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What Do the Markings on an Artillery Shell Mean?

Artillery shells have different markings for identification purposes.
ammunition image by Chris from Fotolia.com

Artillery shells generally come with a lot of different markings on them. These markings have several different purposes, but the main purpose for the labels is safety. The markings identify data that is crucial to both the government and the person using the artillery shell. A casual observer, or ammunition collector, might enjoy knowing a little bit about the markings and what they mean as well.


Artillery shells are marked for several different reasons. The main reason is for safety. When shells are marked, it is easy to tell what kind of shell they are, what damage they will do, what lot number they came from and who manufactured the shell. This helps the government keep track of where shells are sold, and it makes it easier to recall entire batches if an error is found. The markings also help the users of the shells know what to expect from the artillery shell.


The top number or label near the top of the artillery shell signifies the caliber of the shell. This is the number that tells what type of artillery shell it is, what type of device it should be used in and what it should be used for. A typical label format is 155H. "H" stands for hand grenades, "M" means standard ammunition, "X" is experimental artillery and a combination of any of these letters means items that have multiple functions or backgrounds.


Under the caliber marking is usually a filler marking. This marking identifies the kind of explosive or filler that is present in the artillery shell. "TNT" is a common explosive, used for a wide variety of shells. Other fillers include "HD," mustard gas; "GB," nerve gas; "WP," white phosphorus; "PERC," percussion; "INC," incendiary; and "FBR," fiber. Many other fillers are used as well, and anyone working with artillery on a common basis should become familiar with all possible fillings.

Lot Number

The lot number is marked under the filler number. The lot number looks something like this: LOT-PA-6-49. This is the lot number of the filler material, or the lot number of where the filling was placed inside the shell. The lot number signifies where the ammunition was made, who made it and when it was made.

Ammunition Model

Under the lot number is the type of ammunition used inside the artillery. This label looks similar to this: SHELL-M107. The same letters used in the caliber and filler are used to identify the shell components. An M107 would be a commonly used shell.

Identification Code

Artillery shells come with a Department of Defense ammunition code and a federal or national stock number. The ammunition code is typically a four-digit code following the federal and national stock numbers. The stock numbers are strings of numbers 11 or 13 digits long. These codes help the government keep track of the ammunition to make sure that it stays in legal avenues.

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