Studies on French ammunitions 1945-1975


Extract of the following book : LES ARMEMENTS DE PETITE ET MOYEN CALIBRE TOME 8.1 LES ARMEMENTS D’INFANTERIE par l’ingénieur général Michel Rogier

This study concerns the period 1945-1975.
[color=#FF0000]The translation was realized by means of a software translation system and contains certainly of numerous errors.

Caliber 9 mm ammunition

The difficult naturalisation of a developed German cartridge in 1902 !

The ammunition of 9 mm is international ammunition which is used in the whole world in the majority of the automatic pistol and submachine-gun.
It was developed by Georg Lüger at DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabrik).
It was manufactured, as of the end of war 14/18, in France, by the Société Française de Munition (SFM). These cartridges were of the type “Parabellum International”.
As of the liberation, in 1944, the ATS manufactured identical cartridges, reproducing items recovered, and intended for beings fired in English submachine-gun STEN.
The ATS, on the basis of these items, drew up the first table of official construction and dated 8 November 1946.
This ammunition has much advanced and, on the international level, has characteristics variable. Only Stanag NATO 4090 allows obtaining an operational interchangeability in NATO weapons. Some outstanding features of ammunitions of several countries allow assessing the differences:
Belgium : mass bullet : 8g V0 = 365m/s
France : : 8g V0 = 396m/s
German Federal Republic : : 8g V0 = 360m/s
Italy : : 8g V0 = 305m/s
Sweden : : 7,6g V0 = 396m/s
United Kingdom : : 7,45g V0 = 396m/s

One can also note that the pressures in the chamber, times of ignition of the powder, as well as the shapes of projectiles are factors which influence operation in the weapons with automatic power supply, and especially in the automatic guns.
The ammunition with ordinary bullet (balle O) is used operationally. There exist also which trace ammunitions to materialise the trajectory and to guide the firing. But taking into account the range the weak combat (50 with 100 m), its utility is discussed. Lastly, some attempts at target penetrating missiles were performed, especially by the Germans, without much success. By account, the ammunitions with white are very employed for the instruction and the training.

This ammunition, for only anti-personnel function, was used as a basis for the study and the development of all the cartridges of 9 mm. The purpose of these studies and this development were, at the beginning and during the amendment of the systems of weapons (for example adaptation of new weapons), to define the changes to be applied:

  • To obtain correct operation in the weapons, all the conditions of use,
  • To allow simplifications of manufacture,
  • To answer the new national or international constraints (NATO).

As it is mentioned above, the technical performance definition and of the table of construction comes from comparison tests achieved with the cartridges ATS, of the US and German cartridges. These tests allowed establishing the table of construction of 1946.
The basic cartridge, definite in 1946, underwent many amendments which translate its change but while remaining always interoperable, operation in the French weapons is the PM Modèle 49 and the PA Modèle 50 front respected being.
These changes, developed below, were made on the following parts: the bullet, the case, the primer, powder and the installed cartridge. They were initiated by engineering departments DEFA/ST/ARM, ETVS then ETBS as well as by the ATS, ATE, AVE, ALM, LCA (for the lacquering of the cases steel for example) and private SFM, Etablissement Rey Nîmes, as well as the Cartoucherie Française (CF) for the primers.

Main developments

In 1947, the tests of the German sintered iron bullet intended to reduce the wear of the tubes have duct the LCA to achieve bullets which abandoned because it weak armour-piercing capacity were obtained with this kind of projectile.
Other studies on the bullets did not succeed. They related to the protection of the bullets with jacket steel protected by zinc-plating or lacquering. Lacquering was satisfying but zinc-plating did not ensure a sufficient protection. Lacquering has not been chosen probably for reasons of cost and difficulty of manufacture.
The lead bullet core and jacket brass were thus kept.

As for the bullet, the nature of the matter and the protection against oxidation were the subject of many studies.
The resistance of the cases during the firings in the weapons with not fixed breech with led to adapt a bottom and a shoulder sufficiently thick. This constraint decreases the capacity available for the powder and has as a consequence a too high pressure with the sharp powders used. Also a compromise had to be required. Department ST/ARM defined in 1950 a plan of case which gave a capacity of 0.5cm ³ instead of 0.56. This case has is satisfying, especially achieved out of steel, and was adopted.
The cases steel, by their sensitivity to be fragilised with the ageing (slots and bursting), gave some problems but it seems that the case brass was preferred especially for these facilities of manufacture and it’s less low cost.
The protection of the case steel still complicated its manufacture (case zinc-plated ATS in 1954 and varnish by special machine LCA at the ATE in 1959). The definition of the lacquer generated much of discussed between the partisans lacquer ATE and lacquer LCA for example !
Some attempts at achievement of light alloy cases did not lead in consequence of their bad behaviour to the firing (cases in Zicral alloy and Dural FR, of the AVE).

With the powder, the primer is the item which gave the most difficulties for its refinement. Moreover, these two items form an indissociable torque of which have is able to perform not to vary one of the parts without the assembly being affected; that limit enormously technical solutions.
In 1947, the directives given by the engineering departments were to unify the primers for the ammunitions of handgun (7.65C . 7.65L and 9 mm). For reasons explained previously this company was a failure.
The primer with fulminate, chlorate or not, remained for a long period the primer of 9 mm (until in 1987). It gave relatively satisfaction especially in mother country because the chemical stability of fulminate is bad above 50°C, which makes impossible its use under the tropical conditions. It has also the reputation to be corrosive. Also the study of a primer called to styphnate (trinito resorcinate of lead or abroad (styphnate of lead)) was asked very early.

Primer with styphnate
The ECP (Ecole Centrale Pyrotechnique de Bourges) selected the compositions which were achieved and tested by the ATS. The n°4 compositing was selected. In 1951, ST/DEFA/MU launched a general study for replacement of the compositions to the mercury fulminate (salpetre 2.1.1 and chlorate 5.9.9) for the primers Modèle 24A and Modèle 50 (7.5 and 7.62 L49 ) and of 4.5 (9 and 7.65). The ATS distributed the results of this study on 27 September 1955. It leads for 9 mm to the choice of the composition known as “M 8 1 Ba”. The refinement of the primer continued in 1956 and its provisional adoption was marked. In July 1957, of ignitions to the window of ejection of the PM Modèle 49 initiated the stop manufacture.
A new composition was prepared in 1958 by the ATS (without calcium silicide) known as “n°3 composition”. The primer was adopted in 1960 under the designation “Amorce de 4,5mm Modèle 60S”. It also was manufactured by establishments Rey in Nîmes.
The experimental batch of cartridges installed by the ATE showed a too large sensitivity of the priming system (July 1960) and was not accepted. The ATS showed a study of adjustment of the sensitivity. This problem was all the more difficult as the measurement equipment was currently in the change process. The first tests carried out in 1955 were achieved with a mass of drop of 325g which passed in 1959 to 111,7g (conditions NATO Stanag 4090). New problems of coincidence will appear when mass NATO will be range with 55g in 1963. The operating mode of tests has also advanced of 1950 to 1963 “cumulated frequencies, graphical method of Henry method known as American”. In parallel, the choice of the spherical powder to define the cartridge to be presented to NATO will cause new difficulties.
All these problems led to the abandonment of the solution “styphnate” which will be restarted only in the 80s.

Primer with fulminate
After the failure of the solution unified for the calibres 9/7,65 the definition of the primer underwent many amendments caused by the various difficulties encountered is :

  • Failures of percussion,
  • Powder change,
  • Drilling of the protection of waterproof,
  • Change of definition (chlorate or covered with salpetre),
  • Too large sensitivity in consequence of a departure in crate.

This incident, which was never charged besides with certainty to the squib, will lead the user to seek a weak sensitivity which will pose much problem to meet the requirements NATO and, to later ensure compatibility with the foreign automatic pistol low energy of percussion.

The cartridge of 9 mm request a fast burning powder which allows a fast combustion taking into account the short barrel of the gun of the weapons and the operation principles used (cylinder heads not fixed in majority).
The first powder used in 1946 was powder NZ Stb.P (0,7x0,7) recuperated in Germany then the powder T bis of the 22LR and finally the powder B.Ba (0.4) D1.
Some tests were achieved with the spherical powder of the powder mill of Angoulême without much success (powder G B Se (0.2)). These powder samples had a bad ballistic stability. The B.Ba powder was thus used until the accident of the powder mill of Pont de Buis in 1975.
In order not to stop manufacture of cartridges, the spherical powder was again retention and adopted with an amendment initial velocity of the projectile (V10 = 415m/s instead of 385m/s) giving a stronger load of use to thus improve the coefficient of filling the ignition of the powder.

The difficulties encountered concern the problems of waterproof, protection, sensitivity and behaviour of the bullet on the case.
The incidents which gave the most difficulty in their resolution are :

  • Failures of percussion,
  • Bad ignitions giving of the bullet locked in the gun of the weapons or the bursting,
  • Cartridges without powder due to incidents of loadings out of automatic machine.

Which tracer bullet knew a very short life. From 1948 to 1951, the tests of bullets AVE and ATS showed a defect of conservation of the compositions of tracing. In spite of the studies made by the ATS on stability, this kind of ammunition was abandoned. Its operational utility was not very obvious.

Various ammunitions

Target ammunition
The ATE studied ammunition of competition which was adopted under the designation “9 mm de compétition Modèle F1”.

Rougeron chief engineer invented a cartridge of 9 mm whose bullet was “semi-autopropulsée”. A powder block SD of 0,5g and a nozzle are placed in the jacket of the bullet. The mass of the bullet was of 4,6g and its velocity of 500m/s. The ignition of the powder block was very erratic and the very irregular efficiency. The project was abandoned.

Foreign cartridges
A market of compensation had passed with the Austrian company Hirtenberg. These cartridges were tested by the STA and the ETBS and were satisfying.
Cartridges German, British, American and Canadian were also tested. It is starting from these tests which one realised that the differences in characteristics of the ammunitions while being adjacent, could cause operating problems in the weapons, and in particular the shape of projectile (load incidents) or the initial velocity of the projectiles (insufficient drop).

NATO ammunition
Stanag 4090 defined by NATO, group AC 116, at summer approved by the EMA on 24 July 1964 by letter 5083/EMA-3/ARMET.
The French engineering departments, from 1959, had already launched the study of the definition of the cartridges complying with the specifications NATO (no corrosive primer and powders spherical). Difficulties were encountered to find a torque powder-primer answering these specifications.
In 1964, the cartridge ATS charged powders GB.Se (0.3) 526 A61 and composed of a case with capacity of 0.580 mm ³ started with the primer Modèle 64 was satisfying with STA tests. The proposal for a preliminary assessment by the Agence Nationale d’Essais du Mans (ANE), before presentation in the regional Centre European of Cold Mess (GB), was put forth in May 1964 by note n° 4665 EMAT-3/ARMET of 7 July 1964 pronounced the adoption of the cartridge Modèle 64 complying with the specification NATO.
The ATS makes reserves on the possibility of holding these specifications in manufacture of series, with regard to effort of tearing of the bullet, the behaviour of the case to the test with Mercury nitrate and the compatibility of the powder GB.Se (0.3) with the cartridge thus defined. The test of 6 January 1965 showed the bad behaviour of the powder to the tests of ballistic stability.
The attempt at return to the B.Ba powder for this cartridge NATO was a failure.
After a period rather long of sleep, department ASA/INF restarted the business via the ATE, in 1971, without much success since France still did not have a certified cartridge NATO .

Similar turbulences have affected the reproduction by France of American cartridges, become standard NATO :

  • 7.62 N (7.62 T65 derived from the cartridge of hunting Winchester .308), used in the AA 7.62 N F1 and the FR F2 ,
  • 5.56 (derived from the cartridge of hunting Winchester .223) used in the FAMAS .

Cartridges for rifles and collective weapons

In 1945, France was equipped mainly with the weapons tie-rod the cartridge with 7,5 or 7,62x63 (30-06 Springfield). These ammunitions were part of the generation among the two wars intended to be used in the individual weapons firing into step-by-step. They had the following outstanding features:

  • Mass of the bullet included between 9 and 11g,
  • V0 about 800m/s,
  • Total weight between 25 and 30g.

If they agreed for the weapons with repetition or semi-automatic, they were not easily usable in the individual weapons tie-rod by gust whose mass was included between 4 and 5kg. And this, for two reasons :

  • Her momentum of the ball returned moves back it very important and prohibited the effective firing by gust; let us state was poor with the firing with the shoulder or the hip,
  • The rise of the consumption of munitions required an important overload out of cartridges or, for a normal carriage, firing capability was very reduced.

This fact has duct the design offices to seek ammunitions compatible with these requirements.
The USSR developed the 7,62x39 very inspired of the 7.92 Kurz (7,92x33) of the “Sturmgewehr” but of a mass still too important. This channel was also explored by France of 1946 to 1954 appointed intermediate or average cartridge. L’atelier de fabrication de Valence (AVE) and Le Mans (ALM), the LCA (Bertin bullet) and the Manurhin company also took part in this research. Weapons prototypes were also achieved by the Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Etienne (MAS).
The Americans turned towards ammunitions with light bullet and high V0 cartridge kind of hunting .22 Remington. They chose the 223 Remington which became the 5.56. They sought very advantageous ammunitions caseless on the plan balance weight, but without success because of the “cook off” or self-ignition with a hot chamber. The USA had also achieved the light weapon system “US carbine 30 M1” which fires a cartridge of 7,62x33 with cylindrical case and bullet with round nose end of 7 g and 600 m/s of V0. An automatic version was used in Korea. Count held as of its low anti-personnel effectiveness this kind of armament was abandoned.

France used after 1945 the following ammunitions :

  • US cartridges .30-06 baptized 7,62L Modèle 49, in US rifles Modèle 1903 and 1917, Garand, FM BAR and the machine guns Modèle 1919 A4; the cartridges made in France were derived from the American ammunitions,
  • US cartridges carbines M1, baptized 7.62K Modèle 50,
  • Cartridges 7.5 Modèle 29 in their various versions used in rifles MAS 36 and 36/51, the FSA 44, 49, 49/59, FM Modèle 24/29, the machine guns Modèle 31 and 39 and the AA Modèle 52,
  • Cartridges 7.62 NATO, from 1954 onwards, for fired in the prototypes of self-loading rifles and the AA Modèle F1,
  • Cartridges of 5.56 from 1964 onwards, whose manufacture started in 1975 and who are the ammunitions of the FAMAS Modèle F1.

Only the ammunitions of 7.5 Modèle 29, 7.62 NATO and 5.56 will be the subject of a more detailed examination, because these cartridges required important studies and refinements.

Caliber 7.5 Modèle 1929 ammunition

It was adopted in 1924, and then modified in 1929 by reduction length of case of 4 mm, to prohibit the use of the German cartridges in the French weapons. It undergoes few amendments to the war of 1939. In 1946, its manufacture was taken over from the ATS in its version with case brass.

The need for reconstituting the stock of war has duct the EMAT to pass from many orders. All the French cartridge factories took part in the manufacture of these cartridges :

  • State cartridge factories : ALM, ATE, ATS, AVE,
  • Private cartridge factories : SFM, MR of Le Mans before 1950, TLH (Tréfilerie et Laminoir of Le Havre), establishments Rey of Nimes, SMI of Marseilles, Luchaire of Flers.

This ammunition was manufactured in the following versions :

  • Ball cartridge 7.5 O (ordinaire) Modèle 29C,
  • Tracer cartridge 7,5 T (traçante) Modèle 58 and G 59,
  • Armor-piercing cartridge 7.5 P (perforante) Modèle 49,
  • Armor-piercing tracer cartridge 7.5 TP (traçante perforante) Modèle 49,
  • Rifle grenade without bullet,
  • Short range cartridge firing with bullet plastic,
  • Blank cartridge with wood or paper or plastic bullet (reproduction of the Norwegian patent Ringdal).

Many studies were achieved to improve the quality and the manufacturing costs of these cartridges, as well as pure to make progress the technology of the cartridges of small gauge. It is useful to recall that during nearly ten years (of 1945 to 1953), the cartridges of 7.5 was the basic ammunition of the French system.
These studies were led by the miscellaneous cartridge producers on the complete cartridge as well as on the main items :

  • Bullet,
  • Case,
  • System powder-primer; it is essential to associate these two components taking into account the interdependence of their characteristics.

Since 1946, ETVS made the synthesis of the studies on the cadmium-coated steel jackets, copper nickelled, nickelled and parkerized paraffined, drawn up by the Manufacture d’Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) in 1936 and 1937.
The ATE achieved in 1948, has the request of the DEFA/FAB, the bullets with jacket plated cupronickel, gilding metal and bonderized steel. The latter, extra-soft steel was less barrel wear but anti-corrosion protection was ineffective; lacquering was envisaged.
Mr Guy Robert had already achieved in 1945 pure iron bullet the principle of which was already known and which had been the subject of achievement before 1939. This process interesting from the point of view of the manufacture runs up against the same problem of anti-corrosion protection. This kind of bullet inspired by many researchers of 1945 to 1950.
The Manufacture de Levallois (MLS) achieved bullets single-piece steel following the process invented by M. Bernstein (GFR).
M. Bertin (Manurhin factory of Mans) took again the achievement of the Bernstein bullet, comparatively with the Manurhin bullet out of sintered iron. It also took again a former study on a single-piece middle steel bullet. The original study was made in 1939 at the Manurhin factory of Mans on 8 mm the Modèle 1898D , then re-used in 1941 and stopped in 1942 after the invasion of the free zone. All these studies were stopped in 1950 following the bad precisions noticed with the tests, as well with the ETVS as has the STA (practically doubled dispersion with regard to the cartridge in service).
The AVE studied in 1949 a bullet known as “semi-plastic”, consisted of brass jacket and a core cut off out of middle hard steel surrounded by lead. This organisation decreases the stiffness of the heart any steel and allows decreasing the wear of the bullet (bullet type R3 AVE). This kind of bullet was used for the cartridges with the gauge of 7,62N.
The French cartridge factories developed the use of steel in the manufacture of the cartridges, unlike the Anglo-Saxon country which use brass exclusively, and this for reasons of procurement in the event of crisis.
The steel and with steel jacket bullet were studied and achieved and improved manufacture. The problem to be solved was the protection against oxidation. The latter was achieved by cupronickel clad. The ALM studied in the 60s the lacquering of the balls by spraying. The problems of industrial achievement led to the abandonment of this process.
For reference, other processes of protection had been tested of 1946 to 1949 by the ATE :

  • VI.1 jackets out of cadmium-coated steel, coppered nickelled, nickelled and parkerized paraffined, achieved by the MAC in 1936,
  • VI.2 bonderized jackets.

The comparison tests with the bullets cupronickel clad and with jacket gilding metal led to the abandonment of these processes less which wear but of insufficient protection.
The bullet 24C used be the origin had a rather poor precision. The change of bullet was envisaged, especially for the cartridges intended to be fired in rifle of precision FR F1 .
Several solutions were assessed :

  • Bullet C and F in 1948 and N in 1949 achieved by the ATE which is be boat tail bullets with lead core FMJBT,
  • Bullet Modèle 61 of gauge 7.62 N with the cannelure compatible with the 7.5 (1963 to 1968),
  • Prototypes of hollow bullet to ATE and ALM (Is bullet type) in 1968.

The latter bullets gave excellent results but the conservation of the performances with the products of manufacture of series posed insoluble problems.
The high-performance bullets are valid only in manufacture of very small quantity (500 to 1000).
This assumption was confirmed by the manufacturers American.

Armour piercing
The armour piercing bullet was not manufactured after 1949 any more, its wear was too important.

Armour piercing tracer
The ATE, in 1954, achieved a which armour piercing bullet TP type 54 which gave good results but the little of operational interest of this kind of bullet (idem that armour piercing bullets) made give up this study.

The AVE improved the precision of the tracer bullets in 1952. The request of the users to lengthen the distance of tracing (800 m instead of 600 m), in order to achieve the same performances that the American bullets, led to entirely reconsider the organisation of the bullets T.
Two prototypes were adopted in 1960; the bullet T 58 A of AVE and the bullet G 59 of the SFM. The bullet T 58 A was manufactured by the three cartridge factories of state (the AVE, the ATE and the ALM).

Since 1946, manufacture was taken again by the ATS in the version brass case. It was necessary to take again the study of the cases in order to redefine the dimensions of the shoulder compatible with a correct operation with the firing and a satisfactory resistance.
Since 1947 manufacture turned towards the cases out of steel and in spite of some difficulties at the beginning of manufacture (1950/1951) the products manufactured gave whole satisfaction.
The ALM developed in 1964 the manufacture of the steel cases starting from the bar (process already used by the Manurhin establishments for the cartridges of 30 mm aircraft).
The ATE studied in 1950 brass cases achieved by extrusion according to a process describes by the l’Usine Nouvelle of the 22 and 29 December 1949. Tests ETVS were satisfactory. Refinement was to be continued.
Several attempts were made to replace steel or brass by materials lighter (the reduction of the cartridge was always a concern to increase the carriage of the soldiers) less expensive out of raw material or with manufacture.
From 1945 to 1950, an engineer of the navy, M. Chollat, invented and achieved plastic case cartridges, consisted a plastic shoulder fixed on head in duraluminum at the beginning and steel thereafter. This study was abandoned with the site of the bad resistance to the firing of these products. This solution was taken again by the SFM and the SMI (Paulet establishments in Marseilles) for blank cartridges which have internal pressures much lower (1000 bars instead of 3000).
The study of the light alloy cases was requested since 1945 from the ATE, in collaboration with l’Aluminium Français. Several solutions were tested, cases in :

  • VI.2 pure aluminium,
  • VI.3 scleral 3 and 5,
  • VI.4 dural FR,
  • VI.5 zicral.

All these versions gave ruptures, leaks, slots or are fusions (aluminothermy). The study was abandoned in August 1946.
Company ARMAG disseminated a note describing the manufacture of case light alloy following a Metalix process already used by the FN (National Factory Belgian in Herstal) and the DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Ammunition Fabriken AG in Karlsruhe) and valid for all gauges (of 7.5 with 40 mm). No action pursuant was taken.
The first years after the war were fertile in good intentions and new studies. By its note n° 3662 ST/DEFA/MU of 8 June 1948, the DEFA recalled its notes of 1947 requiring of the « Direction des Poudre » the study of combustible case cartridges, and gave the directives required for the achievement of this study. These correspondences did not have very in continuation.
In 1951, M. Niemann of C.E.A.M. (Centre of d’Etude de l’Armament de Mulhouse, future AME) disseminated a note on the German study of casless ammunition of the Adolf firm of Reutlingen. This solution was tempting but the process was too fragile.
The USA also studied similar solutions (note n° 328 of 10 December 1951 of the French military attaché in Washington).
On a purely anecdotic basis, a mission of the DEFA in FRG discovered an invention of M. Pluhar on ammunitions with combustible case But the mission nothing to bring back because the “Russians had taken everything” (speak M. Pluhar) !

Primer powders
The 7.5 cartridges were, at the origin, started with the primer with fulminate 2.1.1 Modèle 24A and charged B.Pa 90 powders former naming BFP1. This assembly was satisfying with the French conditions, but the American conditions and later NATO have duct the users to require higher performances in particular to remove the muzzle flash, to decrease the internal pressure variation between the normal temperature (+15° C and -54°C), as well as to reduce and regularise the duration of the rifle shot, especially at low temperature (time included between the percussion and the passage of the bullet to the mouth of the weapon).
These improvements have taken the DEFA and the Management of the Powder to be sought, starting from foreign and French solutions, of the products ready to meet these requirements.
The obvious interaction of the two products has duct the “Commission d’Etude des Poudre et Explosifs “ to create ones sub commission “Poudre-amorce”, to ensure coordination of the studies, at the end of the 1950s.
Several powder types were assessed of 1958 to 1960 :

  • Powder B.Pa 90 (0.3) with supplement of anti-gleams (potassium sulphate) - multitubular powder B.7T (0.3),
  • Monotubular powder B.TU smoothed with “centralite”,
  • Spherical powder G B Sp (50.5).

The mono and multitubular powders were abandoned because they gave very high rates and premature ruptures of the items in FM Modèle 24/29 and of fast wear in the FSA Modèle 49/56. The cartridges manufactured with powder B.7T (0.3) were reserved for firings in the automatic weapons Modèle 52. The speed of retreat of the mobile assemblies was increased of about 10%. The manufacture of the powder B.Pa 90 (0.3) was continued until the accident of “Poudrerie de Pont de Buis” in Brittany in 1975. We turned around towards the employment of the not very satisfactory but acceptable spherical powder consider held by important little of the manufacturing of 7,5 from 1973.
In the 60s, the primer Modèle 24A not very powerful was replaced by the primer Modèle 51 already used on artifices. These primer fulminates-chlorates 5.9.9 were indispensable to light correctly the biggest and smoothed powders.
In 1960 the primers with lead trinitrorésorcinate were also tested but considered to be not very compatible with the powders B.Pa (0.3) and B7.
In 1973, and within the framework of the analysis of the value, the ALM presented a primer to openwork anvil ATS associated with its case. The study was continued on the 7.62 NATO cartridges.

Special cartridges
Apart from the conventional cartridges, some original ideas were tested with various forms.

It was already mentioned previously case cartridges combustible or also called “ammunitions without case”. This solution is very difficult to develop because of very delicate interaction between the cartridge and the weapon. The case has a great utility because it is used as thermal screen during the combustion of the powder and moreover, during the ejection, it evacuates calories. This avoids a fast rise of the temperature of the chamber of the weapon, from where a reduction in the risk of self-ignition also called “cook off”. Currently, no portable weapon of this type is in service.

The ATE had achieved cartridges tie-rod several bullets (triplex and duplex bullet) in 1973, in order to increase the hit probability. This solution, already achieved in 1898, was given up, as at last century, because of its poor precision.

Armour piercing
The ATE had also achieved a single-piece armour piercing bullet with copper sabot with cylindrical assembly. The increase of performance of perforation was not significant. In 1985, the SFM presented, with the 12.7 cartridges (then 5.56 and 7.62 N), an identical system (PPI bullet patent LADRIERE). The sabot had a conical assembly giving a better adherence, which caused an improvement of the perforation of 30%.

Caliber 7.62 NATO ammunition

France was interested very early in the future cartridge of NATO. This cartridge derived from the cartridge of .308 Winchester was achieved by the USA and was designated at the origin under name 7,62 T65. The DEFA required of the LCA (Laboratoire Centrale de l’Armament) achieving the plans of this cartridge in order to allow French manufacture. The plans were disseminated on 28 November 1951.
The Cartoucherie de Valence (AVE) achieved in 1952 the first French cartridges derived from the US cartridges 7,62 T65 and complying with the plan disseminated by the LCA. It was called cartridge of 7.62 type 51 and was consisted of the following elements :

  • Bullet of 7.5 Modèle 24 C with the cannelure compatible for the 7.62,
  • Steel case AVE Modèle 51,
  • Primer Modèle 24 A of the 7.5,
  • Powder of the 7.5 B.Pa 90 (0.3).

This cartridge did not make it possible to obtain the performances of the US cartridges (energy in the too low mouth or too much raised pressure) in consequence of the bad adaptation of the powder B.Pa 90 (0.3) to this kind of cartridge. The US cartridges 7,62 T 65 had been assessed by the ETVS in April 1952 (batch n°6 FO 20528) in comparison with type 51 cartridge AVE.
The development of cartridge AVE continued in 1953. Batches 1, 3 and 9 AVE were tested with the ETVS. They were equipped with the news R3 bullet. Cartridges AVE were shipped with the USA. The American tests revealed a bad precision of the R3 bullet.
In 1954 it is noticed the first incidents (fastenings in chamber ) with the US cartridges T 65 during the firings in the AA Modèle 52 in version 7.62. Bondings were also noticed in American self-loading rifles prototypes T44 and T47, as well as in FM Modèle 24/29 in 7,62. Only el FSA 49 in 7,62 did not give of incident. All these incidents were caused by the low hardness of the shoulder, consequence of annealed carried out on too a great length. The Americans had achieved these annealed with the furnaces with gases intended for the cases of cartridges .30-06 much longer.
The hardness of the cases and the compatibility of the US, British and Canadian cartridges with the weapons automatic Modèle 52 in 7,62 and F1 Modèle thereafter, were the subject of discussions, of expertises and studies, which continued during long years.
In 1954, the Ottawa agreement made it possible to adopt Stanag 2310 NATO fixing the outstanding features of the cartridge of 7.62 N. All Stanag is applicable not that if it is accompanied by an handbook defining the tests of inspection and the equipment items to use to perform these tests. This handbook were disseminated in August 1957 under the designation “handbook of test and inspection of the cartridges 7.62 N AC 116 D 17” of 12 August 1957 which becomes AC 116 D 131 then AC 225 D 150 in consequence of the reorganisations of NATO.
The changes incorporated into the French cartridges to return them complying with the specifications NATO led to the definition of the cartridge of 7.62 Modèle 54. It had a bullet of 9,5g a Boxer primer and a case with only one central vent hole. The powder was not yet defined, but the spherical powder “Olin type” seemed most probable. These cartridges were useful in first for the development be the tests of the weapons.
The 1955s with 1958 go beings very active for all the cartridge factories which as well will present many prototypes of for cartridges ball, tracer and even armour-piercing.
The ETVS assessed cartridges coming from the AVE, ATE, SFM and even from the Manurhin establishments. It also tested compared to foreign cartridge ; Belgians FN, English L2A1, US Olin, Canadian, Portuguese and Israeli. As reciprocity, French cartridges were provided to the USA, in the United Kingdom, in Belgium and Israel to the IMI (Military Industries Israeli).
All these assessments and studies allowed defining French cartridge NATO :

  • E1 bullet,
  • Primer with styphnate,
  • Steel case,
  • Spherical powders.

Official name was fixed by the note n° 43883 EMA/ARMET of 16 October 1959, that is to say “cartridge 7.62 N Modèle 60”. It will become Modèle 61 the following year because of the change of bullet.
The ALM began its manufacture in 1960 with an order of 50,000 cartridges. The launch conditions of manufacture were defined during the meeting starting from 25 October 1960 with the DEFA Saint Cloud.
The tests of the foreign cartridges continued until in 1972 (Belgians, Allemandes, Austrian).
In June 1962 was worked out the project of the national acceptance conditions.
In 1963, the ETVS performed a comparison test of the measurement equipment items of the French pressures size 2 Modèle 55 and NATO of CERNA (American northern regional test range at fort Ten - Pennsylvania) in order to make the coincidence between the French values and NATO.
In August 1964 the verification of beginning of manufacture of the cartridges manufactured by the Société Méridionale d’Industrie de Marseilles (SMI) was realized.
Cartridge ALM was certified NATO in 1964 in its version 11a. The version charged out of crushed spherical powder GBSe (0.3) will be certified in 1968.
The table of construction of the French official cartridge will be prepared by service DEMAL of the ATE in 1968 and disseminated in its final version on 23 June 1971 under designation ATFM 24 B.

The bullet 24 C of the 7.5, used at the beginning, quickly was given up and replaced by heavier bullets and boat tail. The bullet R3 C or OT 54 B developed by the project engineer, the IMC Richard of the AVE, and the bullet OT 54 A of the ATE were until in 1962 the official bullets. They were replaced by bullet ALM OT 50Z of the ALM and adopted in 1962 under name O Modèle 61. The bullet Modèle 61 is made up of 2 parts : the jacket and the core of lead.
The bullet R 3 C consisted of three items (jacket, mild core steel and lead core). The advantage of this design was that with the same core steel, but treated, one obtained bullets to be able armour-piercing improved. The cost and more delicate manufacture led to give up this solution.
The ALM achieved on the 7.62 N of the tests of spraying of lacquer on the bullets with steel jacket. The difficulties of refinement have duct, as for the 7.5, with the abandonment of this process which had already been tested in 1963. The AVE had even achieved bullets with zinc-plated steel jacket.

Armour piercing
In 1954, the cartridge factories achieved which trace bullets developed starting from the armour piercing bullets 7.5 with the cannelure compatible for the 7.62 N.

Armour piercing tracer
At the same time, they also studied armour piercing tracer bullets :

  • Bullets TP 54 AVE and TP ATE in 1956,
  • Bullets TP54 AVE taken again then abandoned in 1962.

In 1960, the study of the bullets T showed and several bullets were competitions :

  • Bullets T ATE,
  • Bullets T 54 R AVE,
  • Bullets T 54 K 12 AVE,
  • Bullets T 659 SFM.

The bullet K 12 was retained and adopted under the naming Modèle 62.

France turned towards the manufacture of the steel cases enamelled already used in 7,5. The USA was immediately interested by this solution (request of the Ordinance in May 1952).
Cartridges AVE with case were delivered to Olin Mathison Chemical Corporation, end of 1957.
The case steel cartridges presented an advantage for the firing in the automatic weapon Modèle F1, with not fixed cylinder head. The brass cases because of their low hardness caused “fastenings” in the chamber. This has duct NATO to define a layer of hardness of the cases brass, in Stanag, modified in 1956 on demand of France.
The Luchaire company achieved in 1962, of the cases brass, manufactured starting from bar.
In 1973, the EFAB proposed the resumption of the study of 1960 of the light alloy cases. This project did not succeed.

Primer powders
The system of 7.5 (powder B.Pa 90, primer with fulminate) achieved in 1952 was not satisfactory, and especially could not be adopted by NATO :

  • Corrosive primer by principle,
  • Energy with the insufficient mouth,
  • Pressure variations chamber, between the temperature of 21° C and extreme temperatures, too high.

Also, the studies moved towards the spherical powders and the primers to lead trinitrorésorcinate.
The monotubular and multitubular powder studies (B.7 T (0.3) or Tubal of Poudrerie de Sevran-Livry) did not succeed because of overall dimensions of these powders. The cartridge factories also preferred to use spherical powders easier to charge with their machines
The first spherical powder samples were achieved by the Poudrerie de Sevran (sample 1 SL 53 which was tested comparatively with the Belgian powder of the PRB). This powder was rather erosive and, because of its high rate of anti-gleam, produced an important smoke.
It was necessary to await the productions of the Poudrerie d’Angoulême in 1958, powder mill especially created for the production of the spherical powders which reproduced American manufacture Olin, to obtain a powder meeting the requirements and the characteristics of ammunitions of 7.62 N.
Many difficulties appeared with spherical the powder known as “round”. This powder was too “limit” and a weak maladjustment did not make it possible any more to obtain the required characteristics. The study of spherical the powder known as “crushed” was launched (GB.Se (0.3)).
In order to ensure coordination with the primer, a working group depend on the CEPE (Commission d’Etude des Poudre en Explosives) was created : the GTPA (Groupe de Travail Poudre Amorce).
Manufacture underwent tops and bottoms; batch 17 A 59 of disaster report to the 25 A 60 which was never equalised.
The primers with “styphnate” had also a life “agitated”. Their composition inspired of the American compositions knew many variations.
The primers of the US cartridges 7.62 T65 of 1952 (batch 6 FO 20258) had the following composition :

  • Potassium chlorate 53%,
  • Sulphocyanate of lead 25%,
  • Trinitrotoluene 5%,
  • Antimony sulphide 17%.

The studies took place of 1954 to 1960, with the tests of the boxer primers ATS, SFM and CF, to lead to the adoption of the primer with composition n°3 baptized Modèle 60 E (with a version simple Modèle 60 S).
The ATS achieved in 1961 a primer charged by wet process. This study was shown in 1973 and given up following the no satisfactory tests.
The compatibility of the powders primer was characterised in 1959 by an inspection of time passing with the firing between the percussion and the passage of the bullet to the mouth of the weapon. This time measured with cartridges exposed to +54° C was to meet, in the condition following :

  • tB + 5 stb < 2,5 ms
    tB = average time of mouth
    stb = estimate of the tB standard deviation

This condition was defined by many tests in cold room in order to detect the limit of appearance of hang fire and bullets not leaving the gun the weapon. It made it possible to have a sufficient guaranty of nonappearance of these incidents under the normal conditions of firing.

Special cartridges

Grenade launching
France not having adopted rifle in 7,62 N, the study of the cartridges launches grenade was not developed and was limited solely to the cartridges for tests of weapons.

On the other hand, the SFM and the Luchaire establishments achieved plastic white cartridges (Ringdal patent).

Cartridges for assault rifles

Average or “intermediate” cartridges

The study of self-loading rifles to the 7.62 N cartridge showed that the ammunition was not the compatible one with the firing by gust of rifles of 4 kg.
It was necessary to reduce the momentum produced by the ammunitions. The two orientations taken by miscellaneous country (USA, the USSR) were to be studied in order to determine the most effective solution. The two solutions were the following ones :

  • Soviet solution bullet de8g V0 = 750m/s,
  • US solution bullet of 3,5g V0 = 1000m/s.

The 7.62 N has a bullet of 9,5g with V0 of 850 m/s.
In 1945, department ST/ARM asked for the study of the cartridges intended for beings used by the prototypes of “PM Carabines ” (asked by the EMA and whose specifications were established in 1948).
The Manurhin company proposed two cartridges, with the gauges respectively of 9 and 7.65, whose characteristics was adjacent of the Russian 7,62x39.
The AVE also achieved two cartridges of 9 and 7.65. The secondary LRBA of Satory (future ETVS) also studied a bullet with mixed core (lead duralumin) in 1947, derived from the 7.92 short German. The choice of 7.65 was decided in 1948 in note EMA aforementioned.
The tests continued until in 1951 on prototypes presented by the AVE, Manurhin (Bertin bullet) and the AME (Atelier de fabrication de Mulhouse) which presented a bullet of 6g with core in two parts (lead and dural).
The ALM, of 1958 to 1960, also achieved prototypes of cartridges to the gauge of 9 and 7.62 intermediaries, inspired of the gauge 7,62x39 and with light bullet with lead mixed core and aluminium. The case of 7.5 was used as a basis to manufacture this cartridge (length of the case 40 mm). Prototypes with heavy bullet were also tested (bullet of 9,5g to the 9 mm calibre) with V0 of 685m/s.

Caliber 5.56 ammunition

Preliminary studies
Within the framework of the definition of the future individual armament (operation FU 75) the ETBS was in charge of the study of the characteristics of terminal ballistics. This study was to make it possible the EMAT to choose the new gauge.
This effectiveness was studied under two aspects :

  • The armour-piercing assessed on helmets and protections various following conventional methods,
  • The lethal capacity assessed on materials of simulation requiring of the basic studies.

In 1964 and 1965, the ETBS had already made the preliminary tries of penetration in the water, the poplar and the gelatine (Pharmagel A of the company KIND and KNOX). That had made it possible to evidence the phenomena of cavitations.
The scientific study of the phenomena was achieved from 1969 onwards and continued until in 1973.
The initial programme of 1964 which was to study the influence of the various characteristics of bullets (mass, form, constitution, speed, etc) was reduced with the assessment of some characteristic cartridges, that is to say :

  • 5.56 US,
  • 5.56 German IWK,
  • 7,62x39 Russian,
  • 9 mm,
  • 7.62 N French Modèle 61.

The data analysis the results was made following the criteria, defined by the USA and proposed with NATO, basing itself on the energy loss in the first fifteen centimetres of browse projectile in a well defined block of gelatine.
The loss speed of the projectile was measured by means of a installation of instantaneous X-ray inspection. The inclination of the projectile in end of browse was also recorded.
Cinematographic records by shadow of range also made it possible to determine the volume and the progression of the transient cavities.
The pressure near the trajectory was measured in several characteristic points.
All these experiments required means very important, which required missions of information to the USA.
All this work was piloted by Ingénieur Principal Thinat and the team was made up of the second lieutenant Cabre (scientific of the contingent) for preliminary works of 64 and 65. Of the doctor of second class Ramaniraka for medical interpretation, M. Rico and of Ingénieur Principal Villadomat who became in 1977 the chairman of ballistic expert group the “ballistics wounds” within the framework of tests NATO of the light weapons. A qualified team of technician, workman and aid of the ETBS allowed performing these tests.
The firing performed with distances simulated for reasons of precisions of firing (firings to 50 m with speed reduced and in tubes with adapted rifling) allowed obtaining a large volume of records which gave after analysis the following values :

  • The energy losses,
  • Wounding capacity,
  • To be able traumatic,
  • The capability with knocking over,
  • The volume of the cavities,
  • The pressures at the passage of the projectile.

The summary of the results allowed obtaining a classification which led the EMAT to choose the 5.56 considered to be most effective. The assessments of 1980, carried out at the Test centre of Eppen (FRG) within the framework of tests NATO on the weapons light, confirmed these results.

The engineering departments of the USA disseminated military specifications MIL-C-9963 E of 12 May 1970 of the cartridges 5.56 with bullet M193 which were used as a basis for the establishment of the projects of characteristics NATO, AC 225 (COM III/SC1) d 45 of 28 September 1970.
This ammunition, developed starting from the cartridge 222 Remington in 1950, slightly modified, became 223 Remington in 1957 and used in M16 rifle in Viet-Nam by the American troops in 1964. In 1960 the Americans replaced the individual armament in 7,62 N by M16 rifles in 5,56.
In October 1964, within the framework of the FINABEL agreements, the French delegation received a documentation on the German study IWK-Mauser giving the comparative performances of the German bullet and the 223 Remington. The French assessment of the cartridge 223 Remington was achieved in 1965.
In 1967 the DTAT bought 69,000 Belgian cartridges with the FN.
In 1968, the first experimentation of the French cartridges of the ALM was achieved. The cartridges were made up :

  • Bullet with lead core derived from the M193 bullet,
  • Brass case,
  • Primer of 4.5 Modèle 60S sample ATS 68,
  • Powder GB.Se sample 521 A 66.

The exploring subcommission of NATO on the standardisation of the ammunition of 5.56 gathered at the head office of NATO in Brussels 6 and 7 January 1969 to define a preliminary project of characteristics of future ammunition NATO. The French representatives were IMC Bénetreau and the lieutenant colonel Boileau of the STA. The work of this subcommission led to the document D 45 quote previously and disseminated in 1970.
The assessment of the foreign cartridges continued until in 1975 :

  • US cartridges in 1971,
  • Belgian cartridges in 1971,
  • Austrian cartridges Hirtenberger in 1974,
  • Finnish cartridges Lapua and Soviet T 67 in 1974.

In 1971 the ALM officially launched the study of the bullet cartridges O and T.
The ETBS wrote the first project of characteristics of the future armament of infantry. The ammunition part was re-examined and discussed with the programme of experimentation.
In 1974, the DEMAL of the ATE was charged to write the technical characteristics starting from the preceding documents. They were subjected to the CETAM of ETBS for decision. The table of construction and the conditions of admission were also written by the DEMAL under name AT MF 12 B. In parallel the ALM continued the achievement of the cartridges. In April and in October 1973, the STA assessed the batch prototypes ALM.
11 March 1975, a meeting has taken place at the DTAT Saint Cloud to fix the start conditions of manufacture at the ALM.
The experimental batch was delivered to the experimentation in at the beginning of 1976.

End of 1971, the ALM undertook, on proposal of the set-up office and modern technologies (BMTM) of the DMA, a value engineering of the cartridge of 5.56 practically at the point on this date. This study was piloted by a cabinet council the CETEGE. This project was approved by the DAT/ASA/IM.
An working group called “Value engineering - Ammunitions of 5.56” was created (see n° 3077 DMA/BMTM of 10 February 1972) which groups together representatives of the miscellaneous organisations interested, that is to say :

  • DTAT/AIN - STA Grouping Infantry
  • ATS - SNPE
  • MAS - STPE
  • ATE
  • ETBS

In December 1972, a summary report written jointly per MM Corbin and Pichard of the ALM and M. Piketty of the CETEGE, was published and summarised the proposals. The advantage of this study was to initiate the miscellaneous draftings with this new method. It also led to some technical achievements combining the quality with price reduction, in particular on :

  • Primers (primers W 22),
  • Packaging,
  • Stripper clip.

Patents were deposited by the ALM (MM Finot and Corbin).

Bullet ALM is a reproduction of the American bullet M193 more or less.
On the other hand, the use of plated steel cupronickel was assessed to eliminate the ruptures from bullets in the gelatine, and then adopted.

The traces bullet posed some quality issues of tracing and interior ballistics with the spherical powder.

At the beginning of manufacture the case brass was privileged and manufactured in the proportion of 75% with regard to the case steel.
In consequence of some incidents with the FAMAS the trend was reversed. The case steel presents guaranties of resistance much higher than the case brass; very important advantage taking into accounts the architecture of the FAMAS.

Primer powders
After some tests of various primers (primers Modèle 60 and 64 ATS, primer SFM, primer by wet process of CF, primer W22 ATS), the primer Z1 type was adopted and its partnership with sample 503 A 68 of powder spherical GB Se 0.35 gave itself excellent results.
In spite of some attempts at monotubular use of powder (B.Tu) the spherical powder was preferred.

Special cartridges

Grenade launching
The cartridges “lance-grenade” was the subject of many tests to define the speeds to be used. The cartridge called “to 70m/s”, transmitting V0 of 70m/s to the grenade 500g with the FAMAS, imposed a case on lengthened neck. The cartridge called “to 65m/s” was considered to be sufficient and made it possible to use the rose crimp normal case.

The Belgian blank cartridges of the FN were not satisfying. Miscellaneous prototypes achieved by the Gévelot establishments were assessed and the version rose-crimped mouth brass case was adopted.
The blank firing attachment was also achieved by this establishment.

Gallery practice
The ATS achieved a reduced cartridge of firing to plastic bullet which did not ensure the automatic operation of the FAMAS. A system of kit achieved by the MAS to obtain this operation, this study did not succeed.


aWow! That’s a huge amount of work translating and typing. Thank you.

John Moss


John, perhaps you missed this at the beginning?
“The translation was realized by means of a software translation system and contains certainly of numerous errors.”

I don’t want to take away from Pierrejean’s contribution however. Is this from a new book? My “Francais de Cartouches” isn’t too bad and I might like to get the book.


I saw that, but wasn’t precisely sure what it meant. Regardless, I thank Pierrejean for his efforts.

John Moss


Essentially, John, you can lift an entire passage and the computer, via a website, will give you a translation. It’s usually a pretty difficult, awkward translation, but usually close enough to understand the gist.


Yes, a Nice translation, but with the obvious " mistranslations" inherent in a Computer driven system.

One thing which struck me is the translation of the word (in French) “fulminant” ( which means " Lightning-like", or “fulminating”) rather than “(Mercury) Fulminate” which seems the intention of the translation…

THis is important in understanding the composition of the priming compound, as there is also mention of “Corrosive” and “Chlorates”…so, a reading of the original French is necessary to correctly interpret the chapters refering to priming Compounds.

Anyway, I will try to get an original and read it, and then some of the “Franglais” will make sense…

Thanks, JP, for the posting.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


The original is there !
Cartridges are page 83 - 108

The Volume 8-2 « l’armement automatique de moyen calibre » (the automatic armament of average calibre) is very interesting for all this which concerns the armament of airplane, development of 30 DEFA and first essay of cannon on helicopter.


Dear JP, thankyou for the reference to the original french language Document.

I see that you still rely on the “Computer translations…”

Here are some correct ordnance translations refewring to “calibre”

Petit Calibre==Small calibre --ie, .22 RF and under 6,5mm
Moyen Calibre== Medium calibre-- 7mm to 12,7mm or so, some say 20mm)
Gros Calibre== Large Calibre ( ie, Artillery- from about 15mm upwards, ie, Cannon and Artillery calibres.)

There are probably some other Subdivisions around, but these are the three normally recognised ones (in both French and English.)

BTW, I always thought ( and was taught) that French was “la langue de Racine”…Voltaire was a Known Frenchman, although he lived many years in Exile at the Court of Frederick the Great, in Potsdam (Berlin)…but Voltaire was a Political Philosopher, not a Literary Writer…Racine, Corneille and Moliere were what Shakespeare was…Founders and stabilisers of their respective languages.

Keep up the good work in unearthing documentation on French ammunition etc.

(Au revoir)
Doc AV
AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services


Great material JP. Much appreciated.

Some very exotic items covered like the rocket bullet in 9mm. Also a few errors. 9x19mm Tracers were made in France long after 1951. Still, a very useful reference document. Thanks for taking the time.




Great addition, thanks for the link.