What is it? - Not 38 Browning Experimental-9mm Luger load

What is it?
Was sent to me from a friend. I didn’t think Browning used lead bullets in his development’s.
Ctg L. 1.157"
Case L. .757"
Bullet .358
Head .376"
Rim .379"



Bruce, the manufacture of 9 mm Parabellum cartridges made from .38 Special cases was not unusual in the States in the years that followed World War II, and I’m sure that Lew and John can tell you more about all the variations that they have found. I think that I have a few ads by custom reloaders offering these, but I’ll need some time to find them. Regards, Fede.

Bruce - I seriously doubt that the cartridge shown, with no measurements provided for comparison, is a Browning .38 Experimental, a cartridge that is known from a miniscule amount of specimens. The original had a FMJ RN bullet, not lead. Further, the headstamp on the cartridge strikes me as being a case made after the demise of John Browning.

After WWII, thousands of European pistols were being brought back by returning veterans of the European conflict, including many in 9 mm Parabellum.
The ammunition companies in the USA were coming off of War Production, and aiming to recapture the American domestic market, which meant a resumption of production of calibers for hunting, police and popular target shooting handguns and rifles. Up until Post-WWII, the 9 mm Luger cartridge was not especially popular in the USA, despite many souvenir pistols that were brought back from WWI. Remember - there was no commercial US-made 9 mm Luger-caliber pistol until the Colt Commander and the Smith and Wesson Model 39, both, as I recall, designs that came out after the Korean War. However, the shelves of gun shops and perhaps even more so, pawn shops, were filling up with foreign pistols being sold off by vets who, for them, were not in the best of economic times. Included were many 9 mm Luger-caliber pistols like the Luger Pistol, the P-38 Pistol, the Polish Radom and the Browning Hi-power, not to even mention a few Spanish types like the Astra 600. All of these had seen service with the Axis troops and were prime souvenirs for those vets able to obtain one.

Meanwhile, there was little ammunition for the European guns being offered for sale, as only dribs and drabs had been brought back with the pistols. The major US manufacturers were busy coming off of a war-production footing and airming to recapture the American domestic market by turning out popular calibers for hunters, police and target shooters. The 9 mm Luger was certaining not among those, despite that it would eventually become THE popular American auto pistol cartridge, just as it was pretty much throughout the world.

To fill a niche in the market, and in the absence of components of the proper case type, various commercial reloaders took to remanufactuing the plentiful supply of .38 Special cases, used and produced for the Government and local police agencies all during the war, into 9 x 19 mm Luger cases. Some dimensions are not proper, but in the main, such cases were save to shoot at least once, and of course bullet molds and lead solved the problem of bullet supply.

I recall well, since I bought some for a Nambu I had acquired, the a man named Spence even made some 8 mm Japanese Nambu cartridges using .38 Special cases. They shoot well, but as he warned, most would split on the first firing. Of course, in a way, that worked to his advantage. Even 6.5 Arisaka rifles were being converted by the few civilian shooters who liked them, into a wildcat 6.5/257 Roberts caliber, and those with tight bores shot very well like that. Some 6.5 ammo reformed from other cases was offered as well.

“Find a niche and fill it” was a phrase well understood by the American entrepreneuer.

As factory 9 mm ammo became more and more available, and eventually with millions of rounds of surplus ammo, even American-made cartridges “coming home,” the market for reformed-case 9 mm reloads disappeared.

As Fede suspected, I have several variations of these in my own 9 mm collection, and Lew probably has many, many more than do I. They are interesting, but not of any particular monetary or trade value.

By the way, the little blurb photographed with that cartridge for this thread came from “Centerfire American and British Pistol and Revolver Cartridges,” by Henry P. White and Burton D. Munhall, originally prublished in 1950 by The Combat Forces Press, Washington D.C., at the top left of page 51,

That is what I thought.
Thanks John & Fede

Based on what I have seen on John Browning’s work on the rounds that became the 7.65mm Browning and later the 32ACP, where he started with the 32 S&W revolver case, I would strongly suspect that legit rounds in this caliber would all have a Winchester headstamp.

With a case length of 0.772" or 19.6mm this was likely part of the development of the Colt M1900 and eventually the 9mm Browning Long. See Shuey, Vol 1, page 275.

There are lots of 9mm Luger rounds made from 38 Special cases floating around. Like John, I have a bunch. What I’m missing is the boxes. The only box I have is the one below. All the rounds in the box were headstamped “PETERS 38SPL” and all had nickel plated cases.

Krag56, From the headstamp and caselength of your round, it looks like a post-WWII 9mm Luger made from a 38 Special case. Wish you had gotten the box with it. Does your friend have the rest of the box???

Does anyone else have a box or boxes of these post-WWI and post-WWII boxes of 9mm Luger ammo made from other calibers???


Lew, I’m glad that you posted a picture of the Wagner’s Gunroom box because I could not have remembered them otherwise. After the war, this company was one of the first to offer 9 mm Parabellum handloads, more precisely between 1947 and 1949, and also loaded a long list of hard to find cartridges, many of them European. The earliest ads mention the use of a 112 grain lead bullet, but it was later changed to a 125 grain also made of lead. Below you can see two examples:





Fede, Thanks for the ads and info. All I had on them is the box, which I found in the late 60s in, no surprise, Ohio.

Below are the loads that I were made from other cases. Most probably date from after WWII, but some may be earlier.

The cartridge on the far right is from the Wagner Gun Room and is the only one I have identified to a company.

The two on the far left are really strange. Both lack headstamps and both have the old copper Winchester Circle W primer. Both are quite heavy. Based on the cartridge weight the bullet must be about 150gr or a bit more. Perhaps John M or one of the other autopistol guys can identify the type bullet. The primers must date these in the period just after WWI

I think the remainder date from after WWII. Note two have 38ACP headstamps and the rest are 38 SPL.

Fede, since the truncated bullet load has a Peters headstamp and nickel case, perhaps it is the 117gr Wagner load. Do you have any images of this load?

Who made the primer with the “O” (second load from the right)

If anyone has any other loads of this sort, or better yet boxes, please post.


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The information that I have is that Remington made the “0” primers, and that they were sold specifically for reloaders, so that the end product could not claim to be of Remington assembly. Early liability worries - it isn’t just now days.

Lew - on that round second from left, which seems in the picture to have a cartridge head quite a bit smaller in diameter than the other rounds (optical illusion?), I can only report that Western, and perhaps others, made a .38 Special 150 grain bullet called “Metal Tip” that was a metal cap on a lead base. Unfortunately, since most of my early Winchester catalogs from the 1930s, etc., are actually price lists, with few illustrations, I cann find a picture of this bullet. It seems to me it had the blunt ogive common to the .38 AUTO (.38 A.C.P. at the time) bullet, although the latter is 130 grains and FMJ.

That round seems to have a roll crimp. Is there any lead apparent right a case mouth?

This is, of course, nothing more than a wild guess on my part. I can think of no auto pistol bullet of roughly 9 mm diameter that weighs that much or has that shape.

Interesting thread!

Regarding the two items that Lew shows on the left and indicates are heavy, I’m inclined to agree with John that they may well be metal point bullets for revolvers. Here are a couple examples, a Remington on the left and a Winchester on the right:


The Remington looks like a good match for profile (?) and were also made with copper plated/jacketed nose.

The cases look like they’ve been modified in the head area with a file. Not likely the parent cartridge for sure, but the unheadstamped, rounded copper primer with “W” look makes me think of the early 9.8mm Colt, though I think those did not have a circle around the W.


Dave - You are correct about the 9.8 mm Colt not having a circle around the primer. One thing most don’t seem to know is that there were two sizes of “W” on the primers of unheadstamped rounds of that caliber.

Lew, sorry, I don’t have images, only descriptions taken from these diminute ads.

John & Dave, I think an early 38 Special bullet sounds right. The bullet on the second round from left use to be CN plated. The round looks like it was buffed and the CN coating only remains at the case mouth and in some dents in the bullet. interestingly, both of these bullets have small dings in the bullet tip. The heads on both rounds have had the headstamp turned off but it was very finely done or buffed after the fact. No evidence of a file.

Both could be the metal cap bullets, but seated deep enough that no lead is visible at the case mouth. The CN residue on the GM bullet is clearly not lead.

Good eye John! The GM bullet load is 0.3mm shorter than the CN bullet load.

What you post supports the idea that these are likely post-WWI loads.

Does anyone have similar loads, perhaps in your junk box??? Hopefully somebody out there has a full, original box labelled with something like “Dingbat Ammunition Co”.