"W" on .45ACP

Recently got this .45 ACP, a Winchester contract for Argentina. Can someone explain the meaning of the “W” and the knurl on the bullet above the case mouth?


The “W” on both the primer and the bullet are typical of many Winchester cartridges of years ago. The knurl? I have no idea.


I have an original carbon copy of the specifications for the ball version of that headstamp given to Winchester by the Argentine purchasing commission, and on one of the pages, the drew the headstamp they wanted.
Winchester copied it precisely, right down to the except shapes of letters are drawn. Interesting.

The knurled bullets have always confused me. I think the knurl has had different meanings at different times, but I could be wrong. At one time, I think it separated the 200 grain bullet from the 230 grain. Again, I could be wrong. There would be no reason for it on this particular round., since there was only one bullet weight pruchased.

When I have time, I will search the Winchester ammo gooks by Shuey. Not tonight. I finished my book this morning and proof read 85 pages of it after. Am tired.

Jon & John

I have a W.R.A. Co. .45 A.C. with the same primer and bullet “W” but without the cannelure.

There is no need for a crimp groove on a 45 ACP bullet so the cannelure must be for identification purposes.

The rub marks on the case mouth make me wonder if it’s possibly a re-load?



What is the headstamp? I can’t make out anything other than the W. Thanks, JG

I believe, as John suggested, the cannelure identified the bullet as being 230 grains, to differentiate it from the earlier 200 grain bullet. The overall lengths of the cartridges with the two different bullets was the same, so there needed to be a means to tell them apart when the 230 grain bullet was introduced. Remington used it to; I have no examples by other manufacturers in my collection.

That round is NOT a reload. The primer and bullet are perfectly correct for it. I have a near mint specimen in my collection. It has just been cycled a few times, probably, in firearms or kicked around over the years.

I also have this headstamp in three variations of fluted, tinned dummy, with variations in the length, height and number of flutes on the case, one of which has a different ogive bullet jacket than the others, and then also a smooth-case dummy (it has the original cannelure, of course). I am sure that all of the dummies were made that way from ball cases in Argentina, not by Winchester. None of the dummies, by the way, have the cannelure on the bullet, nor the small impressed “W” on the bullet. At least one of them had the “W” on the primer, perhaps all of them. The other three are snapped so deep it is impossible to tell.

This was an ultra rare headstamp until about five years ago, when some live ones were found in Argentina, and a whole mess of dummies were found among a couple of oil drums full of Argentine .45 dummy cartridges that showed up from the basement of some old gun shop. The dummy rounds, which had been unknown, are now much more common than the ball rounds, and the ball rounds are a bit more common than they were. As time goes on, they will become rare again in all forms, I am sure.

The headstamp reads, by the way, beginning at the 9 O’Clock position and going clockwise:

C W .45 27

Incidentally, 1927 is the year the Colt M1911A1 was officially adopted by Argentina as Pistola Modelo 1927, with license from Colt to manufacture the handgun in Argentina, where it was made at F

John: Thanks for the explanation of the headstamp and the story of these coming to light. JG

I’ve always associated the “W” marked primers and bullets with commercial cartridges. Anybody know if there are other military cartridges with those features? And why would Winchester choose to mark military contract ammunition that way?


So John, does the 27 on the headstamp signify the cartridge date or the model pistol it was for?

Ray - I don’t understand your question of why would Winchester chose to mark a military contract that way? Are you talking about the primer, or the headstamp. The headstamp was required by Argentina, as I mentioned.

As to the primer, the sepcifications were given by the Argentine Commission (probably after consultation with Winchester to see if they agreed and could meet the conditions - that is not abnormal in these things). If their standard commercial primer met the conditions, I think the right question would be "Why WOULDN’T they use their standard commercial primer if there was the correct quantity on hand.

About the “27” on the headstamp, it is hard to say. The “C” probably stands for “Colt” so it could be a model number. However, production was on July 19, 1927, according to Winchester’s .45 AUT COLT FP 230 Grain Data Card. It is the only loading session where they drew a little picture of the headstamp in the remarks section. The only thing technical on these cards is the amount and type of powder, which I will not disclose, since a powder of that name is available today, but powders change in buring characteristics over the years, and a safe load 80 years ago might not be one today. Since production was in 1927, it could also be a date on the headstamp. It is possible While the Commission’s instructions show the headstamp, the entries are not explained in their five-page document.

We may never know because there was no further contract with Winchester that required this headstamp. Argentine dummy rounds with standard WRA Co headstamp indicate there were later (or earlier???) purchases of Winchester ammunition, but the 1928 contract went to Hirtenberger (although produced at their Dutch subsidiary, I think). They had purchased ammunition from Cartoucherie Belge and Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre,Herstal, the latter also dated “27”, as well as Remington and U.S. Cartridge Company.

Argentina used the Colt .45 Auto in some numbers long before 1927, by the way, but they are Colt-made 1911-type pistols. Argentina didn’t start making their own .45 ammo until the mid-1030s.

One nice thing - the C 4 45 27 headstamp is about the best documented contract-round from before WWII.

Thanks, John, great info. I’m happy to have both a ball and dummy now with this headstamp.

Incidentally, 1927 is the year the Colt M1911A1 was officially adopted by Argentina as Pistola Modelo 1927, with license from Colt to manufacture the handgun in Argentina, where it was made at F

No. The Argentines bought 1911A1s, and then produced their own exact clone, often called the Sistema. The Ballister-Molina shares the general shape, and a few parts, but is a different pistol.

Falcon - Jon is correct. The Ballester-Molina, while strongly resembling a Colt M1911A1 .45 pistol, is quite different, and few parts interchange between the two.

Argentina first purchase M1911 Colt .45 Auto Pistols in 1914, with a purchase of 200 pieces. These were commercial pistols in the serial number range of C6201 to C6400, and were actually delivered to Argentine Naval Commission personnel at two different U.S. Shipyards. There was another order in 1919 for 400 pistols, and a very small purchase of six pistols in 1920. The 1911 types were known under various forms of the designation “Modelo 1916” in Argentina.

In 1927 and 1928, Colt supplied 10,000 .45 pistols to Argentina, in a special serial number range of one thru 10,000. These were of the then-new Model 1911A1 type, and were designated Modelo 1927 by Argentina. Others were purchased later, and marked in various ways for the Argentine Army (Ejercito de Argentina), Federal Police (Policia Federal) and for the Police of the Buenos Aires Province (Provincia de Buenos Aires - Policia).

Much of the detail surrounding the production of the “Sistema Colt” Modelo 1927 are hazy, but they were made much later than most people think - production starting in argentina no earlier than the mid-1930s, and in the case of the bulk of the pistols marked D.G.F.M. they were not made before 1941, if that early, simply because the agency “D.G.F.M.” did not exist before that time.

The Ballester Moline pistols were made by HAFDASA (Hispano Argentina Fabrica de Automoviles Sociedad Anonima). That company was founded in 1929 by the Spaniards aArturo Ballester and Eugenio Molina.

HAFDASA did begin to make any small arms until the mid-1930s, with the .45 pistol beginning in 1936 or 1937. It was base more on the Spanish Star Model B than on the Colt, eliminating the grip safety of the Colt, among other things. The earlier guns were marked “Ballester-Rigaud.”

Depending on who is telling the story, there are conflicts as to when, exactly, the British order took place, but it was probably (note I said “probably”) around 1941. It took some time to get permission from the Argentine Government to make the gun for England. These pistols were marked on the slide "PISTOLA AUTOMATICA CAL.45 FRABRICADA POR “HAFDASA"
PATENTES INTERNACIONALES “BALLESTER-MOLINA” INDUSTIRA ARGENTINA” in three lines. The factory serial number is on the left side of the arched portion of the butt, nust above the lanyard staple on the bottom of the butt. Serial numbers are in the 12000 to 21000 range. On the right side of the frame above the trigger is a special number for the British series. Observed pistols have been in the “B.1000” to “B.8000” range.

I still have pictures of the one I had in my collection in the 1960s and early 1970s. It was serial number 18167 and contract number B.5008.

The Ballester-Molina pistols were purchased by the British Government. They have the “crown over CP” proof on the slide and receiver and the normal NP proof with “.45” .900" 7 tonsper square inch" on the barrel. Note the proof mark doesn’t use the word “square” but rather simply a figure of a square. These proofs were NOT applied on purchase, but rather beofre they left England when Interarms purchased them as surplus, marked in accordance with the British 1955 proofing law before leaving England.

The timing of Argentina’s actual production of the .45 cartridge may have something to do with the fact that the mid-1930s was the beginning point, for both what became the D.G.F.M. and for Hispano Argentina Fabrica de Automoviles, towards establishing their own .45 pistol production, even though it appears it took over five years to actually reach any level of production. Prior to that, the number of .45s in service was rather small.

Reference: JLM Collection Reference Cards
Reference: “Military Pistols of Argentina,” by Alex Gherovici, 1994.

Thanks John, interesting information. I knew that ther Ballester Molina had no grip safety, but didn’t know it was almost a completely different pistol.

Falcon - it isn’t really a completely different pistol. Like the Ballester, the Star that it was based on was based on the Colt. There are more similarities than there are differences, but the two - the Ballester and the Colt, are not the same or parts interchangeable, as are the Colt and the DGFM Modelo 1927. Some parts from the Ballester will go into a colt - but not many.

If I recall correctly, the magazine, barrel, and bushing are interchangeable. Not sure what else, if anything.

I don’t know. I think you are right about those parts, though. The magazine floor plate of the Ballester-Molina has a different pitch to it, and is not flat with the bottom of the pistol’s butt, but they work just fine. I have tried that back when we had a jillion of both of these models in the store. I knew the question would come up. The regular magazines work in the Ballester as well. Never shot either of my own Argentine .45s, as both were mint; the Modelo 1927 was new in its original box with three matching magazines. To bad I couldn’t keep that collection - it wasn’t bad for the money I had to spend on the hobby at the time. Of course, everything was much cheaper then even in relation to wages. I paid 2,700.00 for my 1912/14 Mauser Experimental pistol, sold it for over 8.000.00, and today it is probably approaching 100,000.00 in value. Astonishing and somewhat sad, as gun collecting is now pretty much a hobby for only the rich. Some exceptions, like Makarovs, of course : ) : ) !!