Are these 7.62 x 39 Rounds Without a Headstamp from Project Eldest Son? - ITS Tactical

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Are these 7.62 x 39 Rounds Without a Headstamp from Project Eldest Son?

By The ITS Crew

Project Eldest Son 01

We recently came across a few 7.62 x 39mm AK-47 rounds that don’t have a headstamp and are marked with a blue ring around the primer. While we’re by no means historical ammunition experts, the lack of the headstamp and blue ring has started the conversation around the shop here about Project Eldest Son.

Project Eldest Son

MACVSOGDuring the Vietnam War, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group) a multi-service US Special Operations unit, conducted unconventional warfare operations from the time period of 1964 to 1972.

One of these unconventional operations, dubbed Project Eldest Son (later named Italian Green and Pole Bean) was developed out of frustration in not being able to destroy or airlift out enemy ammunition when found along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Due to the small teams SOG operated in, they couldn’t carry the ammo away and they found that using demolitions would just scatter the rounds.

A SOG Commander and veteran of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services,) Colonel John K. Singlaub, had the revelation of boobytrapping the ammo by replacing the powder with a substitute that would increase the typical chamber pressure of a Type 56 AK from 45,000 PSI to 250,000 PSI! This would cause the receiver to explode, injuring or killing the shooter.

On inspection, the damage would look to have been caused by “bad metallurgy” or defective ammo. The difficult part of Eldest Son was the actual planting of the ammo. Care was taken to never plant more than one round per magazine (or ammo can) so that when the cause of the damage was investigated, another round wouldn’t be found and compromise the operation. The goal was to keep the sabotage secret.

A real concern was other US troops using captured AKs who weren’t aware of the boobytrapping. Warnings were issued through newspapers, radio and TV warning of poor quality control from Communist Bloc factories that could cause malfunctions leading to AKs blowing up.

Project Eldest Son 02

When details of Eldest Son were leaked to US news publications in 1969, the project was renamed to Italian Green and then Pole Bean. With the rushed nature of the program after the leak, SOG pushed to get the remaining sabotaged rounds in place and coincidentally allowed the Communists to ascertain the real cause of the firearm failures. The program did wind up doing its job of raising doubts about the safety of the Communist ammo supplies in combat areas.

Program Reignited?

While it’s not clear where the rounds we have came from, the boobytrapping of ammunition has recently come back up in the news within an article the New York Times wrote about the Syrian Government attempting to undermine Syrian Rebel’s confidence in their ammo.

Apparently with the rapidly expanding insurgency, the government of Syria has been doctoring ammunition and mixing them with regular ammunition just like Project Eldest Son did during the Vietnam war.

The article also mentions a similar program the United States currently runs in Afghanistan, trying to undermine the Taliban. This Syrian ammo mentioned may have also entered through Iraq, where the article claims that the CIA and Pentagon were secretly passing doctored ammo to insurgent groups during the most recent war.

Project Eldest Son and other sabotage like it, are an interesting part of history that’s rarely heard about. What’s your thought on the ammo we’ve shown and its origin?


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  • Даниил Михаил

    I ended up with a bunch like that and it shot fine. (O_o)/ get a friend to try? Everyone wants to shoot an ak right?

  • Даниил Михаил

    Could feed it to a goat and see if it gets high.

  • Alex Opdyke

    Looks like Salt Lake City Ammo I think Rifle Dynamics has a case Jim would know better he is the American AK god

  • Gypsy Wind

    also called “bol bean”. loaded with c-4 instead of powder, small amounts were often placed along trails, left in villes iand many other places…interestingly photos exist of dead vc or nva soldiers along trails with most of their face and or head gone with an extremely damaged ak-47. proof of success with the “bol bean”. jus sayin…..FREE THE OPPRESSED. CARRY ON.

  • Anthony Morrell

    I say no. The mission of Project Eldest son was to sabotage enemy ammunition and to make the culprit rounds indistinguishable from its counterparts. This looks like old Lake City ammo make for the expressed purpose of suppling guerrilla fighters and governments who were fighting against communism and used primarily combloc weapons.

  • Blueone Rainone


  • Blueone Rainone

    stainless stilltop to toe

  • Jeff Tailer

    Jim Fuller might know a thing or two.

  • RobHuber
    By no means definitive, but the prospect of a rekindling of “Eldest Son” could very well be the case.

  • Rick Finsta

    Pull a projo and check the powder against A1680; it was developed for supplying 7.62×39 to ARVN and likely used for guerrilla supply as well if my understanding is correct.

  • Jason Hayden

    Adam Riel

  • Adam Riel

    Wow. Interesting.

  • Jason Nixon

    I imagine that if you can distinguish it from original ammo, it isn’t Eldest Son ammo.

  • Tyrone Hightower

    Great article, and yes this was a program and probably still is in Iraq. It was under the Counter IED program years ago.

  • Ben Spurgeon

    Lucas Kindvall saw your earlier “I like bullets” post haha

  • Justin Blinsky

    Caleb Yaksic Check this out.

  • John Gilbert

    My mentor was EOD in ‘nam told me stories about them runningthese missions

  • DesmondRobertson

    They did the same thing with gernades too with ZERO delay.  (they where not marked but placed in a set location in the cases) it was started do to our transports getting snatched.

  • Kazzerax

    The quality of the comments seems to have dropped faster than a 4000 lb bomb now that you can comment from facebook.

    Interesting stuff though.

  • stilljames

    Bruce Norton talked about doing it in one of the Force Recon books, IIRC they used detcord and doctored the ammo on site using a bullet puller.

  • Try doing research

    How about you just jump right to it and assume its ammo from some super clandestine effort?  If you do a simple Google search you will find other threads and forum entries regarding 7.62×39 without headstamp markings.  Its been mentioned in the comments to pull the projectile and inspect the powder, try that.  
    Its disappointing to look over a website like ITS and see this kind of thing.  The phrase “amateur hour” comes to mind.  Let me know when you find some tin foil in your back yard and report it as UFO or stealth drone parts.

    • csl84030

      @Try doing research
       I remember when my unit was deployed to Iraq, we were told not to pick up and fire any weapon due to spiked AK ammo. Platoon leader said that AK ammo had explosives mixed with powder. The next time I find myself on a battle field I’ll see if I wifi service or a bullet puller available to check for spiked ammo.

      Maybe if you fought on a battle fied instead of a keyboard you would understand that the info provided by the article my save a service member from injury.
      I am not trying to be an A**Hole like you were, just saying do not dismiss information that obviuosly wasn’t meant for your consumption.

    • speedy3car

      @csl84030  If info from this site is the difference between a soldier living or dying, they have bigger problems.

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