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View Full Version : What type of ammo was generally used during WWII?


Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 12:03 PM
I've often wondered this...Now we have copper rifle rounds that are designed the mushroom like the triple shock, and we also have "hollow point" type ammo. During WWII what type of ammo was used and for what purpose? I've seen black tip armor piercing (when would a GI have used that?) and I've seen yellow tip tracers (How often did a GI use that?) and I've seen no color just FMJ rounds (What were those used for?). I'm just really curious of this and have often wondered how many different rounds a GI carried and when he would change and why?

Patman252
11-22-2013, 12:14 PM
Well I would suspect the average GI would probably just have FMJ rounds. Tracers were probably intended for machine gunners. Not sure about the armor piercing but I doubt they were common for a GI to carry.

Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 12:21 PM
Ok I did a search on Gunbroker for Garand ammo. Seems M2 ball was the standard GI ammo to use?

I didn't know if they used fragmentable ammo or not. If they just used ball I would imagine most WWII wounds were through and through?

rworks
11-22-2013, 12:28 PM
Hollow point or easily fragmenting ammunition is against the Hague Convention of 1899, which, strangely enough, the USA never signed the Declaration against ammunition which expands or flattens on impact.

However, the US has abided by it. So no HP bullets for regular military forces, although SOF gets them.

Anyway, there was a thread here a couple of years ago that went into what GIs were issued. As I recall, the gist of it was that AP ammo made up the majority of issue ammo by the end of the war.

garandsrgr8
11-22-2013, 12:29 PM
I think the "average" GI simply used standard FMJ (as required by the Geneva convention) ammo in his Garand. Tracer ammo was commonly used in machine guns, where every 5th or 6th round would be tracer. So-called armor piercing was likely also mainly used in machine guns where it would be useful against lightly armored or "thin-skinned" vehicles such as trucks and so forth.

raymeketa
11-22-2013, 12:35 PM
Back in the good old days when wars were fought between civilized nations, things like the Geneva and Hague conventions set the standards on the types of ammunition you could use to kill the other guys. For the most part, small arms ammunition was limited to FMJ bullets, whether they be Ball, AP, Tracer, whatever. The average GI could be issued all 3 of the above, in ratios depending on the type of targets he was expected to encounter. An Infantryman usually carried only Ball, with a few AP thrown in the mix if any armored targets were expected. By the middle of WWII the Ball was largely replaced by AP because AP could be used against targets of all types.

Today, the wars are not between nations so I have no idea what the military thinking is.:rolleyes:

SLewis
11-22-2013, 12:35 PM
I believe in one of Donald R. Burgett's books he mentions carrying a few clips of AP and Tracer rounds. The standard was FMJ ball though.

Schriv
11-22-2013, 12:35 PM
Starting late in 1943, black tip M2 AP was issued as the 'standard' round for infantry use for the rest of the war.
In the pacific theater, it was better able to penetrate log bunkers, etc. and in Europe, it was effective against German light armored vehicles as well as personnel.
It also tended to be slightly more accurate due to the heavier bullet.

Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 12:35 PM
Anyway, there was a thread here a couple of years ago that went into what GIs were issued. As I recall, the gist of it was that AP ammo made up the majority of issue ammo by the end of the war.

I would love it if you could find that link! :GS: I absolutely love reading the day to day things the WWII guys did/were issued. I find it very interesting.

Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 12:50 PM
Starting late in 1943, black tip M2 AP was issued as the 'standard' round for infantry use for the rest of the war.
In the pacific theater, it was better able to penetrate log bunkers, etc. and in Europe, it was effective against German light armored vehicles as well as personnel.
It also tended to be slightly more accurate due to the heavier bullet.

Nice info!! Thanks

Where do you guys learn stuff like this? (details)

MyTurn
11-22-2013, 01:04 PM
There was quite a controversy when our military was considering adopting and using ammo with a very small 'open tip' (such as the Mk318). It's use was reviewed closely to see if the 'open tip' would be considered a 'hollow point' for purposes of the Convention. The military finally concluded the 'open tip' was not a 'hollow point' round within the definition and, thus, was OK for use by the U.S. military. They are also issuing true civilian-type hollow point ammo for use by on-base guards now, I understand.

Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 01:19 PM
There was quite a controversy when our military was considering adopting and using ammo with a very small 'open tip' (such as the Mk318). It's use was reviewed closely to see if the 'open tip' would be considered a 'hollow point' for purposes of the Convention. The military finally concluded the 'open tip' was not a 'hollow point' round within the definition and, thus, was OK for use by the U.S. military. They are also issuing true civilian-type hollow point ammo for use by on-base guards now, I understand.

Are you talking about current or during WWII?

MyTurn
11-22-2013, 03:09 PM
Are you talking about current or during WWII?

Current. I have no info about whether such ammo was considered for use during WWII and have never heard that it was.

glassmountains
11-22-2013, 03:33 PM
Nice info!! Thanks

Where do you guys learn stuff like this? (details)

I read books growing up (and still do). A computer was what was broken on "Lost in Space"

raymeketa
11-22-2013, 03:51 PM
Bullets other than FMJ were considered from time to time going all the way back to the beginning of the 20th Century. For example, some of the original AP bullets had an exposed lead tip that was supposed to flatten on impact and give the bullet (and the steel core) a purchase on the surface of armor when struck at an angle. The idea worked but the troops were fearful of using them knowing what might happen if they were captured with them in their possession. So, they were withdrawn from use.

Even after the JAG found the Open-Tipped bullets to be legal for combat use in the mid-1990s, many field commanders would not permit their troops to use them. Their thinking was that the bad guys would not hang the JAG but would torture and shoot their soldiers instead.

Many "non-bullet" concepts have been developed, tried, and tested over the years. Things like multiple flechettes (darts), explosive bullets, and bullets that would tumble and turn when hitting flesh. None have ever made it into production and use but I suppose the legal minds would not consider them to be illegal.

A single FMJ bullet fired from a rifle is still the best combat tool. That is, if you don't count all of the devices meant to blow a human body into many small pieces.

GGaskill
11-22-2013, 04:11 PM
Once the various combatants went to spitzer type bullets (away from the round nose bullets of the first generation), tumbling of the bullet inside the target was a common occurrence because the center of gravity of the bullet was substantially different than the center of form. Upon initial use of spitzers, both sides accused each other of the use of expanding bullets until further examination determined the actual cause of the more serious wounds.

In target tumbling and distortion are the primary wounding mechanisms of the 5.56 bullet.

Stopsign32v
11-22-2013, 05:56 PM
Something folks may also find interresting is there are combat photos that show a lot of our guys used to keep their next enblock at the ready by hanging one or two from the top end of the sling by slipping one layer of the sling strap between the two rows of bullets in the clip and the tension kept the clip in place until it was pulled off.



I'd love to see pics of this! Very interesting in how the GIs adapted to their situation to perform better.

sigman2
11-22-2013, 08:40 PM
I never asked the OP's question of a bonafied WWII or Korean War Vet. I personnally think M2 was the norm but I think some GIs prefferred AP and grabbed it up when they could.

Something folks may also find interresting is there are combat photos that show a lot of our guys used to keep their next enblock at the ready by hanging one or two from the top end of the sling by slipping one layer of the sling strap between the two rows of bullets in the clip and the tension kept the clip in place until it was pulled off.

OP hope you don't mind the extra info

The only thing I have to go by is my Dad's stories and recollections. He's 89 and still sharp as a tack.

He said they were issued Ball ammo only. If they wanted AP or tracer they would bum some off the MG crews. He said he would carry one clip of AP in this cartridge belt's right rear pocket. Just about everyone carried few loose tracers in their pockets to be used for spotting. He claims that in the type of combat he experienced the tracers were much more useful than the AP. There were many times when they had to point out well hidden targets.

It should also be remembered that the USMC received the left overs. He often talks about how the Army would come in to garrison the islands after they had secured them. They would have the latest and greatest equipment. He said they even had pouches to carry their grenades.

The marines carried their grenades in their pockets. They wrapped tape around the spoons after a few guys got blown up accidentally.

I would imagine AP was more useful in Europe where a soldier was more likely to encounter vehicles.

JoeW2111
11-22-2013, 08:52 PM
I know the Marine Corps had tons of AP. They were still using AP at the rifle range in the mid 1950's, in fact during my 3 years in the mid 50's I never saw anything but AP and tracers.

Mals9
11-22-2013, 09:26 PM
Is there any truth to the stories of using AP in the M1 because it could penetrate the tree the enemy was hiding behind?

Mals

08Cayenne
11-22-2013, 09:47 PM
My dad was in Germany during the war, he had a Mauser made from a German rifle and a .30-06 03 barrel, he used it to hunt bore with in Germany, I have the rifle now. He told me stories of the Germans, before they were captured, would stick the barrels in the dirt and fire a round to destroy the rifle, thats the way he got his receiver. He snuck the rifle home along with some ammo. I don't have the ammo now but I could swear it was 225 gr 30-06 ammo. It was in clips, like for a Garand, and there were several, (7-10) on a cloth bandoliers. If I remember correctly they had black tips. He carried a Garand in the war.

Blacksmith
11-22-2013, 09:50 PM
No need to use AP. Hatcher's Notebook page 406 shows a picture of the penetration of a .30-06 bullet 150 grains driven at 2700 fs range 200 yards in oak it was 32 1/2". This was after the bullet was stabilized, an unstabilized bullet at 50 feet only penetrated 11 1/2" of oak.

dowell1865
11-22-2013, 09:51 PM
Granfather was in the phillipines said all they got was up on 8 end clips or tracers also most the guys that had carbines carried at least every other round a tracer he also said he got a 45 off a jap guess he got it when they took the phillipines he kept it till it was stolen

sigman2
11-23-2013, 03:30 AM
Is there any truth to the stories of using AP in the M1 because it could penetrate the tree the enemy was hiding behind?

Mals

I don't see where an AP bullet would penetrate much, if any, more wood than ball. The jacket of the AP bullet would not separate like it would when penetrating a "hard" target such as light armor. If it did penetrate more it would likely be due to the extra weight.

Redleg13a
11-23-2013, 08:27 AM
I read a book about the Battle of the Bulge, don't remember the name, but it talked about the Germans attacking this unit and using the trees for cover. After the Germans fell back, one of the US Soldiers commented that he thought AP would probably go through the trees and hit the Germans hiding behind them. No one said anything but they all switched from Ball to AP and the trees turned from cover to concealment the next time the Germans came.

M1tchell
11-23-2013, 09:01 AM
Along these same lines, I've often wondered what the average range of an engagement was back then. Anybody know?

Stopsign32v
11-23-2013, 09:33 AM
Along these same lines, I've often wondered what the average range of an engagement was back then. Anybody know?

From watching Band of Brothers and the Pacific it seemed it could be 200m away or it could be "fixed bayonets" time. :eek: I don't think there was an average. While reading The Forgotten Soldier it did seem they were firing back and forth across a field. I believe it was 300m if memory serves me right.


What I want to know is what adjustments did the GIs run on their sights? I would only assume that they wouldn't constantly be adjusting them while being shot at, but would zero them in at a set distance and go with that. :confused:

Sailormilan2
11-23-2013, 09:56 AM
I don't see where an AP bullet would penetrate much, if any, more wood than ball. The jacket of the AP bullet would not separate like it would when penetrating a "hard" target such as light armor. If it did penetrate more it would likely be due to the extra weight.

Penetration for AP:
http://i752.photobucket.com/albums/xx166/Sailormilan2/scan0002-1.jpg (http://s752.photobucket.com/user/Sailormilan2/media/scan0002-1.jpg.html)

Penetration for Ball M2:
http://s752.photobucket.com/user/Sailormilan2/media/scan0002-1.jpg.html?sort=3&o=159#/user/Sailormilan2/media/scan0001-1.jpg.html?sort=3&o=160&_suid=13852185259790480839121535403

sigman2
11-23-2013, 12:02 PM
I think Hatcher may had been flawed on his results. AP will penetrate more sand at 1500 yds than at 200 yds?

raymeketa
11-23-2013, 12:06 PM
Along these same lines, I've often wondered what the average range of an engagement was back then. Anybody know?

In the early 1950s, several studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the U.S. Infantry rifle. These studies were a part of the program to modernize both the rifle and ammunition, which eventually led to the M14 and M16 rifles.

Here are just a few tidbits from the studies:

. . . in combat, hits from bullets are incurred at random. . . aimed or directed fire does not influence the manner in which hits are sustained . . . evidence of prodigious rifle fire ammunition expenditure per hit . . .

. . .almost all rifle hits recorded in that survey (Bougainville Campaign) occured at less than 75 yards . . . studies in (Korea) found the mean range from a sample of 109 hits to be just over 100 yards . . .

. . . combined British and American research (WW II) found that 80% of effective rifle and LMG fire had been at ranges under 200 yards, with a full 90% under 300 yards . . . hit possibility from small arms fire at ranges exceeding 300 yards descended into the "negligible". . .

M1tchell
11-23-2013, 12:49 PM
Great info, thanks.

Hope my question wasn't too far off topic, OP

Parkr1942
11-23-2013, 05:33 PM
I read somewhere (so it must be true!) that early on the troops would carry one clip of AP with the rest being FMJ and then later as someone observed above, the standard issue became AP.

There was a special Frangible round developed at Purdue University during the war for use in training only. It was not supposed to penetrate the aluminum skin of an aircraft towing a target. The projectile was some kind of powder with a binder. I had some once but sold it some time ago. Must have made a hell of a racket if the gunner accidentally hit the aircraft!

raymeketa
11-23-2013, 06:33 PM
The Frangible bullet was designed to be shot at the aircraft, not at a target. The plane was a specially armored P-63 Kingcobra.

Blacksmith
11-23-2013, 08:33 PM
For more information on ammunition during WW II consult Hatchers "Book Of The Garand" (available from CMP E-Store) Chapter 6, M1 and M2 Ammunition.

"During World War II, armor-piercing ammunition, which is vastly more effective against vehicles and against helmets and body armor, displaced "ball" ammunition for use in combat, and the ball is now used for training only."

As far as penetration goes read "Hatcher's Notebook" for more information (contains lots of ammunition related tests and information) he makes the point that the .30-06 has much greater penetration after it has traveled far enough to stabilize the bullet. At shorter ranges with an unstable bullet it is more likely to tumble or deviate in it's path.

Stopsign32v
11-23-2013, 08:38 PM
Sweet! You guys are something awesome. Glad I asked here or I would have never known AP rounds were used almost strictly during WWII.

Firstflabn
11-24-2013, 09:38 PM
To paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of the early demise of M2 Ball in WWII are greatly exaggerated. Delays in ramping up AP production, massive overproduction of Ball, and much lower expenditure rates for small arms ammo combined to push back implementation of the December 1941 plan to go to 80AP/20Tracer for .30-06.

With the ETO report (link below) showing 120 million rounds of Ball on hand in the fall of '44 and another 60 million on the way, still lots of BANGs left to go.

If you're moderately adept at math, you can use the bar chart on the right to estimate the quantities of AP and Ball with the troops for each type of packaging.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3676/11039911434_c5b03405a5_c.jpg

The following month the ETO would adopt the following ratios (which are pretty close to the September requirements):

Rifle and BAR:
55Ball/40AP/5Tracer

.30 MG:
70AP&T/30B&T

Stopsign32v
11-27-2013, 08:52 PM
If I'm going to search for WWII era ammo...what words would I use? (name of the rounds)

Parkr1942
11-27-2013, 09:37 PM
What do you want and where are you? I have boucoup WW II stuff but do not wish to bgo thru the hassle of shipping ORD .Email or PM Me

Parker

JoeW2111
11-27-2013, 10:01 PM
StopSign32V - If you have Canfields new book he covers the subject on pages 636 & 637. Canfield states "it is not widely known that M2 Armor-Piercing ammunition essentially replaced M2 Ball for combat use in the Second World War. As discussed in "A History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Vol. ll." It is further stated that "in July 1943 the Ordnance Committee reevaluated the basic ammunition requirements for ground combat and decided that, because of the large amount of metal on a modern battlefield, Armor -Piercing ammunition should take the place of Ball for general combat use."
It is further stated " The M2 Armor-Piercing cartridge remained the standard U.S. military round for WW 2 and afterward. While the M2 Ball was widely used stateside for training, the bulk of the ammunition fired through the Garand rifle during combat in WW ll was M2 Armor Piercing."

Stopsign32v
11-28-2013, 11:05 AM
Thanks Joe, I would like to get the book. Is that the book that costs $90?


BTW can anyone tell me if this is how the AP rounds would have been packaged prior to going to the GIs?

https://www.libertytreecollectors.com/productcart/pc/catalog/Item740.jpg

Stopsign32v
11-28-2013, 03:05 PM
Anyone know?

Firstflabn
11-28-2013, 11:22 PM
I don't have Canfield's book yet, but if his discussion of War Department directives on small arms ammo types stopped at July 1943, he left the story unfinished.

In The Army and Economic Mobilization (one of the 55 volumes of the Army's official history of WWII) is found the following: "On 10 June 1944 the War Department abandoned the single day of supply for all theaters and published separate days of supply for each of four major areas: the ETO, NATO, Asiatic and Pacific Theaters, and all other departments and bases including zone of the interior."

Day of Supply is a logistics term that included not just number of rounds, but also percentage by type of round. The new policy essentially meant that the WD would rubber stamp what the theater commanders proposed (for small arms ammo anyway - arty ammo was a whole other matter). ETO continued the existing 55B/40AP/5T mix for 8-rd. clips at least well into the fall.

It's kinda hard to make the claim that AP took over from mid-war forward and ignore the largest theater - not to mention citing a superceded order as support.

togor
11-29-2013, 09:09 AM
Thanks Joe, I would like to get the book. Is that the book that costs $90?


BTW can anyone tell me if this is how the AP rounds would have been packaged prior to going to the GIs?

https://www.libertytreecollectors.com/productcart/pc/catalog/Item740.jpg

Ammo was delivered to the front in bandoliers with 5-round and 8-round clips for riflemen. 8-round clips were for the M1, and 5 round clips were for bolt guns and the BAR. Cartons were primarily for use in reloading MG belts. That said, front line needs could dictate some amount of repackaging in the field.

19K10
11-29-2013, 06:38 PM
so did we use only Ball in WW1?

I remember reading that the Garand was "forced" to use 30.06 because of the massive surplus of 30.06. did we deplete that stock early on and most war issued ammo was recent manufacture?

just curious.

also I was under the impression that both the 5.56 round and the 5.45x39 round were "tumblers" that is, when they enter a body, the tend to bounce around a bit.

Sailormilan2
11-29-2013, 07:01 PM
so did we use only Ball in WW1?

I remember reading that the Garand was "forced" to use 30.06 because of the massive surplus of 30.06. did we deplete that stock early on and most war issued ammo was recent manufacture?

just curious.

also I was under the impression that both the 5.56 round and the 5.45x39 round were "tumblers" that is, when they enter a body, the tend to bounce around a bit.


MacArthur, who was chief of staff overruled the .276 round, because there were so many left over rounds from WW1.


At the time, there was about 2 Billion rounds of left over WW1 style ammo. It was not used up until 1936, at which point the new M1 Ball ammo was allowed to be shot.
When they started using the M1 round, it was found that its boat tail design allowed it to carry too far, going out side the limits of the shooting ranges.
So, a request was put in for new short range ammo similar to the 1906 style ammo. 10,000,000 rounds were ordered. It was a 150 gr flat base bullet almost identical in design to the 1906, the difference being mainly in the jacket material and ogive. HATCHER'S NOTEBOOK, p. 25 This new round was standardized in 1940 to became the M2 Ball.

The M1 Garand was essentially designed around the M1 Ball bullet, which was a 174 gr Boat Tail bullet, rated at 2640 fps at the muzzle. (specs taken from HATCHER'S NOTEBOOK, P. 19)

Max range of:
M1 Ball................................5500 yds
M2 Ball................................3500 yds
HATCHER'S NOTEBOOK, p. 544.

horticattleman
11-29-2013, 07:14 PM
I called my go to man for questions like this. I asked if they used AP or M2 and he said "whatever we could get." He said before invasion day they would get issued everything nice and neat and once hell broke loose on the beach and you shot what you had they would break belts down or scramble whatever they could. He said they would also pocket enblocs so they had something to put loose finds in. Said the first couple days supply was slow and you had to make do. He did say that they almost always threw tracer ammo away unless they had nothing else. He said it let the little Japs know where they were!

His qualifications: He landed at New Britian, Peleliu, and Okinawa with The First Marine Division.

CCholderinMaine
11-29-2013, 07:41 PM
Is there any truth to the stories of using AP in the M1 because it could penetrate the tree the enemy was hiding behind?

Mals

Can't speak for the vets...I wish I could still ask my father :(

But, regular old ball HXP penetrates trees like nobody's business.

CHARLES HOOPER
11-29-2013, 08:36 PM
post bulge...AP ....especially in house to house.

Kaliman
11-29-2013, 10:33 PM
I called my go to man for questions like this. I asked if they used AP or M2 and he said "whatever we could get." He said before invasion day they would get issued everything nice and neat and once hell broke loose on the beach and you shot what you had they would break belts down or scramble whatever they could. He said they would also pocket enblocs so they had something to put loose finds in. Said the first couple days supply was slow and you had to make do. He did say that they almost always threw tracer ammo away unless they had nothing else. He said it let the little Japs know where they were!

His qualifications: He landed at New Britian, Peleliu, and Okinawa with The First Marine Division.

Awesome. Send him a "Thank you" and a "Semper Fi" from me.

twofeets
11-30-2013, 02:16 AM
I called my go to man for questions like this. I asked if they used AP or M2 and he said "whatever we could get." He said before invasion day they would get issued everything nice and neat and once hell broke loose on the beach and you shot what you had they would break belts down or scramble whatever they could. He said they would also pocket enblocs so they had something to put loose finds in. Said the first couple days supply was slow and you had to make do. He did say that they almost always threw tracer ammo away unless they had nothing else. He said it let the little Japs know where they were!

His qualifications: He landed at New Britian, Peleliu, and Okinawa with The First Marine Division.

He didn't happen to be C/1/1, did he? I'm always looking out for people who we're in my Uncle's unit. He was a replacement who came in before Peleliu.

tazaroo
11-30-2013, 09:20 AM
Hollow point or easily fragmenting ammunition is against the Hague Convention of 1899, which, strangely enough, the USA never signed the Declaration against ammunition which expands or flattens on impact.

However, the US has abided by it. So no HP bullets for regular military forces, although SOF gets them.

Anyway, there was a thread here a couple of years ago that went into what GIs were issued. As I recall, the gist of it was that AP ammo made up the majority of issue ammo by the end of the war.

We (US Military) curently utilize a 77gr Sierra Matchking HPBT for the 5.56 (Cartridge, Caliber 5.56 mm, Special Ball, Long Range, Mk 262 Mod 0/1 (United States): 5.5645mm 77-grain Open-Tipped Match/Hollow-Point Boat-Tail cartridge. Mod 0 features Sierra Matchking bullet, while Mod 1 features either Nosler or Sierra bullet.) These are used against enemy personel FWIW.

DAT M60A3
12-04-2013, 01:52 AM
Starting late in 1943, black tip M2 AP was issued as the 'standard' round for infantry use for the rest of the war.
In the pacific theater, it was better able to penetrate log bunkers, etc. and in Europe, it was effective against German light armored vehicles as well as personnel.
It also tended to be slightly more accurate due to the heavier bullet.

1+
I hear that too, from WWII vet

fkienast
12-04-2013, 08:49 AM
When my father was a Marine with 1/5 in Korea 1953, they had exclusively AP. He said he did have one clip of ball, which he believed he'd use when accuracy was needed.