.50 Cal. BMG headstamps- WW2 and earlier


#1

Being but a novice on this specific, I’m curious about the pictured headstamp. Having hundreds of these cases and rounds, this is the only one in my collection with such a “busy” headstamp. The majority of those of US manufacture are pretty plain, as in LC or SL or FA with a single or double digit date code. I did note those of the plainer variety are dated '43 and later. Already tried the SEARCH option, to no avail. Anybody out there have h/s info on the .50?
[/img]


#2

The practice of having “.50CAL” included in the headstamp of .50BMG cartridges was a Frankford Arsenal (US Ordnance) directive, which ceased in 1940-41 as new factories came on stream under the GOCO scheme (Government owned, Contractor operated). What is rarely known, is that the US Government had new Ammunition Loading Plants on the drawing boards, and being constructed well before Pearl Harbour ( Lake City was already working in Mid-1941, as were several other plants, even if only with “trial runs”. Production really ramped up after Dec. 7.

The dropping of the “.50CAL” was basically a question of cost in Bunter manufacture; and there was no real need for the indication, anyway.

I have several examples of FA made .50, with 1930s dates, the latest is “FA 39”…found in Northern Australia, probably ammo sent with the first Aircraft or USN vessels in early 1942, after Macarthur set up shop in Oz. All the pre-1940 dates have “.50CAL” included in the HS.

UP to 1940-41, the only suppliers of .50 cal Ammunition to the US Gov’t was Frankford Arsenal ( the “laboratory” of all cartridge R&D) and Winchester-Western ( as two suppliers), and Remington. With the GOCO system, WW and Rem effectively ran all the other plants ( Federal ran Twin Cities); the system was the US Gov’t paid for the construction and fitting out of the plants, the Contractor manufactured and delivered ammo on a Cost plus fixed margin basis.

The Contractor handled all the labor matters, and sourcing of raw materials etc. The US Army Ordnance supplied the Inspectors(senior roles) for the production, and the Plants were usually known as “Army Ammunition Plants”.

At the end of the war, all the plants were “Mothballed”, and some re-activated during the Korean War (TW, SL,); Lake City continued manufacture from its founding in 1941, and is now the major US producer of Small arms ammo for Military use. (FA closed in 1976, TW closed some years ago, and the other GOCO plants did not get reactivated after Korea (not even for Vietnam). Their equipment was mothballed, and eventually disposed of. Some of the sites are still subject to environmental problems today. Remington initially was CO for LC from 1941 to well after the Vietnam War, then Olin Corp( WRA_WCC) took over, and now it is run by Alliant Technologies(ex-Hercules Powder co.), who also own Federal.

Hercules Powder was formed as a result of a Sherman Anti-trust law breaking up DuPont back in 1910-12. Remington, when it ran LC, was also part of the DuPont combine…how the world turns…

Wartime (1942-45) GOCO Plants: LC (Lake City),SL (St.Louis), DEN, (Denver) DM (Des Moines), EW/EC( Eau Claire), ECS,& EC (Evansville Chrysler),TW (Twin Cities), U/UT.( Salt Lake City,Utah)
COCO plants : WRA,( Hartford Plant) WCC (East Alton plant), RA, KS.( Kings Mills plant of Rem.)
GOGO Plants: FA

Korean War: 1950-53: FA,LC, SL, TW, WCC WRA RA .

Vietnam War: 1960-75 FA LC TW RA WCC WRA

Iraq & A’stan: LC WCC RA?

SO there you see the gradual shrinkage of US production facilities in Small Arms ammo, although LC probably produces more ammo now than it ever did in WW II (Then it covered 47 acres of Buildings, had its own Railroad Marshalling Yards, and numerous other details mentioned in an NRA artricle printed in 1945-46 American Rifleman).

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.


#3

Doc…It’s been ahwile since I had anything to do with .50 BMG…but is not “KS”…Kelly Springfield Tire Co.?, and also, 50 BMG GOCO plants…add M for Milwaukee, Wisconsin and L for Lowell, Mass (USCCo)…


#4

Mr Hedeen

You are correct. KS was the Allegheny Ordnance Plant operated by Kelly-Springfield Tire Company in Cumberland MD. The Kings Mills headstamp was PC but they did not make Cal 50. Lowell Ordnance Plant (LM) also made Cal 50.

Several others of the plants listed did not manufacture Cal 50, such as Denver which made only Cal 30.

Rick

I think those “cluttered” Cal 50 headstamps from the pre-WWII days are much more collectable that the plain vanilla ones from the plants. But that’s just me. ;)

Ray


#5

Sorry for getting confused here. (KS, other “non .50 cal Plants”, etc.). My post was more on the general “GOCO concept”, and unhappily some mistakes of fact ( Boo-Boos) crept in, as to who made what. My list of GOCO Plants referred more correctly to .30 cal (most of them)…EC and ECS made mostly .45 ACP, although I have found some .30/06 (used in Blanks) with “EC” ( maybe early Eau Claire Wisconsin, later to use EW).

For some reason I confused KS ( Allegheny) with PC ( Kings Mill)…I know of the other .50 Plants, but have never seen any cases so marked.

What has always intrigued me is that the US persisted in using the “Plate Loading” method for small arms ammo right throughout WW II, even in the GOCO plants, when the Germans had already by WW I perfected most of the “inline” or “rotary” loaders which are a feature of every “non-SCAMP” plant still today.
The Only “inline” system was Priming ( and combined with flash-hole punching); all the rest ( Powder charging, Bullet seating, Crimping, was done in a “Plate” with 29x? holes in it (or some such number–the figures of 1x by 1x seem to pop up; I remember reading about it in a “Survey of US Ammunition Plants” done in 1944 by an Australian Munitions Economics Commission during a tour of inspection of US SAA facilities. The Booklet is now buried in the archives of the University of Queensland. Library. I came across it back in 1967, whilst doing some History assignment research on US ammo supply to Nationalist China in 1948 during the Civil War. Even then, the US was screwing its “allies”, Ammo which was available at about $8,40 per 1000 ( cost as Military surplus ) was being sold to Chiang Kai Shek for around $84 per 1000. Not all profiteering is done in Wartime.

Lively Thread, this one.
regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics


#6

Here are a couple of Remington WW2 .50 BMG headstamps, plus one I’m not sure about. The one on the right certainly doesn’t look military. Is it?


#7

Guy

That REM-UMC 50 CAL is listed as 1924 to 1941 production. See JOURNAL #387, p27.

Ray


#8

Ray,
I don’t have #387. Can you tell me briefly what it says? Thanks.


#9

THE LEAST BUSY AND ALSO THE EARLIEST HEADTSAMP WHICH YOU WILL FIND ON A U.S. .50 IS " W 19 " . NOT THE FINAL CASE TYPE , OF COURSE. MY EARLIEST FA CASE IN THE FINAL SIZE IS FA 20 ON A TINNED PROOF.


#10

[quote=“Guy Hildebrand”]Ray,
I don’t have #387. Can you tell me briefly what it says? Thanks.[/quote]

Guy

You need to get the CD.

Anyway, it’s an 8-page list of REM-UMC headstamped cartridges put together by Dick Fraser back in 1996. He used about 20 different sources to compile it. It lists the cartridge, the headstamp, the start and end dates for the headstamp, and a rarity factor.

For yours it says 1924 to 1941 and a rarity of 1 (common).

It’s a handy list to have.

I have one of those FA 20 also. It’s a function dummy. CN steel core bullet.

Ray


#11

What does your dummy look like ? Holes, flutes , primer ?


#12

TRis Commercial coding was used on a lot of Export Ammo made in the interwar period, of all calibres, by both Remington and WRA.

Argentina ( Navy) used Watercooled .50 BMGs from the mid 1920s, Colt built. As they had been customers of Remington going back to Rolling block days, they would have bought ammo again from Remington for their Watercooled .50s.
Later they also tried 11.43mm Madsens in the same role, but after WW II (or during it) abandoned the Madsens and concentrated on the BMGs.
Excellent examples of the Water-cooled .50 BMGs in Argentina are shown complete with their Naval mountings at the Museo de La Nacion, Buenos Aires.

Other countries buying Colt .50s also bought Remington Ammo as well.

The other “RA .50 Z” is the British RAF contract of 1941 , for the supply of ammo for the .50 guns in early purchases by Britain of B17 bombers (first version). Once Lend Lease came into effect, and Britain was also buying .50BMG for fitting to Spitfires etc (late 41 and 42) the US supplied normal “Military” marked .50 ammo ( same as was going to the USAAF in Britain) The RAF contract also included .303 ammo and .30/06 ammo, with similar headstamps; the .30/06 cartridges were a copy of the US ANM2 design cartridge, to feed the .30 cal aircooled guns in some lend-lease aircraft still fitted with .30 cal.; the .303 ammo was supposedly for British (and Canadian) made .303 ANM2 guns, the major armament of early RAF fighters, and most Bombers up to 1943…up to 8 .303 Br. per spitfire, and up to 10/12 in big bombers such as Lancasters…later in the war, the Lancs were fitted with a single Hispano in one of the upper Turrets (20mm) and occasionally .50 cals.
Fighters transitioned from only .303 to mixed .303s and .50s to .303 and 20mm, to finally only 20mm.

Regards,
Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

PS, the “least Busy” .50 headstamp is the "FA 4 " stamp ( 1944) found on some ball and a lot of Cadmium plated Dummies. (Bunters rescued and re-used by grinding off “3” from a “43”; maybe factory over-runs of "43 "Bunters unused at end of 1943). “LC 4” also qualifies.


#13

I have that “REM-UMC 50 CAL” headstamp on a nickel plated dummy, which looks to have been made from a de-capped fired case as the primer stake crimps are present. The plating on area about an inch below the shoulder is completely worn off to exposed brass, indicating this dummy saw alot of use in links. Is this dummy a lend-lease item? It has a GM jacketed, steel cored bullet.


#14

Falcon
I believe the variation without the dash between the REM and the UMC was for export (to Britain). While REM-UMC was commerical contract, say for Colt.


#15

Thanks for the info, do you know of any documentation backing this up?