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Military Vehicle Pioneer Tools

The pioneer tool set, typically a shovel and axe, are part of the basic set of tools for a military vehicle. Since these vehicles are designed and intended to go where there may be no road and obstacles can be expected, the tools have to be immediately available to clear the path or to dig the vehicle out.

Pioneer tool rack of a restored M-37 3/4-ton cargo truck, mounted on the tail gate.  The vehicle belonged to Charles Kern, Jonestown, PA, photographed at a Military Vehicle show in 1996
Pioneer tool rack of a restored M-37 3/4-ton cargo truck, mounted on the tail gate. The vehicle belonged to Charles Kern, Jonestown, PA, photographed at a Military Vehicle show in 1996.

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Guide to Military Vehicle Pioneer Tools

Pioneer tools on side of jeep with American soldiers and Free French, 1944.  Note the mattock slipped into the grab handle, added to the standard axe and shovel
Pioneer tools on side of jeep with American soldiers and Free French, 1944. Note the mattock slipped into the grab handle, added to the standard axe and shovel.

Most tactical military jeeps and trucks have provisions to mount a set of pioneer tools on the inside or outside of the vehicle. For example:

The tool sets vary a little, but the idea is the same. The vehicle crew has to be ready to create a path through downed trees or other barriers, fill holes, dig the vehicle out, or assist others in similar tasks. The pioneer tools are provided for such purposes and their readiness condition is part of the vehicle inspection.

The tools themselves are military standard items which are issued at the unit level to equip the organizational vehicles and to replace damaged or missing tools. They are typically procured from the same commercial manufacturers as civilian tools but within a set of standards that ensure that any shovel or axe will fit the slot allotted to it in any vehicle. They also typically are procured without military paint. Their plain wood handles and variously colored metal parts are painted by the receiving unit to match the intended vehicle.

This means that you can buy a tool at Home Depot that pretty much matches the missing tool for your restored vehicle so long as you are careful to match the size and style. That is, if the shovel is supposed to have a D-handle, don't use a one with a knob-end. If you want to be a little more careful, military vehicle parts dealers sell surplus tools or commercial tools that have been matched and painted to ensure accuracy.

Here are part numbers for common pioneer tools and holder bracket:

NameDescriptionFSN (WW2/1950s)NSN (1990s)
Axe, Single Bit4 lb head, 36.5 in. long41-A-1277
5110-222-0455
5110-00-293-2336
Shovel, HandRd-pt D-hdl Fed Spec GGG-S-326 Type IV, class A, style 1, size 241-S-3170
5120-293-3336
5120-00-293-3336
Handle, Mattock36 in. long5110-254-66185120-00-288-6574
Mattock, Pick HeadW/o handle 5 lb. 19.5 in. long5120-243-23955120-00-243-2395
Pioneer Tool BracketMetal frame with mounting points and straps4910-357-5494 

How Pioneer Tools are Mounted on Military Vehicles

The World War II jeeps (Willys MB and Ford GPW) and the M-38 post-war jeep are unique in that the body spaces provided for the shovel require a bend in the handle where it attaches to the metal spade. Later vehicles used pioneer tool racks that could accommodate a less expensive straight-handle shovel. The Ordnance publications TB ORD 93 (WW II) and TB ORD 2300-20/4 (1958), titled "Stowage Locations for Pioneer Tools and Brackets" shows the positioning of the tools for all vehicles in the military inventory as of the publication date.

Later vehicles continued in the same pattern, typically with either a stowage compartment (larger vehicles), pioneer tool rack for the tail gate or other mounting location (light trucks) or the side panel of jeeps. Some split the tools into several locations. For example, the M-151 jeep made provisions for a shovel on the passenger's side and axe on the driver's side due to the narrow side panel of the low profile vehicle.

Pioneer Tools for the HMMWV

PFC B.A. Pepin of Communications Platoon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 (MWSS-171), stands at parade rest beside his M998 HMMWV before an inspection, 8 January 1990.  The HMMWV removable pioneer rack with its tools is in the foreground
PFC B.A. Pepin of Communications Platoon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 (MWSS-171), stands at parade rest beside his M998 HMMWV before an inspection, 8 January 1990. The HMMWV removable pioneer rack with its tools is in the foreground.

Recent vehicles continue to be provided with a pioneer tool rack or stowage location and the HMMWV (pronounced humvee) is no exception. The HMMWV Operators Manual (TM 9-2320-280-10, page 172) describes the tool rack that is positioned under the rear deck, typical of the M998 and related variants. The removable rack is pivoted on its front end and held by two clamps to the rear cross member, on either side of the pintle hook. When the clamps are released, the rack folds down and can be removed (photo, above). The individual tools (axe, shovel, mattock handle and mattock head) are held by small straps that are released individually.

Other HMMWV variants stowed the tools in other locations. On the M1025A2, M1043A2, and M1045A2 vehicles the tools were stowed behind the left rear seat while the stowage location on M1035A2, M1097A2, and M1123 vehicles is on the tunnel. The tool assortment also differed for the latter HMMWVs, referred to as the Max Tool Kit.

Find More Information on the Internet

There are many fine websites that have additional information on this topic, too many to list here and too many to keep up with as they come and go. Use this Google web search form to get an up to date report of what's out there.

For good results, try entering this: military pioneer tools or rack. Then click the Search button.

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