Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives

Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives

C.I.P. logo
Formation 1914
Type standards organization
Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
Official languages French
Director Marc Pirlot

The Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives (Permanent International Commission for Firearms Testing - commonly abbreviated as C.I.P. or CIP) is an international organisation whose members are 14 states, mainly European.

The C.I.P. safeguards that every civil firearm and all ammunition sold in C.I.P. member states are safe for the users.

To achieve this, the firearms are all professionally proofed at C.I.P. accredited Proof Houses before they can be sold to consumers. The same applies for cartridges, at regular interval, cartridges are tested at the C.I.P. accredited Proof Houses.


Proof process

The standard proof of firearms consist of firing two overloaded cartridges producing 25% more chamber pressure than the C.I.P maximum pressure limit for the same cartridge in its commercial version. For pistol, revolver and rimfire cartridges the standard proof is performed with overloaded cartridges that produce 30% more chamber pressure than the C.I.P maximum pressure limit for the same cartridge in its commercial version. Voluntarily testing beyond the C.I.P. maximum pressure limit is also possible for consumers who intend to use their firearms under extreme conditions (hot climates, long strings of shots, etc.). A proof mark is stamped in every successfully tested firearm. The C.I.P. does not test any further aspects regarding the correct functioning of the tested firearm. For example aspects like the correct cycling of cartridges etc. are not part of the proofing process.

Primarily orientated towards the proof houses and manufacturers, the C.I.P. independently assesses, approves and publicizes manufacturer's data such as ammunition and chamber dimension specifications, maximum allowed chamber pressures, caliber nomenclature, etc. All this C.I.P. established data can be accessed by everyone.

Technical procedures describing how to perform proofing are also established by the C.I.P. and updates to the various test methods are issued in the form of "decisions". These decisions can also easily be obtained by everyone involved.

The C.I.P. formally distributes established data and decisions to the member states through diplomatic channels for publishing in their official journals. After official publication C.I.P. established data and decisions obtain(s) undisputable legal status in all C.I.P. member states.

Governmental organizations, like military and police forces and other firearms bearing public power agencies, from the C.I.P. member states are legally exempted from having to comply with C.I.P. rulings. This does not automatically imply that all firearms and ammunitions used by governmental organizations in C.I.P. member states are not C.I.P. compliant, since those organizations often choose to self-impose the relevant C.I.P. standards for their service firearms and ammunition.


Firearm safety tests were made compulsory at the beginning of the 16-th century, for instance in Styria (Austria) by decree of Maximilian I of Habsburg on the 12th of September 1501, a little later in London (England), and in the 17-th century in Liège (Belgium). At that time, proofing was executed by "proofers" at public places. All firearms of reputable brands were proofed this way. Proof testing is compulsory in Belgium since the decree of Maximilian Henry of Bavaria dated May 10, 1672. The Liège Proof House was created at this occasion. Progressively, national proof houses were set up in other countries and proof marks were introduced.

In 1914, the director of the Liège Proof House in Liège, Mr. Joseph Fraikin (director from 1908 to 1946), was the originator of the creation of the Permanent International Commission for Firearms Testing (C.I.P.).

The C.I.P. has progressively established a set of uniform rules for the proofing of firearms and ammunitions to ensure the reciprocal recognition of the proof marks of each member states.

A convention between the 13 member states was signed in 1969, ratified and converted into law in each signing state, so that the rules can be enforced to assure that every firearm and cartridge on the market has successfully passed the compulsory proofing and approval.

Member states

The current (2008) C.I.P. member states are:

These member states have a total population of 529 million people.

Most recent member state:
The United Arab Emirates became a member state on 9 April 2008. Local companies like Caracal International L.L.C. and ADCOM Manufacturing will benefit of a local proof house.

Former C.I.P. member state:

The Permanent International Commission, confirming that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is no longer in existence, declared during the XXII Plenary Session that the proof marks of the Proof House at Kragujevac will no longer be recognised by the C.I.P. Member States with effect from 30 September 1992.

Precepts and aims

The C.I.P. Convention has the following major precepts:

  • There is reciprocal acceptance of each country’s proof marks, certifying the identity of the firearms and the satisfactory performance of the tests performed in accordance with the pre-set regulations;
  • Tests are standardised to guarantee safety and their application methods;
  • At least one state-controlled national Proof House exists in each country;
  • Every member country enacts a law which makes it compulsory to perform the tests according to the methods, limits and procedures established by the Convention.

The main aims of the C.I.P. are as follows:

  • To select test pressure barrels to measure firing pressure and define the measurement procedures for use by official Proof Houses to determine pressure generated by test cartridges and the commercial cartridges fired by hunting, sport and defensive firearms and in machine tools;
  • To establish the kinds of procedures to be followed in the official tests used for firearms and machine tools to guarantee every degree of safety;
  • To adopt the most modern measuring techniques for the arms and ammunition testing procedures;
  • To encourage standardisation of chamber and cartridge dimensions, testing methods and ammunition testing procedures;
  • To examine laws and regulations issued by member states regarding official tests for firearms and ammunition;
  • To declare which countries act in accordance with standard tests and publish a schedule of the proof marks applied by the official testing centres of these countries;
  • In accordance with the above, to retract declarations when necessary, and modify the schedule when conditions are no longer valid.

Relations with manufacturers and internal functioning

The C.I.P. is an organisation whose members are state authorities but the operations of C.I.P. and its decisions are fully delegated to professional people active in the firearms industry. This includes all the proof house directors and their collaborators, ammunition manufacturers, machine manufacturers, gunsmiths, ballistic specialists and so on. Two sub-commissions exist within the commission itself. The first sub-commission deals with the definition of measuring methods and determine the acceptable values while the second sub-commission defines and express the conditions for new uniform rules. Working parties within these sub-commissions are also created each time a subject needs to be discussed and experts on the subject are invited to participate in relevant meetings. They meet as often as considered necessary at various places to work on the subject they have been assigned to and report to their sub-commissions. After that, the C.I.P. votes in Plenary Sessions on submitted sub-commission proposals, resulting in decisions and publish them. This implies that all decisions made by C.I.P., although enforced by law after publication, are the result of a cautious consensus between sensible and knowledgeable people in this field.

Firearms proofing

Small arms manufacturers and importers within the C.I.P. member countries are obliged to request one of the accredited Proof Houses to perform the proofing of all arms they manufacture or import. No small arm can be put on the market in any of the C.I.P. member states without prior successful proofing in an accredited proof house according to the C.I.P. decisions.

After the proof test and if successful, two or three proof marks are always applied to the main (highly stressed) parts of the arm, namely the barrel, the chamber (when not part of the barrel) and the locking mechanism. A serial number indicating the year of proofing is also marked on these parts. In case a firearm was voluntary successfully tested at a higher than the normally required proof-test pressure superior proof marks are applied on the relevant parts.

Only after that, the arm is released to the manufacturer or importer who can sell it or deliver it, if already sold.

Ammunition approval

The C.I.P. also enforces the approval of all ammunition a manufacturer or importer intends to sell in any of the C.I.P. member states. The ammunition manufacturing plants are obliged to test their products during production against the C.I.P. pressure specifications. A compliance report must be issued for each production lot and archived for later verification if needed. The cartridge boxes must also be stamped with a C.I.P. approved number to allow quality/safety traceability according to ISO 9000 principles in case of quality problem. In a sense, C.I.P. is a pioneer in terms of quality control techniques since it came into force long before the creation of ISO 9000.

Since this very beginning, C.I.P.’s concern is only related to arms/ammunition safety from the user's point of view. Thus C.I.P. is only interested in chamber pressures and not interested in the velocity achieved by the projectiles. As a result, the compulsory ammunition safety control tests by the manufacturers themselves and their approval by the proof houses are only pressure related. The dimensional checking of the ammunition, as described in the C.I.P. Decisions, Texts and Tables, is left to the manufacturers themselves. Headspace is not checked, even on rimless cartridges with taper. The view is that in the very unlikely case (according to the current quality standards) the cartridge is too long, once pressed by the bolt, the pressure will rise too high causing rejection. If it is too short, firing will fail also causing rejection.

The manufacturers make velocity measurements however. These measurements are made during production for obvious quality control with respect to the user's expectations relative to the product and its purpose.

One exception is arising due to the market introduction of lead free shotshell ammunition loaded with steel pellets instead of more traditional lead based pellets. Due to environmental regulations, hunters in Europe are required to use lead loaded ammunition carefully. For instance, in France, they cannot fire in the vicinity of a pond. In fact, the laws are so complex that some hunters in Europe prefer not to risk getting into problems for firing lead pellets at wrong places, so they opt for steel pellets in all situations. This makes that manufacturers need to market new types of lead free shotgun ammunition loaded with steel pellets. The Vickers hardness test VH1 must be below 100 but even so, steel is known to wear the barrel excessively over time if the pellets velocity becomes too high leading to potentially harmful situations for the user.

As a result, the measurement of the pellets velocity is also an obligation for shotshell gauges 12, 16 and 20 in both standard and high performance versions. The pellets velocity must be below 425 m/s, 390 m/s and 390 m/s respectively for the standard versions.

Handloaded ammunition

Although the same approval rules do not apply to hand loaders, given that their products cannot be legally sold in C.I.P. member states, in the interests of safety most Proof Houses afford those parties opportunity to batch test their ammunition to ensure that the associated chamber pressures and velocities are within acceptable standards. By so doing it removes the potential for weapons being damaged, thereby injuring the user or innocent bystanders. Previous tests of this nature in the past have indicated the poor standards adopted by some of such parties and the lack of uniformity between rounds of ammunition.

NATO use of C.I.P. legislation

The NATO military alliance uses a NATO specific recognized class of procedures to control the safety and quality of firearms ammunition called NATO EPVAT testing. The civilian organisations C.I.P. and SAAMI use less comprehensive test procedures than NATO, but NATO test centres have the advantage that only a few NATO chamberings are in military use. The C.I.P. and SAAMI proof houses must be capable of testing hundreds of different chamberings requiring lots of different test barrels, etcetera. For all other small arms ammunition for use in "non-NATO Chamber" weapons, NATO has chosen to conform to the procedures as defined by the current C.I.P. legislation.[1]

C.I.P. Decisions, Texts and Tables

The C.I.P. Decisions are updated, modified and published every one or two years in the form of a Comprehensive Edition of Adopted C.I.P. Decisions, Texts and Tables in the form of binders, CD-ROM or downloadable in Portable Document Format.

Official C.I.P. decisions regarding pressure are specified in the unit bar. The bar is no SI unit like the pascal, nor is it a cgs unit, but it is accepted for use with the SI by NIST.[2] The bar is widely used in descriptions of pressure because it is only about 1% smaller than "standard" atmospheric pressure, and is legally recognized in countries of the European Union.[3] Conversion between the units bar and the in firearm pressures context more appropriate SI unit Mpa is however easy since 10 bar = 1 Mpa.

If there is any contradiction between the new decisions and successive past decisions adopted at Plenary Session meetings, the most recent decisions prevail. If there is any contradiction between English or German language versions and the French original text, the latter prevails.

Director of the permanent office

Officially appointed on February 9, 2007 (Belgian official journal 2007-03-09):

Prof. Marc Pirlot ir. Dr.
c/o Ecole Royale Militaire
Dep. Weapon systems and Ballistics (ABAL)
Avenue de la Renaissance, 30
B-1000 Brussels

The C.I.P.’s Head Office is established at the same address.

Conflicting industry standards

The American equivalent of C.I.P. is the SAAMI although operating differently. SAAMI is a manufacturer's association. In contrast to C.I.P.’s decisions the recommendations of SAAMI have not the force of law.

These two main ammunition standards organisations are cooperating in an effort to unify their rules, though there are still hard at work to solve differences between their rules. These differences consist of varying chamber dimensions and maximum allowed chamber pressures. There are also technical variations in the way chamber pressures are measured giving different results.

Ammunitions approval differences

C.I.P. almost exclusively uses one type of Piezoelectric sensor (named "channel sensor") made by the Swiss company Kistler[4][5] that requires drilling of the cartridge case before firing the proofing cartridge in a specially made test barrel. SAAMI uses another type of Piezoelectric sensor (named "conformal sensor") mostly made by the US company PCB Piezotronics that does not require prior drilling of the cartridge case but the sensors are more expensive to use, since each cartridge calibre needs its special transducer. For shotshell ammunition, the technical variations are easier to solve since only one type of Piezoelectric sensor (called "tangential sensor") is available from the PCB Piezotronics and Kistler International companies to be used without drilling without variations amongst SAAMI and C.I.P. rules.

Proof test differences

Under C.I.P. proof test standards a drilled case is used and the piezo measuring device (transducer) will be positioned at a distance of 25 millimetres (0.98 in) from the breech face when the length of the cartridge case permits that, including limits. When the length of the cartridge case is too short, pressure measurement will take place at a cartridge specific defined shorter distance from the breech face depending on the dimensions of the case.

Under SAAMI proof test procedures, for bottlenecked cases the centre of the transducer is located 0.175 inches (4.4 mm) behind the shoulder of the case for large diameter (0.250 inches (6.4 mm)) transducers and 0.150 inches (3.8 mm) for small diameter (0.194 inches (4.9 mm)) transducers. For straight cases the centre of the transducer is located one-half of the transducer diameter plus 0.005 inches (0.13 mm) behind the base of the seated bullet. Small transducers are used when the case diameter at the point of measurement is less than 0.35 inches (8.9 mm).

The difference in the location of the pressure measurement gives different results than the SAAMI standard.[6]

Unsafe combinations and possible chamber and ammunition dimensional conflicts

Finally, some cartridges with possible chamber and ammunition dimensional conflicts, similar to the unsafe combinations,[7] are listed in the Delta L problem article.

Reference cartridges system

In order to solve the problems of conflicting industry standards, efforts are currently made to produce a notion regarding "reference cartridges" similar to the system used by NATO armies (NATO EPVAT testing). In this system every manufacturer has to set aside a batch (also named "lot") of ammunition they consider to be of very good quality and representative of what they need to produce later. This batch is sent to the C.I.P. proof houses and to SAAMI approved centers where "reference firings" are performed. The results of the reference firings are recorded and published. A number of these reference cartridges are distributed among all C.I.P. proofing houses and SAAMI approved centers for later use. Then, when a new ammunition batch (lot) arrives to be tested, the proof-house or shooting range fire a set of 20 reference cartridges to see how they behave with the local equipment and with the current atmospheric conditions. Results are then compared to the reference values as published and correctors (delta values) are computed. Then, the current batch (lot) ammunitions are fired and the correctors are applied on the measured value giving a result "comparable" to the reference itself. This procedure is very accurate, almost not disputable but more complex to perform than the procedures used up to now by C.I.P. and SAAMI. It requires the use of a computer connected to the measuring instruments.

C.I.P. accredited Proof Houses

The testing and proofing of firearms and ammunition in the C.I.P. member states is performed at these C.I.P. accredited Proof Houses:[8]

Testing equipment providers

The following companies provide equipment to C.I.P. facilities to perform this type of testing: (inexhaustive list)

See also


External links

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