UPDATED 12 September 2009

M60 Plastic Ammo Box (PAB) keeps ammunition dry, ready

Original article published in the Fort Bragg POST
Wednesday, June 19, 1996

23 pounds of raw U.S. Army metal

This MGunner is asking for a malfunction with Pancho Villa draped belts

(a gyrene)

1500 hours. 16 March 1965 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vietnam
SGT Elmer "Ray" Compton is on point leading a platoon-sized element to assist a friendly battalion in contact with a NVA Regiment. Compton spots an enemy ambush a few meters ahead moves back to his main body, warns them and orders his M79 40mm Grenadier, PFC Neil Haffey to fire at a spot near the enemy postion.

All hell breaks loose.

Amid a heavy barrage from machine guns, semi-automatic weapons and hand grenades, Compton ordered his M60 medium machine gunner (MMG), PFC William Thompson forward to assist buddies who were trapped in the crossfire. Thompson's weapon jammed after a burst of no more than 3 or 4 rounds, and he was killed before he could fix the weapon...

From: Army Times, June 21, 1999 "Reluctant hero may get medal after all" page 12

2250 Hours. 19 December 1989
Pacora River Bridge, Panama

A motor convoy of American forces is moving into attack position. Suddenly, some Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) Soldiers in a bus drive by and the word to stop them by fire is given. A M60 medium machine gunner tries in vain to employ his weapon from the back of his 2-1/2 ton truck, but it's snagged on his TA-50 gear. The Panamanians get away, forcing the move of the invasion time up by one hour. A small glitch in the design of a machine gun possibly ruining an entire operation which thousands of men's lives depend on.

In the first combat, SPC Alfred Rascon, now being considered for a well-deserved Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH), personally dove on enemy grenades to shield his buddies, patched their wounds and brought back Thompson's M60 medium machine gun back to PFC Larry Gibson who used its extra ammo to get his own M60 medium machine gun working. The Sky Troopers flank the ambush and put effective fire on the enemy, saving the day. But the point is that it shouldn't require CMH-level of heroism just to get a machine gun to work reliably in the field.

Today, when you see M60 gunners, you invariably see them fumbling with 10-round "teaser" belts and/or 100-round belts draped over their shoulders "Rambo" style where they quickly get muddy/dirty and jam an already temperamental weapon. This is all the result of the weapon lacking a simple plastic box to hang on the weapon's side to hold a belt of ammunition. All too often, an Assistant Gunner (AG) has to hold up the belt for the gun to feed properly--its link pulling power is low--when he should be looking through binoculars spotting/calling targets and/or using his M16A2 Assault rifle to protect their flanks. The Army and the marines have known for DECADES since 1958 with the adoption of the M60 that they needed an ammo box that could clip to the left side of the medium machine gun and feed the weapon for fire & movement capabilities. The enemy is not going to let you get comfortable on the ground and load your mmg before blowing you away because you are carrying an unloaded weapon.

The U.S. Army Infantry magazine article above from 1967 during the height of the Vietnam war proposing a desperation field expedient raises the question of why wasn't this problem solved long ago, and WHY IS IT STILL NOT SOLVED TODAY???

Anyone who has ever used a medium machine gun in the modern era (post-1960) knows the issue cardboard box/canvass bandolier is flimsy and unreliable (see above far left). If nothing else, take some "100 mph" Army OD green (duct tape) and tape all over the box to somewhat strengthen/waterproof it. DO SOMETHING DAMN IT. Do it right, order your own CAPCO Plastic Ammo Boxes (see above far right) which can be used plain to attach to the MMG, or the bandolier strap can be cut and inserted into slots for an across-the-back carry.

1st Tactical Studies Group Director, Mike Sparks first discovered the need for a plastic ammo box/assault pack as a young marine infantryman on field exercises where the flimsy cardboard/canvass bandoliers that came out of the 200 round metal ammo cans fell apart when you tried to use them attached to the side of the M60. Reading a novel on a fictional POW rescue operation, it mentioned that a truly functional plastic assault pack DID exist for the M60. After some investigation and help from legendary small arms expert and writer, Peter Kokalis, he found the item existed and was made in Nevada by CAPCO. He then proposed the CAPCO plastic ammo box as a low-cost buy (less than $10 each for crying out loud!) to BOTH the marines (internal channels 1983, 1987, articles in Armed Forces Journal in 1988 and Soldier of Fortune magazine in 1989 and the Army repeatedly from 1997 onward) through "official channels" as an enlistedman and an officer to no avail. So much for "professionalism" and "open-mindedness" within ego and greed military rackets.


NOTE: Sparks included his 1989 SOF magazine article with contact info for the makers of the plastic ammo box, CAPCO.



All of those people who smugly and pompously declare that all you have to do to get problems solved in the U.S. military is "work within the system" and "go through the chain of command" are FULL OF SH*T. The U.S. military is a huge welfare state of weak economic codependents and narcissistic egomaniacs who want to PRETEND that they want to be combat ready when really they do not want to get their shit squared away N-O-W. The bald-faced lying bullsh*t from the then Fort Benning Director of Combat Developments is really galling when he says his flimsy nylon pouch THAT DOES NOT CONNECT TO THE MEDIUM MACHINE GUN AT ALL will somehow do the same things a plastic assault pack that CAN attach to the side of the MMG is classic "Not Invented Here Syndrome 101". Obviously, no one holds him accountible for making false statements to the troops. Has he ever even used a M60 machine gun? Doesn't he understand the difference between having 100 rounds of 7.62mm x 51mm ammo RIGHT THERE BY THE GUN FOR IMMEDIATE FIREPOWER IS NOT THE SAME as a nylon bag holding 7.62mm ammo belts that you have to plop down next to the gun AFTER YOU HAVE STOPPED MOVING and gotten into the prone and lift the feedtray cover to insert the end of the belt if the "teaser" has been shot up? Or was he simply blowing Sparks off thinking he wouldn't know the difference between a ready supply of ammo ON THE GUN and a supply of ammo that has to be brought together? Maybe in typical "zero-sum" bureaucratic thinking the plastic ammo box was seen as a "threat" to their nylon pouch boondoggle as if somehow we couldn't have or don't need BOTH?

Moreover, U.S. Army Soldiers went into Afghanistan 2 years after we updated this web page in 1999 with a "new" medium machine gun but again neglected to have AN AMMO BAG FOR THEIR M240B MMGs! There is no excuse for this! British Royal marines had ammo boxes for their FN MAG 7.62mm Medium Machine Guns so they were ready-to-fire!

To read more about this gear debacle:


One unit according to an un-named First Sergeant used London Bridges' 7.62mm ammo bag in Afghanistan combat. These are made of very stiff nylon fabric which has the benefit of being soft and not as noisy as hard plastic ammo boxes, though they ain't cheap!:

"Our battalion bought the ammo bags for the M240[B Medium Machine Guns] from London Bridge, they worked great."

We don't know which London Bridge products the 187th 1SG is praising for its performance in Afghanistan? As soon as we find out, we'll post the details here!

Possibilities listed as M60 MMG accessories on the London Bridge website:


Ammunition Bag (M60 x 350 rounds)



M60 Feed Tray Pouch (100 rounds)


M-60 Belt Pouch (100 rounds)


M-60 (200 round) Belt Pouch (hook and loop flap closure)


M-60 (200 round) Belt Pouch (hook & loop, with side release, flap closure)


PAB attached to M60 MMG bandolier hanger

The best Army-wide affordable answer is to buy a M60 (or with some remolding M240B) plastic assault pack from Jim's Gun and Pawn Shop at 4632 Yadkin Road (telephone 864-2280). The assault packs are behind the handgun counter and retail for $10. They can also be purchased for about the same price directly from their manufacturer, Capco Enterprises, 3250 Pollux Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89102 (telephone 702-362-3700).

The plastic assault pack securely holds 100 rounds of 7.62mm X 51mm ammunition on the M60 MMG's bandoleer hanger in a ready-to-feed manner. No one has to hold the belt up. The box is sturdy, almost indestructible and waterproof. I suggest cutting a small drain hole in the bottom of the box and using a black plastic electrical tie or a gutted-550 parachute a "dummy cord" to the top lid to prevent it from being lost.

We learned that a 550 cord inner strand wasn't strong enough as a dummy cord during our unit's rotation to the NTC at Fort Irwin.

Step 1 is cut small slots with a knife point

Step 2 is to thread 550 cord without inner strands through the slots as shown

We recently learned in thick vegetated terrain for JRTC work-ups that wrapping 100 mph tape around the box and its lid secures it even better for sustained use. At the end of the tape, fold over to make a "pull tab" so the taping can be undone to load new belts inside. Even with just one assault pack kept on the M60 MMG at all times, new belts can be dropped in to keep the gun "fed" and firing. Or better yet, as suggested by SPC Steve Livingston sew a secure flap to the side carry slots to secure the tope lid in a quick open/close manner using velcro. Details are in the photos below:

The M60 MMG is a key weapon in the Airborne infantry's arsenal. A lot of its bad reliability reports are a direct result of dirty, bent and out-of-alignment linked ammunition, which is caused by the lack of a plastic ammunition box. We can solve this problem today with the PAB.


M240B 7.62mm MMG

The M60 MMG is being replaced by the M240B, also known as the "FN MAG"--a MMG in use by NATO Armies for the same 40 years the M60 has been in service--that's right we could have had the FN MAG back in 1958! While the South African Army has a rubberized fabric ammo pouch to hold a belt of ammunition up, but whether the U.S. Army will buy these as accessories is unclear. You, the individual Soldier or Paratrooper might want to send an e-mail to the manufacturer about this:

FN Manufacturing Inc

Another option is to buy quick-detachable butt packs with shoulder straps to carry 7.62mm belts when in a sustained-fire mode as was done in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam and suggested by the legendary weapons and tank guru, Stan Crist.

Another problem is on vehicle-mounted MGs: only the metal ammo can holding the rounds. When you get your MGs mounted, you will see that the metal ammo can sits on a tray to feed the gun. Try Ranger Rick Tscherne's suggestion on pg.25 of his Ranger Digest III, and weld two ammo cans together to double your 7.62 ammo supply to 400 ready rounds instead of the one box of 200, since in a firefight you do not have time to duck down and reload. This technique may even work for .50 caliber ammo cans.

Ranger Rick Tscherne's Books Inc.
11 Poppy Lane
West Grove, PA 19390

Don't wait for a firefight that you can be involved in, which can occur in fewer than 18 hours when in 18 minutes, you can have your answer.


E-mail 1st TSG (A)