Cal. .30 ball M2 cartridges

The CIA M2 ammo is usually called “Cuban invasion” ammo, supposedly made up for the Bay of Pigs invasion. It has never been officially documented it was CIA clandestine ammunition to be used for the Bay of Pigs invasion but was more probably made for general clandestine use by the CIA, not specifically for the BOP invasion. There were three headstamps (AN, BN, and CN) indicating manufacture at different locations – AN was Twin Cities, BN was St Louis, and CN was Lake City. Obviously, the H/S dates are bogus. I have several rounds of BN .30-’06 I found at a flea market. It might be interesting to speculate how: it got into general circulation, as it is not in the “rare” category.

This is supposedly the full story:

“In November 1952, the Office, Chief of Ordnance received a classified request from Army Intelligence to provide a schedule for the delivery of Cal. .30 ball cartridges for use by “other than U.S. Forces.” The plan called for the procurement of this ammunition to realize economies while the Ordnance plants were still operating too near full capacity in support of the Korean War. This ammunition was not for immediate use but would be stored for later issues in support of strategic and contingency plans being formulated by various U.S. intelligence departments and government agencies. The order for this ammunition called for standard Cal. .30 ball M2 cartridges to be made to U.S. specifications, but with special markings on the cartridges and packing which could not be easily traced back to their origin or date of manufacture. Anticipating long-term storage under field conditions and combat use, the rounds were to be packed in waterproof metal containers with a bandoleer inner pack. Most of the order was packed in five-round clips since it was expected that the ammunition would be used in bolt-action rifles or magazine-fed automatic weapons. Because a standard U.S. container would disclose the identity of the country of manufacture, it was initially planned to procure suitable metal containers “offshore.” When this proved to be too costly and time-consuming, the use of surplus U.S. Navy Mark 1-series steel boxes was authorized. This container had originally been adopted during WWII for shipboard storage of 20mm ammunition and resembled those used by European ammunition makers.

The total order was for approximately 250 million rounds and was original to be divided equally among the three plants then producing Cal. .30 ammunition; Lake City, St. Louis, and Twin Cities. However, because of technical problems and a shortage of propellant, St. Louis production was reduced to about half that of the other plants. The head marking was to be of the “European” style, not specifically known to be used by any current producer, showing the manufacturer’s code, month, and year of loading separated by segment (radial) lines.

The manufacturer’s code “AN” was assigned to Twin Cities, “BN” to St. Louis, and “CN” to Lake City. The year was to remain constant; 1940 (40) for all production. Each plant was also requested to denote the lot number in lieu of the month on the headstamp. Lake City loaded nine lots for a total of 90,832,304 rounds (further broken down into 5 or 6 alphabetical sub-lots of about two million rounds each) with headstamps C/N/1/40/ through C/N/9/40/. Production at St. Louis totaled 49,669,200 rounds, which were loaded into four lots with B/N/1/40/ through B/N/4/40/ headstamps. An unfinished case head*stamped B/N/5/40/ has been examined which may have been made in anticipation of a fifth lot, but available records indicate that St. Louis produced only four lots.

Twin Cities Arsenal produced 91,000,720 rounds divided into nine lots with headstamps A/N/1/40/ through A/N/9/40/. Some variation has been observed in the orientation of the lot number (“month”) on the headstamps. All of the A/N headstamps have the lot and year facing inward toward the primer pocket. The B/N headstamp has the year facing inward and lot numbers 1, 2, and 4 facing outward, lot 3 either inward or outward, and lot 5 inward. All of the C/N headstamps have the year and lot number facing outward.

Production started in February-March 1953 and was completed by November of that year. Standard components and production processes for the period were used, with both Lake City and Twin Cities using IMR 4895 and St. Louis loading both IMR 4895 and WC 852 ball propellant. Examination of existing rounds discloses that Lake City (C/N) and Twin Cities (A/N) used their normal primer sealant colors, red for Lake City and green for Twin Cities. However, St. Louis (B/N) used at least two different colors, their usual green, and a reddish-orange. It is possible that the different colors indicated a different process, primer, and/or propellant. Examination revealed that those rounds with green seals are loaded with IMR propellant and those with reddish-orange seals contain ball propellant and have a flatter primer cup. After inspection and lot endorsement testing, the ammunition was graded into two categories, A and B, corresponding to Rifle ® or Machine Gun (MG) grade, and shipped to depots for storage.”

One wonders why it has any H/S at all, just use no H/S. Or something like one punch mark for LC, 2 for SL, and nothing for TW. I also wonder why the CIA felt it necessary to get it from three different US sources.

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