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How much ammo should a normal Infantryman carry?

This is a discussion on How much ammo should a normal Infantryman carry? within the Army & Security Forces forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; I noticed that in WW2 and in the decades after it, standard soldiers in most armies didn't really carry much ...


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Old January 16th, 2007   #1
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How much ammo should a normal Infantryman carry?

I noticed that in WW2 and in the decades after it, standard soldiers in most armies didn't really carry much ammunition with them. In WW2 you could argue that first of all the armies were very big and recources were slim, so maybe there just wasn't so much ammo you could give any solder, but that can't be the reason why most armies didn't change that through pretty much the whole cold war. For example the average german Bundeswehr-rifleman carried only 3 magazines with 20 rounds each for his G3 rifle. I imagine being one of them, waiting for the Red Army to roll towards me and only carrying 60 rounds and a knife with me.... seems awfully little to me.
As far as i know even the average US solder, being the first one to carry a smaller 5.56 caliber rifle only was given 4 magazines as a standard ammunition.

If you ever played "Operation Flashpoint", whcih is a very good simulation of how big scale warfare in the 80ies would have looked like, you'll know how fast 120 to 150 rounds can be used up.

When you look at modern soldiers, they carry so much ammo that they often can hardly let their arms hang down or see their feet due to all the stuff hanging around their waist.
Why is that? Especially considering that nowadays it is much less likely for an average soldier to encounter a situation in which he and his fellow troops might be totally cut off supplies for a longer time than it once was.


I once saw a documentation about how military analysts and military shrinks (the most famous was an american scientist i forgot the name of) all over the world started to analyze the combat behaviour of infantry soldiers during the two world wars after WW2 and were astonished to discover that in an average battle only 10 to 20 % of all soldiers really shoot to kill. Most don't shoot at all and most of those who did only did so to appear fighting or to scare the enemy.
They discovered that the "best" ratio of real killers was achieved by the germans in those both wars. Not because the germans were better soldiers or more brutal, but simply because the imperial german army in WW1 and the Wehrmacht in WW2 did, more than other armies at that time, organize their troops in small combat units instead of big battle groups. By giving more freedom and responibility to low level officers instead of giving orders to them about every step they have to take, as it still was usual in most armies during WW1 and WW2, the single units within the german army acted more autonomously.
Later the scientists found out that that was the reason why the german soldiers had a better kill ratio (not only against badly equiped opponents but against equals too), because in such small, largly autonomous units, the soldiers develop strong bonds and a sense of responsibility for each other. Because every soldier feels responsible for the lifes of his comrades, he's more willing to kill to protect them. Every one thinks that every enemy he doesn't kill, can kill not only him but also his close friends.
In big armies where every soldier is just one of hundrets of thousands and he has no overview of what is happening around him, he doesn't develop this sense of responsibility and every soldier thinks it doesn't make a difference whether one soldier is shooting or just hiding in the trench. Because the majority of soldiers in such a anonymous mass-army thinks that way, it diminishes the effectiveness of the whole army drastically.

What the Germans discovered accidently in the two world wars, was deliberately used and endorsed the first time by the US army during the Vietnam war later. By Organising the troops in small, pretty autonomous groups they achieved the "best" kill ratio so far.

Maybe it's that? Because the average soldier nowadays is more willing to shoot and to kill, he needs more ammo.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #2
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"Front line" ammunition carriage for rifleman in the Australian Army is (IIRC) 180 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition. It is not unheard of to carry "double front line" on most operations though.

ALL Army's are organised on a small scale and build upwards from that. Every Army has it's infantry "sections, squads, troops" or whatever else you'd like to call a small formation of troops.

I do not know of ANY Army that doesn't have a strong camaraderie between troops in these small sections. Some might be "tighter" than others, but come operations time, I very much doubt the statistics you put up there.

Sort of like the "million rounds per enemy dead" statistics of US combat forces in Vietnam. It's a sweeping generalisation at best, that bears little resemblance to reality I'm afraid...
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Old January 16th, 2007   #3
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How ammo..."Buckets of bullets" as an old mate would say.
Really in depends on what task you have and the level of resupply. Most of the time you would carry double frontline...which IIRC is combo of 5-10x30 rd mags and loose ball for reloads . I don't recall what a gunners would carry (off the top of my head) but it was double (700-800 rds was what I had from time to time) plus other members would carry 200 rds or so as well.
One load I carried was 14x30 mags and 400 belt and some loose trace/ball (in the top of my pack) plus other things that went bang and two red smokers for LZ marking for casevac's. The reason for the extra was for resupply for others and personal use. Plus all the other crap, medkits x3, rations (minimum 24hrs), water (10 litres - min),spare IV's, spare smokes and a tin of Milo. You were pretty much loaded down. IIRC only the Sigs had more weight than us..it was a battery thing.
Is there a current grunt on staff that could give us the current breakdown?
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Old January 16th, 2007   #4
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I once saw a documentation about how military analysts and military shrinks (the most famous was an american scientist i forgot the name of) all over the world started to analyze the combat behaviour of infantry soldiers during the two world wars after WW2 and were astonished to discover that in an average battle only 10 to 20 % of all soldiers really shoot to kill. Most don't shoot at all and most of those who did only did so to appear fighting or to scare the enemy.
I think his name was SLA Marshall, he was an historian who was posted to the US army in WW2.
It was'ent just small units that increased the killing power of a soldier, realistic training played a big role. One simple thing was in markmanship training not to use paper targets, or bullseyes, but to use human figures sometimes complete with uniforms. This helps break down the inbuilt resistance all humans have to killing. In effect you make pulling the trigger a reflex that is triggered on command, or in responce to a situation. The idea is to remove the mid brain from the equation. The US army actually relaxed its training after the vietnam war, due to the massive number of phycic causlties resulting from this kind of conditioning.
Which in effect is designed to turn normal typically non violent people in to killers who will shoot without a hesitation. The effects of killing (or being unable to kill) are something you live with for ever, and mentally very damaging for most people.
It is not just killing itself which is damaging, but the fact of being prepared to kill, and having that self knowlage.

The most hearting thing about this research is that humans have an inbuilt resistance to violence and killing and will do just about anything to avoid it.

Pray and spray is a good example, someone who does this, does it for show, the intention is not to kill, but rather to scare off your enemy. Not that prayer and sprayer would never ever admit that, but thats what it is. The difference with a modern soldier is striking, that abilty to put rounds on target when ordered is something that is relativley recent(50's on in the west). For someone who has not been conditioned (and is not a sociopath)
it is almost impossible to shoot to kill, genetics, religion ect make it very hard to pull that trigger.
In small units the sence of duty is much stronger, this effect is also apperent in crew servised weapons, the desire not to let your friend down is very powerful, and can lead to some incredibly brave and selfless behavior. Include modern conditioning/training with a small unit ethic and you have warriors behond compare.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #5
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Originally Posted by Aussie Digger View Post
"Front line" ammunition carriage for rifleman in the Australian Army is (IIRC) 180 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition. It is not unheard of to carry "double front line" on most operations though.

ALL Army's are organised on a small scale and build upwards from that. Every Army has it's infantry "sections, squads, troops" or whatever else you'd like to call a small formation of troops.

I do not know of ANY Army that doesn't have a strong camaraderie between troops in these small sections. Some might be "tighter" than others, but come operations time, I very much doubt the statistics you put up there.

Sort of like the "million rounds per enemy dead" statistics of US combat forces in Vietnam. It's a sweeping generalisation at best, that bears little resemblance to reality I'm afraid...
Yes, nowadays. It was different in WW1 and 2.
And of course there are small units combined in big units aso., but back then the low level officers commanding this small units were little more than passing on the orders from above, making sure their unit follows them and were hardly allowed to visit the latrinas (don't know how to spell that, sorry) without asking for permission first. This documentation wasn't the first and by far not the only source i got this from. I often herad american and british veterans complain about this in interviews and the grandfather of my american ex-girlfirend said this too when he came to visit Germany and talked to a german veteran i knew.

On this level there really was a difference between the allied armies and the germans.

On the other hand this bigger autonomity increases the probability of atrocities against civillians in a guerilla war. The scientists did forsee this too and it seems they were right when you look at Vietnam. Who knows whether something like Milai would have happened with the US army from 1915 or 1944?
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Old January 16th, 2007   #6
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It was'ent just small units that increased the killing power of a soldier, realistic training played a big role.
Yes, of course. But it's one factor and one at least i wouldn't have thought of without seeing this documentation, i must admit - unlike the thing with the better training.

In this documentation they showed how nowadays the US army is using 3d ego-shooter games to train the trigger reflex of young recrutes. That doesn't neccessarily mean that they are playing computergames during their training, although that seems to happen too, but simply by supporting the developers of such games the army increases the chance to get recrutes that grew up playing those games and bringing a well trained trigger reflex with them into their training.

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How ammo..."Buckets of bullets" as an old mate would say.
Really in depends on what task you have and the level of resupply. Most of the time you would carry double frontline...which IIRC is combo of 5-10x30 rd mags and loose ball for reloads . I don't recall what a gunners would carry (off the top of my head) but it was double (700-800 rds was what I had from time to time) plus other members would carry 200 rds or so as well.
One load I carried was 14x30 mags and 400 belt and some loose trace/ball (in the top of my pack) plus other things that went bang and two red smokers for LZ marking for casevac's. The reason for the extra was for resupply for others and personal use. Plus all the other crap, medkits x3, rations (minimum 24hrs), water (10 litres - min),spare IV's, spare smokes and a tin of Milo. You were pretty much loaded down. IIRC only the Sigs had more weight than us..it was a battery thing.
Is there a current grunt on staff that could give us the current breakdown?
I see. Thanks for the informations.
Maybe the fact that soldiers are more mobilized nowadays is important too. When you don't have to walk so much because you'll be driven or airlifted, you can afford to carry more weight.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #7
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That doesn't neccessarily mean that they are playing computergames during their training, although that seems to happen too, but simply by supporting the developers of such games the army increases the chance to get recrutes that grew up playing those games and bringing a well trained trigger reflex with them into their training.
I wonder about those shoot'em ups sometimes! Am I being conditioned to kill!!

By the way I'm a Counter Strike Nut, but I dont get to much time to play now..
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Old January 16th, 2007   #8
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I see. Thanks for the informations.
Maybe the fact that soldiers are more mobilized nowadays is important too. When you don't have to walk so much because you'll be driven or airlifted, you can afford to carry more weight.
No, not really...most of the time we walked with heavy loads. Helo support and vehicles were few and far between.
Having more mobilization may improve in the future but at the end of the day, Australian infantry units most of the time rely on the GP express.
So getting shinny new IFV's and MRH-90's might sound good but maybe a good set of boots would be better.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #9
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@TrangleC
As to Bundeswehr normal ammo carriage. Do you got the right numbers? Or do they changed radically?
I learned that 4 full magazines + 1 in the G36 + 4 magazine loads in carton in the backpack is normally full equipped.
Making it a total load of 270 rounds.
But reloading the magazines with the loads in the cartons from the backpack is rather slow so you should hope that you don't fire more than 150 rounds in one engagement.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #10
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@TrangleC
As to Bundeswehr normal ammo carriage. Do you got the right numbers? Or do they changed radically?
I learned that 4 full magazines + 1 in the G36 + 4 magazine loads in carton in the backpack is normally full equipped.
Making it a total load of 270 rounds.
But reloading the magazines with the loads in the cartons from the backpack is rather slow so you should hope that you don't fire more than 150 rounds in one engagement.
I meant the old cold war standard equipment. That was 3 magazines, 20 rounds each for the G3 rifle. That's what my father was carrying in the 70ies. I'll try to find old pictures of him in his uniform to scan them. There were only two magazine pokets on the belt and one magazine in the rifle.

I got a old book about "land military forces of the world" where they tell some statistics about every country's army, sorted by continents, with a lot of pictures. The book is from 1980 and most soldiers you see in this book only wear two magazines for their various 7.62mm rifles on their belts.

Unfortunatelly i don't have a scanner, but i found a compareable picture of an austrian soldier already using the AUG on my harddrive:
http://www.badongo.com/pic/419456
He also seems to carry only 3 magazines, at least only 3 ready to use. Don't know about the back pack, of course.

Most soldiers from the 70ies in this book look pretty much like that guy, so i guess that was the standard.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #11
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Maybe they just don't expect them to live long enough for using more than 3 magazines during a cold war getting hot.

Throw them out of the back of their Marders and look at them desintegrating in the face of the red horde.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #12
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A American combat infantry soldier carries at a minimum 180 rds, it could be more just depending on the mission, The U.S Army figured that it took 10,000 rds just to kill one enemy combatant in Vietnam, this has really changed in the recent years due to the advancement of weapons and sighting systems.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #13
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And with don't giving you GIs a full auto M-16 after Vietnam.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #14
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And with don't giving you GIs a full auto M-16 after Vietnam.
Yep - now we give a few of them in each squad SAW machine gun.
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Old January 16th, 2007   #15
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Jup.
Interesting to see that some squads in Iraq have sometimes more 5.56mm and 7.62mm MGs than normal M-16/M-4.
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