.30-06 metal links

When did the US first field metal links for the .30-06 Browning machineguns?

Was this primarily for aircraft use?

When was the changeover from cloth belts to all metal belts complete?


The Browning .30 aircraft fixed (synchronized) and flexible guns used metal links from the early 1920s. I don’t know how long the cloth belts remained in service for the ground pattern guns but at least into and (possibly) after WW.2. JG

Gill - I had some Infantry Training in the Reserve in 1957, and all we had in the machine gun squad I was in were cloth belts. Mostly OD in color, but some old white ones too. When I went into the regular Army, there were cloth belts in training, but I never saw a cloth belt after that - all the T.O.E. outfits had link-belted ammunition. This was in the period 1957-1959. After I left the Army and went into the Reserve again (a requirement of a civilian job with DA that I had for awhile), I wasn’t involved much with Infantry stuff, so can’t relate anything after that.

John: I was pretty sure the white cloth belts were still current late in WW.2, so it would make sense they would still be around a decade or more later, given the scant production of small arms ammo until Korea heated up. I had a friend in the Wisconsin national guard in 1935 and he said they were still trying to shoot up their supply of 1918 .30-06 ammo. JG

Wow, 1920’s is earlier than I thought for the metal links!

Were the crates and ammo boxes marked as to what kind of belt the ammunition was on, or “not for aircraft use” for the cloth belts?

Was it common practice, perhaps in training units only, to reuse the cloth belts? I know they are re-usable and that there are all kinds of belt loading tools around, but was this a TOE authorized practice?


If I remember right .30-06 ammo made in 1918 was still issued to US allies during the Vietnam War.
Cloth belts have been used there as well.

AKMS: I will recheck my 1920s TM and see if I can answer you in part. I’m sure that ammunition packaging isn’t discussed, but, as I recall, both cloth belts and metallic links were mentioned as components of the feed system. JG

Here’s a can of Verdun Ordnance Works M2 made in 1945 (h/s V C 4 5) that is in a cloth belt.

AKMS: Per TR1300-30G (21 May 1929) the M1918M1 and M1919 (both fixed guns) could use either cloth belts or metal links but only the latter were used in the USAAC. Both a link-loading machine and loose links were shown in the TR, so I think the ammo was supplied in the usual 20-round boxes, linking being done on-site. I erred in stating flexible Brownings were in use at that time, tho they were, according to the TR, under development. JG

Metal links for most MGs were developed, at least to patent stage and trials, during WW I (Prideaux Link is the most common, used on Vickers guns and a variant made for both Colt-Marlin Potato diggers, and later the browning series.
The prime mover on the development was Aircraft use, to avoid long lengths of cloth belts fouling up the aircraft after being used. Links could be “fed” through down pipes and expelled clear of the aircraft, as were the shellcasing.
Cloth belts continued on till well after WW II, a lot of ammo being “belted in the field” from 20 round packets.
During WW II, all Airforce use ammo was metal link belted, usually at the factory; although some ground crew still made up belts in combinations as required, by using loose link and a belting machine.

Back in 1970, we were still making up .30 cal in cloth belts for some AFV use, and ground mounts, but the majority of Vietnam-era Ammo (Lake City) came pre-linked and already “functional Lot” ( 4B-1T).

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics
2/14 QMI (LH) APC M113A1 1972-74

load device 30-06 links


My dad was the ordnance chief of the 68th fighter squadron at Guadalcanal and he mentioned hand linking 30-06 ammo during several bad times. Don’t know if it was out of necessity or to re-arrange the firing order. Because of the lack of armor and self sealing fuel tanks on Japanese planes he said tracers did as good a job as AP.



as a follow-up to Guy Hildebrand’s interesting picture of an M1 box stencilled in Canada, could you please post a picture of the markings on the belt and also a picture of the starter tab.

Furthermore, is there any marking on the cardboard inside the box we see on your picture ?

Thanks in advance,



I had the good fortune of visiting with a Korean War veteran over dinner tonight. A luck would have it, he was a machine gunner. I asked him about the belt types he saw in Korea and at other times during his service. He said that without a doubt, all they ever used were cloth belted .30-06 in their Brownings, and that they never reloaded the belts. He commented that all the ammo they used was WWII production and that the only ones that belted or re-belted was the air wing units. He described one defensive position that had fired so many rounds that they had to haul away the fired cases by the bucket-full. The empty cases were dumped from a bridge into a stream, and when you walked over the bridge, you could see thousands upon thousands of shiny brass cases through the water.


In response to JFL’s questions, there are no markings nor is there a starter tab on the belt. Only about half of the belt remained in the box when I received it. I assume the starter tab and any markings were on the other half. The pieces of cardboard are also unmarked.

I recall use cloth belts in a .30 Browning in the Brit Army in the mid 1980’s.

Thanks Guy for checking the markings.



Your basic .30 Browning link was developed and manufactured by the gazillions during WW I (yup, 1918 essentially), mainely for the Marlin fixed aircraft gun (Colt “potato diggers” eat the links and jam without adding some kind of link guide, but weren’t used by then anyway). They were also intended to run in the fixed aircraft Browning, but that gun didn’t make it to service in the Great War. Boxes are marked “Marlin-Browning” (wish I knew how to post a pic). Prideaux worked on the design for the US, but there was a hassle when it came time for payment.

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