Proof Marks - Forgotten Weapons

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Proof Marks and Identification
Understanding Firearms
Markings
1880-1945
Ian McCollum
www.ForgottenWeapons.com
[email protected]
1
Types of Markings

Date(s)
Patent marking

Country of origin
Model name/number

Manufacturer name
Brand name

Serial number(s)
Military acceptance

Proof mark(s)
Refurbish mark

Unit number
Conversion marking

Import marking
Caliber
2
Where was this rifle made?
3
France – the markings translate to:
Ordnance
Factory
Chatellerault
Chatellerault was a major French state arsenal
4
Two More
5
What is the point of showing these examples?
Context is essential!
Always consider the whole gun to understand what
you are looking at.
6
Proof Marks
What is a proof mark?
7
Why Proof Marks?
(in no particular order)



Public safety
Industry reputation
Government oversight
8
Proof Loads

Typically 25% - 30% overpressure

Either one or two rounds
9
Proof Marks - England



The modern British proof law was passed in 1868,
with an official nitro proof added in 1904 and a
general update in 1925.
British law did not automatically recognize foreign
proofs, so many arms imported into England had to
be re-proofed.
Up to WWII, pressure was measured in tons.
10
Proof Marks - England
Birmingham proof mark used prior to 1904:
Indicates black powder proof unless accompanied by
the words “Nitro Proofed”
11
Proof Marks - England
Standard proof marks, 1925-1954:
Birmingham
London
Final proof
View proof
Nitro proof
12
Proof Marks - England
Standard nitro proof marks, post-1954:
Birmingham
London
(on action)
(on barrel)
13
Proof Marks - England
When on foreign-made guns, the proof marks were
enclosed in a circle, and accompanied by the mark
“NOT ENGLISH MADE”:
14
Proof Marks - England
In addition to everything else, a special mark was used
to date the proofing.
From 1922/23 to 1940/41, this mark was used:
A=21/22, B=22/23, C=23/24, etc.
I and Q not used.
From 1950 to 1974, it was this one:
A=1951, B=1952, C=1953, etc.
I not used (but Q was).
15
Proof Marks - England
Lee-Enfield No.5 rifle, rebarreled in 1974
16
Proof Marks - Belgium




Royal decree in 1672 required proof testing and
marking of barrels
Belgian national proof house established in Liege
In 1888, a new law forbade the sale or display of
unproofed firearms
In 1891, proof testing standards for smokeless
powder were introduced
17
Proof Marks - Belgium



Crown over R – Black powder proof
of a barrel (also appears on smokeless
barrels).
“Perron” - Indicates fit and function of
slides, locking mechanisms. Used from
1903 to 1924 (not on revolvers).
Rampant Lion “PV” - used 1898 - 1924
for smokeless barrel proof. After 1924, it
replaced the Perron mark entirely.
18
Proof Marks - Belgium



EPV (Epreuve de Liege) with crown – final
overall proof mark after 1893
Plain EPV – final overall proof from
1853-1893 (used on muzzleloaders after 1893)
Star over letter – Individual inspector's
marking, 1877 to present. From 1853 to
1877, a crown replaced the star.
19
Proof Marks - Belgium
Black powder, post-1893
20
Proof Marks - Germany



The modern German proof mark law took effect in
1893, and remained definitive until 1939.
In 1939, the proof marking symbol was changed
form an imperial crown to a Nazi eagle.
The well-known Waffenamt Nazi symbol was
actually a military acceptance mark, and not a proof
mark.
21
Proof Marks - Germany
1891 – 1939 proof marks:
Nitro
Final proof
Black powder
Choked bore
Rifled bore
Smooth bore
22
Proof Marks - Germany
Weapons manufactured prior to the proof law taking
effect (1893) were required grandfathered, but had to
be marked (this did not constitute an actual
proofing).
23
Proof Marks - Germany
In 1939, the crown was replaced by an eagle, and the
typical 3-proof combination (B, U, and G) was
replaced by a single eagle/N mark.
24
Proof Marks - Germany
Typical commercial Mauser rifle
25
Proof Marks - Italy
Italian replica cowboy pistols are probably the most
likely place to find black powder proofs today.
Italy has a nice simple set of proof marks, but a rather
strange date code system.
26
Proof Marks - Italy
The proof marks:

Black powder proof

Smokeless proof

Final definitive proof
Brescia provisional
proof
Gardone provisional
proof
27
Proof Marks - Italy
28
Proof Marks - Italy
Proof marks on an Uberti 1858 Remington copy:
Proofs will also be found on barrel and cylinder.
29
Proof Marks - Spain


Eibar proof house established in 1844, proofing
made mandatory in 1923.
Typically appear as a set of 3 markings:
30
Proof Marks - Spain

First mark is the actual final proof – gun is good
Early (1923-1928)

Second is the date
A – 1927
B – 1928
Late (1928+)
Until 1927/28, a “P.V.”
was used instead of
the date
C – 1929...
31
Proof Marks - Spain

Third mark is an admission to the proof house:
Early (until mid 1931)
Late (mid 1931 – now)
(The King fled in 1931, and the crown went with him)
32
Proof Marks - Spain
With this in mind, we can interpret this typical Spanish
set of markings:
Gun was accepted and proofed in 1945
33
Other Markings

Date (of manufacture or refurbish)


Model name/number
Manufacturer name


Import marks
Serial number(s)


Caliber
Military acceptance
34
Date(s)
Dates marked on a firearm can mean several different
things:



Date of manufacture
Date the gun was refurbished
Date the model was adopted for military use

Date the design was patented
35
Date of Manufacture
Dates can take several forms -
36
Manufacture Date
37
Refurbish Date
Sometimes a firearm is marked with the date of a
major repair or conversion:
38
Refurbish Date
39
Refurbish Date
40
Adoption Date
Model dates are usually more obvious...
41
Adoption Date
...but not always.
42
Model Name/Number
Probably the most unambiguous type of marking...
43
Model Name/Number
But what if you can't read it?
(Iranian Mauser)
44
Model Name/Number
This very clearly says that it is a Type 99
45
Model Name/Number
Store brand guns – this was actually made by FN
46
Manufacturer Name

On civilian guns, typically company name

On military guns, typically arsenal name

Sometimes just a location
47
Manufacturer Name
Often a company's location will also be marked – this
was how you could find the company.
48
Country of Origin


This is rarely directly marked on military arms, with
the exception of guns imported for commercial sale
It usually must be inferred from other markings
49
Import Markings
In 1968, the GCA required this information to be
marked on all guns imported into the US:

Serial number

Manufacturer

Country of origin

Model designation

Caliber

Importer name

Importer location (city & state)
50
Import Markings
Typically abbreviated heavily:
Century International Arms, Saint Albans, Vermont
51
Import Markings


Location varies – 2002 regulation change required
them to be “conspicuous”
Serial number may not contain non-latin numbers –
if it does, a new one must be marked.
52
Import Markings
Possible locations

Under front of barrel

Under grip panels (old)

Side of receiver

Sometimes tiny!
53
Import Markings
Prior to 1968, commercial imports had to be marked
with the country of origin
54
Import Markings
Of course, they sometimes goofed...
55
Import Markings
Remember, not all info has to be in the same place.
If the caliber, model, or other data is already on the
gun, it does not need to be marked again.
Import markings are not required to be on the receiver,
but are illegal to alter or deface. However, it is legal
to remove parts they are on (ie, barrels) for repair.
56
Serial Number
In the US, serial numbers became legally required on
guns in 1968.
Virtually all military arms have serial numbers.
Most pre-1968 commercial arms of reasonable quality
and cost also had them.
57
Serial Number

Often multiple large parts are
serial numbered.

On commercial arms, it is rare
for parts to be mis-matched.

On military arms, it is fairly common – usually bolts
58
Serial Number
Some folks (like Germans) would serial number
everything right down to the screws:
59
Serial Number
The only legally required serial number is the one on
the receiver – but this may not be where a
manufacturer marks it:
60
Serial Number
Sometimes military arms will have unit markings,
which look like additional serial numbers:
61
Serial Number
Foreign-made guns may have numbers printed in nonLatin numerals:
Looks like “AK”, but it's actually “DK” in Cyrillic
62
Serial Number
Arabic script...
63
Serial Number
or Thai script...
64
Serial Number

Letters within a serial number...

Production block code (very common)

Date code (fairly common)

Prefix meaning “number” (“N” on some rifles)

Suffix meaning “year” (cyrillic “r”)

Model or feature designation (often built into the
serial number rather than separate)
65
Caliber
Generally caliber markings on military arms specify
the bore diameter only – the specific cartridge must
be determined from context.
66
Caliber
Which 9mm, exactly? Spanish JoLoAr:
9x17mm (.380ACP)
9x23mm (9mm Largo)
67
Caliber
Military forces often updated guns to different
cartridges, and did not always mark them clearly.
68
Caliber
It was also fairly common to change the chamber
profile to accept different bullet profiles.
69
Caliber
Overall length can be a good clue to caliber changes
70
Caliber
Common opportunities for pistol caliber mixups:

7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP) vs 7.65mm Luger
(7.65mm Parabellum)

9mm Kurz (.380ACP/9x17) vs 9mm Parabellum vs
9mm Largo (9x23mm) vs 9mm Browning
(9x20SR)
The really confusing one is 9mm Largo vs 9mm
Bergmann-Bayard vs 9mm Steyr, as they are all
9x23mm cases.
71
Caliber
Occasionally, militaries actually try to be helpful:
72
Military Acceptance
Many models of firearm were made for both military
and commercial sale. Military acceptance marks can
help determine the provenance of a particular gun.
73
Military Acceptance
A few examples...
Austria
Switzerland
France
Israel
United Kingdom
US
Nazi Germany
74
Military Acceptance
One special case worth mentioning is the British “DP”
mark, for Drill Purpose
Generally meant the part was out of spec, and not to
be used for live fire.
75
How about some strange and goofy markings?
76
Chinese Pistols
77
Chinese Pistols
78
Chinese Pistols
79
Afghan Forgery
80
Test!
81
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