From left to right: 1954 Ball headstamp reversed, 1959 Ball Double Circle headstamp, 1959 Ball Double Circle headstamp copperwashed case, Silver tip "Type 53" 1956, Gray tip "Type 53" 1964, 1979 dated "Type 53", 1957 Tracer, 1958 Incendiary-Tracer, 1955 API (Armor-Percing Incendiary), Two-Piece API, 1967 Black Tip API, Grenade Blank

Headstamp Codes:

Double Circle 31 51 61 71
31 Reversed 321 671    
Click on the code for an image of the headstamp


The Chinese began 7.62x54R production with a lead cored 147 grain copy of the Russian "L" style bullet. Later the bullet design was changed to a steel core copy of the "LPS". Gray or silver tip color will appear on most "LPS" ammunition but not all. In 1967, when all color codes were revised, marking the tip color of Ball ammunition was halted. China produced API (two different bullet designs), Tracer and Incendiary-Tracer ammunition. From the late 1950's on they followed the Soviet standard for color coding. In 1967, the color coding system was consolidated as the Chinese produced far fewer types of ammunition than the Soviets. Along with the deletion of the silver tip coding, the API (Armor-Piercing Incendiary) color code was changed from black over red to simply black. The red tipped Incendiary-Tracer round while serving a similar function as the Soviet exploding round, is constructed quite differently. Its purpose is to produce a trace to the target and bright flash so aiming adjustments can be made. The bullet contains an incendiary compound instead of high expolsives.

Sectioned 1954 dated lead core Ball and 1955 dated Tracer

An unusual "double circle" headstamp can be found on some 7.62x54R ball ammunition. According to the DIA Small-Caliber Ammunition Identification Guide this symbol represents former Nationalist China factory number 10. Many people have held the incorrect view that this ammunition was Olympic target ammo or Target grade sniper ammunition. It is simply common ball "Type 53". The symbol is a hold over from Nationalist China which used double circles and double squares in the headstamp of 8x57 Mauser ammunition. It is still used today on box labels of .22lr.

8x57 Mauser headstamps of Nationalist China and very early communist China

*source:DIA Small Caliber Ammunition Identification Guide

Ammunition is generally packed in 440 round tins, two tins to a wooden case. If packed in stripper clips, the number of rounds per tin drops to 300. (still different than the Soviet 280 count) Paper wrapped bundles of 20 will sometimes be found marked in Chinese with green ink with the caliber, bullet type ("Type 53" or Tracer) and number of rounds in the package.

Packaging Examples:

Paper wrapped bundle of 15 rounds in stripper clips. 1954 date
Clip of 5 rounds from the above package. Note the Brass stripper clip.
1954 300 round tin. Early manf. does not conform to the Soviet format as does later production.
Paper wrapped 20 round bundle of Ball. 1957 date. Unusual to find with ink markings.
Paper wrapped 20 round bundle of Tracer. 1955 date. Unusual to find with ink markings.
Paper wrapped 20 round bundle of API (Armor-Piercing Incendiary) 1955 date
440 round tin of API. Note the red and black stripe.