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Israeli Military & Police handgun cartridges.

While the state of Israel was established in 1948, the region known as Palestine had attracted Jewish settlers from Europe and Russia since the 1890s.


Known as Zionists, these new settlers were financed by Jewish businessmen and contributions from Jewish communities around the world. These hardy souls purchased land and established farming communities, known as kibbutz or moshavim in an attempt to reestablish a Jewish homeland. While looked upon with suspicion by the Ottomans, their improvements to the land were undeniable while the hard currency they brought in was a welcome source of the baksheesh (bribes) that was a prime means of conducting business in the Middle East.

Besides the difficulties of reclaiming lands that had been neglected for centuries for agriculture, they had to deal with unfriendly Arab and Druze neighbors while nomadic Bedouins saw the settlers as natural targets for raiding. Corrupt Ottoman officials did little to provide security and so the settlers began taking matters into their own hands by forming armed settlement guards known as Hashomer (the Watchmen).

Early Hashomer were armed with a miscellany of small arms, some of which were obtained locally while others were imported, often clandestinely, from Europe. While rifles were a priority, shotguns were widely used as were--albeit to a lesser extent--handguns. The latter included military and commercial revolvers of, among others, British, French, Italian and Turkish origin.


The 1870s saw Turkey purchase S&W 2nd Model "Russian" and No. 3 revolvers chambered for the .44 Henry cartridge. As these things tend to happen in the Middle East, numbers of them "disappeared" from government service and were sold on the black market.

44 Henry--this consisted of a copper, rimfire case .86" long topped with a 200-grain flat-nosed, lead bullet backed by 26-28 grains of blackpowder which produced a muzzle velocity was of approximately 700 feet per second (fps).

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, various models of the British Webley were widely distributed in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East as were French Mle, 1873, Italian Mo. 1872 and 1889 revolvers.

Cartridge .455, SA, Ball, Pistol, Revolver Webley Mark I--the original .455 cartidge utilized a 265-grain lead bullet in a case .86" long backed by 18 grains of blackpowder that produced a muzzle velocity of 600 fps.

Cartridge, .455, SA, Ball, Pistol, Revolver Webley, Cordite Mark I--in 1894, the blackpowder was replaced with 6.5 grains of smokeless Cordite, although the ballistics remained unchanged.

"Cartridge, .455 Mark II--in-1897, it was discovered that better propellant combustion could be achieved in a shorter case, so the Mark II's case was shortened to .75". Once again, ballistics remained unchanged.


11mm Cartouche Mle. 1873--the French army's issue revolver cartridge consisted of a straight-walled; rimmed case 17mm long loaded with a 179-grain pointed lead bullet that 10 grains of blackpowder propelled to an anemic velocity of 430 fps.

10.35mm Cartuccia Pistola a Rotazione M72--the Italian Mo. 1872 and Mo, 1889 revolvers used a cartridge with a slightly tapered, rimmed case 22mm long loaded with a 177-grain lead bullet that 17 grains of blackpowder drove to 735 fps.

The turn of the 20th century saw the introduction of practical semiautomatic pistols. The Turkish army adopted the Mauser Selbstalade Pistole C96, also sold widely on the commercial market. There are photos from this period showing Hashomer armed with the "Broomhandle" Mauser.

7.63x25 Mauser--the most ballistically impressive cartridge of its day, the 7.63mm Mauser used a rimless, bottlenecked case 25mm in length whose 86-grain full metal-jacketed (FMJ) bullet was pushed to an impressive 1400 fps.


With the outbreak of the Great War in. 1914," the Turks expelled many of the European Jews to Egypt. In 1917 the British-government issued the Balfour Declaration advocating a Jewish "National Home" in the Middle East and with the defeat of the Ottomans, Jewish immigration surged so that by 1940 there were 400,000 Jews in British-controlled Palestine.

Increasing Arab/Jewish animosities led to the creation of a Jewish militia known as the Haganah to guard kibbutz and Jewish sections of towns and cities. Clandestine arms depots were created in which small arms obtained locally, or smuggled in from Europe, were stored. Fearing repercussions from the Arab population, the British government quietly reneged on the promises of a Jewish State.

The Haganah leadership established the Palmach, commando-like units who launched preemptive strikes into Arab territory. During the Arab Revolt (1936-1939) the British helped train and arm the Haganah and, oh occasion, cooperated with the Palmach. Because of this, British small arms predominated in the Jewish settler armories.


With the outbreak of World War II, the British formed the Palestine Regiment with three Jewish and one Arab battalion. In 1944, the Jewish. Brigade Group was established, and it served with distinction in North Africa, Italy, Yugoslavia and Austria, where they were instrumental in tracking down--and often bringing to "unofficial" justice--Nazi war criminals. They were armed with standard British small arms including Enfield No. 2, Webley Mark IV and S&W Victory Model revolvers.

Cartridge, SA, Ball, .380 Mark 2, & 2z--the above revolvers all used the .380 Mark 2 cartridge which was little more than the .38 S&W loaded with a 178-grain FMJ bullet moving at 700 fps. The .380 Mark 2z was loaded with nitrocellulose powder instead of Cordite.

The horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people by Nazi Germany led to a postwar call for the establishment of a Jewish state and, despite British disapproval, Jewish refugees once again began pouring into. Palestine. Not only did this reignite Arab/Jewish. conflicts, but radical Jewish elements (the Stern Gang and the Irgun) began a guerilla campaign against the British with the aim of driving them out of Palestine and forcing the UN to recognize a Jewish state.

With the expectation of having to fight vastly superior Arab forces once independence was achieved, the Haganah began smuggling large quantities of arms into Palestine. These included practically every type of handgun that had seen service in. World War II, including ex-German P.08 Luger, Mauser "Broomhandle" and Walther P.38, M1911Al, FN Hi-Power, Beretta Mo. 1934 and 1935 pistols in addition to large numbers of ex-British .380 caliber S&W, Webley and Enfield revolvers. Such unlikely handguns as the Soviet obr. 1895g Nagant revolver, Austrian M.1908 Roth-Steyr and M.1912 Steyr pistols and various 7.65mm pocket type pistols could also be found in service.

Cartridge .455 ... Mark 6 & 6z--adopted in 1939, it featured a 265-grain FMJ bullet moving at 600 fps. The later "Mark 6z" used nitrocellulose powder instead of Cordite.

45 ACP--while not widely used, the M1911A1 pistol had a following in Israel, reportedly among ex-U.S. servicemen. It consisted of a straight-walled, rimless case .89" long topped with a 230-grain round-nosed, FMJ bullet that a charge of smokeless powder pushed to 855 fps.


S.A., Ball, 9mm, Mark lz--the Hi-Power, Luger and Walther pistols were all chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. As loaded in British Commonwealth countries, the 9mm Mark lz used a 19mm, tapered, rimless case with a 116-grain FMJ bullet moving at 1250 fps.

In 1948, the UN recognized the nation of Israel, and the fledgling state was invaded by armies from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. To the amazement of all, the Israelis defeated the invaders decisively--earning a well-deserved reputation for toughness and tenacity--and insured the survival of their fledgling state.


The first Israeli-made handgun was a copy of the S&W Military & Police revolver manufactured by Israeli Military Industries (IMA) in 1952-1953. These were unique in that they were chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge and used "half moon" clips. Reportedly, only a small number were produced, primarily for presentation purposes.

With the coming of the Cold War, most of the Arab nations aligned themselves with the Soviet Union while Israel gradually became a firm ally of the United States. Additional conflicts with the Arabs in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 saw the Israeli army emerge victorious time and again.

In an attempt to achieve some sort of standardization, in 1956 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) adopted the Beretta Mo. 951 pistol chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. Handguns did not figure prominently in the IDF and those persons needing a personal defense weapons preferred the Uzi submachine gun. For this reason many obsolete and non-standard type handguns remained in inventories of the police, IDF and the armories maintained by many kibbutz and moshavim.

In 1990, IMA began production of a modern, 9mm semiauto pistol--the Jericho. Production continues alongside several variations (e.g. compact models, polymer frame) in several calibers.

9mm Parabellum--as currently used by the Israelis, the 9mm Parabellum is loaded with either a 115- or 124-grain FMJ bullet with a velocity between 1160 and 1200 fps.

In the last decade and a half, the IDF and Israeli police forces have obtained a wide variety of 9mm pistols, including the Ruger P85 and P89 (used by the Air Force), Tanfoglio TZ75, FN Hi-Power, Glock 17/19 and SIG P226. Little thought has been given to standardization with various agencies and departments purchasing whatever they find best suites their needs.

While large numbers of Israeli civilians carry handguns, an acquaintance of mine who used to live in Israel informed me that "... private handgun ownership and CCW is very difficult in Israel. However, local armories in kibbutzim and moshavim can issue pistols and licenses. I ran a local armory there for a few years. Although I had hundreds of guns at my disposal, and I wrote carry licenses all the time (even for myself), the government would not issue me my own carry permit!"

Photos by Lou Behling & Nathan Reynolds
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:May 1, 2010
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