or ammunition belt
is a device used to retain and feed cartridges
into a firearm. Belts and the associated feed systems are typically employed to feed machine guns
or other automatic weapons. Belt-fed systems minimize the proportional weight of the ammunition to the feeding device along with allowing high rates of continuous fire.
Belts were originally composed of canvas or cloth with pockets spaced evenly to allow the belt to be mechanically fed into the gun. These designs were prone to malfunctions
due to the effects of oil and other contaminants altering the belt. Later belt designs used permanently connected metal links to retain the cartridges during feeding. These belts were more tolerant to exposure to solvents and oil. Many weapons designed to use non-disintegrating or canvas belts are provided with machines to automatically reload these belts with loose rounds or rounds held in stripper clips
. In use during World War I
, reloaders allowed ammunition belts to be recycled quickly to allow practically continuous fire.
Many modern ammunition belts use disintegrating links. Disintegrating links retain a single round and are articulated with the round ahead of it in the belt. When the round ahead is stripped from the belt and fed into the feed system or chamber, the link holding it is ejected and the link holding the following round is disarticulated.
Some weapons—such as the M134 Minigun
and related design—use a hybrid mechanism to strip rounds from... Read More