U.s. national match headstamps

During the 88 years that Cal .30 and 7.62mm National Match ammunition was produced by Frankford Arsenal and Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, no less than 13 different headstamp styles were used. Collecting them can be a specialty on its own. Following is a summary of those headstamps.

The first known headstamp used exclusivly for National Match ammunition was in February 1908 by Frankford Arsenal. By 1909 it was decided to select future match ammunition based on competitive trials of samples submitted by the commercial manufacturers and by Frankford Arsenal. Winchester Repeating Arms Co., Union Metallic Cartridge Co.,United States Cartridge Co.,and Peters Cartridge Co. were the major contenders. Headstamps used by those companies were military in style, having both the month and year of production. The two shown, by WRA and UMC, are typical. 1913 was the last year of commercial contracts and all subsequent National Match ammunition prior to WW2 was manufactured by Frankford Arsenal.

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Most competitive shooting was cancelled in the years before and after WW 1 and it was not until 1919 that the production of National Match ammunition was resumed. Until 1921, the National Match ammunition was nothing more than specially selected M1906 cartridges. 1919 and 1920 match ammunition used the standard military headstamp of the period. 1921 ushered in the use of new match bullets, powders, and special loads and the first headstamp identifying the rifle anneal cases, FA 21 R. This headstamp style was used in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1925, and 1930. The 1924 case was the first to use a NM headstamp. 1926, 1927, and 1928 headstamps, like the cartridges themselves, reverted to selected lots of standard issue Ball ammunition. In 1929 a lot of special match ammunition was loaded, the case having a distinctive headstamp including three stars which the shooters quickly dubbed the “Three Star Hennessy”, a reference to a popular adult beverage of the day. The 1932 through 1940 match cases bore a traditional FA NM headstamp.

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World War 2 and the Korean War shut down the production of National Match ammunition and all but a few local and regional matches. When the matches resumed in 1951 selected lots of standard Ball M2 were issued. Coming from war time stocks, accuracy was not very good. 1957 was the first year of production of a new Cal .30 Match cartridge, designated the T291. It was made by both Frankford Arsenal and Lake City Arsenal although the LC ammunition was produced in a limited quantity for practice only.

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Franford Arsenal continued to produce Cal .30 M72 and 7.62mm M118 National Match ammunition from 1958 until 1965, all of it bearing the same headstamp. Lake City M72, M118, and M852 ammunition made between 1961 and 1996 used two headstamps, LC MATCH and LC NM.

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Two special headstamps can be found in most collections of Match ammunition. A small lot commemorating 50 years of Frankford Arsenal production was issued for the 1956 matches. In 1980 four lots of 7.62mm Match ammunition were produced to select the bullet that would be used in the new M852 Match ammunition. They bore a unique LC SP headstamp.

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Very interesting and very well done!


Very interesting, thanks! I’ve got a couple of those…


Am I the only one who is having problems opening any of Rays pics? Kevin

Ray, I noticed that in your first picture they were all made in February. Is that the case for all of the match headstamps between 1909 and 1913?


NM ammunition was ordered for delivery early in the year, so most of it has early headstamps. Feb and March are the most common.


Ray - do you do the .45 Auto National Match rounds too? It would be great to see a really good presentation, like the ones you do :-) on this forum or even this thread.

Does anyone know if there is a designated U.S. National Match 9 mm Luger cartridge yet? The Beretta M9 and its variants have been the service pistol for a lot of years now, and it seems to me I saw something some time ago about AMU accurization of some of the Beretta Pistols for match purposes.
If there is one so-designated, has it a special headstamp?

Ray, Nice info and pics. Thanks. To round out the group, I’d add the FA 41 NM headstamp, 465,000 of which were produced by Frankford Arsenal in January and February 1941 before the order was cancelled due to more pressing matters at the time. FA was to load the cases as normal M2 ball rounds, but so far not even one has turned up that collectors know about. A photo of the headstamp appears in TM-9-1990, so we know it did exist. It must be the rarest .30-06.

Would “SP” in the very last headstamp stand for “special” or something else?
Also, if I have a single round “FA 25R”, does this mean it is Match?


I don’t do pistol match cartridges. It’s a wide open collecting field that would be a good specialty for a new collector looking for something that he can build on. A lot of the cartridges and boxes are still available.


Yes, the 41 NM is the holy grail. I check every box of 1941 M2 that I can get my hands on.


Yes, the 25R is a match case. It was used for National Match, International Match, and Palma Match. Check the bullet closely to see if it is cannelured and also check the overall cartridge length. International and Palma cartridges are typically longer, and the match bullet is smooth.

The “SP” in the headstamp does mean Special. It was only used in the one year (1980) and in limited numbers so it is very collectable. It’s found with 4 different bullets. There was a thread about them some time ago.


Here is the thread Ray is referring to covering the “SP” or Special National Match bullet tests and associated cartridges: [1981 US National Match 7.62mm bullet Tests)

John: As for 9x19mm match ammunition, I believe the service teams buy commercial ammunition from firms like Atlanta Arms and Black Hills Ammunition.

Dan - that makes sense. I know the USMC bought pistol ammo of match quality from Black Hills years ago. I couldn’t find any listing for any Match Load in any US Military publication. I did find mention of a dummy type that I have never seen, nor have any other of my 9 mm collecting friends. I mentioned it to Lew Curtis some time ago. I don’t have the reference close at hand to recall the features of the round. It is not germane to this thread anyway.

Ray, I assume you collect these; do you have this one yet? FA 23 R




I once swore I’d never be a headstamp hunter but I gave in to temptation several years ago. Yes, I have most all of the headstamps, and cartons too.

Speaking of cartons - the number of different cartons and labels used to package the NM ammunition exceeds the number of headstamps and/or powders. I’ve thought about showing them but you’d be bored silly long before I got part-way through my collection.



SHOW THEM, please:-)

Boring? No way!



The reward for the labor is way out of proportion. Frankford Arsenal manufactured T291 and M72 for 5 short years. Yet there are at least 10 different labels. That gives you an idea.



Sounds more like a limited edition book. Not the coffee table variety:-)


I would definitely buy a copy.

I will do an article for the IAA journal on that topic one day . . . .