Unknown 5,56 x 45 mm NATO steel case tracer (?)

Hi folks,

I bought this cartridge at a militaria/collector’s fair today.
It’s either 5,56 x 45 mm NATO or .223 Remington. Case is steel (magnetic), bullet is also magnetic.
Red lacquer seal between projectile and case, and primer and case.
Green lacquer on the bullet makes me think it is WP/Eastern European manufacture (indicating tracer projectile).


Can anyone tell me more? I can’t find anything on the headstamp manufacture code.
I suspect the primer strike might be from someone trying to shoot it in a civilian rifle, and getting a failure to fire due to a light strike. There is still powder in the casing and the lacquer sealing looks intact to my eyes.


The cartridge is East German, made at VEB Mechanische Werkstätten Königswartha. “VEB” stands for “Volks Eigene Betrieb” which loosely translates to “People’s Cooperative.” It was made more or less to Western standards, with the green tip standing for type SS109 ball. It is not a tracer. They are known with both 88 and 89 dates. There is also a rosebud crimped blank dated 88, but even in the fine book on this factory the author seems to be unsure whether it is a Platzpatrone (noise blank for training) or a Triebpatrone (grenade launching cartridge).

It also appears from pictures in that book that a variation without green tip was made, but I do not read German well enough to glean any information about this round from the book.

I have a sectioned round with green tip. The core is lead, but it has a steel penetrator in the tip of the round, perhaps 1/3 the length of the projectile as a whole. Above the tip of this penetrator is a very small void between it and the inside of the tip of the bullet jacket.

My understanding is this was a bit of a surprise to Federal Republic of Germany authorities when they took over the factories and warehouses of the defunct German Democratic Republic, as this ammunition was found along with a large store of Kalashnikov-type rifles chambered for it. That may or may not be true. No documentation of that belief that I know of. Simply something I was told by a German collector-friend. The above referenced book suggests, I think (again - my German is poor to the extreme), that this ammunition and the rifles for it was intended for export.

Hope this is of some help and interest.

Thank you very much John, that explains it nicely. Interesting that it shares the small air pocket with the 5,45 x 39 mm round. I’ll guess I’ll have to put the round up with the rest of my WP/DDR cartridges!

I believe those rifles you mention are the «Wieger» Sturmgewehr 9xx-series. It is a fascinating story, true or not. Wonder how they would compare to the IMI Galil in its 5,56 chambering.
I’ll have to look out for the book.

Thanks again for your helpful answer - much appreciated.

  • Ole


You are correct on the rifle.

Very interesting design, to put it lightly.
Wieger StG-941 at top, MPi-AK-74-N at bottom.

  • Ole

box for the Wieger StG-940 cartridge


Gyrojet - what does the “SC” on the box label stand for? I should know that, but if I ever did, I cannot bring it to mind right now.

I found this on a German cartridge collector’s page while searching for «5,56 x 45 mm SC»:

[quote]5,56x45 SC (Steel Core, Stahlkern), DDR, delaboriert, Stahlhülse lackiert, für Gewehr WIEGER (Exportauftrag, steht für WIEsa GERmany), Ringfuge und Hülsenmund rot, Geschossspitze grün, Bodenstempel: 04 88

Translated with my mediocre German:
5,56x45 SC (Steel Core, Stahlkern), DDR (GDR), inert, lacquered steel case, for WIEGER rifle (Export order, short for WIEsa GERmany), annulus and case mouth red, projectile tip green, headstamp 04 88.[/quote]

Might be correct, might not be. Don’t know why the box would be stamped stück, and yet have Stahlkern abbreviated as the English SC?

Thanks for sharing the box, gyrojet.

  • Ole

I agree with your view that it does not make much sense to use “Stück” and “SC” (for steel core) on the same label.
But according to the book by Gerd Mischinger on Mechanische Werkstätten Königswartha, SC indeed stands for steel core.

Interesting. Thanks for the answer.
I guess we’ll never know the mindset behind it.

  • Ole

Its to bad that almost all the Wiegers were destroyed and only a few were saved for musea.

Ole & JPeelen

[quote= Might be correct, might not be. Don’t know why the box would be stamped stück, and yet have Stahlkern abbreviated as the English SC?[/quote]

I’m confused, the box reads 20 Stück which I thought meant each, And we have now been educated that SC means Steel Core.

So the label reads “20 rounds of 5.56x45mm with a steel core”?

Why dos this not make much sense? Apparently “Stück” does not mean “each” here? Or are you both talking about two languages being used on the box?


Considering that the “SC” (Steel Core) designation was used by HP to designate their SS109 bullet, and that HP and the DDR factories cooperated during this era, I think that it is very likely that these bullets were in fact made in Austria.

I’m confused, the box reads 20 Stück which I thought meant each, And we have now been educated that SC means Steel Core.

So the label reads “20 rounds of 5.56x45mm with a steel core”?

Why dos this not make much sense? Apparently “Stück” does not mean “each” here? Or are you both talking about two languages being used on the box?


Correct. I’m talking about the two languages being used on the same box, which does not make sense to me.
«Stück» is German for «pieces», here used for defining quantity. 20 stück therefore means «20 pieces», «quantity of 20», etc. Here obviously «20 rounds» as you wrote.
The SC is an abbreviation for steel core, which in German would be Stahlkern.
I would expect the label to use either German or English terms for both.

Maybe Fede’s reply holds the answer?


Pete, I can assure you that “20 Stück” in this context means “20 rounds.” I see no chance that it could have a different meaning here.
It simply says 20 rounds of type SC.

Mischinger wrote that SC was taken from an Austrian cartridge, also called SC. I was not sure whether such a cartridge existed and did not mention it in my previous post. But Fede now wrote the same and I think this confirms that “SC” was simply taken over from another cartridge and means steel core, un-German as it may sound.
According to Mischinger, the data came via Hungary from Hirtenberger.

There was indeed cooperation between Hirtenberg and the East German ammunition factories. At least one of the DDR factories had Fritz Werner equipment, made in West Germany, that was shipped initially to Hirtenberg in Austria. There, I believe some test runs of ammo to be loaded on them were made. They were stripped of ID plates and passed on to the DDR.

After Reunification of the two Germanies, when authorities from the West inspected the factories, they were able to identify everything to do with the machinery because, as with most motor vehicle VIN plates, there were hidden ones usually known only to the factory. These were found upon inspection, perhaps with the assistance of the Werner firm.
This created quite a stir in Germany, and was even in the newspapers there. I think Fritze Werner Co. got some trouble out of it, warranted or not, and it probably created some “words” between the former West Germany (remember - unifiication) and Austrian authorities. Austrian was, and is, of course a neutral country in the post-WWII era, but in the beginning, at least, seemed to lean more towards the East than the West in some things. Their Army and I suppose some police agencies had a lot of Russian-Bloc small arms, which is why they manufactured the 7.62 x 25 mm Tokarev round, primarily to “feed” PPSh-41 SMGs in the Austrian service, I believe.

As to whether they made the 5.56 x 45 SS 109 ammo, I have no information to agree or disagree with that statement. I will say, though, that I believe that either of the two major ammunition manufacturers (04 and 05) in the DDR probably had the full capability to make any small arms cartridge of their choosing. The color tone of the bullet tip on the 04 88 and 04 89 5.56 x 45 rounds is the same metallic color as that used widely in the Soviet Bloc to identify tracer ammunition. It is somewhat different than the flat colors used by most of the west for tip markings, which is one reason why it was thought to be a tracer by many when they first appeared on the scene.

Just my thoughts. Again, I am not qualified to judge in which country those rounds were actually made.

For what its worth, most of West Germany’s post-war Foreign Military Sales up to 1990 were routed through Fritz Werner, as it was owned by the West German government. For instance, Fritz Werner handled the licensing and setup of offshore production of the MG3, G3, and HK33.

Hello to all,
I have definitive proof, that the Initial badge of SC-Bullets where made by HP and sent to the East-german factory. I do have also proof, that the first Tracer components (jackets, inserts, Tracercompositionpellets and washers) for the 5,45x39 east german manufacture where made and sent by HP also.
Furthermore we found large Caches of .308 FMJ Military grade ammo packed in HP-Match-ammo boxes sold from HP to east-Germany, despite the fact, that this type of ammo was at THIS TIME still considered as warmaterial. (This law changed later insofar, as fmj ammo in Military calibers was not longer forbidden for citizens, if there where civilian guns out in the same caliberrange, and the bullets do not contain any other substances as “weak” material. I.E. Lead or soft iron cores.
The boxes for that where intentionally made up to look civilian.
I have also 30round !! packets in .223 with (Assmann AP-Bullets/black tip with HILTI Cores), made by HP (Assmann was at some time the owner of HP) and this boxes where covered with the Standard HP green Hunting Labels, stating SOFTNOSE HUNTING Ammo…
Means this was also made intentionally to fool Controlling custom officers…even as 30rds Packets where not “normal” for civilian products.
The machinery for the 223 and 5,45 was sent in the same way, in the same Train with the machinery for a .22 Small caliber manufacture machinery, which went to Schoenebeck and which delivery license was granted, as .22 where not on a ban list. But half of the Train only went to Schoenebeck, but the other half with the “forbidden” machinery wents further to Luebben and Koenigswartha…
Its fun, to see, who else was involved in circumvencing many restrictions at that time. HK sent more silenced SMGs, as they officially had manufactured…but nothing happened later against them…

Hope, that sheds some light on the SC named bullet in .223…

PP - Do you have any evidence of where the cases were made? I assume the rounds were loaded (assembled) in the DDR? Is that correct?


I knew, they have assembled them and later made the bullets also.
But I have no proof, but I assume, that they made the cases by themselve, as they have had the Technologie for LSC-Manufacture.
If I find more, I will Report it here…
Unfortunatelly many sources, paperwork a.s.o has gone by today and nobody seems to knew, where they are…Or that the files or the goods were destroyed intenionally or by normal stupidity as many People has no interest about guns/ammo.
There are even no really leads, where the Wiega-StGs went finally. I still have this big storage on the outside of the fabricationplace in my mind which I saw…but from one day to the other they disappeared. And no one seems to knew…or likes to knew, what happend with them. Someone made his Money with them