.50 Caliber Wooden Ammo Boxes

When the .50 caliber Browning machine gun was developed for the U.S. military after World War I, the ammunition was packed in wooden boxes suitable for direct feeding of the gun. There were a number of styles of these boxes, generally emulating the construction of the wood boxes produced for belts of .30 caliber ammunition.

Wooden packing crates were used for bulk shipping of ammunition, but the wood ammo boxes discussed on this page were analogous to the metal ammo cans used for belts of 100-200 rounds.

Early test circa 1919 of .50 Caliber water-cooled machine gun, with wooden ammunition box.  Detail from photo of John M. Browning Firing His Cal. .50 Machine Gun in Colt's Pasture.
Early test circa 1919 of .50 Caliber water-cooled machine gun, with wooden ammunition box. Detail from photo of John M. Browning Firing His Cal. .50 Machine Gun in Colt's Pasture.

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.50 Caliber Wood Ammunition Boxes

The wooden boxes for .50 Cal. ammunition were originally issued in the 1920s for the then new .50 Cal. Browning machine gun and its associated .50 cal. cartridge in fabric belts. The boxes evolved in construction details and markings until replaced by the M17 .50 cal. ammunition chest in the 1930s.

Key construction details for the wood .50 caliber ammo boxes consisted of oak or ash material, dovetail joints, a leather strap on top fitted into a rectangular groove with a centered circular pick-up area, open-lid feed or gun-side panel feed slot (at top of gun-side panel), spring-loaded lid latch to gun-side panel, and far-end hinge. Boxes with a feed slot had latches on both sides since the gun-side latch would interfere with feed. It is possible some boxes had lap joints. The .30 caliber wood ammo boxes had screws holding the bottom panel to the sides, but no examples of similar contruction for .50 caliber wood boxes are available.

If painted at all, flat olive drab paint was used for the box. The bottom of the interior of the box is stenciled with the orientation of the ammunition contents.

Recommended Book about .50 Caliber Weapons and Ammunition

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