Some questions answered (1): Ammo & Rates of Fire

Video Review: MVT CUTT Chest Rig + Live Fire Scenario
April 7, 2015
VIDEO: THE RAID – Combat Patrol Class
April 16, 2015

In via email:

You have written that a fighter can often expect to go through 4 AR magazines in a Break Contact drill (or the real thing) – correct me if my number of mags is incorrect.  I am reading guys who carry 6-12 rifle mags on their gear loads – chest rigs, belts, etc.  (I suspect they carry more in their rucks?). 

From a simple logistical perspective, for a guy like me who has never been .mil, what is the play when a patrol gets caught by OpFor at the far-reaches of a patrol route, breaks contact and burns through ½ or more of the ammo they are carrying on their bodies?  They could easily run dry of ammo very quickly if OpFor pursues with any intensity.  For the CUTT with little or no support, that could get ugly.

To which I responded:


You may expend that much breaking contact, and on follow ups by the enemy you may expend more, such as putting in a hasty ambush. You have what you carry unless you have means of resupply or QRF. You should have extra in your patrol pack. If you truly cannot break contact, then you are in trouble.
The flip side is this: you may well expend a lot of ammo breaking contact, because you need to put the fire down, even if it is cover shooting. It is not, however a mag dump Beirut unload! After that, if you utilize fire discipline, you can make your shots count more. One round into a pursuing enemy scout/ tracker will slow down the pursuit. Fire discipline is often sadly lacking!
For example sake, if you plan on 4 mags breaking contact (ballpark, it will be what it will be), and you are carrying 8 or 9 ready mags on your gear, then another 4 mags in your patrol pack replenishes that back to full load. Add a couple more, up to maybe 6, and you are good to go. 
The above is of course a generalization but I hope I make the point?

My comment is about the info you post regarding ammo consumption during training vs real combat. Although I can’t argue on it’s credibility (I’m pretty sure you are correct) my understanding is that this has very much to do with the dominance of support/heavy weapons during actual combat.

What I mean is, maybe the rifleman has less opportunities to fire in actual combat because of the fact that his own heavy weapons are doing most of the job anyway or the enemy’s heavy weapons are not letting him a chance to fire (he has to keep cover).

You argue on the less ammo carried by 7,62 riflemen with the fact that this doesn’t really matter because, unlike in training, they’ll not have to shoot so much in combat. But you whole article is based on the fact that they’ll not have support/heavy weapons at hand.

Please, can you explain this part more thoroughly?

Absolutes and how long is a piece of string? It is true that in combat you can fire an extremely high amount of rounds. If you learn your tactics from tacticool YouTube videos, or helmet cam of troops hosing down a hillside in Afghanistan, then you will do that. If you have easy resupply, vehicles, or you just don’t want to hand back in any live rounds at the end of your range day due to quartermaster accounting madness, then that is fine. Or you are Navy Seasl doing a demonstration break contact video for YouTube…..

What is missing are basic rifleman skills, professionalism, and fire discipline. If you want to hose down the hillside while you wait for the aircraft to arrive to fulfill your call for fire, then fine. If your fire is not accurate it will not be effective. If it is not striking at, or close to, an enemy fighter, it will not suppress him. You need to locate the enemy (hardest part) and apply accurate disciplined fire to positively identified enemy/enemy positions. If you do that, you are firing less than if you are firing at static targets on the range. Making accurate shots at a ducking and diving enemy.

Tie that in with the top part, and you have the reality of how much ammunition you are carrying. Ammunition = time when in enemy contact, to allow you to fire and maneuver. So you need to make it count. There are times when ammunition expenditure will be higher, such as in the initial stages of a break contact drill, and at times when you cannot actually see the enemy – but you still need to put fire down in order to move. You may be cover shooting. You may be using rapid fire to initially win the firefight before maneuvering on the enemy. But once the enemy is suppressed, fire control and discipline will reduce the amount of ammunition, striking accurately into the cover, that will keep the enemy suppressed.

You need team leaders to control fire. And team members who will listen. It’s about professionalism.

That is why I tell you that you will fire less in combat than you may on the range. Unless you decide not to, and blow through all your ammunition to little effect.

If you look at the live fire scenario in the video below that I made yesterday, I could easily have lit up the woods with some pew-pew. But I didn’t. It was a mixture of reflexive fire as a reaction to contact, and accurate follow up shots, not to mention follow ups to ensure the enemy was dead. Don’t pass over live enemy.


Regarding the heavy support weapons part, or the lack of, my point is to train rifleman in basic rifle discipline so that their fire is accurate, perhaps supplemented by a mobility support group (MSG)/support gunner, as described in the CUTT article. The idea is to use accurate fire as a replacement for volume of fire by automatic support weapons. In fact, much fire by automatic weapons is ineffective due to accuracy issues. Support weapons are best fired in short disciplined bursts, unless using them for area suppression in a defensive role. A properly outfitted support gunner with a semi-automatic .308 rifle can chew up an enemy position in the same way a 240 gunner firing 7.62 in short bursts can. They both have to be accurate, or it is wasted noise.

If you hear accounts of ‘going cyclic’, however high speed the unit is, then you know they lost discipline. Much of that cyclic fire would have been wasted, and simply expended ammunition.

Although to paraphrase Rommel: ‘There is no substitute for simply plastering the enemy with fire!’ So long as it is accurate! If it is over the top of the enemy, or on the next hillside, then so what?

You can be as tacticool pew-pew as you want, but a disciplined rifleman will take cover, locate the enemy, and put a round or two into him. Job done.

Shoot to kill.



  1. John Lee Pettimore III says:

    If ammunition for the rifle is becoming a concern, there are ways to avoid passing over live enemy without using up what may become precious rounds.

    Besides the obvious use of the handgun when conducting site exploitation in the kill zone, I leave it to the more intrepid reader to determine other methods and fill in the details…

  2. shooter says:

    Thanks Max. This clears things up for me… Actually, I guess I should say it clearly REINFORCES what you told us in class and serves as a reminder that the noise coming out of the noisy end of our rifles is not what solves the problem.

  3. Thomas says:

    Lots of good in this article!

    Fire discipline is not emphasized nearly enough. It is the job of the leader to enforce fire discipline but so few young leaders understand the concept well enough to implement it. Volume of fire is easier to teach.

  4. Ray says:

    There is an interesting table on the “WW2 Gyrene” websight. It recounts the ammunition usage , in several major Pacific battles. Average combat usage for .30 cal. was LESS than 80 rounds per day, per man. This was for intense combat like Iwo Jima and Tarawa. ALSO: The basic load for the US service rife has remained right around 200 rounds per man since the 1890’s. More “reserve Ammunition” was and is often carried when enemy contact is expected, but the basic “patrol load” hasn’t changed in over 100 years.

    • SP says:

      There is one very significant flaw in your argument though as you are describing a global conflict.

      The vast amount of firepower that was being unleashed against the Japanese in the Pacific was artillery, mortar, aerial and naval bombardment. The same for the Western Front and Eastern Front as well. In fact most soldiers never actually do the killing/wounding as it is predominantly inflicted by heavy firepower.

      If you want to get an accurate (or as good as can be) idea of munitions expenditure in a firefight then you need to scale the situation down and look at units that don’t often rely on arty/mortar/aerial etc firepower. In a nutshell, small unit groups – LLRP etc.

  5. John Lee Pettimore III says:

    More patterning after U.S. conventional forces. This is the basic cultural problem with those in the “tactical civilian” community.

    The basic loadout of the U.S. service rifle is, and has always been completely predicated on an extensive logistical train, and the application of combined arms.

    Tactical civilians generally do not have a logistics train of any sort, or a very slow and limited one. Nor do they have the ability to apply combined arms tactics due to the lack of artillery and close air support which are the two most important ones to the infantryman.

    If you want historical examples, you must look at those warriors who have operated with similar tactical circumstances as yourself.

    This means very small units, operating in AO’s where they are heavily outnumbered and outgunned, with limited to no local support from the populace, and limited to nil logistical, fire, and transportation support.

    If you apply these conditions, which are very similar to what the tactical civilian can expect, you see that many things change for how the individual equips himself and his team.

    Specific to this post, the round count for the primary weapon system nearly doubles.

    Historical Examples:
    British SAS WWII
    Rhodesian Combat Tracker teams (4-6 men)
    U.S. LRRP teams in Cambodia/Laos

  6. Ray says:

    I’d like to note that in the video Max fires a total of 28 rounds of .308 for three targets.(NO MAG DUMPS!!) “Finishing” rounds to the head seem overkill and wasted ammunition with anything larger than a 5.56, but “OK If it works for him”. As I don’t think I will face a “main force” unit as a CIDG (Max uses “CUTT” but OK) so I have little need of a 500 round “Move to contact” ammunition load while on patrol. Pettimore; you seem to suffer from too much doom porn. I’d like to detail all the ways I think you are wrong , but until you learn for yourself nothing I wright will make a dent.

  7. Stinger says:

    Guys, let’s not forget that we are talking SHTF here; not military where there is support in firepower and numbers (John Lee Pettimore III stated it well)…
    For example, I have 2 other guys I train with; that’s it. We need all the ammo we can carry while still having good mobility.
    I think there is a balance in the amount of ammo you carry. Key factors? Can you run; can you drop behind cover / concealment quickly, can you get up and run again without a struggle? If you are up on your PT, carry more because you may need it. But if you are a smaller guy (like me), I may not be able to carry as much as another and will rely more heavily on mobility.

    Some things aren’t cut-and-dry: this is one of those things. Carry what you can, but push your limit; more PT = more ammo / loadout.

  8. John Lee Pettimore III says:

    Ray please.

    I have been there, done that, while running out of ammo. On two separate operations. I’m not sure what “doom porn” is but that seems to be the only thing you have any expertise in. I’d like to see how many enemy positions you have waltzed through WITHOUT finishing rounds and dead checks.

    500 rounds on patrol does not mean mag dumps. It’s prudence in understanding the very basic tactical situation you are in if you lack numbers, fire support, and local support.

    What you think doesn’t matter. Reality is reality. The tactical subject matter here at MVT does not reflect in any way the real world employment, or theory of U.S. conventional infantry forces be it the 1890’s or Tarawa.

    The fact that you cannot understand this, speaks volumes.

    • Thomas says:

      I have to agree with you here. Finishing rounds are SOP and 500 rds on a patrol is necessary without a log tail. 500 rds goes much more quickly than one might think even with good fire discipline. I would not walk out the gate with less.

      • Max Velocity says:

        But why 500? That is a lot of ammo.

        • Max Velocity says:

          I was pondering on this today. When I am running my 308AR, I carry 8 x 25 round mags on my person, between chest rig, battle belt and rifle. That is 200 rounds. To double that, I could carry another 8 x 25 round .308 mags in my patrol pack, as reserve. That gives me 400 rounds. (The point here is not to compete round for round with a 5.56 loadout). It is still not 500 rounds.

          To do 500 rounds of 5.56, that is 17 mags. I would have 9 mags on my person this time with 6 mags in the CUTT chest rig. Then another 8 magazines in my patrol pack.

          None of this is light. It requires PT and would impact your maneuverability.

          Interestingly, the British Army ‘first line scales’ is, or used to be, 330 rounds (5.56) I’m not sure what it used to be with 7.62, with the old SLR (FN). The 330 rounds was made up of 6 x 30 round magazines, and a bandolier of 150 on strippers for fast reloading. But of course, the whole title of ‘first line scales’ shows what it is – a load that would require immediate resupply after the first engagement (or during!).

          So the question her would appear to be: what is a reasonable ammunition load to carry, while still being able to fight, while not being able to rely on a military style resupply? Which also begs the question: you are still going to need a resupply at some point, and where is that coming from, and how?

          I have always been a proponent of carrying lots of ammo, and never running out. I am however also a proponent of the .308 as a capability, and will not discount it simply due to ammo weight. I’d rather do the PT!

          • SP says:

            Pretty sure it’s now 2 bandoliers worth – 360 rounds.

            6 mags of 30 (180) with remaining 180 still clipped up in bandoliers.

          • SP says:

            Hang on, I think I’ve got my numbers wrong. How many is in a bandolier? 180 or 150?

          • Max Velocity says:

            Used to be 150….

          • G.W.N.S. says:

            If we are talking about the cloth bandoliers with stripper clips.

            The ones I used in Afghanistan held 120 rounds (3×10 rounds per stripper clip, held in 4 pouches, with a pull type stitch that allowed bandolier to hold 4 thirty round magazines).

            As I type this an empty bandolier rests in my lap.

            U.S. issued.

          • Max Velocity says:

            Brit issue was 5 pockets each with 3 x 1 round strips.

            I’m up at a 6 day.

        • Thomas says:

          The number is arbitrary but the reason is that half-cases or 500 rounds. The number is also predicated on the high probability of contact.

          You have recently migrated to a chest rig. I still sport a battle belt with suspenders. I carry six mags on that normally and can add six more with on mag carrier. The rest goes in my pack.

          I am a proponent of the minimalist philosophy. My three day pack has ammo, chow, and some minimal personal gear in it. I can live without a lot of comfort items but not without ammo.

        • Thomas says:

          I, too, have been putting thought into this. Having seen modern forces that lacked a log tail, I believe that we would benefit mightily if we began to develop a log support system for freefor. Through your training efforts, you may well develop a light battalion of fighters that can come together for specific events. A model for that would be Mosby’s 43rd Battalion of Partisan Rangers.

          That force will be made irrelevant quickly if you can not resupply them. I watched the Thai military flounder at the port because they could not get their equipment on a boat to go to East Timor. Several models exist for establishment of the log tail and we need to explore some them for the partisan environment.

  9. Submariner says:

    “… then another 4 mags in your patrol pack replenishes that back to full load.”

    Max had a CamelBak BFM at the June/July class. Each side pocket holds six USGI M4 magazines at twelve pounds. Pew! Pew!

    Older version BFMs in ACU are ugly but pretty cheap. We bought four to replace our less than stellar USMC FILBE assault packs for less than $100 each, most with bladders.

  10. Eddie says:

    No one mentions battlefield pickups. In the situation above you’d better be picking up every round you can find on the field and either take or disable the weapons.

    Another reason why you should be familiar with the basic operations of all common battle rifles.

    • Thomas says:

      Asymmetric warfare relies on people using battlefield pick up in order to place tracking devices and other really nasty things into the hands and weapons of the opfor. At some point, the risk of ASW activity will limit what and how much you might pick up.

  11. John Lee Pettimore III says:

    500 rounds isn’t a hard number, just an example.

    Even with .308, Max’s battle rifle load-out is almost as much at 400 total rounds.

    Here I present a Marine’s evolution on ammo consumption in combat.

    1) Bolt action .308 rifle’s and .50 cal SASR’s are inadequate as fighting arms. That is why these Marines are issued M9 pistols for “self-defense”.

    2) Combat operations in Iraq demonstrate that Scout Sniper teams operating without being attached to an infantry unit CANNOT effectively defend themselves with pistols.

    3) Great solution, issue an M4 carbine for self-defense in addition to the M9 pistol, and the sniper rifle. But since your carrying so much shit already, only take 6 magazines of 5.56mm.

    4) Oh shit guess what? We still cannot self extract because 180 rounds is not nearly enough ammo for a 3 to 6 man team to break contact. We ran out of ammo. AGAIN.

    Lesson learned, I cannot pinpoint a perfect number of rounds for an assault/battle rifle combat load.

    What I DO know however is that 180 rounds is not nearly enough.

  12. Fanfyre says:

    The smaller the patrol element the more they will need to carry as a basic load, within reason. Having an extensive network of caches can mitigate this to a degree. I feel like this is oft overlooked as it is not a “sexy” topic.

    How much ammo do I “need” is in my mind more than I can carry. Also, I am not getting any younger. So I find myself having to compromise. Given the exigencies of day to day life and that I am not the 22 year old paratrooper I once was, I have to adjust accordingly. The days of 15 mags at the ready are but a memory of times past. If you have the strength and stamina, then do what you feel is appropriate. My hats off to you truly.

    I also worry that having a monster rack of mags can cause one to forget that they are engaged in partisan warfare, not the combined arms juggernaut of mother Army. Breaking contact is more the norm than a straight up lead slinging match. I admit, I sometimes need to remind myself of that. The military can imbue one with habits and ideas that don’t directly translate to UW.

    Remember that many a Rhodesian light fighter took to the field with as few as 100 rounds. Until battlefield pickups and alternate supply modalities can supply FREEFOR, every round, every mag must be used judiciously.

  13. Pathfinder says:

    This is as good a point to jump in as any. A little background first. I am a retired U.S. Army Infantrymen. Served in several different units and have several deployments. But only two of those units are pertinent to this discussion.

    A couple times above, LRRP units have been mentioned, I served in the descendants of those units, Long Range Surveillance Companies(LRSC). Two different companies and deployed with both.

    6 man teams deployed behind enemy lines, no direct support due to the distances(trained vs reality). The 6 of us had to carry everything on our backs. Standard mission was 7 days. Chow, water, batteries, med supplies, comms, demo and ammo. The normal weight for our rucks was 100 lbs plus.

    Our basic load was 14(one in the weapon)30 round mags on your first line(belt kit), another 7×20 round mags(in the old 7 pocket bandoleer)and another bandoleer(old style 7 pocket) of 140 rounds on stripper clips in your third line(ruck). That is a total of 700 rounds(give or take, we downloaded all mags by 2 rounds). That was a basic load because we knew we had no backup and we had to be able to sustain ourselves. The main objective was to never be compromised, because if you were, then the mission was a failure. But you had to be able to fight your way out.

    Trust me when I say you can never have too much ammo.

    What little of my background that I gave is not bragging or walting, just establishing my bona fides so you know where I am coming from.

    • Pathfinder says:

      A coincidence that you mention Rhodesia as I have been doing some reading on Rhodesia and South Africa. From what I have read, it varied from unit to unit and then it depended on what the mission was.

      • Fanfyre says:

        You are certainly right about ammo loadouts varying across units and their mission profiles. The takeaway for me was that while 100 rounds was, in certain instances, what was carried. It wasn’t chosen as a tactical ideal, but due to a lack of resources, logistically speaking. As an individual, funding issues are an issue. So I can relate to that. Now that I find myself fronting the costs of feeding my rifle I find myself being much more reserved with what I carry. I am not a man of means and I need to stretch my limited stores for as long as needed. I find that the rifleman and the bean counter in me are at odds at times. Striking that balance between tactical necessity, mobility and “bean counting” has created a triad that I base my load off of. I appreciate the feedback, cheers.

        • Pathfinder says:

          I wasn’t saying you were wrong about the Rhodesian units, just wanted to add a little more historical perspective about the why.

          Understood and agree with you on having to stretch resources. If only I could hit the lottery, then my re-supply issues would be solved.

      • Submariner says:

        For example, from Small Wars Journal, RHODESIAN COVER SHOOTING:

        “3) All weapons were zeroed for 100m, and sights were set to the same range. Riflemen usually carried 7-8 magazines of 19, or even 18 rounds each (Placing a full 20 round load into an FN magazine damages the magazine spring in the long term and caused stoppages). These would be supplemented with a few extra boxes of 20 rounds each for reloading. The gunner generally carried 500 rounds in 100 round belts (2 belts x 50 rounds linked together), while in earlier times the gunner carried 400 or less. On external ops into Zambia or Mozambique etc, the gunner would carry 800 rounds, with the stick riflemen carrying extra belts and a spare gun barrel – It was not unusual for Rhodesian units numbering a few hundred to attack training camps containing many thousands of terrorists (Usually, but not always, with mortar and full air support

    • Max Velocity says:

      There are a number of comments along these lines which are problematic and will lead to a second post. I’m up at a 6 day class and don’t have time, but I am also teaching patrol right now.

      Briefly: It’s not about what we used to be able to carry. Heavy rucks are out. You need to be able to fight in what you carry and plan for short term operations.

      You are not ‘behind enemy lines’ and need to give due consideration to logistics train and resupply. At a basic level a prepper has a retreat. We are most likely talking about security patrolling here.

      You are ineffective with huge loads.

      Tie that in with the need for a resurgence of rifleman skills and fire discipline and we are getting closer to my point. Many are not yet out of the box on this one yet.

      I never want to run out of ammo, and I will carry a significant mount, but it is a balance between weight, fire discipline and mobility. It is also essential to consider logitical resupply and / or cache.

      No time. More later

      • Pathfinder says:

        Understand where you are coming from. Wasn’t trying to equate anything to anything. Just part of the discussion about what is enough ammo and wanted to give an historical reference that somebody was looking at.

        I agree about huge loads but most people, unless they have the experience, don’t realize how fast “stuff” adds up. That’s why they need to be working on SOP’s and kit now, while they have the time and resources to do so.

        Totally agree with you in reference to rifleman skills. It is something that is sorely lacking and am glad to see you getting something going to rectify that deficiency.

        Sorry if I sidetracked the discussion.

  14. Something I didn’t see mentioned or may have missed was in the question “what is the play…” after a break contact during a mission. Before you even leave for your patrol you should have some basic SOP set up at the minimum (running out the door to defend your retreat) or better yet have a complete mission plan worked out (OPORD) for what you will do in given situations.

    This is simplistic and leaves a lot out but you can get a basic idea. It gets beyond the how much ammo, what caliber question.

    If you break contact you will be moving back to a rally point. You can set up an SOP that you will have a RP 100 meters away from where you made contact or go to the last active rally point etc. Once there whoever is in charge (make it easy and call him the team leader) if you have a group will see to their men’s needs, get a head count, set up a defense, etc. Someone could be designated asst team leader and do an ACE report (ammunition, casualties, equipment) to let you know the condition of each person and give it to the TL. If you have 6 guys maybe 3 of them fired 4 mags and 3 only used 1 magazine. You can redistribute ammunition then.

    The TL can also determine if there is enough ammunition, men, supplies to complete the mission or if the mission should be scrubbed, altered or a secondary plan is used because of the contact.

    An example would be you are conducting a raid but shot up 50% of your ammunition making it impossible to complete the mission. Or you may be going to a spot where team member ‘Joe’ can perform a certain function. ‘Joe’ is shot to pieces and cannot do his job so the mission is canceled.

    Maybe you are low on ammunition and men but the mission is vital so you will continue no matter what.

    Maybe your mission requires a key piece of equipment and it was damaged or lost so your mission cannot be completed.

    Also as was mentioned above, pre-planning some resupply or caches will lessen what you need to carry on you. I can’t carry as much ammunition as I did when I was 19 and to make matters worse I’m also carrying more whiz bang and support gear then when I was 19 (NVD, GPS, radio, batteries, pistol, pistol mags, tac lights, IR laser, suppressor, better medical supplies) then I did when I was 19.

    • Max Velocity says:

      Well, I just finished running a 6 day CTT/Combat Patrol class and we covered a lot more than how much ammo to carry. I suggest browsing some of the back posts on this forum, etc.

  15. manifold says:

    In Canada, we carry 7 mags (we don’t dump them on the ground, once we reload we put them back in the pouch!), we have another 300s rounds in stripper clips ready to reload back into the mags and another 300 rounds in boxes or however you want to store them.

    That’s how we did it in the 90s.

    Now, personally I have 7 mags, another 7 full mags in my backpack and 300 rounds ready to load back in to the mags when you get a break.