Cal. .50 M17 Ammo Chest

The M17 Ammunition Chest was adopted 9 March 1942 for .50 caliber machine gun ammunition, replacing the .50 cal. wood ammunition box and the M3 Ammunition Chest.

The full nomenclature for this ammo box was Chest, Ammunition Cal. .50 M17 described by drawing number D39091. The M17 was not designed for mounting on the machine gun. Its role was to carry 100 round belts to a position where they would be fed to the gun while the box sat on the ground.

Cal. .50 M17 Ammunition Chest
Cal. .50 M17 Ammunition Chest.

Today in WW II: 15 Jul 1941 Double agent spy Juan Pujol Garcia [nicknamed 'Garbo'] sends his first communique to Germany from Britain.   

Caliber .50 M17 Ammunition Chest

M17 .50 cal. ammunition chest with tripod-mounted Browning M2 HB Machine Gun
M17 .50 cal. ammunition chest with tripod-mounted Browning M2 HB Machine Gun.

Construction details of the M17 .50 cal. ammunition chest include:

  • Sheet metal material
  • Riveted channel on four vertical edges and two sides of the bottom to form the box
  • Side-opening lid, not removable, attached to box by riveted hinge, almost full width
  • Web strap handle on top, attached by metal loops riveted to lid
  • Lever thumb latch holds top closed at center point. The lower latch assembly is held to the front panel of the box by four rivets while the upper latch hook is attached to the lid with two rivets.
  • Rolled steel lip-stop runs across the front panel, between the latch sections, to position the lid when closed
  • No gasket on lid, therefore not sealed from dust or water

The chest was painted flat olive drab, identified by a black stencil on the front panel under the latch. No other markings were provided. Approximate size is 7 7/8 inches high x 12 inches deep x 6 inches wide.

The M17 was developed to replace the similar M3 Chest, as the War Department took measures to save aluminum for aircraft construction. The M17 .50 cal. ammo chest was replaced by the Cal. .50 M2 Ammunition Box after adoption of the M2 on 31 August 1942.

Chest, Ammunition Cal. .50 M3

M5 Hand Cart with .50 cal. machine gun and a bank of M3 .50 cal. ammo chests. From ORD 12 SNL OGS 1, Fig. C-3
M5 Hand Cart with .50 cal. machine gun and a bank of M3 .50 cal. ammo chests. From ORD 12 SNL OGS 1, Fig. C-3.

The M3 .50 caliber ammunition chest was adopted during February 1934, developed as a part of the "ground mount, pack accessories, necessary hangers and ammunition and spare parts chests for the caliber.50 machine gun for cavalry purposes." The box was made of aluminum with a rust-red padded lining and a brass hinge holding the side-opening top to the body. The M3 had a metal strip riveted to its back panel, under the hinge, folded with right angle bends to form two rectangular sockets. These sockets served two purposes: the M3 chest could be hung by the sockets using carrier hooks on vehicle walls or pack animals, or the M3 chest could be stored in groups on racks. When racks were used, the box sockets served as spacers that kept the chests spaced evenly so that the tops could be grasped easily or opened without interference from the adjacent box.

The M3 .50 caliber ammunition chest is described by drawing number D37360. The chest was painted flat olive drab with markings, in either blue letters or black letters, on front under the latch. The carrying strap was leather.

The M3 .50 cal. ammo chest was replaced by the Cal. .50 M2 Ammunition Box after adoption of the M2 on 31 August 1942. The M3 then became limited standard.

Material on this page adapted from research provided by Thomas Chial.

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