Firearms Technical Trivia, January 2002:

Bullet Jacket Design Principles
The 7.92x57mm Cartridge in Polish Service
Bullet Jacket Design Principles

The Second World War Begins
In the predawn hours of September 1, 1939, the German Army swept into Poland and ushered in the age of the Blitzkrieg and the Second World War.  At that moment, Poland, like the majority of small European nations, had equipped its forces with a mix of modern and obsolete weapons.  Poland's small arms were not markedly inferior, or for that matter, measureably different from their German counterparts.  Indeed,the majority of them shared the same cartridge.

Small Arms Ammunition Production in Poland
In February 1921 the Polish Ministry of Defense established the first government owned facility to produce military rifle cartridges.  The factory, which produced completed cartridges, bullets, primers, cases and ancillary items, was called Wojskowa Wytwornia Amunicji Karabinovej (WWAK), and was located in Warsaw.  The cartridge fabrication machinery had been nationalized from the holdings of the Georg Roth A.G. subsidiary formerly located in Posen (Poznan).  Production efforts were divided amongst three manufacturing divisions.  After four years of operation in Warsaw, the plant was moved to Skarzysko-Kamienna, southwest of Radom, where it was renamed "National Ammunition Manufacturing Facility."  Cartridges produced at the original WWAK factory in Warsaw were headstamped with a "W," and often the Polish eagle as well.  After the 1925 move, the headstamp contained the Polish eagle, but not the W.  After the fall of Poland in 1939, the factory was taken over by the German firm of Hugo A. Schneider, AG (HASAG), and continued to produce ammunition, albeit for a different destination.  Ammunition produced during HASAG's stewardship of the factory was initially marked with a HASAG logo, and later with the German ordnance code "kam."  HASAG used the pre-war inventory of cartridge cases in producing initial lots of mild steel cored ammunition.  Eventually five major arsenals, producing war materiel including ammunition, were to be established.  Each of these was officially identified by a numerical designation:

Arsenal Number
Arsenal Location

As the Polish treasury between the wars was in a perpetual state of fiscal crisis and the state run factories were not achieving the volume of ammunition production desired, private investment and contracting were encouraged.  As a result, a commercial organization with both Polish and French investors called Zaklady Amunicyjne, Pocisk, Spolka Akcyjna (Corporation for the Manufacture of Ammunition) was created.  This company, generally known as Pocisk SA, began to produce ammunition, using machinery purchased from Hirtenberger of Austria, in 1921.  (Pocisk means "projectile.")  The ammunition produced bore an abbreviation of Pocisk, "Pk." on its headstamp, while boxes had the abbreviation Z.A. "Pocisk" S.A stenciled on them.  By 1922, Pocisk was operating two plants, one, the Warsaw "Praga" division which made cartridge making machinery and weapon parts, and the other an ammunition plant at Rembertow, some 15km west of Warsaw.  Rembertow's production was not limited to small arms ammunition.  The plant produced components and complete cartridges, primers, explosives and artillery shells.  In 1925 the government sought to maximize Pocisk's capabilities while minimizing costs, and began a program with resulted in complete nationalization of the firm by 1932.  At the same time, all operations were transferred to the Rembertow plant.  Pocisk played a critical role in Poland's preparedness - by 1935 it was supplying over 30% of the nation's ammunition requirements.

Another important Polish ammunition manufacturer was Norblin, S.A.  Located in Warsaw, the company was established in 1922, and was a key producer of 7.9mm rifle ammunition until the invasion in 1939.  Norblin's trademark was a capital letter "N" which can be found on the headstamps of cartridges assembled by the firm.  If the cartridge was made entirely with components manufactured by Norblin, two diametrically opposed N's appeared on the headstamp.  Norblin's owners were a Mr. T. Werner and the Buch brothers, and throughout its existence it was a privately owned and funded company.  While Norblin's main plant was in Warsaw, it operated a foundry and brass mill at Glownie (near Lodz).  The Glownie facility not only supplied Norblin's needs but also provided cartridge brass to Pocisk and other government arsenals.

A Brief Overview of Polish Small Arms
The interwar Polish Army used several indigenously produced Mauser type rifles as well as the Model 91/98/25, which was a conversion of the Russian Mosin-Nagant to 7.92x57mm.  The standard Polish light machine gun was the Wz28, a modified Browning Automatic Rifle.  Heavier automatic weapons included the Maxim MG08, the Hotchkiss 14/25, and the Wz30, a type of water cooled Browning.  The Polish Air Force used a number of Vickers Armstrong designs, such as the Wz23 (a 7.92mm Lewis gun), and the "F" and "K" models.  Fixed aircraft weapons were largely 7.92mm Browning derivations.

7.92mm Polish Ammunition Overview
Polish military forces were supplied with a number of 7.92mm cartridges.  These included:

Heavy Ball
Armor Piercing
Armor Piercing Tracer
High Pressure Test

Additionally, the rifle assembly plants used several types of wzorcowy, or reference catridges with which to test new weapons.  These cartridges were assembled using carefully chosen S or SC projectiles and components.  If a rifle, carbine, or machine gun failed to meet the required accuracy standards with these rounds, it was assumed that the gun was at fault and that a mechanical correction was in order.  These cartridges were identified by box labeling only and did not bear any special marking on the case or bullet.  The Air Force received special high grade aircraft armament ammunition in S, P, PS, and Z varieties.  This ammunition was given special consideration with respect to primer and propellant quality control.  These elements are especially critical when the ammunition is to be used in weapons synchronized to fire through the propeller arc; cartridge ignition and response time must happen in a constant, predictable manner, or the resultant damage to the propeller could literally result in the aircraft shooting itself down!

Note: Data for this month's trivia page was gathered from:

Rinker, Robert A., Understanding Firearm Ballistics, (Mulberry House Publishing, Apache Junction, Arizona: 2000)

Understanding Firearm Ballistics is available from  Click on the image to order.
Understanding Firearm Ballistics

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