Most ammunition boxes used around the world are made either of wood, or since the Second World War especially, metal. Boxes made from other materials are unusual, metal usually being chosen for its strength and the way it protects the contents from sparks and accidental sources of ignition. The South African Defence Force was unusual, then, in producing many of its small arms ammunition boxes from plastic. The use of plastic was especially prevalent in the 1980s and allowed essentially disposable boxes to be issued- they could be used, thrown away or burnt and it didn’t matter as they were one use only items. The boxes themselves were used for a variety of different sorts of ammunition and today we have two 7.62mm examples to consider:
Each box is made from brown plastic and a sticker on the top gives details of the contents:
From this we can see that the box held 200 rounds of 7.62mm, in a ratio of four ball rounds to one tracer round and in belts for use with a Browning machine gun. The box was filled in 1988. A date code on the box indicates it was manufactured in September of the same year:
Each box is held in a lightweight webbing cradle which provides two handles to allow it to be more easily carried:
The lid is completely separate and hinged part way along so just one end can be opened to pull ammunition through whilst keeping the rest of the belt clean in the South African dust. The lid is secured with a set of plastic clips around its edges:
To help reduce rattle from the top layer of ammunition whilst a full box is being carried, the underside of the box lid is lined with foam rubber:
I am not sure how I feel about plastic ammunition boxes, whilst they are fine from a use it once and throw it away perspective, they are certainly less robust that a metal box and with rough handling I could see the plastic cracking or even breaking and it is interesting that thirty years later few other militaries have followed the SADF in adopting plastic boxes.