The steel cased .45 ACP rounds of World War II are an interesting development and interesting source of study. Not only why, but how they came to be is one of those stories from WW II getting further back in memory. Lest we forget.
In the early years of World War II, the political position of South American lay in question, whether these countries would align themselves with the United States and her Allies. or with the Axis powers. Argentina especilly seem more likely to align itself with the powers of Germany. Should South America be lost, the vast copper mine deposits might be lost to the Allied effort. Copper was an especially vital strategic material, for electrical wiring, and the basis of the brass alloy from which small arms ammunition was made. In an effort to compensate, the U.S. Office of Strategic Planning looked to American industry for possible solutions to the anticipated problem.
Engineers at Chrysler Corporation undertook the task of using some non-copper alloy for cartridge cases. The metal most logically considered was steel. But suitable stainless steels were not yet on then horizon, and steel, a ferrous metal, was prone to rust. And ammunition had to be stored in all atmospheric conditions, including the damp, humid jungle conditions of the South Pacific.
Chrysler Corporation, the automotive manufacturer, was operating the Evansville Ordnance Plant, Evansville, Indiana, under contract. It was here that the ammunition was developed and placed into production. A steel alloy was used, a carbon steel alloy. A special phosphate treatment coated the steel, somewhat like galvanizing, that inhibited rust to an acceptable degree. The War Department, and Army Ordnance, accepted the steel case ammunition for .45 pistol cartridges, for use in both submachine guns and pistols. Soon the ordnance plant was turning out .45 ACP ammunition in quantity. In such quantity that ammunition was being loaded faster than cartridge cases could be manufactured. To feed the supply of cartridge cases, Chrylser turned to the aid of the Sunbeam appliance plant in Evansville to assist in production. During a fairly brief period of a couple of years, billions of rounds or .45 steel cased ammunition were turned out. Chrysler Corporation was awarded the "E-For Efficiency" pennant and commendation from a grateful government. A company brochure was circulated, entitled "Bullets by the Billions."
The threat never materialized, with South American nations aligning with the Allies, and brass cased ammunition was the standard through the War. But the effort did give collectors today an interesting study within itself. And Chrysler could certainly take pride in a job well done.
Photo of steel cased .45 cartridges. The "EC" headstamp stands for "Evansville Chrysler", the "ECS" for "Evansville Chrysler Sunbeam" indicating cases made at the Sunbeam plant. Originally the cases were silver-gray in color, some cases aged to an olive green color, and shades in between.