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Old July 17th, 2015, 05:28 PM #1
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Dating Winchester/Western Ammo Boxes

Uploading restrictions force me to break up my work on dating Winchester/Western ammo boxes.
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Old July 21st, 2015, 12:42 PM #2
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Having access to more brass than I could ever use, I choose recently manufactured cases, of whatever caliber, for my general reloading. Occasionally I'm either forced to use, want to use, or experiment with older cases. Here's what I do to determine the age of the cases by determining the date the Winchester ammunition boxes they came in rolled off the production line, with the help of examples from my modest collection, and being able to equate their lot numbers to a specific date.

Example: Three Winchester 20-round 45 Colt boxes. How old are they?



First, all have the "WARNING: Keep out of reach of children" which became mandatory for commercial ammunition (but not components or primers) in 1962. So all are no older than 1962. The white boxes with orange-red Winchester banner were produced between 1983 and 1996. This box has white paperboard tray with holes, which further narrows the date to 1994-1996. Earlier boxes of this design contain a red plastic tray with white foam insert. The 45 Colt cases are headstamped W-W. Its lot number 86KM72 equates to production line 86, 27 November 1995.

The plain grey boxes were produced between 1997 and 2011. It contains a styrofoam tray holding WINCHESTER-headstamped cases. It's lot number 56YA42 equates to production line 56, 24 January 2007.

The busy grey boxes are the present design which began in late 2011. It, too, contains a styrofoam tray holding WINCHESTER-headstamped cases. Its lot number 16FA61 equates to line 16, 16 January 2012.

Bare in mind: Production efficiency demands that you use up all your old boxes before your newer boxes. So in high-production calibers like 38 S&W Special (introduced in 1902), 9mm Luger, 30-06, and 45 Auto, changeover to new design boxes will occur soon after the new design is adopted. In low production calibers, such as the 38 S&W (introduced in 1877) the changeover may occur years later, after all the old 38 S&W boxes are used up. Similarly, headstamps won't changeover to a new design until all the old bunters -- the die that impresses the headstamp -- wear out. In the above examples, 45 Colt cases from 1995 production were still headstamped W-W years after 9mm Luger, 38 Special, and 30-06 had changed over to WIN or WINCHESTER.

I. Dating Boxes by Lot Numbers

1. Western Since 1928 and Winchester Since 1958

Since 1958 the lot numbers used on Winchester boxes are in the same format as used by Western since about 1928, and repeat every twenty years. The lot number will have a letter-letter-number or letter-letter-number-number series that indicated the date. The first letter indicates the year, the second letter the month. If followed by a single digit, that equates to a single digit day; if followed by two digits, the numbers are reversed to equate with a two digit day or dingle digit day with a leading zero. Examples: 10=01, 60=06, 21=12, 61=16, 82=28, 13=31.
Hence the series DA82 will equate to 28 January 1930 or 1950 or 1970 or 1990 or 2010, depending on the box design. Additional numbers and/or letters equate to production lines, operator or inspector numbers.

1.1 Years

To repeat every 20 years using our 26-letter alphabet, six letters were skipped: A, I, J, O, Q, and Z.

B 1928 1948 1968 1988 2008
C 1929 1949 1969 1989 2009
D 1930 1950 1970 1990 2010
E 1931 1951 1971 1991 2011
F 1932 1952 1972 1992 2012
G 1933 1953 1973 1993 2013
H 1934 1954 1974 1994 2014
K 1935 1955 1975 1995 (2015)
L 1936 1956 1976 1996 (2016)
M 1937 1957 1977 1997 (2017)
N 1938 1958 1978 1998 (2018)
P 1939 1959 1979 1999 (2019)
R 1940 1960 1980 2000
S 1941 1961 1981 2001
T 1942 1962 1982 2002
U 1943 1963 1983 2003
V 1944 1964 1984 2004
W 1945 1965 1985 2005
X 1946 1966 1986 2006
Y 1947 1967 1987 2007

1.2 Months

A - January G - July
B - February H - August (I and J skipped)
C - March K - September
D - April L - October
E - May M - November
F - June N - December

1.3 Example



Production line 24, 23 December 2009 (C=2009, N=December, 32=23)

2. Winchester 1928-1958

Prior to 1959, Winchester had its own lot number system in which the dates repeated every ten years, making understanding the chronology of box design years even more necessary. The Winchester format was all numbers, month (1-12), year (1-0) and day (1-31), which might come after or before a number and/or a letter. So a Winchester ammo box with Winchester format lot number 123 23 equated to 23 December 1933 or 1943 or 1953.

2.1 Example



Boxes of Winchester military contract 30-06, headstamp is WRA (over) 53. Lot number equates to 10 February 1953.

II. Dating Boxes by Box Design

1.0 Pre-1959:

I have only limited examples of pre-1959 Western or Winchester boxes:



1.1 Above is a Western late bullseye box from 30 January 1950 (DA03). Variations of this design were used from about 1928.



1.2 Winchester's initial post-war (1946) redesign red and yellow 22 long rifle boxes. The top with Winchester-format lot number 8 2 29H, equates to 29 August 1952. The bottom with Western-format lot number NF 52 equates to 25 June 1958 and identifies Winchester as a division of Olin-Mathieson Chemical Corporation (1954 thru 1968).



1.3 Another Winchester 1946 style box with lot number 2G69 8, probably equating to 8 June 1949.

2.0 1961-1972 The Yellow Boxes

Winchester's ammunition production relocated from New Haven, Connecticut, and merged with Western Cartridge Company in East Alton, Illinois, by 1958, and Winchester production adopted the Western lot numbering system thereafter. At some point during this timeframe some 50-round pistol caliber trays changed from one-up-one-down open trays to white styrofoam. Whether in Winchester or Western boxes, and unlike those used starting in 1997, these styrofoam trays have the Winchester logo in bas relief molded into the bottom. WRA and WESTERN headstamped cases are found in 38 Special boxes dated 1964 but by 1965 38 Special cases in both brands' boxes are headstamped W-W. The headstamp on 30-06 SPRG cases changed from the SUPER-X to W-W SUPER between 20 December 1961 and 18 March 1968; 308 WIN cases changed from SUPER-X to W-W SUPER between 20 December 1966 and 11 December 1969. Altho the red-yellow (1946 style) box was reportedly used until 1961, I have no yellow ammo boxes prior to 1961, but I do have W-W yellow primer boxes with lot numbers in 1959.

2.1 Winchester



In the lot number, VL03 equates to 30 October 1964.

2.2 Western



Pre-1962/lacks "WARNING: Keep out of reach of children". In lot number, SN02 equates to 20 December 1961.



Post-1961/Has "Keep out of reach of children" warning. In lot number, BC81 equates to 18 March 1968.



In lot number DA82 equates to 28 January 1970.

3.0 1975-1981



I have only three boxes from the 1975-1978 timeframe. I found no tray in the Winchester 30-30 box (top, dated 2 September 1977), and the 380 Auto ammo that came in the bottom box, dated 27 March 1975, was packed one-up-one-down in an open tray. A Western 38 Special red X box from 20 May 1978 has a plain white styrofoam tray. A collectors resource indicates the white box with yellow X was introduced in 1974 and in use until 1977 when superceded by the white box with red X , in use from 1978-1980. Considering the 1975 red X Western 380 Auto box, that resource needs review. The most recent Western box I have is from 1978 altho the last Winchester-Western catalogs in 1981 show white ammunition boxes of this style with Winchester-Western over a red X.

4.0 1983-1996

4.1 Standard Commercial Orange-Red Banner White Box



Winchester's white box with orange and red banner was produced from 1983 to 1996. Initially it had a red plastic tray with foam insert (pictured) -- the best tray ever IMHO. Later, starting sometime in 1994, pistol caliber boxes had a white paperboard tray with holes -- the worst tray ever IMHO.

4.2 Winchester Supreme Orange-Red Banner Black Box

4.2.1 Black Talon

My single Winchester Supreme/Black Talon 9mm Luger/147-gr SXT box, lot number equating to 12 October 1992. When originally recovered, it was covered in white sticky labels covering all mention of "Black Talon." The 20-round tray is black plastic with white foam insert.



4.2.2

Another Supreme box, this one for 308 WIN. Lot number BE81 equates to 18 May 1988. It, too, has the black plastic tray with white foam insert.



4.3 Ranger

Winchester's Law Enforcement (Ranger) ammo also came in orange-red banner boxes during this time.



9mm Luger Ranger box with lot number 76DC70 equating to 07 March 1990.



Another Ranger 9mm Luger box lot number 33GL62 equating to 26 October 1993. Both boxes contained red plastic trays with white foam inserts.



The sides of the boxes. 1993 box (top) has Ranger logo and UPC code, the 1990 box (lower) just has Ranger logo.

4.4 Winchester White Box

4.4.1 1983-1993



Winchester's initial Q-line (also known as WWB/Winchester White Box and USA-brand) handgun ammo was packed one-up-one-down in open trays. As you can see, the box is quite plain and lacks the Winchester brand name on top. My earliest box is from 1985 with 9mm Luger ammo headstamped WCC (over) 1985. Since I also have 9mm Luger ammo headstamped WCC (over) 1983, I assume this style goes back to 1983.

4.4.2 1994-1996



4.4.3 The White Tray

Winchester changed its WWB box style in 1994 and packed ammo in a white paperboard tray with holes (pictured above). I have, however, two 40 S&W boxes (below) from 1994 and 1995 that have white plastic trays.





The top box, lot number HL02 equating to 20 October 1995, holds a rather fragile opaque white plastic (polystyrene?) tray which could hold either 40 S&W or 45 AUTO ammo. The bottom box, lot number KF08 equating to 08 June 1996, holds an equally fragile, more transparent, otherwise identical, white plastic tray.

5.0 1997-2011

5.1 Standard Commercial --The Plain Grey Box



Winchester changed its standard commercial ammo box background color to grey and adopted a plain design around 1997. It also resumed using styrofoam trays, which have a green-grey tint.

5.2 Winchester Supreme Plain Black Box



A 9mm Luger/147-gr SXT (same designator as Black Talon (above)) box with lot number equating to 25 April 2004. No cases or tray, but presume tray was styrofoam.



A 7mm REM MAG box with lot number equating to 26 June 2006. Nickel-plated cases headstamped W-W SUPER, styrofoam tray.



A 308 WIN box with lot number equating to 24 July 2007. No cases, but it does have a styrofoam tray.

5.3 Ranger

The design and color on the few Winchester Ranger boxes I have from this era is a radical departure from the others.



This Ranger 40 S&W box is lot number 31CB52 equating to 25 February 2009. Most Ranger boxes of this style I have seen have a styrofoam tray but a few have black plastic trays, similar to the white trays found in 1994-1995 WWB 40 S&W boxes described previously.

5.4 WWB



Typical WWB 1997-2011.

5.4.1 S&B-made WWB

A subset of WWB is those made in the Czech Republic by the Sellier & Bellot company for Winchester beginning about 2000. Limited calibers -- 45 AUTO and 380 AUTO is all that I've seen. Note: no "Made in USA", "Made in Czech Republic" on side of box with appropriate European proof house and C.I.P. marks, boxes the same size as S&B product with the same black plastic 25-round trays, two trays per 50-round box. Dateable only by box style as S&B's lot numbers are undeciphered.



5.4 SXZ Red Box 2008-2011

Beginning in January 2008, and universally reported to be sold exclusively at BassPro, Winchester's SXZ personnel protection and SXZ training ammo comes in a red box. Calibers 380 Auto, 9mm Luger, 40 S&W, 45 Auto, 12-ga, and 410. I also remember seeing a 38 Special SXZ box.



My three oldest SXZ boxes are from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of January 2008 and latest is from 13 April 2011

5.5 Military boxes 1987-2012

Winchester's military boxes for 9mm Luger haven't changed much between 1987 (top) and 2012 (bottom). Interestingly, the top box was produced by the RockTenn Company -- the same company that has produced Remington boxes and trays for decades -- and contains the same white styrofoam tray found in Remington 38 Special boxes of that time.

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Old July 21st, 2015, 12:42 PM #3
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6.0 2011-Present

6.1 Standard Commercial -- The New Grey Box.



Printing of Winchester's new design grey box began in mid-2011. Winchester continued using styrofoam trays.

6.2 WWB



6.2.1 S&B-made WWB/WWB Metric Calibers

Not only made in 45 AUTO, also made in former-Soviet Union calibers like 9x18mm Makarov, 7.62x25mm Tokarev, and 7.62x54mm Russian. Note: S&B color-coded trays, green for 9mm Makarov, grey for 7.62x25 Tokarev. No "Made in USA" but "Made in Czech Republic" on side of box.



6.3 SXZ

Recent ads show an updated SXZ red box similar to the 2011-present new grey and latest WWB box design, but I don't have any.
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Old July 21st, 2015, 02:25 PM #4
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People said this kind of thing would happen if gay marriage was made legal.

But dating ammo boxes?
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Old July 21st, 2015, 02:50 PM #5
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Cool beans. Would love to get some of the old Winchester 30-30 boxes with the bear on them (boxes in pristine shape - don't need the ammo). See them on sale on EBay every so often.
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Old July 21st, 2015, 03:56 PM #6
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Remember the red Savage-brand ammo boxes with silhouette of the Indian chief in full headdress? Boxes and ammo were made by Remington. Remington made the Savage ammo from 1935 until 1963, when the Savage brand name was dropped. Until 1955 the headstamp was SACorp, from 1955 til 1963 it was SAVAGE. The last caliber introduced in the Savage ammo line was 270 Winchester in 1959 -- only four years before production ended.

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Old July 21st, 2015, 04:29 PM #7
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Add another collectible box to the list. Wonder if they had them in 308. Would go nicely in pic with my Browning BLR 308, and my future Savage 99 in 308.
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Old February 4th, 2017, 03:15 PM #8
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Question Dating Winchester Boxes

I am a new member and have a question regarding the dates of manufacture of the following Winchester ammunition. I could not really determine the dates using your information. I guess that I get confused easily.

Western 44-40 / Blue & Yellow box - Lot # 87NG61 with the numerals 30 above, and to the right of the flap crease.

Winchester Super X .410 shotgun shells - Yellow box - Lot #L1BM6M

Winchester 20 Gauge Pheasant - White box - Lot #21Z1GA26

Many thanks for any help in determining these lot number production dates.

James
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Old February 5th, 2017, 05:33 PM #9
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In 87NG61 the date is the last four characters NG61. The date is read right-to-left so the digits reverse, 61 equates to 16, the G is July, and -- because the year letters cycle every 20 years -- the N is 1938 or 1958 or 1978 or 1998. Because its a blue and yellow, presumably bullseye, box it probably was 1958. So 16 July probably 1958.
The lot number on your .410 gauge box is in a format I've never seen before so I would be guessing at the date but it would be in the same range as yellow centerfire ammo boxes.
I found the only Winchester shotgun shell box I have and its lot is 36Y1KE21, the last four characters equate to 12 May and the K is 1955 or 1975 or 1995 or 2015. Since its a recent box I'm going with 2015.
Your white box lot number 21Z1GA26 should be in the same format but the last two digits, reversed, would equate to the 62nd day. That doesn't fly. The A in GA would be January. The G would be 1953 or 1973 or 1993 or 2013. Since the orange and red banner white boxes ran from 1983 to 1996, I'm putting my money on 1993. So January 1993.

Last edited by d'Artagnan; February 5th, 2017 at 09:19 PM.
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Old February 6th, 2017, 11:27 AM #10
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Thank you very much. I really appreciate your input.

James
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