Translation needed


Has somebody any idea about the translation of this part of a hstp.
I put 3 pictures with slightly different variations


J-P: I have put one of those SFM-made Ethiopian headstamps up on the Forum before, with no success. I have spent hours on the web looking at foreign alphabets, and I cannot even discover what alphabet they are. It is not the Koptic alphabet, as some say, or at least in that alphabet I can find no match. It is really frustrating! Someone, somewhere, must know this alphabet. These cartridges are not from ancient times!

What is frustrating, is that I suspect they only say “S.F.M.” but cannot confirm that. It is my absolute “top-of-the-list” question about cartridges!

I hope you have good luck here. thanks for posting it, and especially thanks for posting the three minor variations. they do change the look of the letters a little, and maybe someone will be able to at least tell us what alphabet these letters are from.

I wonder what University has absolutely the best foreign language department and foreign language experts? Maybe it could be direct to somehwere like that?


Hello John

I took a look on the other topic.
On this hstp the right letter is slightly different.
Therefore it could be the date and not the translation of a word !

Anyway these hstps are coming from Italian manufacture in 1925 (and not 1924 like the SFM mark).
I am 100% positive about that.

A new way for your researchs !


J-P: Are these headstamps on Shotshells? If not, what calibers are they from?


yes John
they are on shotshells


I asked a friend who lived in Ethiopia for a long time, here is his reply:

It is not Ethiopic. My first guess was that it was sanskrit or Hindi, but nothing there checks out quite right.

Do you think it’s Georgian? I can’t read everything on this site.


I am a stamp collector as well as a cartridge collector. I think I recognize the alphabet used on these shells from stamps. I am about 90% sure it is Classical Mongolian. In 1941 Mongolian changed from Classical Mongolian to a Modified Cyrillic alphabet.

I have sent the images to an expert on Mongolian language for his opinion. This person also specializes in all the related languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, etc. If it is not Mongolian it is certainly a related language. Hopefully we will know in a few days if I am correct or not.


You are probably right, I don’t know, it is all Greek to me, but why would Mongolian be on a headstamp of a cartridge? There were only a couple of people in Mongolia and those were also passer-bys. Was there any ammo ever made with Mongolian writing? What I am trying to say that usually any trade is dictated by population size.


[quote=“jean-pierre”]… On this hstp the right letter is slightly different.
Therefore it could be the date and not the translation of a word ![/quote]

please look closer, they are slightly different because a different font was used. Like you switched from “Times New Roman” to “Arial”. They mean the same.


[quote=“Hans”][quote=“jean-pierre”]… On this hstp the right letter is slightly different.
Therefore it could be the date and not the translation of a word ![/quote]

please look closer, they are slightly different because a different font was used. Like you switched from “Times New Roman” to “Arial”. They mean the same.[/quote]
Hi Hans,
you are perhaps right.
The important point, and this is new, is:
It doesn’t mean SFM traduced in another language.
This is sure now.


Ron - it will amaze me if this alphabet is Mongolian. These headstamps are found on just about every really popular auto pistol cartridge - I have it in 7.65mm Browning, I think (I didn’t check), 7.65 Parabellum, 7.63 Mauser and even .45 Auto. We know that these cartridges were made by S.F.M. of France, and the “common wisdom” has always been that they were made for Ethiopia, although I am not wedded to that opinion, since the characters do not seem to be from any language used in that country. One opinion from a French collector whose knowledge I have great respect for was that they might no be correctly done by S.F.M. and therefore are, basically, not from any alphabet. Until Jean Pierre reports the same headstamps from Italy, I was very willing to believe that. Companies often are asked to do headstamps that they are not actually told the meaning of. Basically, they are asked to simply reproduce what the customer presents them as the headstamp-to-be. I have an example of that in my own files - an original carbon copy of the specifications for a .45 A.C.P. contract to Winchester from the Argentine purchasing commission that ordered them, which include a hand-drawn headstamp. Although the meaning of the headstamp would have been obvious to Winchester, there is nothing in the report that I recall explains the meaning. Winchester duplicated the headstamp perfectly to the way it was drawn, right down to the smallest nuance of the letter shapes.
I have samples of the cartridge in original ball, and several styles of dummies made up on the brass in Argentina.

I hope your friend can identify these markings. Again, Mongolia seems to me to be the last source that, in 1924, when the French cartridges were made, would be ordering sufficient quantity of so many cartridges to get their own headstamps. Frankly, even Ethiopia raises questions for me because of the one caliber, .45 auto. I know they had a hodgepodge of weapons in that country, but considering when the rounds were thought to be made in France, from the factory drawings for them, there is a big question in my mind if Ethiopia would have had any quantity of weapons in the American .45 A.C.P. caliber. A bit early, I would think, for them to have any quantity of Tommy Guns, if ever, indeed, that they did. That, I simply do not know.

I had posted a question about this headstamp on this Forum some time ago, with no success. I hope that Jean-Pierre’s question, which has received far more response than did mine, will get us an answer. I have been pursuing this information for about 20 years, with no success. In searching alphabets, I have ne ver been able to match one single symbol to these headstamp entries, although I found a couple of alphabets that had the same basic style. Since there was no match, I didn’t note them and forget now what they were. I looked at probably twenty or thrity alphabets.


Hi John,
I will make a resume of what is known for sure

  1. They are known to exist in 7.65mm Browning, 7.65 Parabellum, 7.63 Mauser, .45 Auto
  2. Some of these ctges have been made by SFM in 1924
  3. They are referenced in the SFM archives as bearing the mark of ARSLAN FRESCO.
  4. The details of the order is in another document called : Cartridges for the order of: “The sons of Arslan-Fresco”

At the beginning we could think the 3 caracters are the translation of SFM

  1. Now we know that these ctges have also been made in 1925 by an Italian manufacturer : Piloni Bernardo , Lecco
  2. They exist on 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36 shotshells

Therefore the caracters are not the translation of the word SFM

  1. Here are all the pictures.
    Are they similar or different ? I don’t know.
    But the letter on the right seems to be different for me.
    (perhaps not the same year



Just my guess, but isn’t this text just a sort of poorly transcribed Amharic (Ethiopian traditional)? I don’t know if anybody has disproved this theory yet, but the letters look like a more stylized and western calligraphy-esque version of proper Amharic symbols. This website shows all of the Amharic letters:


J-P bon soir,
Arslan seems to be a Turkish name. On the internet the findings are mostly in English and Turkish and there is also talking about a Sultan of that name residing in Istanbul. But of course around the time of said contracts Kemal Attat


Guten Abend Hans,
What does it mean ?


This is frustrating. I looked long and hard at the Amharic alphabet in my original research, and simply could not come up with anything from it that I felt was a match, even keeping in mind the differences that can occur from its use in seal writing (the manufacture of stamps for paper, wood and metal with alphabetic symbols, which are often simplified from their normal written form). There are two Ethipian 7.9 x 57mm headstamps that are obviously Amharic, but on both of those, there is a letter that I cannot match from the written alphabet either, looking somewhat like a “3.” The other two figures on one headstamp, and the other figure on the other headstamp, are clearly Amharic.

Looking at the Amharic alphabet again (from the same source I originally examined, the one on this thread), I still cannot see any possible match for the characters on the headstamp in question.

We have known for some time that the order with SFM was placed by a Turk, but evidently this person acted as an intermediary in many arms and ammunition transactions not just for turkey, but for other Middle East and Sahara countries as well. Of course, I guess one cannot rule out that these cartridges were not made for Ethiopia at all. Even for Turkey, the one caliber that remains a mystery is the .45 Auto. I am not aware of Turkey ever using that caliber, and have no .45 round in my collection that I can ascribe to Turkey, especially from the early date on the SFM drawings. Perhaps someone else knows of it. The selection of calibers could be some sort of a guide as to why and for whom this headstamp was made.

In reference to it being some form of Arabic, I cannot dispute that, but I showed the headstamp to my great niece’s husband, who is a Coptic Christian born, raised and educated in Egypt and the Coptic church, and they meant nothing to him.

Having gone through this on headstamps and gun markings from various alphabets, I have long ago come to an opinion about the superiority of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets over most of the other writing forms in the world, where even people absolutely fluent in speaking, reading and writing them cannot always interpret the symbols used on die stampings, and when I say interpret, I don’t mean why they are there or what they stand for, but simply an identification of the mark itself. This has been true in my own, personal experience, for Thai, Burmese, Japanese, Chinese, Korea and even Arabic, which granted, is impossible to transliterate into the Latin Alphabet.

I think eventually, someone who lives near a major university with a fine language department will have to find some scholar of Middle-Eastern languages to help on this headstamp, or it will never be translated or even identified as to alphabet or country. I tried long ago at the University of California, but without going there, I ran into a stone wall. Nothing was resolved.


Hi John,
Don’t be so negative.
Progress have been made.
You know it is not the translation of the word SFM !


Hans is almost correct and I was wrong. It is not Mongolian and is a form of Arabic. Here is the answer I got from my friend. I will be following up with the contact with Dr. Mehmet Eti as suggested by Emyr.

Dear Ron,

Thank you very much for your e-mail.

There are two languages in which the name ‘Arslan’ is common; one is Mongolian and the other is Turkish. In both languages, the word ‘arslan’ is used to denote a lion. However, unlike Mongolian, in which this word is used exclusively in the sense of an actual lion, Turkish uses this term widely in names of people and titles of rulers where it has the meaning of ‘great hero’ or ‘brave lion’ as in, for example, the famous Turkish Sultan, Kilij Arslan (among many others) and the name in question is most certainly Turkish

Furthermore, the script on your ammunition is Arabic (which was used to write Turkish until 1928), but I can see why you could have mistaken it for Classical Mongolian (which itself shares a common Semitic origin with the Arabic script). The inscription is in the Kufic calligraphic style; a highly decorative form of Arabic script used mostly in inscriptions on the outer walls of mosques (as its blockier style makes it easier to carve into hard surfaces). The style of the lettering here is what’s known as ‘Foliated Kufic’ and the letters themselves (reading from anti-clockwise appear to be
’ayin (’) fa or qaf (f/q) and mim (m) - an abbreviation, perhaps, of some Turkish association of some sort or initials maybe? The last letter is definitely mim (m) and the middle letter must be either fa or qaf (f/q) (there are usually dots above to distinguish them; one for fa and two for qaf) but the first letter is somewhat misshapen and could either represent ‘ayin (’), sin (s) or even some other letter. I’m afraid that as I don’t speak Turkish I can’t give you any suggestions as to the significance of
these letters, but you would probably get some good suggestions from some professors of Turkish. I know one man who would probably be of more assistance to you here, a Dr. Mehmet Eti, who runs an Islamic Coins website at - he is an expert at deciphering small and obscure Turkish and Arabic inscriptions and I’m sure he would be more than
happy to help you.

If you do manage to decipher this inscription would you be so kind as to let us know the solution?

Best regards,

Emyr R. E. Pugh


This is the best information by far, to date on this headstamp. Great work, Ron. Now, as to the meaning. Your contact suggests that the first letter “could either represent ‘ayin (’), SIN (S) or even some other letter,” that the second letter was either FA (f) or qaf (q) and the third letter was MIM (M).

Could we be back to the guess about their meaning I made years ago, “SFM”???

There is no question that the pistol rounds were made by Soci


Jean-Pierre: Is it possible that the Italian shotshells were actually made by SFM (perhaps just the empty cases) for the Italian firm, and only loaded in Italy? That would explain the same headstamp.
I don’t think so.
On the seven drawings (and they are more in the same serie, but their hstp is : Piloni Bernado Lecco), it is well written :
"dimensions taken from received samples of Bernardo manufacturing "
Which is the way SFM used to analyze and make drawings of competitors ctges.