammunition was slightly under-represented in the report.

I have concerns regarding the conclusion that the ‘352’ head stamped cartridges are Chinese in origin. In the absence of images of the packaging that directly confirms the contents are in fact Chinese, these are my observations that suggest origin other than China:

  1. The red colored sealants are not typical of that used by China. Thiers tend to be more pink or dark maroon in color. The red color seen in the pics is more consistent with that used by East Bloc countries.

  2. The copper color of the cases is also more consistent with that of East Bloc countries. Chinese copper clad steel cases generally have a lighter, more washed appearance.

  3. The factory code itself is very uncommon and may only be coincidental with the one actual Chinese 7.62x39mm (dummy) cartridge with this factory code that has been verified to my knowledge.

  4. The lack of a year in the head stamp on several of the specimens is not typical of Chinese production. Year only, no head stamp at all or entirely fake head stamps are more typical of Chinese origin.

  5. The 20 round box of ball cartridges says East Bloc origin. Chinese 7.62x39mm ammunition is typically packaged in paper wrappers.

  6. The tip closure on the blank cartridge has 6 petals, consistent with East Bloc origin. Chinese blanks typically have an 8 petal closure and a more angular profile, and again the tip sealant color is not typical Chinese…

My conclusion based on 25+ years of collecting 7.62x39mm and having examined and handled thousands of specimens is that these cartridges were made in the USSR/Russia, Bulgaria or Hungary with fake head stamps to get around the embargo. It does not make sense for the Chinese to go to great lengths to make cartridges that look East Bloc in origin only to use their own factory code.

I would like to hear what others have to say about my observations. Hans?


AKMS, I have seen 7.62x39 rounds headstamped 352 and in my opinion there is no doubt that they are Chinese, and I’m sure that if you ever have the chance to take a quick look at these you will have the same opinion as me. All your observations are correct, but these don’t seem to include rounds of recent manufacture, of which we know very little. For example, a red colored sealant is very typical of recent Chinese autopistol cartridges.

I knew that a lot of 1891 Carcano rifles and carbines were used in Lybia but I am surprised to see that most of the ammunition found was made in 1936.

One has to wonder if there was other circumstantial evidence as to origin when the identification was originally made, such as being found in a shipping container or truck full of other Chinese munitions of known origin, or some other documentation or anything? RogueAdventuruer may know.

I personally think it is quite unreliable to try to identify cartridges by various color tones and shades regarding seals, cartridge-case finishes, etc., from photographs. Unless a photograph is processed, be it on film or digital, with the item itself also in hand, and a color guide used to make adjustments in the printing process in a “darkroom” or on the computer, the color tones in photos can vary wildly depending on exposure or lighting. Even with a perfectly processed photo, it can also be affected by the printing process of the book or report itself.

Regarding colored seals, I have two Chinese Makarov rounds, earlier than the one in question, with red primer seals. I have “81 66” with an all-red primer. One could say that having the entire primer covered is atypical of Chinese ammo, as they usually just have a colored-ring around the edge around the circumfrence of the primer. In fact, for “81” code Makarov rounds, “66” is the only year observed so far that has any colored seals. It has no mouth seal.

I also have “71 84” in 9 x 18 mm from China. It has a red primer and case-mouth seal, the only year from this arsenal’s 9 x 18 mm production observed to date to have any visible seals. The red tone is pretty much identical to Russian rounds in my collection. The all-red primer of the “81 66” round is somewhat darker, but then the lacquer is very thick and that changes the perception of its color from that where the lacquer is applied in a very thin coat. It is not violet, purple or the like however. In fact, it is very close to that on Bulgarian 9 x 18 mm cartridges.

While I can not speak for 7.62 x 39, Chinese pistol ammo has been since the Korean War, in boxes that are pretty much the same as those of Russia and some other Bloc countries. They differ in some small details, but are generally the same in size, shape and content (70 rounds for 7.62 x 35, 16 rounds for 9 x 18, etc… Very current pistol ammunition is in boxes as well, although from pictures, I would say that they are not especially like those from ex-Warsaw Pact countries.

Further, color tones on case finishes and on seals can vary with the manufacturer, so it does little good, I think, to compare a photo of these “352” rounds with rounds from other Chinese manufactuers, in my view.

At any rate, I think to make observations on this ammo based on various color tones should wait until we have specimens of 7.62 x 39 and 9 x 18 from “352” in our collections. Don’t I wish - : - ( !!!

AKMS, as for #5:
The Chinese also used cardboard boxes which even were marked in Chinese.

EOD, I’ve never seen a Chinese 7.62x39mm box… Makarov, yes, Tokarev, I think so…

Valid counter points to some of my observations. Would someone be able to show a Chinese 7.62x39mm blank with a 6 petal crimp instead of the usual 8 petal crimp…?


I can’t get to them for pics, but I have two rounds that might add to the discussion:
31 64; Grenade Blank, 6 petal crimp, copper-washed steel case, brass primer.
61 62; Grenade Blank, 6 petal crimp, copper-washed steel case, brass primer, black crimp seal. I have this last one ID’d in my log as “Egypt, on PRC case”.

[quote=“AKMS”]EOD, I’ve never seen a Chinese 7.62x39mm box… Makarov, yes, Tokarev, I think so…


One is here on E-Gun - the box is not for sale though: