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What cartridges should one fire in a C-96? What's the story with Tokarev ammo, and how about that Czech stuff?

There is much Internet heat on these questions, but little light.

Let's split it into several more specific questions.
(1) Case dimensions - are these cartridges physically (that is, dimensionally) identical?
A characteristic, and easily measurable, dimension would certainly help identify the cartridges. Is there any such dimension?

(2) Original loads - how were they loaded, back in the old days when they were serious military and civilian rounds?
This may bear little relation to how they are loaded today - consideration of that may require another page.

(3) Original design - what loads were these guns designed to handle?
Lacking factory notes, and short of blowing a few specimens up, this will be a tough one to answer. For a first approximation, use the original factory loads as guidelines. If a gun has no reputation for blowing up, then it can be assumed to be safe with the loads which dominated the market when it was made and when it was used. Maybe.

(4) Current availability - how is this ammunition currently available loaded?
After extensive rumination of printed sources old and new, I've come to some conclusions. Here they are -
Historically speaking, original commercial and government issue (military) Borchardt, Mauser, Soviet Tokarev, and Czech Tokarev cases were identical.

For all these cartridges, the standard bullet weight was 85 grains, with 86 grains a close second. Bullet diameter was .308 inches.

The loadings of Mauser, Soviet Tokarev, and Chinese Tokarev cartridges were identical. Borchardt cartridges were loaded to velocities about 6% lower. Czech Tokarev cartridges were loaded to velocites about 15% higher. Czech Tokarev cartridges fired in a Mauser would have muzzle velocites around 1575 ft/sec. For the Mauser pistol, this is nowhere near a proof load, but still a bit hotter than the gun was intended to handle on a regular basis.

Borchardt 6.5" 1300 ft/sec 80 ft/sec 6 % x x x
Mauser 5.5" 1380 ft/sec 80 ft/sec 6 % 9 % x x
4.6" 1350 ft/sec 35 ft/sec 3 % 9 % 0 % x
4.7" 1540 ft/sec 40 ft/sec 3 % 23 % 15 % 15 %

According to my mathematical modelling, the velocity difference between Mauser and Soviet Tokarev in the above table is entirely due to the difference in barrel lengths. I have put in factors to account for the different barrel lengths. In other words, the typical average Soviet Tokarev cartridge would have a muzzle velocity of 1350 feet per second when fired from a Tokarev, and the exact same cartridge would have a muzzle velocity of 1380 feet per second when fired from a Mauser with a 5.5 inch barrel. The sources never specify muzzle velocities for cartridges fired in Bolos - a Mauser is always assumed to have a 5.5 inch barrel.

The situation regarding modern loadings is a bit more complex. Some modern Mauser and Tokarev cases are not identical, in particular Starline. This will undoubtedly complicate things even more in the future. And modern factory loadings from China and eastern Europe can be all over the place. But at least I believe I now know where they should be.

UPDATE - My velocity for Czech Tokarev may be on the low side. See here.

FURTHER UPDATE - Well, civilization progresses ... eventually. Prvi Partizan sells military 7.62 Tokarev as "7.62 TT" and "7.62 TT High Pressure". Although the specs have not yet been posted (due to "under construction" disease), the High Pressure designation might finally end the rampant confusion over Tokarev loadings.


The differences between 7.62, 7.63, and 7.65 mm are nominal only (that is, they're just names). They're of no more physical significance than the names 218 Bee, 22 Hornet, 220 Swift, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, 224 Weatherby, or 225 Winchester - all are exactly the same caliber (.22, firing .224 inch bullets). And the most notorious of the well-known examples would have to be .38 S&W Special, which fires the exact same bullet as .357 S&W Magnum. Obviously Mauser wanted a name for their cartridge which wouldn't be confused with other .30 caliber cartridges (.300 inch is exactly 7.62 mm). In this case, 7.62 mm Tokarev, 7.63 mm Mauser, and 7.65 mm Borchardt are identical calibers.

The Tokarev cartridge is often called TT or Tula-Tokarev (as is the gun). The big Russian arsenals dominating rifle production in the ninteenth and early twentieth centuries were at Tula (south of Moscow), Sestroretsk (near St. Petersburg), and Izhevsk (in the Urals). There were other arsenals for swords, artillery, etc. The arsenal at Sestroretsk was shut down in the early 1920s and need not concern us. Tula has been a metalworking center since the medieval period, and in the late Imperial days most of Russia's government-issue hanguns were made there. However, I have seen specimens of both the 1895 Nagant revolver and the Tokarev pistol with Izhevsk manufacturer's marks. So, some Tula-Tokarevs were made at Izhevsk. That's why I don't use Tula as a prefix - it's a Tokarev whether it came from Tula or Izhevsk. From the late 1920s the Tula mark has been a vertical arrow inscribed in a large star. The Izhevsk mark has been a vertical arrow inscribed in a small triangle. See drawings of these marks here or here. These are the main manufacturer's marks on the guns, seen on the barrel shanks of rifles (not the receivers) or on the left sides of pistol frames (and generally on the tops of slides as well). Factory marks on smaller parts vary.
The remainder of this page is a tedious list of the sources and data I sifted through to arrive at the above conclusions. Direct quotes are in blue; my immediate criticisms are in red.

Case Dimensions
(a) The Small Arms Identification and Operation Guide discusses Mannlicher, Borchardt, Mauser, and Tokarev cartridges as if they're identical except for minor differences in bullet weight and propellant load.

Here is the entire relevant text -
[Page 1]

Defense Intelligence Agency, Small-Caliber Ammunition Identification Guide (U), Volume 1
Small-Arms Cartridges up to 15 mm (U)

20 August 1984. Approved for public release; distribution unlimited

[Page 2]

Effective date of review
30 May 1991

The data upon which this document is based have been subjected to a continuous review and analysis by the US Army Foreign Science and Technology Center, and it has been determined that the substantive content of this document is still valid and up-to-date as of May 1991.

[Page 47]

Index No. 21

Other Designations:
7.63 mm Mannlicher, Model 1896 or 1903;
7.65 mm Mannlicher Carbine, M1896 or 1901;
7.65 mm Borchardt;
.30 Mauser Pistol;
7.63 mm Mauser Pistol;
7.62 mm Type P;
[the "P" is an arbitrary designation - see Page 10 of original document]
7.62 mm Type 50; [1950 was the year of adoption by China - see Page 10 of original document]
7.62 m Tokarev, M. 30.
This durable cartridge first appeared in 1893 for the Borchardt self-loading pistol that was the design forerunner of the Luger pistol. With only minor changes in bullet weight and propellant loading, this cartridge was also used in the Models 1896, 1901, and 1903 Mannlicher pistols and pistol-carbines. The same cartridge case but with a distinctly heavier load was developed for the 7.63 mm Mauser Model 1896 military automatic pistol, which earned a worldwide reputation. In 1930, the Soviet Union adopted the Mauser cartridge, under the designation 7.62 mm Type P, for the Tokarev TT-30 and TT-33 automatic pistols and later for the Models PPD-40, PPSh-41, and PPS-43 submachineguns. Although no longer used by Soviet military forces, these weapons are found in eastern Europe and worldwide. Other military weapons that fire this cartridge are the German Model 1932 machine pistol; PRC Types 51 and 54 pistols and Types 50 and 64 submachineguns; Czechoslovak Models 24 and 26 submachineguns and Model 52 pistol; Polish Model 1943/52 submachinegun; North Korean Type 68 pistol; Hungarian Model 48 submachinegun; Yugoslav M49, M49/57 and M56 submachineguns and Spanish Astra Models 900 and 903 pistols.

Besides ball cartridges, API and tracer cartridges have been made by the Soviet Union for submachinegun use. The muzzle velocity of the 7.62x25 is 400 m/s
[1,313 ft/sec] in the pistol and 450 m/s [1,476 ft/sec] in the submachinegun. its [sic] practical range in a pistol is 25 to 30 meters; in a submachinegun, 100 to 150 meters; and in a pistol-carbine, about 200 meters. Although obsolescent as a military cartridge, the 7.62x25 is still available commercially for police and sporting use.
(b) Barnes, Cartridges of the World, 6th Ed., has this to say -
7.62mm Russian Tokarev - The cartridge is very similar to the 7.63mm Mauser and some brands of Mauser ammunition can be fired in the Tokarev pistol.

This is a very peculiar sentence, and Barnes gives no source or rationale for it. I believe all brands of Mauser and Tokarev ammunition can be chambered and fired in either gun.

30 (7.63mm) Mauser - Developed by American gun designer Hugo Borchardt for the first successful commercial, automatic pistol .... This cartridge was used by Paul Mauser for his Model 1896 pistol and then increased in power for his more rugged design.

30 Borchardt - The 30 Borchardt is the predecessor to the 7.63 (30) Mauser, 7.65 Mannlicher and 7.63 Russian Tokarev. They all have the same physical measurements, but the other rounds are loaded more powerfully than the original Borchardt cartridge. The 30 Borchardt fired an 85-grain bullet at 1280 fps, whereas the 30 Mauser fires an 86-grain bullet at from 1410 to 1450 fps. Modern ammunition should not be used in the Borchardt or Mannlicher pistols.

7.63mm (7.65) Mannlicher - The cartridge described is not the one for the locked-breech 1903 Mannlicher, but a straight-sided cartridge for the delayed blowback 1900, 1901, and 1905 pistols. Barnes doesn't have an entry for the bottlenecked Mannlicher cartridge.

But here is an exerpt from Barnes's table of cartridge dimensions -

in inches
7.62mm Russian Tokarev .307 .330 .370 .380 .390 0.97 1.35 10
30 Borchardt .307 .331 .370 .385 .390 0.99 1.34 ?
30 (7.63mm) Mauser .308 .332 .370 .381 .390 0.99 1.36 7.9
I'd be a lot happier if those identical cartridges had identical dimensions, cf. Barnes's statement that "they all have the same physical measurements." Barnes doesn't give sources for these dimensions. There seems to be no historical basis for the differences in the table.
(c) Starline Brass makes cases for 7.63mm Mauser and 7.62x25mm Tokarev. Here's what their website claims -
7.62x25 vs 30 Mauser - These cases are very similar, except for the difference in length. The 7.62x25 is shorter than the 30 Mauser, due to higher operating pressures. If the 30 Mauser cases are fired at hotter 7.62x25 loads in the CZ-52, it will tear the neck off some cases.
  • 30 Mauser O.A.L. = .980 to .985
  • 7.62x25 O.A.L. = .959 to .962
I gather that this means that if the Starline cases are loaded too heavily, they tend to blow off their little necks. So, reasoning that customers are more likely to overload Tokarev cases and shoot them in Czech Vzor 52s than they are to overload Mauser cases and shoot them in much more expensive C-96s, Starline simply left off a portion of the necks of the Tokarev cases. That way they can't blow off. Cartridge location should be no problem as in theory the cartridge locates on the shoulder, rather than on the case mouth. But several difficulties come to mind -
(1) Starline is assuming that the 7.62x25 cartridge will be used at "higher operating pressures" - but that is true only if the 7.62x25 case is loaded to Czech specification, rather than to the original Soviet specification. Does this imply that customers will be shooting this overloaded ammunition in Czech Vzor 52 pistols, rather than the stronger Tokarev pistol? I'm not sure it's a good idea to encourage this behavior.

(2) From historical data, we can be pretty confident that even heavily loaded cases didn't suffer from neck separation in the old days. It simply isn't mentioned anywhere in the technical sources I've consulted for this study. But if those old timers could make cases which won't blow apart, why can't Starline?

(3) Starline has modified the dimensions of a very old cartridge to compensate for either their metallurgy, or for the lack of sense and decency among their customers. I would prefer that they make a new cartridge, maybe 7.62x25 Starline, if they want to fiddle around with those games.
In any case, I don't like it. Fiddling with loads is one thing, but fiddling with standardized cartridge dimensions is another.

So, just how "standard" are those ancient standards? Let's measure some with my trusty Mitutoyo dial calipers. Here are case measurements of loaded ammo I've had around for years - "commercial" is in fancy boxes, "surplus" is in crummy government-type packages.

sample of 10 each case length, mean case length, spread
Bulgarian surplus .967 inch .960 - .973
Polish surplus .968 inch .965 - .972
Chinese surplus .970 inch .967 - .974
Chinese commercial .970 inch .967 - .974
Yugoslav commercial .981 inch .980 - .982

Hmmm. The shortest, the Bulgarian, is on average longer than the new novelty "shorty" case from Starline, although the Bulgarian tolerances are relatively loose and some specimens fall within the Starline range. The Yugoslav is the only stuff long enough to fall within the tolerance range for the longer Starline Mauser cases.

The Yugoslav ammo was packaged by Hansen Cartridge Company as 30 MAUSER (7.62mm TOKAREV) COMBAT. The headstamp is in Cyrillic, Π Π Y and 7.62 TT. Π Π Y stands for Prvi Partizan, Uzice (a manufacturer in Serbia), and TT is for Tula-Tokarev. I don't know what happened to Hansen after Yugoslavia went all to hell and the locals started keeping all their ammunition to shoot at their neighbors, but tolerance-wise theirs is the best of the bunch.
(d) Hogg & Weeks, Pistols of the World, Revised Edition, page 52 -
CZ 52 .... In 1952, [the Tokarev] was replaced by a new CZ design, still chambering the Soviet 7.62mm Auto pistol round, but specifically designed around a new cartridge, the Czech 7.62mm M48. This, while dimensionally the same as the Soviet round, was loaded to produce a higher velocity.
I have not adopted the name M48 on this page. Of the sources I've examined, the only one to use it is Pistols of the World, Revised Edition. For all I know, the Czechs used the name for submachinegun ammo. I refer to Czech ammunition intended to be used in pistols in place of Soviet-spec Tokarev ammunition as "Czech Tokarev."

Pistols of the World, Third Edition, page 101, is similar -
CZ 52 .... This crude but generally effectual weapon [i.e., the Tokarev] was replaced in 1952 by a new CZ design chambering the 7.62mm Soviet cartridge, although the Czechs actually developed ammunition generating higher muzzle velocity.
Note that the appellation "M48" has been dropped.

The same authors, in Military Small Arms of the 20th Century (undated, but I happen to know it was published in 1991), page 20, specify the muzzle velocity of the Vz52 as 457 m/sec (1,500 ft/sec).

In the section devoted to submachineguns, on page 202, we find -
The CZ 24 and 26 .... replaced the 23 and 25 in Czech Army service in 1951 when a general conversion to Soviet standard calibres and ammunition was made. However, the Czechs managed to retain their individuality to the extent that their version of the Soviet 7.62mm pistol cartridge, loaded in Cechoslovakia, carries a more powerful charge and has a somewhat higher velocity.
Still no "M48."

A muzzle velocity of 550 m/sec (1,805 ft/sec) is specified, from an 11.2 inch barrel. Page 250 gives 500 m/sec (1,640 ft/sec) for the Soviet cartridge fired from the 10.5 inch barrel of the PPSh-41.
(e) Cartridge dimensions.

See detailed dimensions for the 7.62x25 mm cartridge here.
As usual in Internet-land, there is absolutely no tracability there - where did the page author steal these dimensions from? What reason do we have to believe these numbers are correct?

Specifically, .308 is more often given for the bullet diameter, not least by Sierra (search for sierra mauser tokarev at Midway - the item is listed as Sierra SportsMaster Bullets 30 Mauser and 7.62mm Tokarev (308 Diameter) 85 Grain Round Nose Box of 100). And I have yet to measure a 7.62x25 or 7.63 case as long as .990 inches.
Original Loads
(a) Owner's manuals. Here are the title and spec pages from several owner's manuals (all in English).
  • Mauser M-30 Owner's Manual - title page, specification page - as reprinted in System Mauser, 1967.
  • Chinese Type 54-1 Owner's Manual - title page, specification page - as supplied with a Norinco Type 54-1 made for export to those crazy Americans, circa 1990. The Type 54-1 is a Type 54 made for export, differing from the Chinese government version by virtue of a thumb safety to satisfy the import provisions of the GCA 1968. Markings and, undoubtedly, finish are different also.
  • CZ Model 52 manual - title page, specification page - this is not a contemporary 1952 manual. It is, at least, a Zbrojovka Brno manual*, dedicated to the refurbished guns sold here with either 7.62x25mm or 9x19mm barrels. The manual gives specs for both barrels.
Here is the relevant data from the manuals -

manual cartridge bullet
7.63mm 85 grains 1,394 ft/sec
Type 54 7.62x25mm not given 1,378 ft/sec
CZ Model 52 ? not given 1,575 ft/sec
* At least, that's what it says on the front page of the manual, but that's weak evidence as it would be no great feat for anyone making up a manual to tack the ZB logo and address on. It's a bit odd for it to be there, as ZB has little connection with Czech military pistols. See a valiant attempt to sort out which Czech factory was which here.
(b) Barnes, Cartridges of the World, 6th Ed., gives these as "dup. fact. ball." -
cartridge bullet
85 grains 1,280 ft/sec
30 (7.63 mm)
86 grains 1,410 ft/sec
7.62 mm
86 grains 1390 ft/sec
(c) His Majesty's War Office, Textbook of Small Arms, 1929 (London, H.M.'s Stationary Service, 1929), page 102, gives data for the ".63 [sic] mm. Mauser" -
cartridge bullet
Mauser 86 grains 1,350 ft/sec

Of course in those days there was no Tokarev cartridge yet. Even the Soviets didn't have it until the next year.
(d) Major Julian Hatcher, Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers, 1935, describes the Mauser cartridge thusly -
.30 (7.63 m/m) Mauser Automatic Pistol Cartridge - This is a rimless high-velocity, high-pressure cartridge. It has the highest velocity of any pistol cartridge, and the pressure runs up to around 30,000 pounds, over twice that of the ordinary revolver cartridge. It has an 85-grain bullet, and the velocity varies with different makes, from about 1,200 to about 1,325 foot-seconds [feet/sec].
And here is all the data the Major gives us for this cartridge -
Bullet weight 85 grains
Bullet diameter .309 inch
Bullet type Metal cased or soft point
Length of bullet .54 inch
Diameter cartridge head .390 "
       "             "      mouth .332 "
Length cartridge case 1.04 "
Overall length of loaded cartridge 1.35 inch
Representative factory charge 7.0 grains Ballistite
Pressure 29,000 lbs.
Muzzle velocity, 5 ½ inch barrel 1323 feet per second
Muzzle energy 329 foot pounds
Penetration, 7/8 pine boards 11 boards
Remington velocity 1280 feet per second
Winchester velocity 1397 foot seconds [sic]
Western velocity 1323 feet per second
(e) Lt. Colonel R. K. Wilson, Textbook of Automatic Pistols 1884-1935 (Small Arms Technical Publishing Co, 1943) has a mini-treatise on the 7.63mm cartridge (pages 246 - 251). Things were a bit simpler when Lt Col Wilson examined the cartridge, as Tokarev wasn't yet a factor. Although the Tokarev cartridge existed, Russia was well on its way to becoming Churchill's "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," and apparently nobody outside knew much about it yet.

Wilson states, on page 251,
The 7.63 mm. Mauser cartridge has been adopted for a number of weapons, and is used in the following:
7.63 mm Mauser - all models.
7.63 mm. Mannlicher 1903.
7.65 mm. Borchardt.
7.63 mm. Schwarzlose 1898.
7.63 mm. Astra, Royal, Azul. Self-loading and fully automatic models.
7.63 mm. Star (Colt copies) Self-loading and fully automatic models.
Solothurn Bergmann-Musquete.
Schmeisser Sub-machine gun (7.63 mm. model)
Neuhausen Gun (7.63 mm. model).
Wilson gives us some details about the Borchardt and Mauser cartridges -
...the original Borchardt bullet was of the same weight and diameter as the Mauser, but was seated more deeply in the case to the extent of 2 mm. The cases were identical, but the Borchardt was loaded with .05 grm. (.75 gr.) less powder, and gave a muzzle velocity 25 metres per second (82 f.s.) less in spite of its long barrel. The nominal calibre of the Borchardt was 7.65 mm., but the Mauser adopted the designation 7.63 mm.; the actual calibre of both weapons is the same, namely .3008". Mauser ammunition can be used satisfactorily in the Borchardt pistol. The term "7.63" is applied in Germany only to the Mauser self-loading pistol cartridge.

The long bottle-necked case is rimless and positions on the shoulder. The muzzle velocity developed is the highest of any of the commoner self-loading pistol cartridges; it varies considerably with different makes of ammunition, but runs from 1300 to 1460 f.s. with the Mauser standard length of barrel of 5 ½ ins. With longer barrelled weapons the velocity is even higher. I have recorded 1660 f.s. with D.W.M. ammunition in the Astra sub-machine gun (barrel length 7 ¼").
The line, "The muzzle velocity .... varies considerably with different makes of ammunition," reinforces my reservations about any appearance of "dup. fact. ball." in Cartridges of the World.

Note that, unlike modern writers who state the contrary opinion, when Wilson writes "Mauser ammunition can be used satisfactorily in the Borchardt pistol," there's a good chance that he actually tried it.

On page 250, Wilson notes that the 1660 feet/second D.W.M. loading which reached 1660 feet/second in the 7 ¼" barrel had an 85 grain bullet. All the bullet weights he mentions for this cartridge fall in the range of 80 to 88 grains.

Wilson continues his discussion with different types of bullets for the 7.63, crimping methods used by various manufacturers, and some notes on powder types found in cartridges by D.W.M., Western, I.C.I., Eley, Kynoch, Rheinische Metallwarren, and Hirtenberger.

Overall, I consider Wilson a particularly thorough and reliable writer on the guns and cartridges of the early 20th century. But as always, watch for typographic errors, particularly involving numbers. See, for example, Wilson's entry on page 236 for the .9 mm MARS cartridge - I had no idea the Mars was so small!
New commercial production

manufacturer's published specifications
manufacturer type bullet weight velocity barrel
Sellier & Bellot 7.62x25 mm Tokarev 85 grain 1,647 ft/sec 4.7 inch
Fiocchi 7.63 mm Mauser 88 grain 1,425 ft/sec --
Prvi Partizan 7.63 mm Mauser 85 grain 1,509 ft/sec 5.9 inch
" 7.62x25 mm Tokarev 85 grain FMJ 1,722 ft/sec 9.8 inch
" 7.62x25 mm Tokarev 85 grain JHP 1,673 ft/sec 9.8 inch
" 7.62 TT no data available yet
" 7.62 TT High Pressure no data available yet

The Sellier & Bellot catridge's velocity is given for a 4.7" barrel - looks like they have the Vzor 52 pistol in mind. This is not surprising, as S&B is located in Vlašim, Czech Republic (although both founders, Louis Sellier and Jean Maria Nicolaus Bellot, were French). That velocity seems unusually hot even for Czech Tokarev cartridges. However, S&B has made a great deal of government ammunition over the past century and a half, and it's possible that they know what they're doing. The bxn headstamp commonly seen on surplus cartridges is a code for S&B.

The Fiocchi Mauser is a bit milder, though still a tad on the hot side, especially with that relatively heavy bullet. No barrel length is specified in the Fiocchi data.

Prvi Partizan is exporting ammunition again. The site lists "7.63 Mauser" and "7.62 mm Tokarev" ammunition. There is a separate listing (under military ammunition) for "7.62 TT" and "7.62 TT High Pressure", but the site is incomplete and numbers for those two are not yet posted.

The Prvi Partizan bullet weight is on the nose, historically speaking, but the velocity for 7.63 Mauser is slightly high. A 5.9 inch barrel is a bit of an oddball - what gun chambered for this cartridge had a 150mm barrel? Although the Prvi Partizan Tokarev velocites in the table are much higher than the PP Mauser velocites, the difference is primarily due to the longer barrel for the Tokarev spec. A 250 mm barrel would be on a submachine gun. In a shorter barrel, I'd expect the PP Tokarev cartridge velocity to be very close to the PP Mauser.

A leftover from the late 1980s - the box said Hansen 7.63mm Mauser, but from the headstamp it's obviously Prvi Partizan Tokarev. Interestingly enough, that 7.62 TT is identical to Privi Partizan's designation for one of its current military loadings.

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