Sunday, 3 May 2015

Soviet Explosive Ordnance - Markings System Part 1


Identification of Soviet Projectiles and Projectile Fragments (Part 1)
Markings System:
a. History - Prior to 1938 each Soviet munitions manufacturing arsenal and loading plant used its own system for identification markings.  The resultant lack of uniformity in markings created considerable confusion within the supply and using agencies. 

In 1938 the Soviets corrected this situation by adopting a uniform markings system and organizing the artillery supply system into three seperate departments.  Each department was made responsible for the supply of specified items of artillery and given a numerical designation; this department number is included in the official identification code for the artillery items for which the department is responsible, as explained in b below 

The three departments are listed below:

(1) Department 52.  The "Department of Artillery Equipments." Responsible for the supply of all artillery weapons, mounts, fire control instruments, and related equipment, excepting ammunition.

(2) Department 53.  The "Department of Fixed Ammunition, Projectiles, Fuzes, and their Packing."  Responsible for the supply of all fuzes, projectiles, and fixed complete rounds, as well as the packing for these items.

(3) Department 54.  The "Department of Charges and Cases."  Responsible for the supply of all powder bags and propellants, and all cartridge cases except those for fixed ammunition, as well as the packing for these items.

b. The Identification Code.  Identification codes are used in Departments 52, 53 and 54 in order to designate various artillery items briefly and, at the same time, clearly.  The codes follow a pattern common to all three departments, and may be distinguished from other markings by virtue of this pattern.  They consist of certain combinations of Arabic numerals and letters of the Russian alphabet, and may be full or shortened. 

The full code designation consists of three components, separated by dashes, which appear within the designation in the order named:

First, a group of two numerals, identifying the department responsible for the supply of the item concerned (a (1), (2), and (3) above);

Second, a group of one to four letters of the Russian alphabelt, designating the item by type; and

Third, a group of three numerals which identify the individual item or model, and which are sometimes followed by one to four Russian letters giving additional information on the item.

The shortened code is usually to be found on the item itself and consists only of the second and third components.  The omission of the first component from the shortened code is not apt to lead to confusion, since the supplying agency can generally be identified merely from observation of the item; for example, guns obviously fall under Department 52, projectiles under Department 53, and powder bags under Department 54.

In the following examples of both full and shortened code designation of artillery items, it should be borne in mind that: in most cases, the shortened code appears on the item and/or its packing; and that the same Russian letters have entirely different meanings when used by the different supply departments, or when in different positions within the same designation.

(1) Items under Department 52.
Full Code: 52-П-354
Shortened: П-354
52, the first component, identifies the supplying agency: Department 52.
П, the second component, designates the item by type: a gun.
354, the third component, identifies the model:
(35) means the item is a member of the 35th group of artillery weapons, which consists of 76mm guns - other than AA guns -
(4) means the item is a member of the 4th series of models in that group, the Model 1902/30.
Thus, the item is the 76mm Divisional Gun, Model 1902/30 - or one of the weapons having the same ballistic characteristics.
Note - Ballistically identical models of the same group are given the same code number; thus, "354" also denotes the 76mm Divisional Guns: M1942 (ZIS-3), M1936, M1939, M1942 (ZIS-2) and M1940

(2) Items under Department 53.
Full Code: 53-БП-354A
Shortened: БП-354A
53, the supplying agency: Department 53.
БП, the type of item: a HEAT (БП) projectile.
354A, the model: (354) for the 76mm Divisional Gun, Model 1902/30 - or its ballistic equivalent -
(A) a cast iron projectile.

(3) Items under Department 54.
Full Code: 54-Б-534
Shortened: Б-534
54, the supplying agency: Department 54.
Б, the type of item: propellant in a bag, for insertion into the cartridge case.
534, the model: for the 152mm Howitzer, Model 1909/30 - or its ballistic equivalent.

Next time: Identification Code Symbols, Markings


  1. Nice blog! One small correction: the code of 76 mm HEAT is БП-354А, not БЛ-354А.

    1. Ah! It seems I must've been writing this too early for my brain, I got the two letters confused. Thanks for pointing it out!