South African 7.62x51mm


#1

I recently acquired this RSA box. The cartridge is headstamped A (+) 74 7.62. Bullet is GM M80 style. Case is brass with a brass primer and purple primer seal. Lot number is Lot 117-74

Two questions - what (if any) is the significance of the NATO symbol on the case head (RSA was never a member of NATO) and why is the box labelled Ball M59 when the bullet is clearly an M80 equivalent?

NATO Dave


#2

I don’t know why the NATO symbol on RSA ammunition, but I would suspect the M59 is just the older standard ball round with a slightly heavier and longer bullet than the M80, having a steel core. Maybe the circle-cross simply means it meets NATO specs, in case that information is ever required for some reason. Have you tried a magnet on the bullet?


#3

Dennis
The bullets do not have a steel core (do not attract a magnet) and are comparable to a standard M80 bullet in both dimension and weight (I should have made this clear in my original post). This is the mystery - why is a “M80” ball round in a box labeled M59? One thought is that the M59 designation has a different meaning in RSA, but this pure speculation.
With regard to the use of the NATO circle-cross, RSA used this briefly in the mid 70’s.

NATO Dave


#4

Might also have been for an export contract that specified Nato-spec and M59 characteristics.


#5

My guess is like jonnyc’s - -manufactured for export or for a contract. But, that still doesn’t explain the bullet designation which is obviously incorrect. Maybe RSA simply did not know the difference between the M59 and M80? Even amongst collectors it’s easy to confuse the two, especially when they are manufactured with GMCS jackets.

Just my SWAG.

Ray


#6

Manufacture for export is a valid assumption, but for whom? The label (Rnd=Round, Ball, Lot) suggests that if it is for military export, it would likely be to an English-speaking clientele. And would the military forces of the US, GB, Canada, or Australia buy military ammunition from the RSA? I wouldn’t think so. Or maybe in the RSA, they didn’t know the difference between the M59 and the M80. And perhaps they are just selling old surplus product on the world market.


#7

Rhodesia?


#8

There is a Forum in South Africa

http://www.gunsite.co.za/forums/forum.php/

It is mostly shooters, but perhaps someone there can answer your question.

Cheers,
Lew


#9

Where is Will?


#10

If the round was made for export, then jonnyc’s suggestion of Rhodesia is a distinct possiblity. While looking through back issues of the RSA Cartridge Collectors Association, I came across a picture of another South African box using the M59 designation. Interestingly, this was for linked ammunition (4 Ball M59 to 1 Tracer G.R1M1). Unfortunately no headstamps were provided. Of note is the use of mixed designations - NATO and the RSA system.

NATO Dave


#11

I can only say for definite that the NATO symbol ammo here in South Africa is not common - it was not our service ammo, so I can only assume it was an export contract (probably not Rhodesia, they got our service ammo and also it would be more common here, as a lot of that ammo found its way down here).

Unfortunatly at the time it was “War time”, records as to who this would have been for would have been secret and as the previous government would not have wanted the current government to know who they had supplied, these records have probably been destroyed. A lot of this ammo seems to be turning up in the USA, is it not possible to find out where it came from?


#12

[quote=“NATODave”]I recently acquired this RSA box. The cartridge is headstamped A (+) 74 7.62. Bullet is GM M80 style. Case is brass with a brass primer and purple primer seal. Lot number is Lot 117-74

Two questions - what (if any) is the significance of the NATO symbol on the case head (RSA was never a member of NATO) and why is the box labelled Ball M59 when the bullet is clearly an M80 equivalent?

NATO Dave[/quote]

Dave,

Do you think this is a SA style box for the era, or an FN made box. I have a feeling and some published information, that FN might have made this ammo for SA.

Joe


#13

Dave, is it possible to post a photo of the headstamp?


#14

Let me take a look through my RSA box collection (and FN from this period) and notes on RSA 7.62mm ammunition. I’ll post my conclusions and a photo of the headstamp in the next couple of days.

NATO Dave


#15

I’ve reviewed both my collection and files on South African 7.62x51mm ammunition from the 70’s and the M59 box is not consistent with other RSA boxes of this era nor is the M59 designation. Pre-1973, Pretoria Metal Pressings used the designation Ball MK 1 or Ball A1. From 1973 onwards, the manufacturer was designated by the letter A which in turn used Ball R1M1. Examples of the labels are shown below:

The only other example of RSA-associated ammunition using the M59 designation is a label shown in a old RSA Cartridge Collectors Association newsletter for linked ammunition using Ball M59 lot 5/76 (no headstamp shown).

With regard to the use of (+) in the headstamp, examples dated 74, 75 and 76 (is this lot 5/76?) exist. Shown below are 74 and 75 alongside the usual 74 headstamp (An FN-made cartridge is included for comparison).

As already stated the A (+) 7.62 cartridge is not an M59 despite the box label (it does not have a steel core). The casemouth is sealed with a black tar like material that I’ve seen on other RSA ammuntion from this era and the powder type and charge is consistent with other RSA ball ammunition from the 70’s. Interestingly, unlike other RSA 7.62mm ammunition which use staked primers, the primer on this cartridge has a ring crimp (the A (+) 75 7.62 and A (+) 76 7.62 cartridges also have staked primers).

Careful comparison of the headstamps suggest that the A (+) 74 7.62 has more in common in style to the A 74 7.62 R1M1 than FN-made cartridges. However, I’m looking at just one box of 20 cartridges!

So back to the question, was the M59 box and its contents made in South Africa for internal use or possible export, or was it made by third party for South Africa? I don’t have an definite answer, but tend to favor made in RSA for export.

NATO Dave


#16

David,
I didn’t really notice before, but my first thought when I looked at the box pics tonight, was that the purple stamped “LOT 117-74” had a very Israeli look to it. Take that for what you will.


#17

Dave,

Is the actual construction and folds in the two boxes you pictured the same or different?

Joe


#18

I have just re-read what I posted & I see I was not very clear, when I wrote it I assumed everyone knew. It was definitely made in South Africa, no question or shadow of a doubt. The only thing in question is for whom… Not for local consumption nor for Rhodesia. At the time there was an arms embargo going on so nobody really wanted to be associated with South Africa with regards to ammo, either selling (some did come in via Israel & Austria) or buying.


#19

Will
Thanks for clarifying this.

NATO Dave