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Article created: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Article modified: Monday, Sept 19, 2005

The Frankford Arsenal experimental 1906 FA 4 06
.45 caliber round.

Top view



Left side Right side
Bottom view  
  Figure 1: Original opened FA 4 06 ammunition box
Run mouse over box to open cover.



In late 1905 Frankford Arsenal was informed it would be required to develop and manufacture a small quantity of Cal. 45 automatic ball cartridges for the trials in 1906. Frankford Arsenal had begun conducting their own experiments, based upon the Winchester/Colt cartridge, in the spring of 1904. By January of 1906, Frankford Arsenal had developed two types of .45 caliber automatic pistol cartridges, similar except that one was rimless and the other semi-rimmed, and submitted them to the Ordnance Office in Washington for consideration. The rimless type was selected and an order was given Frankford Arsenal for the production of 10,000 rounds for the upcoming tests of automatic pistols and revolvers. The brass cases were loaded with a 230 grain, cupro-nickel, jacketed bullet. These cartridges were headstamped FA 4 06 and have a distinct but narrow cartridge cannelure and a round nose bullet, unique to the FA 4 06 round. The FA 9 11 Frankford arsenal production round has an ogival shaped bullet. Loadings of the FA 4 06 cartridge at Frankford Arsenal extended into July 1906 in order to fill the 10,000 round order.

The above described surviving 100 year old “cupro-nickel jacketed” round nose bullets when originally manufactured were copper in appearance however the surviving rounds are not quite as copper in appearance due to the fact that the lead core, round nose bullets were originally coated with a gilding metal which is a copper alloy and then tin washed. Combined with the fact that through the years the lead core of the bullet has “leached” through to the surface, contributing to the lighter, less copper appearance of the bullet as shown by example 1.

Example 1. Original unfired FA 4 06.

Example 3. Reloaded FA 4 06 brass cartridge case.

The rather technical discussion of the bullet appearance and shape is important as the scarcity, rarity and subsequent premium value of any surviving FA 4 06 round has generated “pretenders” being offered to collectors. Shown in Figure 2 is one such “pretender” (3) compared against an original (1) and a 1918 Frankford Arsenal FA 18 headstamped round (2). The brass cartridge of number 3 is an original fired FA 4 06 cartridge with a replacement copper primer. Note the remnant of the originally narrow cannelure of example 3, the indent virtually flush or non existent. The reloaded number 3 round not only is more copper in appearance, indicative of a later bullet, but is a reloaded incorrect ogival shaped bullet. Additionally, later bullets were not tin washed which may be why the figure 2, #3 ogival shaped bullet is more copper looking. The head stamp and brass cartridge of example 3 are correct although the base has been polished, softening the head stampings and the cannelure is virtually flush to the surface.

Figure 2: Comparison of various FA 4 06 rounds.

Featured herein is an extremely rare box of 11.35mm or .45 FA 4 06 carton, date stamped APR 16 1906 ammunition, specifically manufactured by Frankford Arsenal for the 1906 United States Army Ordnance test program, which included tests with the .45 caliber Luger Automatic Pistol. Manufacturing of the 10,000 FA 4 06 rounds started in early 1906 and was extended until July 1906 to complete the order. The subject box shown in Figure 1 was manufactured toward the end of that order.

It is interesting to note that although, per the 1907 Chief of Ordnance “Report of Board on Tests of Revolvers and Automatic Pistols” states on page 105 that “The total number of rounds fired was 1,022.” during the Luger .45 caliber Automatic Pistol testing, only 255 of the 1,022 rounds were Frankford Arsenal FA 4 06 rounds, the balance being Luger provided ammunition. Refer to Tables 1 and 2 below.

Figure 3: Top of FA 4 06 ammunition box, ink date stamped APR 16 1906
(Mouse over for close-up)

The 10,000 rounds were packaged, headstamp facing up, in individual 20 count, partitioned and externally ink date stamped cartons (see figure 3 above). They are a particularly scarce and desirable collectible. Very few unfired rounds and lesser cartons survive and only one known published unopened box exists as of this writing. Even with the two box examples shown, based on the labels black border, the labels were applied differently.

Table 1
10,000 Total Frankford Arsenal FA 4 06 .45 caliber automatic pistol rounds produced.
2,647 Total U.S. Army ordnance test program unaccounted rounds.
7,353 Total rounds accounted.
5,000 Total rounds shipped to Luger/DWM in Germany.
225 Luger. Springfield tests, January-1907.
902 Colt.
913 Savage.
20 Bergmann-'Mars'. 13 misfires. Bergmann .45 ammo impounded by US Customs.
211 White-Merrill.
50 Set aside by the Frankford Arsenal for experimentation.
20 Unopened boxes (1), private collectors. Estimate.
12 Loose rounds, private collectors. Estimate.

Table 2
Test of Luger Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45
  Total     Luger     FA406                Disposition of rounds                                                                            
   227 Total FA 4 06, caliber .45 rounds expended.
 795   Total Luger provided caliber .45 rounds expended.*
1,021     Total caliber .45 rounds fired per report are 1,022 and 1,021 per authors’ spreadsheet tabulation.
a 11 11 1 preliminary & 20 for velocity @ 25' from the muzzle; 10 with F.A. & 10 with Luger ammunition.
      (An alternate interpretation of the count of item a) is 22 not 20.)
b   30 Fired into sand bucket to observe general working of the arm.
c 13   Fired for accuracy at 75 feet.
d 21   Fired for rapidity.
e 21   Fired into sand bucket by inventor (Luger) for rapidity without accuracy.
f 506   Fired for endurance.
g 7   Fired for penetration in soft pine.
h 5   Fired for velocity at 25 feet from the muzzle.
i   12 Fired with FA 4 06 with reduced charges.
j   5 Fired with FA 4 06 giving an excess pressure of 25%.
k 14   Sand test.
l 14   Dust tests.
m 21   Sal ammoniac tests.
n 1   One round fired with pierced primer.
o 98   Fired to observe action.
p   56 Fired to observe action of mechanism with FA 4 06 ammunition.
q 56   Fired to observe action of mechanism with Luger provided ammunition.
r   56 Fired to observe action of mechanism with FA 4 06 ammunition.
s   35 Fired with one magazine coil removed.
t   14 Fired with two magazine coils removed.
u   7 Fired with three magazine coils removed.
v 7   Fired with three magazine coils removed with Luger ammunition.

*It has been suggested that the 800 rounds provided by Luger for the Springfield Armory tests were part of the original 5,000 FA 4 06 rounds shipped to Germany in 1906 and modified by Luger for the tests, however it has also been stated that a separate batch of 800 .45 caliber rounds were manufactured by DWM using 11.35 mm cases made from 11 mm Bergmann case dies, DWM German primers and Frankford Arsenal bullets and that not one complete round survives. There is no mention as to where these uniquely German manufactured rounds were expended but one has to assume they were used by DWM for their own internal test program and any surviving round, if located would be in Germany. An accounting of all variations of the original caliber .45 test rounds is as follows;

  • 10,000 FA 4 06 caliber .45 round manufactured by Frankford Arsenal in 1906.
  • 5,000 shipped to Berlin in 1906.

800 of the FA 4 06 rounds shipped to Berlin were modified by Luger and used at the 1907 U.S. Army tests, apparently referred in the 1907 report as “Luger” ammunition leaving Berlin with 4,200 FA 406 rounds to be used for DWM internal testing. Regarding the 800 DWM caliber .45 rounds with FA 4 06 round nose bullets, either 800 separate FA 4 06 round nose bullets were provided by Frankford Arsenal or DWM reworked another 800 of the original 5,000 round shipment leaving 3,400 original FA 4 06 rounds for internal testing. Also if one assumes standard Frankford Arsenal 20 count FA 4 06 packing cartons shipped to Germany equates to 250 cartons disposed of in Germany, no doubt some survive, possibly unopened in private European collections.