Fighter Plane Ammo


Ammunition is extremely easy to find with a metal detector. Cartridges are large chunks of brass, which would make them obtrusive even if they were just spheres. But they are in fact sheet-metal cylinders closed at one end, which means that whatever orientation they have in the ground, there is usually two metal planes reflecting the detector’s signal. They shrill like mad.

Above is a pic of two cartridges I picked up at Sättuna today. The left-hand one is the most common type in Swedish farmland, used mainly to hunt large mammals, but also I believe in standard-issue army rifles of the 20th century. The right-hand one is something more unusual. I have only come across it at Sättuna. Look at the size! The two cartridges measure 55 by 12 and 99 by 20 millimetres respectively.

Sättuna is not far from the military airfields and SAAB fighter airplane factory of Linköping. When working at the site, we have constantly been overflown by various military aircraft. The larger cartridges are traces of a fighter pilot’s shooting practice one day decades ago.

Is there perhaps a gun nut around who can give us the type codes for the two ammo types?

(Kai, guess what I’m gonna give you as a housewarming present.)

Update 26 September: Explains Felix, the larger cartridge is likely a .50 BMG whose production began in the late 1910s. It was used in fighter planes especially during the Second World War.

Update 27 September: And N.N. adds that the smaller one is likely a 6.5×55 mm Swedish Mauser cartridge, developed in 1891 and popular among hunters to this day.

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  1. #1 AnonymousCoward
    September 25, 2008

    The big one is probably from a Russian ShVAK.

    The smaller case doesn’t ring any bells.

  2. #2 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    September 25, 2008
  3. #3 Jim Thomerson
    September 25, 2008

    While walking home from the school bus, on our ranch in Central Texas, I found two 50 calibre projectiles. This was during or shortly after WWII. We had all kinds of military aircraft overhead. So that was the obvious source. Have you found any projectiles?

  4. #4 Tobias
    September 25, 2008

    Cool find. My only contribution is that it can’t be for a Hispano cannon since the neck is too long. Here is a pic of some live rounds for a Hispano that I found on Sealand, Denmark (the one on the left shows the shorter neck):
    All were handled, i.e. blown up, on site by the Danish Army’s mine sweeping squad. They pack a mighty punch!
    There are a couple of WWII & gun buffs at NDF who might be able to help if you post it there.

  5. #5 Felix
    September 25, 2008

    The bigger one seems to match this:

  6. #6 kai
    September 26, 2008


    I’ll get you turned into an aeroarchaeologist yet. 🙂

  7. #7 Martin R
    September 26, 2008

    Jim, I have never found any projectiles to go with these cartridges. What we do find with some regularity is lead rifle balls from before the appearance of gun cartridges.

  8. #8 kai
    September 26, 2008

    The 20 mm cartridge probably had an explosive shell, so there wouldn’t even be any projectile left to find.

  9. #9 Ian
    September 26, 2008

    I once found a cartridge in a pear tree, but I have no idea what these are. I called the Shell corporation and they were no help at all….

  10. #10 Martin R
    September 26, 2008

    Paaa-haaa! (-;

  11. #11 Lars L
    September 26, 2008

    This post is so MÖPish! I like it!

  12. #12 Martin R
    September 26, 2008

    MÖP = militärt överintresserad person, “person with an exaggerated interest in military matters”. (-;

  13. #13 Tobias
    September 26, 2008

    What does the stamps on the base say?

  14. #14 Nomen Nescio
    September 26, 2008

    the headstamps might identify the caliber, but more likely would identify the manufacturer. to nail down the caliber, you’d want to look at several measurements: overall case length; diameter at base; diameter of rim, if any (yours are both rimless); diameter at neck, if it isn’t too crushed to tell; length from base to the beginning of the shoulder (where the case starts necking down to a narrower diameter), if any; and length from base to end of shoulder, if any.

    and then you’d look it all up in a reference book, such as Jane’s, that Tegumai linked to.

    looking at somewhat corroded cases in a photo with no scale reference it’s hard to guess what you’ve got there. the smaller one, since you say it looks like the most common local hunting cartridge, is likely 6.5×55 Swede, which means it could be either military or civilian in origin. the larger one does indeed look like .50 BMG, which means it’s likely of military origin, unless there are some very long-range riflery enthusiasts near the site.

  15. #15 Martin R
    September 27, 2008

    On the bottom of the larger one, “1 4”. Nothing legible on the smaller one.

  16. #16 Leif Häggström
    October 3, 2008

    According to Swedish ammoproducer Norma ammunition in the 6,5×55 calibre is the most sold ammunition in Sweden today (apart from shotgun shells & 22LR). I use it myself and if you want a cartridge to compare with give me a hint.

    Last year, when excavating a iron age dolmen, we found a 6,5 mm FMJ bullet. The lead core and copper jacket screamed loudly in the detector.

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