.50" cal machine gun round?


I am trying to identify this ‘relic’ on behalf of a metal-detector enthusiast who found it on farm land here in Norfolk, England. I know absolutely nothing about these larger machine gun rounds and, from my army experience, I initially thought .50" M48 Spotting Rifle but having cleaned the base it clearly is not. The headstamp is ‘4 3 T W’ so it’s obviously a wartime item. He regularly finds .50 Browning rounds and cases in the same area and there was a lot of USAF activity around here during WW2 including an aerial gunnery school a couple of miles away.
The caselength is about 70mm and I’ve pictured it alongside one of his .50" Browning rounds for comparison - and as soon as I compared the two I noticed the big difference in extractor groove width. Also intriguing are the two tiny holes in the neck - are they simply the result of corrosion or are they intended to be there?
What is it?



Very interesting item you have there. That is something I’m at a loss to identify and hope someone else can! The holes in the neck might be stab crimps that rusted through at the stressed points? Or could this be a discarded novelty cigarette lighter that used the reconfigured body of a standard .50 BMG and the holes were for installation of the lighter components?



Thank you for at least having a go! I was somewhat reluctant to post this item because, knowing nothing about these larger rounds, I was concerned that I might have been missing something that was very obvious to everyone else but it would now appear that’s not the case. The conversion to a cigarette lighter was certainly something I hadn’t considered and is quite possible but that still leaves the narrow extractor groove and unusually thin rim unexplained. Because of the location in which this was found I strongly suspect it was thrown from an American aircraft.


Jim, since your post here and the BOCN, I’ve been curious, though reluctant to add anything. But something just struck me. A lot of CAD’s, (Cartridge Activated Device rounds, not an unsavory gent), were based on the .50 Cal casing at first. This could be a possibility, maybe an engine starter since drop tanks and de-armers used full length electric fired ones. I’ll research it further tonight, since work calls here across the pond. Cheers, Bruce.


Thanks Bruce.


The early .50 BAT rounds were shorter than the accepted rounds now in use and were also based on the .50 BMG. However all the variations I’m familiar with have the FA 50 headstamp, & sorry no explanation for the holes.


Jim, I’ve gone through all of the publications I can think of dealing with early CAD’s, small arms and spotters from that era and can’t find anything looking like that. The shallower groove is puzzling also. As Pete says, I may be an early BAT Spotter also. When they made the Impulse carts for our de-armer, we would come up with some really early production dates, some as far back as WWII, especially if they were the short, white lead wires. Could be when they wanted to do an initial development of the BAT Spotter, They grabbed the first casing they could get their hands on.
One more thing that it could be with the holes in it would be a cable cutter type round. Put the round in a breech, feed a wire through it and when the cart is activated, it sends a slug that acts as a guillotine and cuts the wire, though why you would need the power of half a .50 cal isn’t what I’ve worked out yet. All of this is, of course, supposition and I hope I’m not clouding the issue. God luck with the mystery and sorry I couldn’t help much, Bruce.


The case could do with brushing with a wire brush or sand blasting to remove the rest of the dirt on the surface.


I’d probably agree Falcon however it’s not my casing and I wonder whether cleaning it would actually reveal anything more.
It was found by a group of archaeologists who are curious but not overly interested in it’s identity. I haven’t yet suggested cleaning it to them but I’ll see what they say although my guess is they’d rather keep it as it is.
I’ve contacted the Woodin lab to try and identify this item.
Thanks for your input gents.


Place it into an ultrasound bath, it will clean without any damage. Look around for a biotech R&D facility, they are likely to have ultrasound.


This mysterious round has been identified as a cut-out and shortened .50 BMG used to make a cigarette lighter, in this thread on BOCN: