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Caliber .30 M2 Ball,, Alternate and Alternative


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Ive re-read the “Caliber .30 M2 Ball dated 1943”, post by Chunky Monkey, and I noticed incorrect use of the word “Alternative” by several of the posters.


The correct definitions as they relate to .30 cal. Rifle Ball ammo is:


ALTERNATIVE relates to the makeup of the projectile's lead core


ALTERNATE relates to the makeup of the projectile’s jacket.


This is some of the information I used.


For 'Alternative'

“Like the M1 Ball, the M2 was also authorized to be made in a alternative version having less antimony in the bullet core in order to conserve this strategic metal during wartime manufacture”


From: “History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition” by Hackley, Woodin and Scranton pg.56.


Drawings of these two .30 cal. Ball Cartridges, both normal and alternative, are shown in “Record of Army Ordnance Research and Development, Vol., 2, Book 2 Small Arms Ammunition” pg. 118 &119.


SO, ALTERNATIVE means 30 cal. Rifle Ball cores having a different ratio of lead and antimony.




Now for the word ’Alternate’:


This is from the Cal. .30 Ball M2 Clad-Steel Bullets Jacket Development Section


“In May 1942 the first lot of M2 Ball cartridges assembled with clad-steel bullets was made at Frankford Arsenal.------------- The first full-scale production of this cartridge started at Frankford Arsenal on September 28, 1942. This round was called Cartridge, Ball. Cal. .30 M2 (Alternate) and is shown on Dwg. B137544 as revised September 30, 1942.”


The above is also from Hackley et-al pg.61


SO, ALTERNATE means .30 cal. Rifle M2 Ball with GMSC projectiles.




I have been following these terms alternate and alternative as they apply to US Ammo and it can be confusing. Here is a quote from Ray Meketa on the IAA Board that I think sums the whole thing up rather well.


“99.9% of the confusion, I believe, is the result of the cavalier use of the words ’Alternative' and 'Alternate’, and the abbreviation Alt. And not by collectors but by those in charge, who should have know better.”


The abbreviation Alt. was used on cartons and cans, Ray Meketa is of the opinion that Alt. indicates .30 cal. M2 Ball ammo with GMCS (clad) jackets.


The above information is not ‘written in stone’ some 'alternative' and 'alternate' ammo was being made and packed at the same time. I have read reports of alternate marked cartons having alternative type projectiles and visa versa.


IIRC 'alternative' was used only with .30 cal. Rifle ammo and that was with the M2 Ball that had the lead-antimony ratio changed and the M2 AP with a different penetrator core. As a side note: because of the shortage of antimony in 1942 one lot, FA3552 was loaded with projectiles having cores of pure lead.


'Alternative' could have been used with other US ammo, if you find an example let me know.


The word ’alternate’ with different meanings, was used with other .30 cal Rifle ammo, such as tracer, incendiary, dummy, blank and armor piercing. From what I have read tracer did not do well with GNCS jackets.


The word 'alternate' was also used in the discriptions of other U.S. ammo.


Armor piercing is another round that is often miss-described. The core was/is not made up of tungsten carbide but was a tungsten-chromium steel alloy with about 4% tungsten, (WD74100) in Feb.1942 this core was changed to one made of a manganese-molybdenum steel alloy. Pure T.C. is much too brittle to be used as a AP core. I have no idea of what is use as the material for today’s SA ammo AP cores.


“Test of the 'alternate' molybdenum core indicated it was equal to the tungsten core in penetration. High carbon steel was also authorized as a substitute for manganese-molybdenum.” from Hackley et-al. pg.73


As an example of how confusing this can get, the Cartridge Cal..30 AP M2 was produced with an GMCS jacket (alternate) and a steel mang-molyb core (alternative). Source Hackley et-al pg,73 and Drawing B138194 in Record of Army Ordnance R&D, vol.2 book 2 pg.194. Ive never seen or heard of a .30 cal M2 AP box carton with 'Alternate' and 'Alternative' printed on it, but there maybe one and it would be correct.


For more information on ''alternative'' and ''alternate'' as it applies to US ammo I recommend the above two books and the IAA board and journal.





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One little thing I forgot to add, I think it is fairly certain that reduced antimony lead cores were pressed inside GMCS jackets and then these projectiles were then used to make M2 Ball cartridges . So there were alternate/alternative M2 Ball rounds, although I do not know of any market in such a fashion.



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