.50 Browning, target marking


#1

My Grandfather was a crew chief on B-17 bombers during WWII. One of his assignments was at an aerial gunnery training squadron in Arizona. I recall him telling me many years ago that they would dip the projectiles of the linked .50 BMG ammunition in long trays of various colors of paint for each gunner being trained. Apparently, the paint would leave traces in the cloth fabric of the towed gunnery target, so hits could be assigned to each gunner. Can anyone varify this? Is there any official documentation of this practice, or was it likely a local procedure? Sadly, I cannot get any more information than this.

AKMS


#2

The ink marking your grandfather was refering to was called Lithographic marking ink. This reference can be found in the war time TM manuals, TM 9-226 page 236 or ww2 .50 aircraft TMs. For method of application see TM 9-855. Cartridges that have been coated must have the ink removed before returning to storage.


#3

AKMS

That is still a common practice amongst us long range competitive shooters. When developing a load, we chronograph and shoot for accuracy at the same time. It is important to be able to identify a particular shot that is far outside the average velocity spread or one that is far outside the average group. Today we use good old Magic Markers, a different color for each shot.

Ray


#4

These various color tips have been a problem for lots of collectors over the years. They still show up from time to time and get collectors very excited about a new and rare find. Red,green ,blue and orange seem to be the most common in the US.


#5

How much of the projectile was painted? I got the impression that it was more than just the “tip”. Glad to know this was a true story and that Grand-Dad wasn’t off his rocker…

Thanks for the information!

AKMS


#6

Approx 3/4 - 1" of the tip. Too much and it would get onto the bearing surface of the projectile, which wasn’t desirable.

Keith Pagel


#7

Many years ago, I acquired several .30-06 with the same treatment - yellow, pea soup green, purple (IIRC), light yellow / dark cream and a fairly bright green. Packed away somewhere at this time. Most of these (perhaps all?) were USCCo 18 * * hooker process / Marlin aircraft MG loads. I always surmised they were for some sort of informal purpose as the soft coating was rather haphazard.

.


#8

Thanks Keith,

I suspected that getting tha paint on the bearing surface of the projectile would be a bad thing.

AKMS


#9

[quote=“AKMS”]Thanks Keith,

I suspected that getting tha paint on the bearing surface of the projectile would be a bad thing.

AKMS[/quote]

I’m not sure why that would be so. Artillery projectiles, 20mm, 30mm, and 40mm are routinely painted for identification and protection. Many steel cased small arms cartridges are layered in a heavy coating of shellac, varnish, or whatever. I would not think that any small disadvantage of paint on the bearing surface would trump the advantages, especially when we’re talking about military ammunition. Many things far worse than paint go down the barrels of those weapons. JMHO

Ray


#10

Lithographic ink is considerably different from the paint used in stencilling. Small arms barrels are different from artillery barrels. The TM’s in question specifically prohibit coating the bullet beyond that amount.

Keith Pagel


American red coller
#11

[quote=“Ray Meketa”][quote=“AKMS”]Thanks Keith,

I suspected that getting tha paint on the bearing surface of the projectile would be a bad thing.

AKMS[/quote]

I’m not sure why that would be so. Artillery projectiles, 20mm, 30mm, and 40mm are routinely painted for identification and protection. Many steel cased small arms cartridges are layered in a heavy coating of shellac, varnish, or whatever. I would not think that any small disadvantage of paint on the bearing surface would trump the advantages, especially when we’re talking about military ammunition. Many things far worse than paint go down the barrels of those weapons. JMHO

Ray[/quote]

The main problem with an excess of paint on the projectiles may be a build up paint residue in the mechanism rather than in the barrel itself. The paint on artillery projectiles is hard and dry when it is fired and is relatively thin compared to the bore area. The lacquered coating on cases usually stays put on the case and not in the chamber. The paint used for target marking was fired whilst still soft and tends to be a bit thick and “blobby”. As an aircraft MG fires many more rounds than an artillery piece then paint accumulation on the ammunition feed chutes and gun feed mechanism may have been a problem.

The Royal Air Force used a similar method, pouring the paint into a shallow tray or dish (similar to a Turkey roasting tin), coiling up a length of filled belt and lowering the bullet tips into the paint. The amount of paint on the bullets would have varied greatly, depending on the initial level in the tray, how many rounds have been dipped etc.

gravelbelly


#12

In most artillery sized rounds, the projectile does not really contact the barrel/rifling to any significant degree. The driving band(s) are what engage the rifling and obturate the projectile as opposed to the projectile jacket as on small arms ammunition.

AKMS


#13

Looks like I’m a group of one here.

Bourrelets on large caliber artillery projectiles are painted and do contact the bore. That’s what they’re for. Many smaller caliber projectiles such as 20, 30, and 40 millimeters do not have bourrelets and the entire painted projectile body rides on the bore.

If the paint on a bullet will tend to gum up the mechanism I’d be surprised. A fully shellacked/varnished steel case would be much more likely to do that and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

It may well be that the marking paints have properties that would tend to cause problems but, again, I’d be surprised. In all liklihood, any marking paint residue would be vaporized anyway.

And at the risk of repeating myself, we’re talking military.

Interesting discussion. As an old ex-Gunners Mate I always like to talk artillery even though it’s all but dead. Small arms ammo is probably not too far behind. Have you noticed the new ray guns being experimented with and maybe even in actual use??

Ray