Info on Nine Yards / MG

Guy Letourneau guy1656 at OPUSNET.COM
Fri Dec 28 16:44:59 UTC 2012

I have some information which may debunk the "nine yards" story claiming
it was related to the length of a .50cal ammo belt.
There are usually furnished in rectangular metal boxes containing
100-round belts. For the .50BMG cartridge they are spaced a little less
than 1" apart, making the length of a 100 rd. belt about 95", or about 2
and 5/8 yards. No integer multiple of this length comes anywhere near
six or nine yards.

I do not know about the lengths for .30cal, which was much more common
in the early stages of WW2.

Wing-mounted .50cals such as in the P-51 mustang were often belted up
with 5000 rounds per machinegun.

The most common .30 cal machineguns the M1 and M1919 were first produced
in 1919, and the first .50cal "Ma Deuce"(M2) followed around 1920.

WWI saw the Vickers .303 fed with fabric belts by 1916.

Very few fully automatic mechanisms pre-date the 1908 Maxim; most of
these were fed by stick magazine, and one fully automatic revolver
design was also produced.

The Maxim found service in WWI and the Bolshevik revolution 1917.
(You can see one in the 'Dr. Zhivago' movie.)

Images of fabric and metal belts and disintegrating links may be seen here:

So, since "the whole [6 or 9] yards" has been spotted before the .50BMG,
we can throw out any story of the waist-gunner with his 9-yard ammo belt.

Now, have we debunked the folk etymology about "9 yards to make a Great
Kilt?" (buying all 9 yards meant you bought the 'whole thing,' the
universal garment, sleeping blanket, and serviceable for all the other
folksy things people might do in or with a kilt?)

- Guy L.

The American Dialect Society -

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