WWI USCCo Aircraft Ammunition

Something interesting I picked up today was a full box of USCCo .30-'06 cartridges. Box was nearly completely disintegrated, except for the cardboard separators inside. Attached is a picture of what’s left of the label. Cartridges are headstamped U.S.C.Co 18, and have a full annular crimp around the primers. They are in remarkably good condition otherwise, with just a few of them having corrosion.

A few questions - what would be the meaning of the four different numbers for powder? Possibly multiple propellant lots? Why does the label indicate them to be for aircraft use only? Maybe something to do with synchronization with the propeller, I would guess, but they would certainly work with ground guns. What MG would have used them unlinked? I’d guess the Lewis or Marlin-Rockwell. What sort of box was this originally - one piece or two piece? From the position of the label I would guess one piece, i.e., without having the telescoping lid. I would like to make up a replica box and label for the cartridges if someone can supply information about the box. I can use the existing separators are they are not too bad. The rest of the box is toast. I find the legend about throwing fired cases into soda water humorous - would certainly be fun finding them on the ground after being fired from a plane.


While not answering all of your questions, their are several threads on the subject that you should be able to find with a quick search. The Cartridges were intended for the Marlin MG as used in aircraft.

Rene has at least 3 of the cartons in his collection. I don’t want to steal his photos so maybe he’ll read this and post them for you.



here are two boxes from my collection. The first box has 4 powder lots, the second box “only” one.
Most of USCCo production was for aircrafts for the reason already mentioned by you.
Do your cartridges have any additional stab crimps ? My cartridge in box with lot #1477 also
has an additional three way stab crimp


And, there are the cartridges with the two “stars” in the headstamp indicating the cases were made using the “Hooker” extrusion process.

like this

I am happy you asked that question, as I initially looked at only one round’s headstamp, assuming all in the box were identical, and it had no stab crimp in addition to the ring crimp. I went back and looked at all of them, and found most DO have the triple stab crimp, and I even found one that looked like a double-strike, i.e., three sets of two stabs. Also some headstamps have the double asterisk set, and some do not (I understand that the set of asterisks indicated something about using a different case forming procedure). However, all have U.S.C.Co. 18 headstamps. So it appears there was no particular concern about mixing up the two types of case draws in the same box.

Great box pictures - it looks like it is a one-piece box. From what I can see of the reverse side of my label, there is nothing printed there. Same for yours?

yes, they are one-piece boxes with nothing on the back.
The one with 6 stabs is an “official” version and not a production mistake.

Regarding the one I have with 6 stabs - it is better described as three sets of double stabs, as the six stabs are not equally spaced. So what does “Official” mean, that it was the way all of them should have been? Or that there were officially no stabs, three stabs, and six stabs?

Amazing that we can get into this level of minutiae.

as you didn’t post a picture, I presumed that they would be equally spaced.
With “official” I meant hat USCCo made three versions: none, three and six stabs
Also pls see Punnitt page 324

I’ll see if I can get a picture of the 6 stabs - but my photographic equipment is not up to doing much fine work.

Here’s a headstamp picture of two rounds with six stab crimps - one with double asterisk, and one with no asterisks.

This might explain it (from Flying Guns – World War 1: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1914-32:

[quote=“DennisK”]I’ll see if I can get a picture of the 6 stabs - but my photographic equipment is not up to doing much fine work.

Here’s a headstamp picture of two rounds with six stab crimps - one with double asterisk, and one with no asterisks.

look OK to me but I thought they should be evenly spaced.

[quote=“FlyingDutchman”][quote=“DennisK”]I’ll see if I can get a picture of the 6 stabs - but my photographic equipment is not up to doing much fine work.

Here’s a headstamp picture of two rounds with six stab crimps - one with double asterisk, and one with no asterisks.

look OK to me but I thought they should be evenly spaced.[/quote]

The two sets of triple stabs seem to have been applied at different times. Maybe the inspectors picked up on a weak stab first time and ordered them to be done again. The two sets are not identical in pressure. Or, maybe, just maybe, they are reloads, the “weaker” stabs may have been straightened out in the decapping operation.


Reloading and re-stabbing makes some sense, but was factory reloading done during WWI? I have noted that many early military ammunition box labels have printed legends suggesting that fired cases be recovered and washed, the only possible reason I can see being for reloading. Allegedly the adoption of cases having the Boxer primer by the Army was at least partially motivated by the relative ease of reloading them, yet I do not remember reading anything suggesting that reloading took place. So was reloading of fired cases actually performed on a production scale by the military to any significant extent?

In this specific instance (aircraft use), as near-perfect ammunition quality was so important, I cannot imagine the army would even consider case reloading due to the inherent additional quality control issues.

Probably the double stamping was a result of “field reports” that the single 3 point was insufficient, and so the cartridges still “work in progress” or as yet undelivered, were “re-crimped”…with the “offset” stamping to ensure that the extra crimps did not just simply (by chance) over-ride the existing stamps.
After such a notification, the cartridges up to end of production, could have been “passed twice” throught the crimping line before being filled.

As to “Reloading” by Factory, I would strongly doubt that…except for making Blanks. In the US, at least, “reloading” of Ball cases was only done at Unit armouries (Mostly National Guard) with equipment bought from such makers as Ideal and Lyman (later merged) which did supply “Armory Models” of reloading equipment (Pressess which did 9 or 16 rounds at a time, in a Miniature “Plate” system. ( 3x3 or 4x4). And even then only to make Gallery cartridges ( cast lead bullet)

Given the relaibility requirements for Aircraft ammo, it is highly unlikely that “reloaded” Brass would be used, even in an emergency. The consequences of a failed cartridge case in a WW I Fighter aircraft were “Terminal”.

Doc AV

Hope this post finally gets thru…all my other on this topic have failed so far.

Reloading of .45 and .30-40 cartridge cases to standard full-power ball ammunition was practiced by the U.S. military. I believe that .30-06 was reloaded only for gallery and guard loadings. Jack

The salvage of brass was more likely recycling rather than reloading.

The harsh winter conditions in New England during 1917-18 combined with the coal shortages would be a motivator.The heart of America’s munitions was the New England area. USCCo.,Winchester and Remington plants along with the country’s largest brass makers, American Brass.

(Side note: USCCo. ran their factories on fuel oil, which was also in short supply)

The shortage of brass during the same period lead to drastic reductions in use of brass,especially in consumer goods. 1917 Fords for example had black painted steel radiators due to the brass shortage.

Any recovered brass could be recycled. Whether or not it actually was is still open for debate.

Reloading fired cases for other than full power combat ammunition was a very real practice.

There is a possibility that some cases returned from Europe where reloaded for gallery/practice. It is also possible those wartime dated cases reloaded for practice, never left the country.

Edit: The language about cleaning cases was almost boiler plate…Shows up on many packages from several different manufacturers.
The U.S. Army didn’t start reloading .30 M1906 until 1919. … that would be the label reading" Model of 1919" referenced in the older post. They found it too much trouble and dropped it.

FA also experimented with using reject components to load M1 Ball ammunition.

I’ve not seen what their conclusions were, but I can guess.

Getting a little astray now.