The early B-17s had streamlined “blisters” instead of turrets on the top, and bottom of the airframe, as well as blister waist guns/windows, all manually aimed. They all had the ability to have a manual gun mounted in a small “cheek” window on each side of the nose, as well as a manual gun mounted in the nose glass. The nose gun had to be small 30 caliber to avoid damaging things from recoil. The cheek guns could point to the sides, but not really directly forward. Only the usually single (and small) nose gun could do so. There were no tail guns.
The C and D models got rid of the blisters for a more flush mounted top gun, the waist guns were more flush mounted/streamlined. The belly gun was put in a “bathtub” that stuck out more. No changes to the nose armament.
The E model was a revolution, with the larger tail. It got the power top turret, as well as keeping a manual gun upward from the radio room. Got large openings and very flexible waist guns, plus a tail gunner with twin 50s, the first in a B-17. The bottom turret was remote controlled at first, but after a few hundred was replaced with the now stereotypical “ball turret”. Through all this the nose armament was the same, narrow cheek window guns and a small nose gun
The F started out the same, but combat reports were showing how bad the nose armament needed help. Lots of field fixes, and then factory/ and/or post factory modifications. There were field modifications to allow manual 50 cals in the glass nose, lots of combinations. The cheek windows were enlarged for a better view, and usually staggered so the two crew wouldn’t bump into each other. Then they started flaring out the cheek windows so they could point forward as well as out the sides. Mind you, there are two guys in the nose trying to bounce between two or three or four manually operated machine guns trying to fire at targets closing at 400+ MPH. Not a great situation
In that timeframe was the YB-40 escort that others have mentioned. Pretty much a failure but it introduced the remote controlled chin turret with twin 50s, which was eventually added to VERY LATE production B-17Fs and then onward to the Gs. When there is a chin turret there are no guns in the nose glass.
This finally closed up the nose gun weak spot. So much so that they got rid of the enlarged cheek guns in early chin turret production…until they decided to add them in again probably due to “needing more firepower!”
Then the Gs eventually staggered the waist window guns for more room, not to forget adding a better tail gun turret along the way as well.
There are LOTS of details and this is a general glossing over, but might help