What was the earliest Steel case smokeless cartridge


I am digging around on steel case (actually iron case) ammunition from WWI and it seems to me that the German work in 1915 and 1916 with 7.9x57mm ammunition led to the first production of a modern, smokeless powder cartridge with a steel/iron case.

However, I am far from an expert in this area, or almost any area, and know little of the early work in rifle cartridge development. Does anyone know of any development or production of steel/iron cases during WWI or earlier other than the German 7.9x57mm. I understand the Austrians did some development during WWI but it apparently didn’t lead to production.

Any help appreciated.



I have a rimmed draw-piece of copper-washed steel headstamped “F A 9 08”, a Cal. .30 M-1906.


Great! So FA was looking at steel cases before WWI. I wonder what prompted that??? I checked HWS Vol I and FA experiments with steel cases were conducted from 1915-1919 and perhaps again in 1926, but no indication of production. I couldn’t find any 1908 work, but perhaps I overlooked it.

Still leaves the 7.9mmM the first production round as far as I know.

Would appreciate any information from others.



Lew, the earliest example that I know of is a 6 x 50 cartridge with belted case experimented by G. Roth in 1891.




From the Forum Archives the thread entitled Steel case .303? , a steel case .303 is discussed. The relevant photos posted by Tony Edwards are missing from the archived thread but I saved the thread before the Forum crashed years ago and I have added back Tony’s photos in proper sequence to the excerpts below:


Apr '07

Aerators Ltd & the Royal Laboratory made experimental steels cases during WW1. Kynoch made some during WW2. Results (some burst cases) and ample brass supplies did not warrant full-scale production.
Aluminium cases were made by Greenwood & Batley (2 piece case) and also by Radway Green & Kynoch after WW2. RG & K cases were anodised whole range of colours. I have plain alu .303 Mk 6 allegedly made by British Aluminium - but I suspect they were metal suppliers and Kynoch actually made them. There is a Mk 7 version also - have no info on dates made.”


Apr '07

"As John P-C says, there were several attempts to make steel cases at different times, together with aluminium cases.

I was told many years ago that the Mark VI and Mark VII alloy cases were actually made by Birmingham Metals & Munitions before WWI (which would explain the Mark VI) but I cannot verify this. I am sure John is right about British Aluminium supplying the metal.

Here are some examples, all unheadstamped."

L. to R.

Steel case - unknown
Aluminium - unknown
Aluminium - Birmingham? as above
Aluminium - unknown
Aluminium 2 piece - Greenwood & Batley 1930s
Aluminium 2 piece - Greenwood & Batley 1930s

L. to R.

7.92 Besa Aluminium RG or Kynoch 1948
Nos 2,3 and 4 are the same rounds as previous photo
Nos 5 to 8 are all from the 1947/48 light alloy case trials and made by Kynoch or RG.



Fede & BDGreen,
You are both treasure troves! Many thanks from both of you.




From Austrian Military Cartridges, Vol. 1, Motz; pages 159 - 160, an experimental 8mm (8x50mm?) steel cartridge case (dated 1892) and a part aluminum & part steel cartridge case are pictured and discussed.



Lew see HWS Volume 1 Revised page 117, left column third paragraph, this same exact case is mentioned.


Thanks! I don’t have the revision!!!

Thanks BD!

I guess I am still safe asserting that the German 7.9mmM work in 1916-1918 was the first production of modern steel case ammunition.

If someone disagrees, please post!!!

Many thanks.



Professor Hebler in his first book at length describes the (assumed) advantages of steel cases versus brass: thinner walls possible and therefore lighter. I think he mentions that experiments with his designs were underway at Karlsruhe.

In his later books, steel cases are not mentioned any more.



From the book; Die Munition zum Mausergewehr M71

In 1881 a company called Lorenz in Karlsruhe, formal H. Ehrmann made M71 cartridges with an iron case. Head stamp “L II 1881”



Were these for test or were they actually production items?



In the book is written;
Because iron was always available in Germany they started making cases from iron.

Because the high wear of the tooling, the production from the iron cases became too expensive. It is not clear if they speak about 10 or 10 000 cases.
I know of one cartridge in a collection. Perhaps @JPeelen knows more about this item.



I am afraid I have no additional facts to contribute.



this is a picture of my 5-piece draw set of the (earliest) copper washed 30-06 steel case.
The last piece is headstamped FA 9 08.
Bill told me he had a three-piece draw set of these.
How many pieces do you have and are they different than mine ?



Just the one, rimmed & straight sided (no neck) with the primer pocket completed.
Would fit here, to the left of your one on the right.


I own A 1898 Krag 38-40 it had smokeless after it went thru Springfield Armory in 1901and was repacked until I bought in 1957 from armory in bay area it had A box of ammo in it that said smokeless, so you figure, 40 rounds thru it in 117 years.


Wow… methinks it is time to take a magnet to the OLD cases to see!
Thanks… I need more work to take up my free time…