US Military's Oldest Item Still in Use?

I recently heard this discussion, which wasn’t nearly as interesting as the question itself.

I suspect the answer is the US 50 Browning MG and its .50 caliber ammunition. This dates from the end of WWI and is still widely used by the US and many other countries. In the ordnance business, I can’t think of any other small arms weapon and cartridge combination that dates back that far. The 9x19mm cartridge dates back further, but not the weapon it was designed for. I can’t remember anything in the old Soviet inventory that goes back that far that is still in use today.

I have probably missed something. Would be interested in opinions!


If we could broaden the question to agree with your original question of the “oldest item still in use” the schrader valve for tires would likely be the clear winner. I’m sure you’re right about the big Browning, assuming it can squeak in as a small arm. Jack

There are so many “Military Items” out there including the Fork and Spoon that the basic question is not answerable in my opinion. Some guys thought it meant the individual item that was still in the inventory, like a particular gun (like an old cannon still on display at a military base). I decided to limit it just small arms & matching ammo.


Are they still using the .22 Rimfire? training or sub-cal or tool blanks?

Or in case if older, what about the 45-70 in line throwers?

When I was in the U.S. Navy, (early 1970’s), line throwing was done with an M-14, if I remember correctly. John S. collects the line throwing items, yes?..….John??


It is my impression that some M1911 pistols are still in
use by various special troops of the US Services, or at least
were until very recently. I guess it would depend on whether
you are counting “age” as the physical age of a given item still
in service, or by the model designation. When I say M1911, by
the way, I am including the M1911A1. The minor changes to the
pistol in the “A1” version do not make it a truly different pistol.

Interesting. If we are talking about substance over minor details
of form, military insignia like “crossed rifles,” (Infantry), etc., might be
older yet.

Interesting subject to contemplate. If talking about any item, as the title
of the thread suggests, rather than just ordnance, it could turn out to be
some mundane little item like a sewing kit, or surgical tool, or Lord knows
what else. This could take monumental research to discover. Weaponry
might be somewhat easier, although plenty to consider there, also.


Homo sapiens


very good!

USS Constitution?

ETA: Launched: October 21, 1797, still commissioned, last sailed 2012

Wonder if her cannons are still acitve :)

Both the .22 LR and the 45-70 as well as the 45ACP cartridges predate the .50 Browning, but the first two of those are not used in the original weapon they were designed for. The 45ACP dropped out of Government use when the 9mm was introduced. I know because I tried to have a 45 Colt issued to me when I became entitled to a government issued pistol in 1988, so settled for the Beretta 9mm as my issue pistol. As far as I know the Colt 45 M1911 or M1911A1 had not been a standard issue weapon in the military since the mid-1980s. I don’t doubt that some Special Ops units may use them, but they are entitled to use their special acquisition authority to go out and buy anything they want, so SOF use does not make it a standard military weapon. They could go buy a crossbow if they wanted, and may have for all I know!

The 50 Browning MG and it’s cartridge are the the oldest SAA I know of in the US military and perhaps in the world. Off the top I can’t think of any older. I excluded things other than SAA and the weapon for it to avoid violating the rules of this Forum.


I see they are still making these primers, and they must be old. Is this what you excluded Lew?



Lew - the thread needs a different title! :-) The current
one is not ammo-exclusive.


Shape and dimensions of the E-Target and F-Target are from 1913. They may not be the oldest items, but are still in everyday use.

John, The current one is the one in the original discussion.


Lew, I think in this case it is safe to say the oldest will be the 7.62x54R no?

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Could the 12 gauge be the oldest cartridge still in use by the military?

As the oldest cartridge used by the military, without regard to what weapon it was used in, I think Pete nailed it with the .22 Long Rifle which J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company introduced in 1887. If you are talking about a cartridge intended for use as a primary combat cartridge. then maybe it is the 7.62x54R which was introduced in 1891. I wonder if any country still uses the 7.9x57 (M88) which is still older! Do any countries still use the 303? It was introduced in 1889.

The 9x19 is probably the oldest military pistol cartridge still in use dating from about 1902 or 1903.

It looks like the 12 gauge was introduced about 1960 from what I could find. but that sounds pretty early to me. I have no idea when it was first used in combat.It was never a primary combat cartridge.

Lew, wasn’t the 12GA used in WW1 already?

Winchester 1897?