Today I bought a .50 BMG dummy stamped “F A 4”. It is made from an empty bullet jacket in a chromed case with 3 holes drilled in it round the circumference of the case about an inch from the base. It also has a blind primer pocket. What I didn’t realise with this case until i noticed a spot of rust and tried it on a magnet was that it is a steel case. Did FA load live fire .50 BMG rounds in steel cases during WW2, or just use them to make dummies? The chrome plating looks very recent, and could even have been re done in recent years.
Yes; beginning 1941/42, the US realized that they were going to have a serious copper shortage thanks to war demand, so they started experiments on switching production of 30 and 50 calibre ammo to steel cases (copper being the major component of brass). In 50 cal, Frankford Arsenal did the majority of this work, with most experiments aimed at preventing rust and corrosion (you can imagine the hell it would cause if you tried to fire a belt of rusty, linked 50s), and Hackley, Woodin, & Scranton says they ended up producing around 9 million rounds of ball, AP, and dummy ammo in 50 BMG. They achieved the best results with something called “Zinc-Cronak” plating, which is actually what your dummy is coated with.
Cheers, I have seen steel case dummies, but never steel-case ball rounds.I think my dummy has actually been chromed recently, as I have seen the dummies with the Zinc-Cronak plating, and it is almost greenish with white patches appearing on most rounds I have seen (if I am thinking of the right thing). The rouns I have has a very silver, shiny chrome plating. Possibly done by a third party. Looks modern as no rust etc. appearing. I will post a photo. Still, nice round as it is, very shiny, and I got it for 50 UK pence!
Experimentation with steel cased .45 ACP ammunition began in 1942, as well. One of the first was nickel-plated steel-cased ammunition headstamped WCC 42, that was sent to Franford Arsenal for testing. The case finish was rejected because of a projected shortage of nickel. Remington also made steel-cased .45s in 1942, They had a copper-plated steel case. Among other finishes used on this caliber, Frankford Arsenal made some with an Anozinc coating, giving a very yellowish appearance to the cases. Of course, one of the miracle stories of ammunition production in WWII was the Evansville Chrysler, and Evansville Chrysler Sunbeam plant production of cases and loaded ammunition. With no experience in making ammunition, much less that with steel cases, by the closing months of 1944 they had produced so much .45 ammunition, (they produced .30 Carbine as well, and perhaps other calibers) that even with the possiblity of the war lasting beyond even 1946, production was halted due to the huge stores of that ammunition on hand. This EC and EC S ammunition is still found today, and if not stored badly, still is reliable, although corrosive-primed. American steel-cased ammunition does not seem to have the problem of rusting from within years after production, as we are experiencing with German steel-cased rounds. Of course, none of it from either country was expected to be used some 60 plus years after the war, so that is certainly no indictment of the German ammunition. Volume II of the Hackley, Woodin, Scranton book on U.S. Military ammunition tells pretty much the whole story, and the book “Bullets by the Billion,” a Chrysler post-war production chronicles the story of their ammunition production.
Cheers John. I have never seen a US steel cased live fire round in the UK in any calibre. Brass .30-06, .30 Carbine, .45 ACP and .50 BMG With US WW2 headstamps are easy to find here. I have quite a few.
Falcon - I recently promised not to drift back into time and personal experience, but since this relates, I guess it is o.k. I was in the Army, first Reserve, than Regular Army and then Active reserve again from 1956 until 1964. About all the .45 ammo we ever saw was Evansville Chrysler steel-cased rounds. We had no problems that I ever saw. I don’t recall what our carbine ammo was. All of the ammo I saw for our Garands was brass-cased, but I didn’t pay any attention to the headstamps, as even then, pre-collection days, I was interested in auto pistols and the ammo for them. I never had any eexperience with the Browning .50, other than to fire it for familiarization (3 rounds - why a gyp!), so I can’t say what they were using in the era between Korea and VN.
About 15 years ago, on the FBI range at Santa Rita Prison, Alameda County, California, we fired about 400 rounds of the same thru a TSMG without a hitch. The ammo was so dirty that you couldn’t read the headstamps on some of them. The fellow who invited us to shoot supplied it himself, since any other ammo would have been U.S. Property, and he would not allow me to supply any because of liability.
The point is, they made billions, not millions, of rounds of steel-cased ammo. Surprising none showed up in England. I doubt the .50s, though, would have been used in aircraft guns. The Army Air Force probably got all brass-cased ammo - just a supposition, I really don’t know.
Actually, the normal EC and ECS steel cased .45 ACP are pretty common in the UK and the FA steel cased .50 BMG dummies are around by the box load.
The .50m steel cased live rounds are a lot less common though.
The reason they did not make much of Steel cased ball .50 rounds was probably the same reason the germans made Brass ammo right to the end of the war…Brass is more reliable at high altitude in Aircraft Guns, for extraction purposes. IN Extreme cold, Steel cases (especially if laqured) encounter all sort of problems, as the germans found out in Russia by 1942. MG42 crews always tried to scrounge Luftwaffe brass cased ammo for reliability in the subzero winters in Russia.
The Russians had similar problems with their steel cases, but less, as they were copper plated. For larger calibres( 12,7 and 20/23,), Aircraft guns, Brass wes used during WW II, although Post war, better steel and coatings led to the general use of Steel in a lot of Aircraft cannon.
I would say that FA found that making Drill cartrtidges out of Steel, was a cost effectrive way of saving brass, but the manufacture of “Straiffght sided” Pistol type cases in steel, was both easy, and also didn’t give the same extraction problems a Bottle-necked case gave. Thus the Billions of .45 ACP rounds (.30 carbine were a smaller proportion in comparison…I have seen lots of WW II Carbine brass ammo in Aust., but not one steel case…yet the US supplied .45 for US troops is mostly ECS Steel; Aussie issue.45 from Remchester is all “Commercial” brass ammo, with small lots of “MG” (#2 Footscray) factory from 43-44.
regards, Doc AV
I say that they are not common, but this is probably just because I have never seen any for sale. I would have thought I would have had at least one ECS steel cased .45 ACP by now if they were made in the billions.
I will dig one out and inert it and put it aside for you.