Cartridge Collector > South African Reference Collection > 9MM PARABELLUM – SOUTH AFRICA

This is a complicated project with much research still to be done – please bear with me


South African soldiers first encountered the 9mm Parabellum cartridge during the 2nd World War, while fighting alongside their British counterparts in North Africa. The weapon used was the STEN, designed by Reginald Shepherd and Harold Turpin of the Royal Small Arms Factory of Enfield, STEN being an acronym for Shepherd, Turpin and Enfield. After the end of the War, the STEN was adopted by the South African Defence Force and remained in service until around 1961, when South Africa left the Commonwealth and became the Republic of South Africa on the 31st of May 1961. During the late 1950’s the FN designed R1 rifle was adopted as the standard service rifle for the SADF. During this period the SADF also obtained a number of FN UZI sub-machine guns manufactured by FN under licence from Israel. As a result of the UN arms embargo in 1964, Lyttelton Engineering Works started manufacturing the UZI in South Africa under licence from IMI in Israel, with assistance from FN. The local version was known as the S1 (sub-machine gun 1) and remained in service with the SADF, SA Police as well as the SA Railway Police, Reconnaissance Commandos and the SA Armoured Corps until 1975 when it was replaced by the 5.56 x 45 folding stock R4 and later the R5 rifle. For the SAP and SARP Special Task Forces, it was replaced first by the mini-UZI and later by the H&K MP5. (Lotter et al: 247).

Several prototype 9mm semi-auto carbines were developed by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) during the mid-1970’s, but none were ever adopted or went beyond testing stages. All of these are currently in the Ditsong Military History Museum in Johannesburg. During this time, South Africa also used a variety of 9mmP handguns – the SAP using the Walther P38, Browning GP-35 Hi-Power, and Beretta 92, 92S and 92SB, while the SADF used the Star Model B and Super B and the Department of Correctional Services used Beretta 92’s. There was an urgent need by the SAP principally for new and replacement handguns, but equally importantly, a need for a standardised handgun throughout all services. Most of the handguns in service had been sourced before the embargo years, but by the 1980’s it was becoming increasingly difficult to procure enough replacement parts to keep everything in working order.

At that stage the U.S. Military had concluded trials to replace their 1911’s with the Beretta 92F, and as the SA Police had been using the Beretta, it made economic sense that the replacement would be a Beretta or something similar. No manufacturer at that stage would allow South Africa to manufacture the 92F under licence because of the arms embargo so ARMSCOR approached Musgrave and Lyttelton Engineering Works to manufacture a service pistol based on the Beretta 92SB, the model that the US based their 92F on (Lotter et al: 89). The idea was then to task Musgrave to reverse engineer the 92SB and LEW to produce the updated design utilising spare capacity at LEW at the completion of the R4 rifle series late in 1986. The data received from Musgrave showed however that the machinery at LEW was not compatible with the design specifications, causing serious drawbacks as the original project was planned for completion in 1986. An updated plan was presented to ARMSCOR and the SA Police with a new timeframe of 1988, which was accepted by both parties. Ultimately the Z88 (Named after Mr. Zeederberg, the then senior manager at Lyttelton Engineering Works and the date of adoption by the SA Police) was delivered on time and was one of the success stories in firearm manufacturing in South Africa, notwithstanding running into legal issues with Beretta. Ultimately an agreement was reached with the payment of royalties and limitations on the export of the Z88 (Lotter et al:90).

Sources: Lotter et al (ed.) Firearms developed and manufactured in Southern Africa 1949 – 2000. A reference guide by the Pretoria Arms and Ammunition Association, 2017


There is a detailed discussion on the history of the South African Mint in the chapter on the development of the .303 British cartridge. and, as can also be seen with RSA produced 7.62mm NATO ammunition, the headstamp changed during the latter part of 1961 to SAM (SA Mint). The earliest 9mm Parabellum headstamp in South Africa dates from 1962. No specimen dated 1961 have been reported yet.






PMP dated headstamps remained in service until the end of 1972. On the 1st of December 1964, the factory was placed under the control of the Armaments Board and its designation changed to Pretoria West Metal Pressings. The SAM headstamp variation remained in use until October 1965, in all probability to use up all existing stock, when the changeover to PMP was done, so there was an overlap period between SAM and PMP headstamps used in 1965. No PMP dated round from 1964 has been observed, either in .303, 9mm P or 7.62 NATO.