Ammunition composition of .50 caliber belts on late war fighters?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Ottobon, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. Ottobon

    Ottobon New Member

    May 8, 2014
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    This is the best place i can think of to ask, so hopefully you guys can help me out. Recently i have been trying to get a better understanding of how well .50 caliber ammunition worked in combat. I've looked into threads/posts but there isn't really any exact or technical conclusive there and its mostly opinions so i thought i would turn to gun camera footage as its the most unbaised source i can think of. That said if anybody has technical reports (tests etc) feel free to post links

    Anyways i have already started a bit of analysis for my own use starting with this video


    However there is the problem that even if i am just looking for a general number, its only possible to count incendiary rounds as they "flash" against the enemy aircraft, so specifically what i am wondering here is what was the most common composition of rounds in a late war aircraft belt, or what proportion of rounds were there between incendiary and say AP or API rounds?

    I have already seen that there are many threads about effectiveness of .50 caliber, I'm not looking to start another long debate, more i just want to keep this basic and atleast learn what the most common composition of rounds are so that if i watch a video like the one above, analyse it, i can make a more educated guess as to how many rounds are actually hitting the enemy aircraft before it is shot down/set on fire.

  2. Greyman

    Greyman Active Member

    Jan 31, 2009
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    #2 Greyman, Jul 14, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2015
    Late war USAAF fighters essentially used 100% API belts.

    A good place to see 'snapshots' of individual loadings would be at WWII Aircraft Performance

    Specifically here:
    Mustang Encounter Reports
    P-47 Encounter Reports

    Many times the pilots note what type of rounds were used in combat.

    Also, with regards to 'counting the flashes' - I wouldn't put any stock in this at all due to:
    - the frame rate of the gun cameras being too low to reliably catch every flash
    - flashes of rounds that occur deep inside the target aircraft and are invisible
    - rounds that strike and damage the enemy aircraft but do not visibly flash for one reason or another
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  3. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

    Mar 26, 2009
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    I'm assuming that gun cameras had no sound recording, so the audio was dubbed in?
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

    Sep 6, 2010
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    The sound is dubbed in.
    Sometimes they just dub in the sound of one MG firing.

    I've heard the sound of 8 .50 cals. firing ( A-26) it's sounds much different than these gun camera films.

    I also wonder about the speed their played by. The cameras shot at a shutter rate rapid enough to allow for slow motion play back.

    Sometimes they're played back at real action speed, sometimes their played back in slow motion.
  5. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2008
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    Regarding the .50 tracers: the tracers had a slightly different trajectory than the loaded round and they can be a little misleading at times. This is true of most of the tracer rounds used by both Allied and Axis forces.

    There were also instances where no tracers were used as well as "end of feed" tracer strings. The main reason for not using the "end of feed" tracers, is because Axis pilots learned that this mean their adversary just ran out of ammo...
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Jun 29, 2009
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    The most common used projectiles used in WW II were as follows (in no particular order).


    Early belts consisted of the M2 ball, the M2AP, the Incendiary M1 and a tracer (M1) that is not shown. The Ball may have disappeared pretty quick. The API,M8 was introduced in 1943 (open to correction) and gradually took over as an all purpose round until late war belts were predominately API,M8 with only a few tracers mixed in as local doctrine (or pilot preference?) may have dictated. The Incendiary M23 was only showing up in small numbers at the end of WWII but became much more common in Korea. Korea was fought with a LOT of WW II surplus, especially in the early part. And a problem with the M-23 (rounds bursting near the muzzle when fired in long bursts from worn barrels) caused stops and starts in post WW II production that limited production until Korea started up. even then continued problems kept production in a state of flux as different solutions were tried.

    The M1 incendiary held 2.2 grams of composition.
    The M8 and M20 held .97 grams of composition.
    The M23 held 5.83 grams of composition.

    Tracers were usually "loaded" so that they balanced the bullet weight/shape against the velocity (lighter bullet at higher muzzle velocity) so that the trajectories would match (or be fairly close) over what was considered a useful range. At longer ranges there would be a divergence between the different types of projectiles.
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