Cal. .50 M2 Ammo Can / Box

The steel M2 Ammunition Can / Box was adopted 21 September 1942 for .50 caliber machine gun ammunition, replacing the M17 .50 cal. ammunition chest and other earlier containers.

The M2 ammo can was designed to hold link belts of 105 cartridges of .50 cal. ammunition for the M2 Browning machine gun, but was in fact also utilized for other ammo calibers and packaging.

An M2 ammo box sits among other equipment in a 25th Infantry Division .50 cal. machine gun emplacement, Korea, 12 August 1952
An M2 ammo box sits among other equipment in a 25th Infantry Division .50 cal. machine gun emplacement, Korea, 12 August 1952.

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Caliber .50 M2 Ammunition Can / Box

M2 ammunition can with a belt of .50 cal. ammunition in the cradle of a Browning anti-aircraft machine gun, Normandy, France, 1944
M2 ammunition can with a belt of .50 cal. ammunition in the cradle of a Browning anti-aircraft machine gun, Normandy, France, 1944.

Construction details of the M2 .50 cal. ammunition can / box:

  • Steel material with welded seams, made in several different patterns
  • Top edge hinge consists of rolled small tubes attached to the body of the box and matching pins attached to the lid
  • Side-opening hinged lid, removable by sliding the lid pins off the hinge tubes
  • Metal bar handle attached to the lid by rectangular wire loops so it can fold flat for stacking or lift up for easy carry
  • A wire loop on lid edge is engaged by a latch panel to clamp the lid down
  • Rubber gasket under lid makes the box almost waterproof when clamped closed
  • Wire loop on the end panel to mount the box to a machine gun
  • Top and sides have embossed recessed areas for added strength

.50 cal. M2 ammo can / box

When the lid latch is closed, a small metal loop protrudes through a hole in the latch panel. A cotter pin, attached to a ring, is inserted in a hole in the metal loop to fasten the latch securely.

The M2 ammunition box was painted semi-gloss olive drab. Two shades were used, one a little lighter than the other. Both are authentic for this ammo can. Embossed markings on the front say "Amm. Box Cal. .50 M2." One end panel will have the Ordnance flaming bomb and manufacturer's name embossed (eg, BELMONT, UNITED.) The lid has two cartridge shapes embossed, one on each end, to indicate the direction of loading. The box was often stencil marked to indicate the contents, usually in yellow on the back panel (opposite the latch.)

Embossed nomenclature .50 cal. M2 ammo can / box

The dimensions of the M2 .50 cal. ammo can are approximately 7.5 inches high, 6 inches wide, and 12.25 inches long. It weighs about 35 pounds, loaded with a belt of .50 cal. cartridges.

The M2 .50 cal. ammo box / can was superseded by the Cal. .50 M2A1 Ammunition Box during the 1950s, but remained in use in the U.S. military for decades.

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

Recommended Book about Browning Machine Guns

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