Unusual Nickel Plated Case?

I came into a full box of .38 Special 158 grain jacketed hollow point ammunition recently, made by B-K Ammunition, Helotes TX, probably a commercial reloader. The odd thing is that all of the cases are bright nickel plated but have a WCC 74 HS. Anyone know why that might be? I doubt that military cases were originally plated, so someone else must have done the plating.


From what I understand, the nickel plated cases with that headstamp were used to fill contracts for government agencies. The plating is original and likely required by specifications issued by the purchasers.


Interesting. I take it that nickeled military cases would be specified for orders placed by FBI, Border Patrol, or whatever to Winchester/Western, and that B-K could have obtained fired cases from those sources for reloading. I would have thought non-military federal agencies would have procured normal commercially headstamped cases instead of using military headstamps.

The cases of the rounds I have are in absolutely perfect condition with no evidence of use or of having been reloaded, and red primer sealing is in place. My guess is that B-K may have obtained these as new primed brass directly from Winchester, as I doubt that many, if any, commercial reloaders apply primer sealing.


The single example of the WCC 74 headstamped .38 Spl. I have came from a “generic” white Winchester-Western box that indicates it was loaded with a 110gr. JHP. It features a red seal on the PA. No indication of higher pressure loading but I think this pre-dates the “+P” era and may well be a hotter load. Its source was said to be a former Secret Service employee.

I would guess it could be possible that over-runs of primed cases were distributed to bulk commercial loaders. Interesting the whole box has that headstamp…


Here they are - WCC 74, every one. Judging from condition, I have to believe they were loaded into factory new nickeled and primed cases, and are not actually reloads. For that matter, they may even be repackaged loaded Winchester cartridges. I just have no way of knowing the source of the bullets. These have a little age on them, as the exposed lead of the bullet noses is developing an oxide coating.

That style of headstamp is often used on Police Dept. contracts. It would be my guess that what you have has been reboxed from a rejected police lot. Perhaps the lot did not meet accuracy standards or maybe it is from a factory overun or a canceled contract. Police departments prefer nickle plated cases due to the fact that brass cases develop verdigris when cartridges are keep in a leather cartridge belt or pouch.

I think that Wincester now produce nickel cases as standard for .38 Spec. Its rare to see a brass one except in TWC. I would imagine their production has gone over to it completely. I haven’t seen any non nickel cases in a long time but our supplies are a bit slanted because we only have rifles in .38 Spec. Using RNL or SWCL (since pistols were banned.) Even then, ten years ago brass Wins were becoming rare. I have some for my own use but they are almost collectable now.

I can sell nickel Win cases for $60 / 1000 but they won’t take brass. Now that most PDs are using 9mm the .38 nickel cases are becoming sought after by the reloading outfits.

My experience here across the pond with Winchester 38 Special, 38+p, and 357 Magnum is quite the opposite of yours. I recover about 250 brass Winchester 38 Specials to every nickel-plated one. Also about one brass 38+P to every nickel-plated one, and two brass 357 Magnum to every nickel-plated one.

I have two fairly large buckets full of .38 Special range pickups, and I’d say that easily 2/3 are brass. I have not so many .357 pickups, and I’d say that about half, or maybe a little less, are brass. Obviously not a scientific sample. A great many shooters must prefer Fiocci, S&B, and CBC in this area, as there are more of those represented than any other headstamp, and they are brass. The least represented major HS is Federal, but I do see only a few Starlines. I have quit picking up empties as I will never live long enough to use the .38 and .357 cases I already have. I can say about the same for .45 and 9mm. But you never know when they won’t be available any longer.

I can only imagine that as cops no longer carry .38/357 revolvers and cartridges in leather belt loops, there’s currently little practical need for the extra expense of plating.

I still don’t understand why police department, etc., loads use WCC 74 cases as stated? Were there several billion of them made in 1974 and stockpiled?

I don’t see anything on the thread that implies the “W C C 7 4” is the only date; they are talking about headstamp
STYLE, I think, and not intimating they are all dated “74.” With the coming of SAAMI specs for cartridges loaded
to higher velocities and pressures than those for “normal” .38 Special loads, I think this headstamp style has largely been replaced by the “WCC+P+ ##” style of headstamp (the “##” I typed represent the two digit date for whatever year they are manufactured). I have seen that headstamp in many dates, and as I recall, with both plain brass and nickeled brass casings. It is the same headstamp that appears on a lot of law enforcement
9 mm Para made by Winchester. I am not implying, by the way, the the older headstamp could not appear with dates later than the coming of the +P and +P+ headstamps, especially if .38 Special loads of normal velocity and
pressure were ordered by a Federal LE Agency.

To add to Dave’s answer, the original box for the “WC C 7 4” rounds from 1974 shows it loaded with
a 110 grain JHP bullet, as Dave said. The back label indicates the loading was made for the U.S. Treasury

I just received information that the known dates on the nickel-case Winchester rounds for the Treasury Dept, all with 110 grain JHP bullet, that are loaded with the “W C C 7 4” headstamp style, are 73, 74 and 75.


Thank you for that additional information. I only have a picture of the box front and the Treasury Department reference you indicate is on the back tends to confirm the info I had on the contract’s end user.

As Dennis indicates his aftermarket box contents are loaded with 158gr. JHP, it would seem that that headstamp style was also used for other contracts (or that they were reloaded at a later date with the heavier projectiles despite the factory loaded look).

Does anyone have original packaging of .38 Spl. with that headstamp style on nickeled cases loaded with bullets other than 110gr. JHP and if so, perhaps know for whom they were manufactured?


I do not know that my B-K rounds have 158 grain bullets, only that there is a sticker on the box saying that’s what they are. When I get back home, I’ll weigh a round to determine about what the bullet weight actually is. The box feels sort of heavy, so I suspect they are in fact 158 grain loads. The more I looked at them, the more certain I became that these are either repackaged original factory-loaded WCC rounds, or were loaded using new primed cases.

I can take a picture of the bullet and post it, so possibly someone can identify the manufacturer. If it is Winchester, my opinion moves more toward their being repackaged factory loads.

I suspect that the rounds Dennis has are not factory loads, but as he reckons as a possibility, non-factory loads
on Winchester primed empty brass. My information on the dates came from Mr. .38 Special himself, Otto Witt, who probably is the world authority on this caliber, and he indicated that all known dates with that headstamp, from the factory, as the so-called Treasury Department Load of a 110 JHP bullet and higher than normal velocities (and are pre-+P or +P+ headstamps). My opinion will be the same even if loaded with Winchester bullets.

We have a commercial loader/reloader out here that is one of the Biggest Winchester distributors in the country, and some of their loads are with all Winchester components.
akes it hard to sort things out!

Rounds for police use were nickel plated to hold down the corrosion while carried in belt loops or cartridge holders. Any loading ordered in large quanity for police use would specify nickel plated cases in the 1970s. High Speed loadings of 38 special from the 1930s until some time in the 1970s did not have the +p designation on the headstamp even though they were loaded to 20,000 psi or more.

The mystery deepens somewhat. I did not want to pull the bullet and weigh it, so I weighed an empty fired .38 Spl case (not WCC) and a loaded round. The difference was 121 grains, therefore, assuming maybe 10 grains for propellant, the bullet weight would be 111 grains. Despite this evidence, the sticker on the box says “.38 SPL SWC 158 grains” So it looks like I may well have a full box of Treasury 110-grainers that several others have mentioned. Lesson - Don’t necessarily believe what it says on the box.

This is a picture of the cartridge. Note that there is no visual indication of resizing. So does this look like a Winchester 110 grain JHP bullet (it is a hollow point, which I did not show)? I’m guessing now that these are factory Treasury loads, re-boxed.

I still find it strange that we get virtually 100% Wincester nickel cases over here and you guys don’t see that many. There are no duty carry .38s and the few that carry off duty don’t carry anything other than 9mm. One of those strange things that will never be answered.
But Winchester are losing market share over here to CBC, Fiocci and PPU so its a passing thing if it hasn’t already passed. In a few years time American brands will be history. The world economy will dictate that only European brands will be sold over here.

Even in rifle calibres like .223 and .308 we only see PPU and maybe a smattering of other brands. American brands used to be big but are now priced out.

The world economy is going downhill and this is just a small example. Can the US brands afford to lose these markets?

I’m surprised that the U. S. ammunition brands do as well as they seem to. I see a lot of CBC, S&B, GFL, Tulammo, etc., on the shelves, and some of the big sporting goods retailers sell a lot of ammunition under house brands (e.g., Monarch from Academy Sporting Goods) that seem to originate in eastern Europe. Likewise, I previously related that I pick up far more range empties of offshore manufacturers than U. S. brands. All I can surmise is that the U. S. manufacturers are quite efficient and very automated, and that keeps them afloat in the present demand-pull economy for ammunition. Not as much demand as there was in 2008-09, when everyone felt that the Obama administration would force through some draconian firearms legislation, but still pretty good. Back in the early Obama days, dealers were selling out of some calibers daily, and were even rationing sales in some calibers. That’s not the case now, but prices are still way up there. That’s why I reload about everything I shoot.

All you have to do is to go into Wal-Mart and see where the majority of their inventory items come from, and it is hugely China. If the Chinese ever quit buying phony U. S. Treasury debt obligations with the proceeds (which finances our increasing domestic profligacy and growing welfare state), it’s all over, over here. We’ll immediately become another PIIGS country, as we are well on the way.

Dennis - I am going from memory, but that bullet does look a lot like the Winchester 110 grain Treasury load projectile, many of which have gone through my hands over the years. Since there is only one box involved, it is highly possible that these rounds were not ever those that originally came in this box. It may be that someone simply repacked a box they had with these loads due to a damaged original Winchester carton, or whatever. When these police loads first came out, in our area, it was not unusual to see an occasional bag full of the LE stuff at a gun show, where the box had obviously been tossed out to eliminate the lot number and the “Law Enforcement Only” restrictions on the box. Then, when some of the police distributors started selling it off to non-LE dealers, probably due to overstock they couldn’t otherwise move, and people became aware that, at least in most states, the “LE Only” was a policy and not a law, you started finding LE ammunition sold at shows in the original boxes.

And yes, folks, American ammunition is getting ridiculously expensive considering the availability of decent quality foreign brands, which have also increased in price, but not to the outrageous levels of some of the major US brands. Many of us like to “Buy American,” but it is getting harder and harder to do that, for one reason or another (availability, quality, price, or a combination thereof). This price gouging is going to come back one date and bite the industry on the butt!