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The Vault

Model 1917 Machine Gun Cart

Are you looking for a good gift for the gun nut in your life who already has everything? Or perhaps you are the gun nut with everything, and you need a new project to undertake? Well, we have just the thing.  It’s cool, useful (assuming you have a water-cooled HMG and a horse), historically interesting, and pretty rare: the Model 1917 Machine Gun Cart.

Model 1917 Machine gun cart

Model 1917 Machine gun cart

The US Army designed and built these carts during World War I to ease transportation of machine guns, tools, and extra ammunition using horses. Three different versions were made, all on the same basic chassis but with different storage racking. The basic gun cart held a machine gun, tripod, pioneer tools (shovel, pick mattock, and hatchet), and seven ammo cans. The ammo cart carried the same sets of tools, but 14 ammo cans and no gun. Finally, the spare gun cart carried two guns and two tripods, to be used as reserve guns in case of damage to guns on the line.

In a rare spark of foresight, the Army designed the carts to be able to carry any of the guns in common US service. The gun case on the cart was equipped with several sets of interchangeable blocks so that it could securely fit a Lewis gun, Vickers, Browning 1917, or Colt 1895 “potato digger”. The photo above shows a Vickers.

Thanks to reader Robert W., we have a copy of the original 1918 manual for these carts. If includes a good description of the designs, plus a bunch of photos, several detailed to-scale construction drawings, and inventory and parts lists. Everything you would need to build yourself a replica Model 1917 cart! You can download the manual right here:

Handbook of the Model 1917 Machine Gun Cart (1918, English)

Handbook of the Model 1917 Machine Gun Cart (1918, English)

4 comments to Model 1917 Machine Gun Cart

  • Mike Halvorsen

    Very cool! I’d heard of their existance, but I had never seen an example of one. Thanks!

  • Len (L999here)

    For a detailed look at gun carts…from the 1917 Machine Gun cart to the end of WW2…go to….handcartz.com

  • Rob Hughes

    I got a meritorious mast in the Marine Corps for copying these in the early `90`s. Pretty neat old carts.

  • Jim Chandler

    In 1961 modified Machine Gun Carts were still in use at Parris Island in the Recruit Training Battalions. We had 3 in the 1st Battalion. They were used to move bulky loads around the Battalion Areas. They were “on their last legs” and in 1962 then Colonel (later Maj Gen) Mike Ryan ordered them to be retired.

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