Suspicions Confirmed


When discussing military cartridges from all across the globe, how many times do we find ourselves asking, [i]“How did they arrive at that particular size or shape?” [/i]My military mind has always told me the answer is, “They didn’t ‘arrive’ at anything. That’s the way it turned out.” Or, “Why doesn’t that modification show up in the official documents?” My answer is, “Why would it? It was waste of time and didn’t make it past the first test.”

Well yesterday, while reading an obscure FA R&D document on the development of the 7.62MM NATO Blank cartridge, I came across this. It confirms my suspicions and tells me we are wasting our time looking for non-existant answers to some of our questions.

Inasmuch as the work done in connection with this Test Program is actually a simultaneous development of a suitable NATO type blank cartridge and . . . weapon. . . the procedures and sequences of testing were necessarily of an exploratory nature characterized by “cut and try”. As is usually the case when pursuing such a course, many of the costs and motions are non-productive of anything either physical or informational which is significant to the furtherance of the objective. Most, if not all of this non-productive horsework will be omitted from this report as being irrelevant. All items considered to be in any respect significant however will be reported.


“. . .to the furtherance of the objective.”


Quite the wordsmith writin’ that report.

Good stuff.


Very nice extraordinary rendition of the truth, keep on trying until it works, skip all documentation of anything that doesn’t work. I love it.


I am a follower of that approach myself. I do most of my own gunsmithing. When someone asks why I used a 15/32" x 32 thread on a muzzle brake, I respond, “That’s exactly what I was after!” Which is usually close to a lie. In fact, it just so happened that’s the way it trurned out and I was tired of messing with it. Good enough.



Just got to thinking about this and the lack of inclusion of “failures”. Documenting said ineffective tests might help avoid wasting time replicating the same “mistakes” in the future. So, I’m not so sure ignoring failed R&D attempts would prove helpful.

And Ray,

Yea, that’s always been my machinist philosophy. If it works, who cares what the specs are.



You are right on target. I had a great deal of insight into what the AF Armament Lab was doing in ammunition for a number of years, and some insight into other ammunition research activities. My experience is that many things start as “messing around” and things are made up very informally in labs. Even when contracts are awarded for some small batch of cases or bullets or whatever for testing, the dollar value on the contracts is so low that there is very little documentation, and what there is provides no insight into why things were done that way. A project has to get pretty far along before there is any amount of documentation, in my experience. Even when things are written, the engineers are much more interested in writing about their successes than their failures!

Thanks for the insights.



Next year’s IAA auction will include some Frankford Arsenal experimental 7.62mm blanks courtesy of the COL B.R. Lewis estate… They may or may not be the sort of stuff that the document Ray mentioned was talking about.

One version was a cast zinc(???) alloy case- with several obviously failed cases included. The other used a conventional brass 7.62mm(???) case, but with an additional thin section telescoped on to the front to provide a “dummy bullet” shape for feeding purposes. Apparently they were looking at ways to make blanks as cheaply as possible and these were among the wild schemes tried out on at least an experimental basis.

Remember, that was back in the Robert McNamara “whiz kid” days when the smart folks were supposed to make everything cheaper and better than the dumb old guys who had been working in the field for decades. FA probably had to mess with some ideas just to prove to the smart folks that their ideas really were dumb and would not work in the real world.



One of the first goals of the project was to be able to utilize fired 7.62mm cases thereby reducing costs. To meet the design criteria a fired case with an attached “metallic ogive to simulate the contour of a ball round” was made and tested. Those from Berk’s collection are no doubt authentic. In the end, those and other experimentals made from spent cases were found to be unsatisfactory in the M60 machine gun and they were abandonded in favor of a design that became the XM82. I didn’t notice any reference to a cast alloy case but it may be in the report somewhere. Or maybe it is one of those undocumented, non-productive experimentals.